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Painting a White Barn

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Materials used


  • 1 1/2″ (381mm) Flat Winsor & Newton Series 965
  • 1″ Grumbacher Aquarelle Flat Red Sable
  • #12 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Red Sable
  • #10 Winsor & Newton Series 820 Red Sable
  • #6 Grumbacher Watercolor Classic Red Sable
  • #4 Round Red Sable


  • Sap Green, Hooker’s Green Dark, Pthalocyanine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber


  • Spiral Pad (11″ x 14″) Canson #140 cold pressed


  • #2 Pencil
  • Kneaded Eraser
  • Palette – Your choice. Mine is an old Robert E. Wood model.
  • Water container (2) and water
  • Hair dryer (optional)


  • Photo or Sketch big enough for you to see reasonably well.

Step 1: Do the work


Although not necessary, usually a light drawing is done to block in the shapes and arrange the composition.

NOTE: For a bit of fun and challenge, skip the drawing and start painting right away. It’s a great visual skill builder, especially when it turns out well.

Step 2: First Washes


Using my 1 1/2″ flat brush I dampened the sky area of the paper, taking care to cut in the edges of the barn correctly. I used a mix of cerulean and cobalt blue for the initial wash.

I made a darker mix of burnt umber and cobalt and darkened the sky towards the lower left. I carried the same tone to a few foliage areas in the foreground.

I then took a 1/2″ flat brush with the cobalt/cerulean mix plus some dioxazine purple, squeezed it fairly dry and pulled texture into the face and sides of the barn.

Step 3: Laying the groundwork


Using washes of sap green, hooker’s green dark, raw sienna and burnt umber I flowed on the fields.

I varied this tone to darken and gray down the background hills and woodsy areas.

Step 4: A lot has happened…


…since the last picture. I became so frustrated I forgot to take an intermediate picture. I’ve added trees using hooker’s green dark and burnt sienna. I made an attempt at the background bare trees.

The intriguing angle of the cast shadow was important to the composition and drama of this barn so I took some time getting the color and shape right. I then added a few building details to the rest of the barn using a #4 round sable.

Other fore- and middle-ground details were built up, such as the fence to the right and the drainage trough in the foreground.

Step 5: Building the details


Using a combination of pthalocyanine blue, cobalt blue and burnt umber, I added the windows and open door details as well as picking out shadows on the rough surfaces.

I flicked in the lightning rods with the same mixture.

Step 6: Working the foreground


The painting was looking too cool with all the blue in the shadows of the barn so I bumped up the warmth of the surrounding fields using raw sienna, cadmium orange and sap green.

To break it up the foreground and add a little interest, I added indications of grasses and a rolling hill.

Step 7: Final touches


Using a dark mixing of pthalocyanine blue and burnt umber and my 1/2″ flat brush I added the texture of bare branches against the sky and over that nasty area to the right of the barn that gave me trouble. I called it done at this point!

Step 8: What happened back there?


In step 3.5 I painted the woods to the right of the barn…but I drew them poorly. I wasn’t paying attention and by the time I realized I needed another element in that area the paint was down.

I used a stiff #6 nylon acrylic painting brush and a kleenex and lifted the paint with clear water and daubing.

Step 9: A little patchwork…


With a blend of alizarin crimson, burnt umber, cadmium orange, and cobalt blue I quickly plugged a little red building to hide behind the trees. Using some of my sap green mixture I darkened the hill behind the building.

I then added some blue to the same brown mixture I used for the branches and re-painted the trunks and branches over the brand new building.

Accenting around the bottom I added bits of a fence using a warm gray cobalt/umber mix of paint

Step 10: A final touch…again


When I added the far-tree texture most remnants of my lapses in judgement had been obliterated…close enough!

Step 11: Finished Painting

"White Barn" 11"x14" watercolor © 2002 Gregory Conley“White Barn” 11″x14″ watercolor © 2002 Gregory Conley

Another one bites the dust. Now that wasn’t too bad was it. Not a masterpiece, but a learning experience none-the-less.