Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial
Watercolor Painting Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial
There's something inspiring about a lighthouse. They stand proudly on the highest point around and shine a single beacon of light into the dark. They are usually beautiful, just because of what they stand for, safety and hope in the darkest night.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse is a particularly beautiful lighthouse. It stands on a rocky cliff overlooking the mouth of Bass Harbor. It's part of Acadia National Park and I've painted the actual lighthouse several times. I'm sure I will paint it again, since it is so beautiful.

But on this trip to show my boys the lighthouse it was the path to the lighthouse that inspired me. It's a very short hike, but not the easiest. The steep path is carved into the cliff with steps interspersed until it ends abruptly on the rocks with a gorgeous view of the lighthouse.

Before the end, the afternoon light was slanting through the trees and turning everything to a beautiful sunlit haze. The trees weren't quite in focus, but blurring into the sun.

Naturally, I had to sketch it!

I was in a big hurry with my sketch, since boys and rocks, but it's amazing how sketching something will focus you memory. I can taste the salt air and feel the breeze from the water. The light reflecting off the sea is part of my memories and the sailboats coming through the harbor.

Sometimes, it's hard to know where to stop with a sketch. There's so much!

The painting took a bit longer to create than the sketch, but the feeling of shimmering light on the sea and trees is there.

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting tutorial

Painting Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Painting Water

Art Supplies

10" x 14"
Arches Rough Press

Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.14
Isabey Rigger, no.4
Isabey Mop, no.6


M. Graham watercolors

Azo Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Nickel Azo Yellow
Pthalo Blue
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Violet
Quinacridone Rust
Wax Crayon

Painting Demonstration 1

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

I start with a quick mop brush of cobalt blue and pthalo blue just skimming over the rough paper.

Lighthouse Path Sketch by Jennifer Branch

Quick sketch for the painting
done at Bass Harbor Lighthouse.

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Reference Photo
Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Reference Photo

Painting Demonstration 2

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

While the blue wash is still wet, I scribble in some azo yellow tinged with viridian. Letting the green bleed into the rocks, I paint them with quinacridone rust and cobalt violet.

Painting Demonstration 3

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial 3

Still wet, I dash some deep greens in using my #4 rigger. Don't paint every branch. The trees are mostly shadows and highlights, without too much green or brown showing. Also, in a later step, I'm going to blur a lot of the edges, so don't worry if it's a little rigid to start.

Artist Tips

Don't try to paint every branch - half of them aren't even showing up in the sun glare.
Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

Painting Demonstration 4

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial 4

Continuing the tree wash, you can definitely see where the underlying wash was still wet by the blooming trees. That's exactly what I want!

Crisper edges are focused at the center of interest.

I'm letting the trees blur on the edges and keeping the sharper edges where they're backlit by the sun.

I use a wax crayon to preserve some to the yellow green highlights in the trees.

Painting Demonstration 5

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial 5

Continue the tree line down the hill, realizing there's not much detail backlit by the sun. I add a few strong blue darks, since I want the viewer's eyes drawn down the path.

Painting Demonstration 6

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

Now for strong darks!

There's a touch of ultramarine blue, but most of the dark shadows are cobalt blue and cobalt violet. I want even deep shadows to be a little hazy in the bright light.

Painting Demonstration 7

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Tutorial 7

I used yellow ochre a lot during my Maine trip. It's a slightly opaque, not too granulating dull yellow, so it was perfect for the rough pinkish rocks. When you really look at the rocks, they look pink, but it's more little bits of iron, so quinacridone rust was perfect for that. The yellow ochre just pulled things together.

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting demonstration

To purchase Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial original watercolor painting, please click!

Lighthouse Path Painting Tutorial Final Watercolor Painting!

I think everyone has that feeling of walking into the light sometimes. You know the view will be beautiful, but it's hard to see the detail of each step along your path.

I hope this painting tutorial inspires you to enjoy the process of life and of painting. Every step we take is precious. Live fully in every moment, since the journey is the best part!

This painting is a reminder to enjoy your journey. Those shimmering steps along the way are beautiful too.

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