John Lovett’s Textures, Techniques and Special Effects for Watercolor

Have a quick flick through my new book. They have finally arrived and are being shipped out now.

Get your copy now for around US$19.95 plus p+p


We have just finished two full on weeks of workshops in the studio. Some familiar faces and some new faces. This is the first time we have had a completely new group for the second week, so I thought it would be interesting to repeat some of the demonstrations with some variation.

These two landscapes based on recent photos from Western Queensland were started with transparent washes (Quinacridone Gold, Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose) Then the trees and other details were added with more opaque mixtures of Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold. Graded washes were used on either side to create a band of light through the focal point, then various layers of gesso and White gouache glazes were worked through the sky and distance.

I have painted this Old house on Sydney Harbour from various angles and thought it would be a good workshop subject, having problems of symmetry and conflicting focal points to be sorted out.

I was surprised when we started drawing, to find that one of the students had lived in the flat behind the house back in the 70′s – when Brett Whitely lived and painted a little further around the bay.

These paintings were done with the same simple palette of Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue and Permanent Rose. I also used Charcoal pencil, White Gouache, Gesso and Burnt Sienna Ink. The vibrant blue window in the top painting was painted with Ultramarine Gouache.

Not far from Venice is the small fishing port of Chioggia. These weather beaten trawlers make an interesting subject with their confusion of masts and rigging and the complicated backdrop of ancient buildings. The idea here was to suggest all the complicated detail without trying to carefully render it. We started with under washes of Permanent Rose and Aureolin and gradually built up detail over the tinted paper.

A different subject using the same transparent under wash technique. This time graded washes of Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose formed the under wash.

Painting these Lorrikets was a lot of fun - balancing sharp detail with loose suggestion. The wings and much of the body were roughly washed in with an old 1/2″ bristle brush. Detail was built up around the head and body with a 1/4″ flat brush and a #1 rigger. Finally the wings were attacked with gesso and a white charcoal pencil to get a feeling of movement.

Everyone enjoyed painting these rocks and sapplings. The purpose was to shuffle around the source material to create an interesting composition, then to build up textures and depth with watercolor, gouache, ink, charcoal pencil and Gesso. We used a number of techniques – splashing, splattering and spraying to build up the textures and gesso glazes to soften and push back the distance.

Another exercise in rearranging  the subject. This time a soft abstract foreground to lead the eye into the focal point of trees and buildings.

So thanks to everyone that attended the workshops and thanks to Dianne for the mighty cakes – back to dry biscuits now!



Opening: 13 April 2012 6-8pm.
Exhibition dates: 14-22 April 2012
Opening times: 10.30am – 5pm Daily throughout the exhibition

Robert’s Studio – 19 Chauvel Court Currumbin Waters  – Phone: 0432 716 084

John’s Studio - 42 Tierney Drive Currumbin Waters  - Phone: 0405 505 001 / 07 5598 6001

My Father, Robert and I are joining forces for a combined Open Studios Exhibition.

If you are in South East Queensland over the course of the exhibition, drop in and say hello.

Below are a few of the paintings being exhibited.

More Details…

High Plains Rain

From the Foothills

Mountain Landscape 2



River Landscape


The last couple of weeks I’ve been locked in the studio finishing work on a book to be released early next year.

I got started on a couple of urban landscapes based on parts of New York. Early one morning I walked down under Brooklyn bridge. There was a lot of road work going on and huge trailers were lined up along a side street. They appeared to be accommodation for road workers – like a gypsy camp under the bridge. Big sections of road were fenced off and there seemed to be uncoordinated  people and machinery everywhere. So much activity in a city that doesn’t seem to stop, and I’m just rubbing the sleep out of my eyes – that’s where this first painting comes from.

This painting is based on the chaotic textures, bars, buildings and patriotism of East Village. Both paintings are a mix of watercolor, collage, Gouache, Gesso, ink and charcoal, built up in layers like the graffiti that lines many of the city’s walls.


During the last workshop we experimented with a technique that produces interesting results if it doesn’t drive you mad first. The idea is to start with a background wash, draw the shapes of stones, leaves and twigs onto it, then, with a slightly darker tone fill in all the negative spaces. More leaves, twigs etc are then drawn into the darker negative areas and the negative spaces around the new shapes is made slightly darker. This incremental darkening is done 3-4 times then the shapes are modeled, ink and pastel lines are added, colors splashed on and gesso washes are used to simplify areas.

The process is a lot of fun and often triggers interesting ideas. The example below was done as a demo on aluminium composite panel primed with watercolor gesso. The heavy vertical marks were masked up and painted over the top with more watercolor gesso then the tones were adjusted.

These next images give an idea of the build up using negative shapes.

Once you get the hang of it this can be great fun. The subject can be any reasonably defined object – tools, utensils, paint brushes, pencils – anything that can layer one over the other.


One of the great things about the International Artist workshops is the chance to travel to interesting places and accumulate information and ideas for exhibitions. Recent workshops in Italy and Sicily provided an enormous amount of inspiring ideas.

After gathering and sorting information, putting together a collection of paintings for an exhibition is a lot of hard work. It becomes an obsession for four or five months – sometimes frustrating and annoying, other times, satisfying and inspiring.
I like to have a theme or unifying element to an exhibition. It helps with the creation of the work and presents a cohesive and more engaging package to the viewer.
My current exhibition, “Tall Tales” is based on the loose interpretation of fascinating incidents, customs and beliefs witnessed in Italy and Sicily. Rather than try and find out the truth, I relied on my own interpretation of what I experienced. Not speaking the language, or understanding many of the local customs allowed for a much freer interpretation. The truth is fine for history books and anthropological studies, but for me, tall tales make much better paintings.

Tall Tales opens at Moulton Galleries 777 Military Rd Mosman, Sydney 6:00pm 29th October and runs for one month.

Here are a few of the paintings from Tall Tales

“Palermo Geraniums”
On a dusty window sill in the rundown center of Palermo, a small pot of geraniums are lovingly watered each day as the city slowly crumbles around them.

“Lovers Beach”
A small corner of Southern Italy where the day to day life of traditional fishermen mix with the opulent lifestyle of a five star Hotel. Walking along the beach before sunrise reveals fresh graffiti, religious icons and a discarded pair of red stilettos – all the ingredients for another tall tale.

“Dreams of The Open Sea”

(480×530 watercolor on Arches 300gsm paper)  In a tiny sea side village a Sicilian fisherman lovingly coaxes life back into a small wooden boat.

“Rain birds Whirl”
The spiraling arcs of rain birds echo the ornate flourishes of opulent Italian pre war architecture.

“Notes On a Door”

The Sicilian village of Taormina has some beautiful old buildings. This doorway to an ancient church was pinned with hand written notes, all scribbled in Italian. I could have deciphered them with the phrase book, but that may have ruined the tale that they were the guilty confessions of many strayed parishioners.

“Creatures in the Bay”

(900×1200 mixed media on watercolor canvas) The quaint and picturesque villages of the Cinque Terre attract crowds of magnificently decorated visitors.

“Under Gina’s Window”
Life goes on in Palermo, a city whose colourful history doesn’t seem to affect the daily life of its inhabitants. Pigeons are fed and an unlocked bike defies the history of theft, murder and corruption.

“Canal Life”

(530×760 mixed media on 600gsm paper) Tiny glimpses of life in the milky backwaters of Venice. This painting was done on heavy paper and mounted down on a gesso primed board using acrylic medium. It was finished with a satin acrylic varnish

“Stolen Fruit”

(590×630 mixed media on board) The risk of jumping the orchard fence makes even the greenest pears taste good.

“On a Dry Sicilian Hill”

(600×760 Watercolor and mixed media on watercolor canvas) A Sicilian farmer coaxes lemons, olives and cabbages from a dry dusty hillside.

“Pigeons in a square”

(530×760 watercolor, ink, charcoal and Gesso on textured paper) A flock of pigeons cut spiraling arcs against the formal, geometric facades of ancient buildings.

If you happen to be in Sydney on Friday 29 October 2010, drop in to the Moulton Gallery (777 Military Rd, Mosman)  for a glass of wine and a chat.