Landscape Sketching in Watercolor and Gouache

Nathan Fowkes
9 Lessons (13h 30m)
9 Week(s)

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Course Description

Landscape sketching can be one of the great pleasures for the working artist! This course will provide each student with the experience and understanding for organizing the complexities of the landscape into insightful compositions. We'll focus on capturing the immediacies of light, atmosphere and character of the landscape through location studies. I'll be demonstrating with watercolor and gouache as the preferred sketching medium but students will be welcome to use the medium of their choice. Each week will include a lecture and demonstrations that will guide students step by step through the process of landscape sketching from life. During our time together I'll take you through the practical application of:

- Setting up a no hassle painting kit for on the spot sketching.

- Finding a simple statement within the complexities of the landscape.

- Learning to work within the limitations of your medium and turn them into an advantage.

- Learning to find the subtleties of nature within a limited palette of color.

- Learning to control and best use a full palette of color.

- Understanding principles of landscape composition to best portray your subject.

- Applying the techniques of the impressionists within the confines of a 1 hour on location study.

- Creating the illusion of depth and space within the confines of your two dimensional study.

- Inspiration for sketching everywhere you go for practice, study and fun.

You will be needing some art materials for this class.

Please CLICK HERE to download the list of materials needed.

  • Adobe Photoshop

Lesson Plan

In my first lecture I'll give an introduction and class overview including materials, process and procedures. From there, we will find solutions to the greatest challenge of landscape painting: managing the vast complexities and millions of details that exist everywhere we look. We'll focus on finding a clear simple statement within the complexities of our landscape.

When we see a landscape, our first read is based on its overall value structure (the term value refers to the scale from light to dark). In this lesson I'll show you how to use the simple statement of light and shadow as a foundation for the nuances of color, texture and detail. We'll also study more nuanced value structure for subtlety of mood and atmosphere in our work.

As we introduce color into our paintings, we'll limit our palette to just six pigments: titanium white gouache, yellow ochre, venetian red, ultramarine blue, permanent sap green, and van dyke brown. This will have the benefits of making color mixing manageable while having enough range to paint most of what we see.

From landscapes of high drama to scenes of calm tranquility, each of our pictures must be designed to capture the inspirational quality of each place we paint. In lesson 4 we'll explore ways of capturing the visual interest and primary areas of importance in our pictures.

For lesson five I'll demonstrate the importance of edges to give a special emphasis to the design of our landscapes and to create the subtleties and softness of nature.

Color design is potentially complex and confusing but there are simple principles that can make color manageable for you. In this lecture, I'll show you concepts for organizing the complexities of color to recreate the harmonies found in nature as well as a sense of mood and environment in your work. I'll demonstrate how to use and mix a full color palette to represent the color subtleties we see.

Sketching the landscape often requires that we create the illusion of hundreds of miles of space within the confines of a small two dimensional study. This requires us to emphasize and even exaggerate visual cues that suggest depth. In this lesson will take a look at simple but effective graphic devices to create three dimensional depth in our two dimensional studies.

For this lesson I'll demonstrate finding the compositional framing that best conveys the character and mood of the landscape. We'll take a careful look at positioning the horizon line in the picture plane according to the demands of our subject.

Landscape sketching requires a firm commitment but also great enthusiasm and fun. My final lecture and demonstrations will combine principles from all the previous lessons as I show you how to make the complexities of landscape sketching cease to be a frustration and turn into a great joy.


Nathan Fowkes

Nathan Fowkes is a veteran entertainment industry artist with credits on 12 animated feature films including DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt, Spirit, several projects within the Shrek Universe, How to Train Your Dragon, Blue Sky’s Rio 2, Ferdinand and Wonder Park from Paramount Animation and development art for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon.

Additionally, Nathan has been sought after as a consultant for game studios to enhance the quality of their theatrical presentation. He has worked with numerous clients including Riot Games, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Disney Interactive, Rovio, Supercell and many others.

Nathan is also well known as a teacher of color, light, design and traditional drawing and painting. He is a regular guest lecturer at Art Center College of Design and has taught at The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art and the Laguna College of Art and Design. He's the author of the bestselling How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal and How to Paint Landscapes in Watercolor and Gouache. His work can be seen at