Annotate Your Sketch to Create a Step-by-Step Painting Plan


Your value sketches become step-by-step painting plans when you annotate them. Below is a value sketch of Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay in northern California.


The circled numbers refer to notes made in my sketchbook on site and later in the studio. Since this was to be a watercolor painting, the first note refers to the lightest area, the second note to the area one step darker, and so on to the darkest darks:


  1. Pale Windsor blue sky & water.
  2. warm ochre sand—through area 7.
  3. Hookers green & Quin gold tree mass. One big shape with soft edges on top and sky holes & magenta modeling below.
  4. Dark hill shape merges with trunks. Glaze magenta over greens
  5. Buildings—exaggerate atmospheric perspective. Multicolored but muted by weathering. Use different complementary pairs. Strong side light gives hard edges/strong contrast in foreground. Figure with fishing pole and tackle box at center of interest.
  6. Strong, multicolored darks under buildings. Good rhythm of repeated verticals, diagonals and Xs.
  7. Wet sand in medium dark wash, with vertical reflections lifted and wiped out.