Windows of the World: Watercolor tutorial

Windows of the World, 14x11, watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord


Karen Vernon's painting, Windows of the World is an 11x14 watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord. Take a look at the many layers of color that have been applied to this beautiful painting.


  • 11x14 Aquabord
  • Large wash paint brush
  • #6 round paint brush
  • Shader paint brush
  • New Gamboge
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Scarlet Lake
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Quinacridone Violet or Magenta
  • Manganese or Cerulean Blue
  • Phthalo Blue
  • Sap Green


The painting is first designed in grayscale. Because this rendering is reduced to a small 14x11 panel, the window size is made smaller, allowing more emphasis on the flowering cascade and the shadows that fall across the wall. Notice the change in the composition from the photograph.


The initial washes are laid in using the light, warm tones of Yellow Ochre and Scarlet Lake. Aquabord is the perfect surface that allows the colors to flow and mingle. There’s no reason to worry about hard edges or mistaken flows. One of the great advantages of Aquabord is that it allows the painter to make changes and corrections in the painting as it evolves.


After the first layer has dried, more color is glazed on, stacking and creating values and putting the blue underpainting on the shaded flowers. A flow of shadow colors is washed on the wall, applied much like a pour, allowing the colors to run diagonally to the bottom right corner. Shutter detail is begun.


Yellows and light blues are mixed on the left side of the flowers, wet-in-wet, creating warm light on the flowers. Sap green, Phthalo Blue, and Violets are mixed and added in the dark areas. The major part of the leaves is put in wet-on-dry in a spotty manner in order to create the texture of the many leaves in the cascade. The red of the flowers is started using Scarlet Lake, Alizarin Crimson, and Quinacridone Red.


The architectural element of the building is lifted off with a shader paint brush. Additional tonal glazing and color development can be done after the lifting is done. Use a natural bristle brush for glazing. A natural bristle brush will not drag on the surface as much as a synthetic, which tends to lift color more readily.


The painting may still appear messy. Allow some blooms and color flows and play with the shadow colors. It helps to age the texture of the building. Add some warmth by glazing some yellow. The flower pots are then painted in and the highlights are lifted off with a shader paint brush.


The flowers are developed making certain there are more darks on the right of the cascade. Use Alizarin Crimson and/or Quinacridone Violet, Magenta, or any other red-violet. Little light details are lifted off of the left side of the flowers for contrast. These can be made as loose or as detailed as desired. There is no need to use masking fluid because Aquabord allows you to lift back to white when you wish.


The shutters are developed using yellows and violets to create the shadows. The highlighted areas are lifted off and the weathered texture of the wood is lifted off with the a shader paint brush.


Some brights were added to the shutters and some textures lifted off above the window and along the edges of the window. More small flowers were added to the cascade and details were added around the lower shutters. Highlights were lifted off in the shadow flows giving the illusion of dappled light.

Aquabord allows you to play with the image. It allows the adding of more glazes, more washes, more lifting, and glazing again. The surface allows the artists to be as free and loose as desired or to developed a highly detailed painting. Upon completion, the painting is sealed: first with a finishing spray (Krylon UV Archival varnish) and followed by a brush on varnish (Golden Acrylic Polymer Varnish with UVLS). This frees your painting from the additional weight and glare caused when framing behind glass. No glass is required for presentation; there is no more glare to disrupt the image, and everything is totally archival and museum quality.

Artist Bio:
Karen Vernon has worked in watercolor for over fifty years and has taught workshops throughout the United States, Europe and Canada for more than 30 years. Her paintings have earned notable awards and developed a worldwide market. They currently hang in museum and corporate collections in Europe, the United States and throughout the world. She is a member of Who’s Who in American Art and Who’s Who in America and holds signature memberships in several prestigious art societies. She is the founder of ACT, Artist Changing Tomorrow, and was one of fifty recognized artists selected to be a part of the national museum touring exhibition, “Sea to Shining Sea.” Vernon has expanded her career focus and is now working in pastels and oils as well as watercolor. As well as being an active, producing artist, Vernon has been a noted jurist for exhibitions for 3 decades. Vernon and her husband, Ken Muenzenmayer each continue to teach art business and painting workshops across the nation.

Go back