Watercolor Silhouette Art Lessons

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Watercolor Silhouette Art Lessons
Trees painted in silhouette are effective when set against a sunset. (Painting of Tree with Sun in Background image by Sujit Mahapatra from Fotolia.com)

Watercolour painting can incorporate the technique of painting in silhouette, in which an artist will shape an object by filling it with a dark flat colour and setting it against a pale background. The objects in silhouette will appear in the distance or will be cast in shadow.

Tree Silhouette Art Lesson

This lesson explores the process of painting a tree silhouette against a flat wash. Work from a picture or go outdoors to make a life study. Trees can be a challenge to paint, as they present a variety of interesting shapes within the branch formations and the foliage. Start by using a pencil to sketch a tree onto a sheet of watercolour paper. Then, apply a wash of bright colour with a paintbrush. Work quickly by making straight brush strokes from the top left hand corner to the right, and work down the page. Achieve an even tone by reloading the brush with colour and not allowing the colour to fade in tone on the page. To create a silhouette of the tree, allow the wash to dry and then fill in the tree shape with a dark colour. Add a realistic touch to the tree silhouette by including shading on certain parts to mark dark and light tones. For instance, areas of the tree exposed to light will be lighter than the areas which are furthest away from the light source.

Skyline Silhouette Lesson

When painting a landscape, you can paint silhouettes on the skyline to suggest buildings or objects in the distance. Begin with a pencil. Draw a horizontal line for the skyline across the paper. Roughly sketch the outline of a row of buildings on that horizon. Vary the size, height and shape of the buildings to make a realistic skyline.Apply a pale blue wash over the canvas and allow it to dry before filling in the silhouette shapes on the skyline with a dark colour.

Crowd of Figures Silhouette Lesson

This exercise is about quickly capturing the shapes of a moving crowd using silhouette as a working technique. For extra authenticity, paint from real life by working in a place from which you can observe your subjects. First, work in a rapid fashion to capture the moving shapes of the people you see. Either quickly sketch in pencil the outline of a person, or use a paintbrush as a drawing tool. The sketch can be as simple as drawing matchstick figures in order to place the figures into the crowd scene. Paint the figures in silhouette using a dark colour. Add more detail to the shape of the figures by defining the shape of clothing, bags and other accessories.

Tonal Silhouette and Shadows Lesson

This lesson focuses on painting an object, such as an unlit street lamp, with the shadow of a silhouette. Draw the street lamp in pencil from a photograph or from memory. Next, draw the lamp's reflection on the ground at an angle from the bottom of the lamp; cast the shadow in any direction. Paint the street lamp with a blend of light and dark tones to make it look realistic. Allow the tones to blend into each other, but wipe away any paint runs which can spoil the painting. Lastly, paint the reflected shadow across the ground in a flat dark colour without using any tonal shading.

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