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Tower St. Martin, Soreze

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Photo: Fuji Finepix digital camera
Photo: Fuji Finepix digital camera
“Tower St. Martin, Soreze” 2009 21 x 27cm watercolour on Arches rough 300gs

Allan Kirk’s impressionistic watercolour exercise shows how to capture the mood of a bright, and and sunny day in medieval Soreze in the Tarn in southern France.

For Allan Kirk watercolour impressionism is the constant pursuit of light. Originating from the north east of England Allan now lives and works as an artist in the south of France. Allan, together with his wife Lesley runs week long watercolour holidays at their secluded renovated farmhouse in the Tarn region. Find out more at http://www.stepbystepwatercolour.com.

Allan was startled when a friend and inhabitant of Soreze told him it had been sacked by the Vikings, sure, it was old but what were they doing in the south of France far from the sea?

Well the medieval history of Soreze is littered with conflict, from the Vikings to thirteenth century mercenaries. Soreze was established in the eighth century next to a Benedictine monastery, and in foothills of the black mountains. Many of the existing buildings include stone from the monastery after it was abandoned.

In this exercise, Allan has taken a viewpoint looking down an old medieval street towards the tower of St. Martin, that so dominates the skyline of Soreze. Overhanging and crumbling medieval houses, shops and restaurants provide an inviting path towards the tower.

It is the way history and the present exist together that gives Soreze it’s charm. It is not a museum, and working as an artists in it’s many medieval streets is a real privilege.



  • Arches Rough, 140lb (300gsm)(27cm x 22cm)


  • 4B Pencil


  • French Ultramarine
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Windsor Blue
  • Cobalt Turquoise
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Burnt Umber
  • Raw Sienna


  • Large Squirrel Mop
  • Pro Arte series 007 size 12
  • Sable size 10
  • Pro Arte sword liner (medium and large)
  • Pro Arte series 007 size 8
  • Sable size 4

Masking Fluid

  • Old brush to apply masking fluid

1. The Process

The finished watercolour should be completed in around 4 hours. In between washes use a hair dryer to hasten the drying process for the next stage. Using a hair dryer can be useful. Without, it may take some time for a watercolour to dry sufficiently to be worked upon again.

Use a palette with deep wells for mixing colour, with lots of water. Also use a big water container (like a child’s seaside bucket). You will need access to a lot of water.

I prefer work with my paper between 30 and 40-degree angle. You should choose the angle that you are most comfortable with.

2. The Composition

I have rearranged the composition for this picture, I have made the tower a little more dominant and added a foreground shadow for balance. Also you will notice I have not included the ‘No Entry’ road sign.

3. Painting what you see not what you think

When you paint try to paint the light and not the objects you can see. Concentrate upon light and tone in the composition. If you worry about individual windows or shutters you will tend to over elaborate and put too much detail into your painting. Try to see shapes, colour and tone, not real world objects.

Often when we put more and more detail into a work we lose sight of the overall subject. In addition we kill the spontaneity and transparency of watercolour.