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  New York

The above project is what we worked on the last night of watercolor plus class. It is a combination of using some gesso, found or purchased papers, and watercolor.

Here are the steps we used:

 step 1

We drew a line for the top and bottom of our skyline.

  step 2

We gessoed (acrylic gesso) the city and left the sky and foreground the surface of the paper. This would not have to be done, but I wanted to try this technique for future reference. I do think the gesso added a textural quality to the skyline area that wouldn’t have existed in these, otherwise.

  step 3

Wash in the sky and foreground areas with watercolor. The burnt sienna swish you see on the left was to demonstrate how you can watercolor on the gesso and then lift it out using water and also the different appearance of watercolor on gesso.

  step 4

We then cut pieces of pictures or print in the shapes of our buildings and glued them to the gesso using acrylic matte medium. The matte medium dries without a shine and is acid free. I used mostly different rice papers for this Chicago scene.

 step 5  Chicago skyline

We then painted in the remaining spaces of the skyline with watercolor. I also added a second wash to the water to darken it.

Other collage work can be found on Jack’s Blog.

Beth Parker has taken this a step furthur on her blog here….and here.


  1. OMG As soon as I saw your skyline I said Hey, I know that place. Love it!

    And I love the images you used for some of the sides of the buildings, the horse, the keys! very creative.

    • THANK-YOU, Carol! This was so much more fun creating because I knew someone who lives there. I added an elderly woman’s hands to the bottom right corner, thinking of your Mom. I like the New York one a tad better because of the newspaper clippings. I think I’ll stick with them in the future. The rice paper looks nice in the Chicago one but it is too plain for a city that’s bustling don’t you think?

  2. i think you’ve outshone yourself this time

  3. I like the graphic quality of this work. Nice solid design. Working with gesso sounds like a mission though.

    • Thanks Stephen. Gesso is not bad. It is just a surface that changes the look of watercolor when you use it.

  4. Interesting project – have you seen any of John lovett’s mixed media watercolours?

    • Thank-you Sarah for the link. Yes, actually his book “Getting Started” was the first book on watercolor that I purchased. I recommend it to my beginning students because it is easy to understand and allows the artist multiple directions and ideas.

  5. OK, I’ll do the same with San Francisco! It looks like fun! And great result!; I do love the different colored rectangles on the #4.

    • I definitely want to see yours when it is finished Isabelle. With your use of collage, it’ll be so good. Thank-you for saying something about Number 4. I was thinking it lacked something in energy. I do like all the fancy papers they come out with these days, though.

  6. This is brilliant Leslie! I love to see you trying out different techniques and mixing your media. I especially love the collaged newspaper on the buildings – very effective!

    • The newspaper one was a blast to create, Heather. These are small and I think I could do endless scenes this way….maybe

  7. Oh my gosh, Leslie! Now you’ve done it. I don’t want to work now. I want to immediately try this technique! How much fun is that? I bet it was fun to see all the different results from your students. WOW! Thanks for sharing this!

    • This IS fun. I liked sitting there with all the clippings on the New York one and deciding where to put what. Also, you never really know what the end result will look like. I find that kind of art very refreshing and re-fueling.

  8. Very cool. I like the use of words as windows. Giving me some ideas to use words as design elements rather than as “words.”

    • Thanks Jack. I was totally inspired by your collage work and something I’d seen in an art show where all different materials were used in mini paintings.

  9. Leslie – are you a Chicagoan? I just moved here, and am learning my way around. Thanks for sharing the way you did the cityscape. Turned out great!

    • Thank-you for visiting Nina. No. I am from Fort Wayne in Indiana. I love Chicago, though.

  10. I’m an English art student who’s studying modern buildings and architecture for my latest project. I came across your site when researching artists and this piece caught my eye! I absolutely love your style and techniques and I was wondering if I could use this piece as an example on an artist research page about you, and if possible you could tell me some of your artistic background and why you chose look at buildings for this piece in particular? Don’t worry if you would rather not, I still love your work and will use these steps to produce some experiment samples! Thank you!

    • Hi Emilie,
      Thankyou for your comment and question. I chose the city skylines for these because there were so many shapes I could play with. When we think of a city and identifying it by it’s appearance, the thing that strikes me most are not all the buildings, but the unique shape and height of some of them; as well as that top “one” line. Therefore, I find them an excellent subject to work with when collaging, or doing value paintings.
      I have always drawn. Drawing, drawing, drawing. I had time to take drawing classes in the 80’s. Painting came later. Both have been more of a glorious hobby than a way to make a living. I teach watercolor and drawing , now, in an adult continuing education program we have here. My degree is in education, just not art education.
      Painting, drawing, creating is my favorite way to move through time. 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for your lovely reply! It’s been so useful to my project and I’m so glad to have found you, it’s really inspiring to have found someone so passionate about art and willing to help! I can’t wait to show my teacher my research and response page! 🙂

    • You are so welcome. It was not hard to respond to. I love teaching and your request was not to be ignored. Have fun while you take this journey with art, Emilie! 🙂

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