Watercolours: Hot Air Balloon (demonstration)

I was supposed to be testing the final version of the system I need for my PhD’s data collection, but somehow in the process of being moved from my office to a new open floor office, my computer went missing! Along with the software and peripherals I need to run the tests! Since I didn’t have anything else to do but rock back and forth under my desk crying, I figured I’d do another art demonstration.

I wanted to do a review of some more of the watercolours my parents brought back from their trip to America a couple of years ago, and I decided to paint a hot air balloon. I felt it would make a good project for a beginner, so I turned it into a demo. You could use a reference photo if you have one, but since it was a fairly simple subject, I just drew it from imagination.

Da Vinci Watercolours
-Cadmium Yellow Medium
-Cobalt Blue Deep
-Viridian Green

Blick Watercolours
-Lemon Yellow
-Cerulean Blue

Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 1
Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Round size 4
Silver Black Velvet Round size 8
Silver Black Velvet Quill size 100

Masking Tape

Arches Rough Press Watercolour Paper – 300gsm Rough (260X360mm)

Step 1
After drawing the hot air balloon and a rough outline of the cloud shape, lay in a strong wash of Cerulean Blue for the sky area. Before this dries, add some Cobalt Blue Deep to the top right corner of the sky and along some parts of the edge of the cloud. Using a tissue, gently drag out some faint rays of light from behind the large section of the cloud at the top left (as you can see in my progress shot below, I probably left it a little late to do this, as the streaks aren’t all that visible). Another good thing to try would be to moisten the edges of the cloud with a spray bottle of clean water and dab it slightly in some areas (while the sky is still wet) to create a few lost edges, rather than having all the hard edges like I do.

For the cloud itself, create a fairly strong wash of Cobalt Blue Deep and a pale orange mix of Cadmium Yellow Medium and Magenta, in addition to another wash of Cerulean Blue if you need to. Lay in some Cerulean Blue to cover most of the cloud except the highlighted edges, and then darken some sections with the Cobalt Blue Deep. For the really dark greyish areas, add some of your orange mix to the Cobalt Blue Deep and drop this in as well to create a variation of shades within the clouds. Don’t worry if some orange-ish areas remain visible in the clouds; this creates the look of reflected sunlight. I also dabbed at some sections with a tissue to increase the fluffy texture of the cloud.

Step 2
It’s time to start colouring the balloon. Starting with Lemon Yellow, colour the main section of the balloon and let this dry. Go over the right edge of each panel with Cadmium Yellow Medium. Leave more of the Lemon Yellow showing on the left of the balloon, and as you move towards the right, cover more of the panels with Cadmium Yellow Medium, as the light in this picture is coming from the left of the balloon (behind the cloud). Paint the bottom rim of the balloon with Cadmium Yellow Medium as well.

Paint every second pattern on the balloon with straight Viridian Green. Wait for this to dry, and then make a darker red mixture of Cadmium Yellow Medium and Magenta to colour in the remaining patterns on the balloon (don’t forget the part inside the balloon at the bottom, and the scoop, which can be any colour you want but ideally should be a colour that matches another part of the balloon; I chose to make it red). Wait for this to dry, then take some of your red mixture and add some Cobalt Blue Deep to make a dark and dull purple. Add a glaze of this to the inside of the balloon, over the red, green and yellow, to create the shadow.

Step 3
Now it’s time to shade the red and green parts of the panels to match the shaded yellow sections. For the green bits, mix Viridian Green with a little Cobalt Blue Deep and Magenta for a dark purplish green. Lay in a reasonably dark line of this down the right side of the green sections, then wash your brush and get most of the moisture out of it (by dabbing it on a tissue) and lay in a stripe of clean water right beside the dark stripe. The dark colour will gradually blend over into the clean water, but you may want to feather it with your brush to avoid any hard lines forming. I’d suggest working one panel at a time (rather than doing all the dark stripes, then doing all the clean water stripes etc) so the shading doesn’t dry before you’ve blended it. The stripes on the right should be almost completely in shadow, while those on the left will be mostly light. Repeat the same procedure with the red stripes, adding a bit of Viridian Green and a little Cobalt Blue Deep to make a dark, dull purple for the shading. Add a glaze of this over the area visible inside the balloon (including on the yellow rim), and on the outside of the scoop on the right. Add a more watered down version of this glaze to the yellow rim outside the balloon.

Given the strong sunlight on the hot air balloon, the shading in the yellow areas also needs to be made stronger. Using a combination of Cadmium Yellow Medium, Magenta and Cobalt Blue Deep to create a dull, more brownish purple than what you used to shade the red and green parts of the panels. Repeat the technique used above, laying in a stripe of this dull brownish purple along the right of each panel and feathering it out with your brush and some clean water. The right side of the balloon should be almost entirely in shadow.

Now it’s time to paint the basket. Shade the underside and right hand side with a light-medium glaze of Cerulean Blue and let this dry. Make a pale orange-yellow (should be mostly yellow) and wash this over the whole basket. You may want to go back and add a tiny glaze of Cobalt Blue Deep to the right side of the basket. To paint the figures in the basket, make a dark grey-black mixture (I think I used a bit of everything that was on my palette up til this point, but Viridian, Magenta, Cadmium Yellow Medium and Cobalt Blue Deep mixed together should give you a good dark colour). With a small round brush (I used a size 1), draw in the people; given the lighting and the scale of the picture, they will be little more than silhouettes anyway. Also draw in a few cables going from the basket and connecting to the scooop. Now all that’s left to do is sign your name; I used a mix of Cobalt Blue Deep and the dark grey mixture.

I hope you enjoyed this watercolour demo. As always, you don’t have to use the exact colours I have used; whatever equivalent colours you already have in your own supplies will be fine.

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