Coastal Road Sketch
Watercolor Sketching Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial
Everyone has a lovely road near them, with interesting highlights and shadows. This watercolor painting tutorial of a coastal Georgia road uses techniques that can be used to sketch any road inspiring you.
Coastal Road Sketch Watercolor Painting tutorial

Sketching Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Art Supplies

10" x 14"
Arches Rough Press

Escoda Full Bellied Round Squirrel, no.14


M. Graham watercolors

Azo Yellow
Nickel Azo Yellow
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Teal
Cobalt Violet
Quinacridone Rust
White Gouache
Wax Crayon

Painting Demonstration 1

Coastal Road Sketch Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

This lovely plein aire sketch was painted on a dirt road next to a salt marsh.I love the wonderfully intense shadows cast on roads. They have nuances in color tones, changing according to where they are. The almost tropical feel of palm trees and bright light is felt even in the early spring.

I used a tiny bit of wax crayon to reserve highlights before I even started. After I painted some of the pale yellow highlights, I used a bit more clear wax crayon to reserve those.

To begin, I'm just blocking in some colors. I know the rough paper will show what colors I painted first very clearly if I use a drier brush. So it's critical to think through from the first wash to the last one.

Of course, this is a sketch, so things will change!

Coastal Road Sketch Reference Photo
Coastal Road Sketch Reference Photo

Painting Demonstration 2

Coastal Road Sketch Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

I'm starting to scribble in a bit more texture now. I don't have any strong darks yet, but I have reserved quite a few highlights with my wax resist sticks.

The palmetto ended up being one of my major focuses for the painting. Later in the trip, I painted quite a few of them. I can't get over their basketweave pattern on the trunk and overlapping shadows on the fronds.

Painting Demonstration 3

Coastal Road Sketch Painting Tutorial 3

I'm now doing the underpainting for the Spanish moss in greenish purples. Just a touch of nickel azo yellow and viridian, then a lot of cobalt violet.

Artist Tips

You want a lot of white paper left in this painting for those sharp tropical contrasts.
Coastal Road Sketch watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

Painting Demonstration 4

Coastal Road Sketch Painting Tutorial 4

A few more touches in the foreground in jagged strokes and the first wash is finished.

Painting Demonstration 5

Coastal Road Sketch Painting Tutorial 5

Some more darks and the fun of the basketweave on the palmetto palm. I want the Spanish moss framing the road.

Painting Demonstration 6

Coastal Road Sketch Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

Some more very strong darks start adding the contrast I need. The bright greens frame the golden light at the end of the path.

One tool I use all the time sketching is Neocolor I Water-Resistant Wax Pastels, 10 colors. I use these wax pastels to regain highlights when I sketch. Since sketches are definitely works in progress, not finished and planned paintings, things change as I paint them. Losing highlights is unfortunately part of the spontaneous process. Deciding to paint over highlights is also something that happens, so a water soluble pastel is really handy!

I warn you the brightness of the pigments will be slightly dulled if you paint a wash over the pastel. You still can't regain paper. These pastels are an interesting texture for those highlights and sometimes you want the slightly chalky dull texture. For example, a reflection.

I love using these for sketching since it makes painting easier!

Painting Demonstration 7

Coastal Road Sketch Watercolor Painting Tutorial 7

Even more strong darks push the right background further back and make the highlights brighter. I add some bright greens with azo yellow and cobalt teal.

Coastal Road Sketch Watercolor Painting tutorial

Final Watercolor Sketch!

I had so much fun going on a sketching trip with my boys. It was wonderful they got to see a different place, experience a bit of it, sketch a little, and bike like crazy. I really love going places with them now they are old enough to really do things!

That isn't really about the painting - but it does mean I can sketch on location and worry less about constant crises!

I'm planning to develop this into a full planned painting in a few months. It's a great subject and a little more planning will make it a great painting! One of you suggested I show the difference between a sketch and a painting. I'd say the biggest difference is time and planning. This sketch took about 20 minutes. A painting will take about 2 hours.

The most important part of planning a painting is the sketch.

I hope this inspires you to paint a road near you!

Happy Painting! Jennifer Branch

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