Sophie Rodionov: Watercolor Step by Step

Watercolor Step by Step with DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Artist Sophie Rodionov

We are delighted to introduce Watercolor Artist Sophie Rodionov, who in this demonstration, will show us step by step a painting of a cat in watercolor using Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors.

Why a cat? – I love painting animals in general. Basically all that we call “nature” inspires me a lot. But cats…. I feel something really special about them. Moreover, I think that in some way watercolour – the media I love so much – is the “cat” among other art materials. Cats are never “predictable”, a cat always does whatever he wants…. 

The same about watercolour: even when we think – that’s it! I know everything about it! – it still surprises! And to tell you the truth – I love it! I do wish to get surprises on my paper, I do wish to be friends with watercolor, but I appreciate its nature and want to do everything I can to show this on my watercolor paper. So, cats…I live in an area with a lot of homeless cats and one of them now lives in my house. I have an opportunity to see them, to look at them, to take pictures in all kinds of situations. I often use those pictures for my paintings. 

I think, when we paint any subject, we have to feel a “closeness’ to this subject. When I paint cats from those “captured moments”, I don’t paint just a cat, I paint the “moment” I saw in the situation, I paint the feelings and the strong connection between me and that “moment”.

Step 1. Reference photo, value sketch and pencil sketch on watercolor paper.

Step 1  

I start with the picture I have and print it for comfortable usage. This is not really a quality printed photo, but I don’t care – everything about colors and light I have in my mind. The photo is just a memento to remember the feeling and to catch the pose in right proportions. I use my sketchbook and make a small value and composition study with pencil. Then, I make the rudimentary pencil drawing on a watercolour paper cold press 140lb. 

Step 2. First watercolor washes.

Step 2

First wash to define warm and cool spaces, as well as the main drop shadow which is part of my composition. Here I use a “warm mix” from the palette (usually these are mixes of Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Nickel Azo Yellow, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna) and in some places adding Lunar Earth to get the granulation. My light “cool mix” is usually Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, French Ultramarine and Sepiain different proportions. Here I add granulating Lunar Blue to the background. For the cat’s shadow I use Moonglow, Verditer Blue and Quinacridone Burnt Orange. 

Colors. Nickel Azo Yellow, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and Lunar Earth for mixing warm wash colors. Lunar Blue for the background and Moonglow for the cat’s shadow.
Step 3. Adding values to the cat’s figure to build the form.

Step 3

Continuing with the washes, I start to add values to the cat’s figure to define the pose and to build the form. I use the same colors as in the background, just adding a bit of Quinacridone Coral to the ears. I wet the paper with clear water using a hake brush before applying the colors and spraying the water if I see any hard edges that I don’t want. If I need to put a more defined mark with the brush, I blot water from the brush and take up more pigment with it. This way even when the surface is wet, we have more control of making marks. For the tail, I use watercolour’s wonderful nature, when working wet onto wet paper, to get this spreading mark. 

Step 4. Adding darker values to the shadows on the cat and the shadow beneath it.

Step 4

Here I continue to add value to the shadows on the cat and the shadow beneath it as well as adding more details to the cat. I don’t wait for the paper to dry completely, I just continue with the process: some places dry, some are still wet and I get various brush marks naturally with little effort. This is important, to have soft edges and strong edges one near another among the whole painting. Also, I always think about cool and warm colors and keep them in mind while painting. Cool colors near the warm colors make the painting more natural and connected to reality, even when you are not “ a real realist artist”.  For the darkest places, I love to use the mix of Sepia, Phthalo Turquoiseand Verditer Blue with Deep Scarlet which is one of my favourite dark mixes.

Colors. Mixes of Sepia, Phthalo Turquoise and Verditer Blue with Deep Scarlet is one of my favourite dark mixes.
Step 5. The most fun step, creating the textures in a background.

Step 5

The most fun step – creating the textures in a background. Here I use all the same colors I already have on a palette, especially Lunar Blueand Lunar Earth, because I need their granulating ability for textural effects. Here there are no rules: I use a dry flat brush, splatter colors, spray water, lifting marks with paper towel – everything I could think of. But trying to stop in time before making the painting overworked or too dark in value. 

Step 6. Checking the background values.

Step 6

Here I check the value of the background and make a decision to add a bit more darker value in the lower right corner. Usually I take a break for a cup of coffee and then come back to the painting to look at the painting with more fresh eyes. This time I saw that some more value was needed and used a mix of Deep Scarlet and Verditer Blue, I love this kind of “silver gray” I get in this mix. 

Step 7. Adding the final details.

Step 7

The final details – I add some graphic lines with liner brush using the same dark mix I already have, and a most important character the painting – the beetle! Sometimes those graphic lines add a lot to the painting, but we should be careful not to make too much of them. And don’t forget to sign the painting!

“Other Way” by Sophie Rodionov
Finished painting, “Other Way”, 15″ x 20″, by Sophie Rodionov
Sophie Rodionov’s palette of DANIEL SMITH Watercolors.

I love the DANIEL SMITH colors and have used these paints for years. For me DANIEL SMITH is the natural choice because they have a really wide range of colors and not only the basic, traditional colors which could be found in any brand. I often talk about PrimaTek Watercolors made from real minerals, the different interesting colors, many with granulating effects and how some, like Moonglow, separate into several colors when applied in wet washes. 


My basic palette has only DANIEL SMITH colors:

  • Nickel Azo Yellow
  • Quinacridone Burnt Orange
  • Aussie Red Gold
  • Perinone Orange
  • Quinacridone Coral
  • Opera Pink
  • Deep Scarlet
  • Sepia
  • Phthalo Turquoise
  • Phthalo Blue (RS)
  • French Ultramarine
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Cobalt Teal Blue
  • Verditer Blue 
  • Lavender
  • Olive Green
  • Perylene Green
  • Lunar Black

I’m an artist who loves different textures, I fell in love with the Lunar colors –Lunar Earth, Lunar Blue, Lunar Black and Lunar Violet. In the demonstration of the cat painting I used two of them: Lunar Earth and Lunar Blue. I think they are like a gem in this painting, without them, it wouldn’t have the “magic” it has now. The effects of granulation can be used not only as background texture, but for the animals as well. I paint a lot of pet portraits and the Lunar Black turned to be one of the “must have” on my palette, and all my collectors have loved that effect in their animal paintings. So, I could definitely say that particular part of my painting style wouldn’t be possible without DANIEL SMITH Watercolour paints. And I would like to thank DANIEL SMITH for this.

Sophie Rodionov is an Estonian-born artist now living in Israel. Since 2013 she has been working as a full-time, self-employed artist, designer and illustrator with a range of art collectors, fashion and textile designers, brands and interior designers. Member of International Watercolor Society from 2017.
Her current work is a balance between abstract shapes and realistic forms, which shift between and create a layered world of captured moments. Sophie finds inspiration in every moment of life and trying to show that each moment deserves to be shown and has its’ own unrepeatable beauty.
Her works are held in private collections of over the world, including United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Netherlands and others. Sophie works with numerous top-brands and creates illustration designs for products for companies such as Papyrus, Metal Frame Works, Wendover Art Group and others.
Sophie enjoys helping social, un-commercial projects with her art. Among these projects are a BBC interior design show for people with disabilities, an auction for an animal rescue farm in California, an auction for a ballet school, wall art for the cat clinic at Wisconsin University and so on.
Sophie has a background as a glass artist and holds a degree in Bachelor of Fine Arts from Haifa University. Currently she is based in Israel and finds inspiration all around, she is available for art travel opportunities teaching art classes and workshops.

“Kora” by Sophie Rodionov
“Buddies” by Sophie Rodionov
Sophie Rodionov signing her finished watercolor painting.

Realistic Watercolor Painting w/Kelly Eddington

What do you love to paint the most? You’ll never know until you explore a wide variety of subject matter. This online workshop presents a sampler of popular watercolor subjects: landscapes, still life, and portraits. Kelly Eddington will show you how watercolor’s unique properties can do the heavy lifting in each painting. Watch watercolor create a serene blue sky, a soft shadow defining a cheekbone, and reflected light on a shiny surface—all in seconds. Watercolor is challenging and can take decades to master, but this medium’s special quirks are so seductive you might find yourself under its spell for the rest of your life.

The Mind of Watercolor w/Steve Mitchell

Watercolor can be one of the simplest mediums to use, but it does seem to have a mind of its own at times, giving it the reputation of being fussy and unforgiving to work with. In this four part workshop Steve Mitchell gets into the mind of watercolor and see what makes it tick. Success with watercolor depends greatly on discovering and anticipating how it reacts in real painting situations.

The Importance of Blue: Artist Pablo Ruben

Daniel Smith presents watercolor artist Pablo Ruben and “The Importance of Blue”

Undoubtedly blue is the essential color in my palette and I have up to six spaces reserved in my usual work zone for them. My works are characterized by cold and grayish ranges, so the blues are completely irreplaceable. The blues that I use the most are: Indigo, Indanthrone Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue Chromium, Lavender, and Cobalt Teal Blue.

Diagram of the colors used for “Fuente de Castellar”

When mixed with different earth tones (Burnt SiennaBurnt UmberSepia, etc.) I get infinite ranges of grays for all types of planes (background, middle ground and foreground). Mixed with a single yellow, I get a great variety of greens, as I do not usually have greens on my palette.

Pablo Ruben’s DANIEL SMITH Watercolor mixes for making grays

In the reference work “Fuente de Castellar” (Castellar Fountain) the blue is the essential protagonist of the work since the source is the main element of the work. To achieve the main gradient, three blues interlaced and fused with the proper density are necessary to produce the depth effect.

“Fuente de Castellar” by Pablo Rubén

Pablo Rubén has been painting since he was a child, and the last 18 years working as a professional artist. President of the International Watercolor Society of Spain, he has joined in many of the most important watercolor Biennials all around the World: China, Korea, Thailand, India, Mexico, Canada, Belgium, Italy and has been awarded in International competitions such as American Watercolor Society, San Diego Watercolor Society, Slovenia International Watercolor Society.  He is a passionate artist of “Plein Air” work and has more than 400 awards in this kind of contests in Spain and France. As a watercolor instructor he has given workshops in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, USA, Brazil, and Mexico; being very appreciated as an art teacher. An avid traveler, urban scapes and all sorts of water reflections are the main subjects in his work, playing with aerial points of view to make original compositions. 

Pablo Rubén paintings demonstrating the Importance of Blue

“Pilar de la Horadada” by Pablo Rubén
“Alovera” by Pablo Rubén
“Membrilla” by Pablo Rubén
“Blue Bridge” by Pablo Rubén

Introducing Lorraine Watry, Watercolor Artist

Lorraine Watry “Spa Day”, Experimenting with Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors Greys

We are delighted to introduce DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Artist, Lorraine Watry! Lorraine will take us step-by-step through her process for making a watercolor painting.

“Spa Day” is from a photo I took of a Red Crested Cardinal after he’d bathed in a fountain. The photo intrigued me because of all the neutral colors around the bright pop of red-orange on the bird’s head. I decided to experiment with this painting and not only did I try the new DANIEL SMITH Greys, but I also tried a different brand of paper and a technique I don’t usually use – blooms. I began the painting by using my photo software to adjust the composition by moving the bird to the right and added some more water dripping in the fountain.

Step 1: Preliminary steps for “Spa Day”.

Step 1: I start all of my paintings by doing a detailed drawing from my photo. I then enlarge the drawing and transfer it to my watercolor paper using my light table. I stretched my watercolor paper onto foam board and while it was drying overnight, I played with the greys and did a small color study to get an idea of my techniques for the background.

Step 2: Masking out the bird and dripping water shapes, then beginning to add watercolor.

Step 2:  Next, I masked out the bird and dripping water with masking tape. I used masking fluid to mask some of the small drops of water on the bird’s feathers and in the background, as well as the highlights on the bird’s eye. I began the fountain by wetting the area and used a variety of the greys from Alvaro’s Fresco Grey and a little Gray Titanium on the left, to Joseph Z’s Cool and Warm Greys as I moved to the right. While these areas were wet, I flicked on water for blooms and charged in Bronzite Genuine and Mummy Bauxite for color variety and texture. As the area started to dry, I flicked on more of the BronziteGenuineMummy Bauxite, and Alvaro’s Caliente Grey to make the fountain feel like rough stone.

Step 3: Using Alvaro’s Fresco Grey in the background on the left….

Step 3: I used Alvaro’s Fresco Grey in the background on the left and under the bird on the ledge. I really like this cool/purple grey and I’m already using it on another painting. I glazed some of the Bronzite Genuine over parts of this area to give the gray fountain some patina. BronziteGenuine is naturally shiny so this pigment is fun to see up close because it sparkles. I used Joseph Z’s Warm Grey and a touch of Alvaro’s Caliente Grey to create the dark shadow on the fountain behind the bird. Then I removed the masking on one of the lines of dripping water to see if my values were working. This helps me decide if I need to add more glazes before removing all the masking.

Step 4: Working around all the greys of the background….

Step 4: I continued working around all the greys of the background and used some of Joseph Z’s Warm Grey for the shadow on the back left. I repeated the greys from the walls of the fountain in the water along with some Green Apatite Genuine and Quinacridone Gold. I debated whether to include the green in the water, but I liked the contrast with the red of the birds head. The green also appears along the front edge of the ledge the bird rests on. I finished up the majority of the background and shadows and then removed the masking fluid on the bird and dripping water.

Step 5: Starting the birds head with Quinacridone Sienna….

Step 5: I was excited to start the birds head and I began with Quinacridone Sienna for the lighter, muted orange feathers. After this dried, I added a mix of Pyrrol Scarlet and Carmine for the red feathers. Then to give the bird life, I painted his eye with a mix of Burnt Umber and Sodalite Genuine. I left the highlight at the bottom of the eye and later painted some Quinacridone Sienna on that area. After removing the mask for the brightest highlight, I added a touch of Cerulean Blue, Chromium to reflect the sky in the bird’s eye. The beak was painted with glazes on dry paper using Burnt UmberQuinacridone Rose, and Cerulean Blue, Chromium.

Step 6: Painting in the birds feathers with mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber.

Step 6: I decided to use Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber, a gray mix that I know well for the birds feathers. This mix allows me to vary the gray from cool to warm and keep a unified look to the feathers. I started adding glazes to the bird’s head for shadows and depth and mixed Cerulean Blue, Chromium and Quinacridone Rose for the shadow on the white body feathers. I softened the edges of some of the feathers by applying water while an area was wet or softened the edge after it had dried.

Occasionally I took a break from the feathers and worked on the dripping water in the background. I wet each drip and then painted it using Alvaro’s Caliente and Fresco Greys. I left some of the edges and circles within the drips white to make them sparkle.

Step 7: After adding many layers to the birds feathers….

Step 7: After adding many layers to the bird’s feathers, I removed the masking fluid from the water drops all around the background. I softened their edges using a small flat brush and water. Then I added some color to some in the shadows. For those that were floating on the water, I added a line to the middle and shaded the reflection in the water. 

Step 8: (Detail) At this point, I took some time to look at the almost finished painting….

Step 8: (Detail) At this point, I took some time to look at the almost finished painting. I decided that I wanted to lift some of the color in the water to create some larger white splashes. I used masking tape and a sharp blade to cut out some shapes. I was pleased with how well the Signature Series Greys lifted. After removing the tape, I cleaned up the shapes I created to integrate them into the surrounding water.

“Spa Day”, 20×28 watercolor by Lorraine Watry

In Conclusion: Normally, I would not recommend using so many different grays in the same painting. In this case, the variety of grays seemed to work together for the colors and textures of the fountain. I feel like this experimental painting was a personal success on multiple fronts. The different cold press paper that I tried worked well and gives me an option from my usual CP paper. I enjoyed experimenting with the textures of the fountain and the Primatek Watercolors, and the New Signature Series Greys really added to that effect with their granulation (Alvaro’s Caliente Grey is the only non-granulating gray in the bunch). Finally, it was a pleasure trying out most of the new DANIEL SMITH Greys in “Spa Day”. My favorites are Alvaro’s Caliente and Fresco GreysJoseph Z’s Warm and Cool Greys are close runners up. These will be added to my arsenal of convenience colors for future paintings.

Lorraine is a watercolor artist painting waterscapes, birds, and reflective objects in a realistic style. Lorraine’s watercolors are characterized by bright colors, dramatic light, and realistic reflections. She likes the challenge of painting water, glass, and metal and recently has become captivated with birds. Lorraine has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Colorado in Boulder and after college designed clip-art for a graphics company for a few years. Lorraine began working with watercolor 25 years ago and taught the medium at Pikes Peak Community College. She currently teaches watercolor and drawing in her studio and at other venues. Lorraine enjoys the challenge of watercolor and starts her paintings with a detailed drawing. She likes to use intense color and many layers to build up the depth in her images. The DANIEL SMITH pigments are her favorite watercolors for their intensity of color, range of pigments, and beautiful granulations. Lorraine prefers to use the white of the paper and does not add opaque whites to her paintings. She is intrigued by reflections and how they interact to create abstract patterns in a realistic scene.

QoR MINI Watercolor Set: Compact Color for artists on the move

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The deep, rich, beautiful color of QoR Modern Watercolors with its exclusive Aquazol binder provides more pigment in every brushstroke, while retaining the best qualities of traditional watercolors. Strength, versatility, and now convenience and mobility are part of the Qor Story – and at 40% off list price! Get this set for $69.99 (list price $99.99) while supplies last!  

Features include:

  • Stamped wells on tin lid offer convenient mixing space
  • Innovative non-staining silicone insert with embossed letters next to each pan
  • Standard size removable/refillable half pans; and
  • Watercolor paper insert to paint out a color reference key

Vibrant, clean mixing primary colors along with convenient secondary and earth colors includes: Cadmium Yellow Primrose, Nickel Azo Yellow, Transparent Pyrrole Orange, Pyrrole Red Medium, Quinacridone Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Sap Green, Payne’s Gray, Transparent Brown Oxide, and Burnt Umber