German Half-Timbered Houses with Ink and HORADAM® Watercolour - by Danny Hawk

In this step-by-step guide, artist and urban sketcher Danny Hawk shows how a complicated scene - for instance, a medieval old town with halftimbered houses - can be simplified and drawn with ink and watercolour. In doing so, buildings are reduced to basic shapes, watercolours are added in layers, and the sketch is given a clear focus through the use of negative space.

Materials needed:

  • Paint: Schmincke HORADAM® watercolours in Indian yellow (220), cadmium red light (349), ultramarine blue (496), helio turqouise (475), sap green (530), helio green (514), yellow ochre (655), English venetian red (649), sepia brown (663)
  • Paper: Watercolor paper - e.g. from Hahnemühle
  • Brushes: e.g. da Vinci NOVA Synthetics watercolorbrushes (series 1570) in size 8 and 12
  • Pencil and Pen: Pencil for the preliminary sketch. A fineliner or fountain pen with waterproof ink for theline work - e.g. Lamy Safari fountain pen with De Atramentis document ink (converter necessary) or Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon ink cartridges.


Step 1

At the start of every sketch, I take some time to think about the layout. What do I want to portray? Where is my focus? And where does my sketch end? By doing a loose pencil sketch, I'm able to get a better feel for the layout and I can also pay attention to white space and edges, thereby giving my drawing a clear focus.


Step 2

Next, I begin adding lines with ink. For this step, I use a fountain pen with waterproof ink and draw not just the outlines of the buildings but also hint at textures by making small marks with my pen - for instance, on the roofs and on the wall. If needed, I can use pencil lines to make sure my windows line up correctly. For trees and vegetation, I simply draw the outline and will later create textures and contrast when I add watercolour.


Step 3

As soon as my line work is finished, I can start adding colour. Usually, I start by painting the lightest areas first - in this case, the individual houses. For this, I'll prepare awatery mixture with yellow ochre, English venetian red, sepia brown and ultramarine blue. When applying the wash to my paper, I'll vary the main colour slightly so that the houses look a bit different. For the first layer of the stone wall below the half-timbered houses, I'll prepare a mixture of yellow ochre, English venetian red and sepia brown, although the amount of brown in this mixture is higher.


Step 4 and 5

As soon as my first layer has dried, I'll add shadows within the houses and hint at the stone texture of the wall with a few brush strokes. When doing this, I usually take the same colours as in my first wash, but just with a thicker consistency. Next up, I'll start painting the roofs. To get the desired colour, I'll mix English venetian red, yellow ochre, Indian yellow and sepia brown together. As with the houses, I make sure to adjust the base tone in every roof so that there is more variety at the end. After that, I'll apply a few brush strokes to add texture - as with the stone wall.


Step 6

Now it's time to paint the timber framing. For this, I'll apply a very thick mixture of cadmium red light and English venetian red. I'll paint the window shutters with the same colour. If I want some variety, I can paint the timber framing for one or two of the houses with helio green. After all this is complete, I'll paint the inside of the windows with a mixture of ultramarine blue and English venetian red. 


Step 7

As soon as the houses are finished, I'll move on to the trees and foliage. Here, I'll also work in layers and apply a first layer, which will later correspond to my brightest tonal value. Then I'll add a second and sometimes even a third layer, which correspond to the mid-tones and dark tones. For a base green, I like to use sap green and then add Indian yellow, yellow ochre, English venetian red and/or ultramarine blue according to what type of green I exactly want.


Step 8

It's not until the very end that I paint the water and reflections. For this part, I'll also begin with the lightest area of the water - in this case, it's the colour of the sky, which I'll paint with a very watery mixture of helio turquoise and ultramarine blue. Once that's done, I'll paint the reflections with the colours of the houses and the roofs, and I'll let the colours flow into one another. Throughout the entire process, I leave a few spaces unpainted so that the impression of water is given.


Step 9

To portray small ripples and shade, I'll go back into this same area once the first layer is dry and add a few brush strokes. This can be done with the same mixture I used for the reflections, but with a bit more ultramarine blue or English venetian red.


Step 10

Now it's just a matter of adding the final details. I'll apply a light blue wash right behind the houses and adjust the borders of the sketch to my liking. Then my painting is finished!