Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Lighthouses are one of my favorite subjects when painting along the coast.  I love the waves and beaches, but lighthouses lend that touch of humanity to an often desolate and seemingly uninhabited beach.   Designed to guide sailors or warn them of dangers, they stand as sentinels to inland waterways marking coastline hazards, shoals, reefs and safe entries to harbors.  Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and the popularity of electronic navigational systems.  

One a recent trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I painted several lighthouses that dotted the coastline in the areas in which we traveled.  One of my favorites, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, is shown above.  And, I will share paintings of other lighthouses in this area within this post.

Let’s get started painting!
Materials Needed:
  • 140 lb. watercolor paper or watercolor journal  (I used a journal for these paintings, as I painted while on vacation.)
  • Brushes:  Size of your choice - Round brush; ½” flat brush; Liner or detail brush
  • Cerulean blue
  • Windsor Blue
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Payne’s Gray
  • Sap Green
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • VanDyke Brown

Kneaded Eraser

Small ruler (I usually do not recommend using a rule; however, in this instance the sides of the lighthouse and the structure of the building and the roof need to have straight lines.)


Sketch your lighthouse in lightly using your ruler to make the lines of the sides of the lighthouse straight.  Draw in the remainder of the lighthouse structure using a ruler as necessary.  After the lighthouse has been sketched in, put in your background and foreground. 

Paint in your sky first.  Since watercolor will only flow where the paper is wet, it is not necessary to mask out the lighthouse.  Paint in the sky using a wet on wet technique down to the horizon where the sky meets the water.  I used Windsor Blue and varied the intensity of the color for clouds in the sky.  Using a paper towel, gently lift some of the blue paint to further indicate clouds.  At the horizon line, I dropped in a small amount of red mixed with the blue to add a purple color to the sky at the horizon.  Allow to dry.  Paint in the ocean using a deeper shade of Window Blue with a small amount of sap green leaving small areas of white to indicate waves.  Adding a touch of sap green to the blue helps separate the sky from the water, yet tie together the ocean, sky and background trees.  Allow the ocean to dry.   

Add the background trees using a mix of sap green, lightened in places with yellow ochre and deepened in places with Windsor Blue.  Allow to dry and add a branches and tree trunks with VanDyke  Brown and a liner brush. 

I painted the lighthouse next and the foreground last.  Using Payne’s Gray, paint the dark areas of the lighthouse, working around the windows.  I used a round brush; however, a liner brush might be preferred at the top portion of the lighthouse.  Allow to dry.  Paint the roof of the building section of the lighthouse and the chimneys with crimson mixed with the brown to soften the red and add an older look to the structure.  Deepen sections  of the roof by dropping in some brown.  Allow to dry.  Add shading to the structure by dropping in a very pale wash of Payne’s Gray on the left side of the lighthouse for shadows and under the eaves of the roof.  Allow to dry.

 Paint the foreground using Sap Green and yellow ochre need the tree line and working down into the sap green.  Drop in a little bit of brown at the base of the structure.  Using a wash of crimson and brown, paint the wooden walkway.  Allow to dry.  Using a liner brush, put in the details of the lighthouse tower and building as well as the walkway.  Drop in a touch of yellow ochre in the top of the lighthouse.  Allow to dry. 

Check your painting for any details you may want to add.  When satisfied, sign your painting!

Congratulations and Happy Painting!



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