Paint A Covered Bridge In Morning Light

 In this lesson we’ll paint a covered bridge in morning light. A simple value composition sketch and color study done helps allow for freedom with the medium and confidence in approaching the work. 

Take A Couple Steps Back

Covered bridges are very popular subjects to paint. It’s often the case that we are so excited about a subject and anxious to get started that we pull out that sheet of watercolor paper, draw the scene and start painting. This is almost always the wrong place to start. It is rare that the end result is not improved by taking the time to plan the composition and explore color choices before going on to the actual painting.

This lesson is all about painting that compelling scene with a beautiful covered bridge. But it is also the final step in a three step process. The first two – creating a value composition sketch and a color study – allow us to approach the painting with confidence and allow the medium it’s freedom.

It is strongly recommended that you follow the previous two lessons in order before starting this lesson.

Covered Bridge Scene – Subject and Idea

Everyone loves paintings of covered bridges and everyone love to paint them.  This lesson shows you how to paint one on an autumn morning.  This painting will be the combination of a subject – the covered bridge – with and idea – morning light in autumn.  It is important to recognize that the subject and idea are separate until we find a way to connect them in the painting.

For the subject, the bridge, it’s mostly important to get it drawn correctly so that anyone looking at the painting will recognize it. For any subject, an “accurate” drawing usually comes down to having the right symbols in place. After all, no painting is a creation of real objects, but a collection of shapes with color, value, and texture applied. For this painting the bridge is drawn so with the right proportions, appropriate shapes for openings and a few key interlocks.  Pretty easy stuff!

The idea in this painting, as in many paintings, is more difficult. In this case, the idea that the bridge is catching sunlight on an autumn morning means that we have to use particular colors – to depict autumn – and an arrangement of value that seems to show sunlight coming from a low angle.  The first two steps in the process, the value composition sketch and the color study, helped figure out how to place value and select a color set to re-create the idea of autumn morning light in the painting.

Analogous Color Scheme

The subject and idea for any painting provides direction in the choice of colors used in the painting. The idea for this scene is that it is an autumn morning. Autumn suggests a scene that is dominated by warm colors.

For this Color Study, and the eventual painting, we’ll use an Analogous Color Scheme with Complements


Drawing Layout For Any Painting

One note on the drawing layout. The downloadable layouts are done with heavy lines to make it easy to see and copy onto your watercolor paper. It is best not to draw the lines too heavy on your paper, especially in the sky, since there is a good chance the lines will show through the paint. It’s not a deal-breaker, but those heavy pencil lines are sometimes a distraction.

What you’ll need

This is a Premium Learning Library Lesson.  Access The Entire Library  With a Premium Membership – Cancel or Pause  at any time.  

More Premium Member Info Here.

 Already a Premium Member? Login Below

Just browsing? Check out these FREE lessons.

Related Lessons

Value Composition Sketch – Do This First!

pencil value composition sketch for a covered bridge in morning lightThe Color Study lesson, above, is the second step in a process that will result of a painting of a covered bridge in morning light. 

Any color study is not really a stand-alone exercise, but another exercise to explore the planned composition with Value and the other aspects of Color that help convey the subject and idea of the painting. 

Both steps are crucial in creating a strong structure for the eventual painting. 

Together, they also serve as a means to both encounter and solve problems with the composition, color choices, light and form among others. 

Color Study For Covered Bridge – Do This After The Value Sketch

Watercolor color study for a covered bridge in morning light sceneThis quick tutorial shows how to use a color study to develop a subject and idea while testing composition and value structure.

This lesson is really the second step, after the Value Composition Sketch lesson, above.

It is essential for making deliberate choices about the composition before jumping into the painting.

As with the exercise of creating Value Composition Sketches, Color Studies help explore different ideas about the scene or subject for a painting.  The two steps together, Value Composition Sketch and and Color Studies are vehicles for working out composition and are also valuable for  working out potential problems with color, value, technique and more.

Related Lessons

Analogous Color Schemes – The Basics

In this short lesson, we’ll take a look at the Analogous and Analogous with Complement Color Schemes. Both are effective at creating harmony and unity in your paintings.

Analogous colors are those that are similar to each other and found adjacent or near each other on a color wheel.

Paintings that use analogous color will have a great deal of color harmony, which reinforces the Unity of the painting.  Paintings based around an analogous color scheme will also have a definite mood that is visually reinforced throughout the painting.

Other Lesson Subjects

FREE Lessons For Beginners!

A group of fourteen FREE watercolor painting lessons that will get you started. Learn the techniques and paint some simple scenes to put them into practice. 

Landscape Painting Lessons

watercolor painting of a sycamore tree and landscapeOur largest group of lessons – 24 in all – includes easy, intermediate and advanced lessons covering important techniques and composition ideas. Click To See All Landscape Painting Lessons

Seascape Painting Lessons

The ocean is a continual source of inspiration for artists. It’s constant movement and change is compelling and intimidating. This series of lessons will teach you to handle seascapes with confidence and ease.

Flower and Still Life Painting Lessons

Lemons in a decorated bowl. Image from a watercolor painting lessonThis set of lessons include a range of subjects, techniques and methods as well as everything from quick sketches to longer, more finished floral and still life paintings. 

Quick Sketches and Unusual Subjects

metal and glass jar lids painted in watercolorIn this group of lessons you’ll find a lot of unusual subjects and quick sketching projects. Unusual subjects are those we don’t normally think of painting – often everyday objects that are ‘invisible’ most of the time. Quick sketching is a way to build many important watercolor painting skills. The sketches can also be developed into finished paintings. 

Skill Building Learning Tracks

Tips and Tricks For Watercolor Painting

Video tutorials with easy how to’s and other tips to make watercolor painting easier and more convenient. Most of these are FREE lessons  – watch without a Premium Membership

How To Paint Elements Of The Landscape

How to paint trees, skies, clouds, rocks, weeds and more. These lessons focus on individual objects that are common in landscape and seascapes. Every lesson covers ideas and techniques specific to each.

How To Paint Water

watercolor study of reflections and movement on waterWater shows up in landscapes and seascapes in many different ways. Adding water in any form – puddles to open ocean – requires some special considerations and techniques. These lessons show how. 

Value Basics

Value is arguably the most important characteristic of color to learn and use in painting.  It has two primary functions for the artist – as a fundamental component of Composition and as a way to create a sense of light and form. These lessons cover both functions. 

Color Basics

Color is an aspect of painting that can take a lifetime of study to really understand.  The 25 lessons in this group are is meant to introduce you to the various aspects of color and simple ways to explore color schemes, color choices and color combinations for your paintings.

Value To Color

Image of two color studies and the underlying value sketchesValue Composition Sketches are extremely valuable tools for creating solid and dynamic paintings.  It can be difficult to maintain the values as designed in the composition once you begin working in color. There are 20 lessons in this group that work through the process of creating a value sketches and then converting it to color while maintaining the values as designed. 

Light And Form

using color and value to show light and form on a simple cone shapeRecreating the effect of real world light on objects in a painting means creating the changes in color and value that simulate the real-world effect. Although the effect of light has many different visual impacts, there are certain, tried and true ways of creating patterns of light and shadow in our paintings. This group of 14 lessons will get you started. 

Basic Practical Linear Perspective

Simple scene in two-point perspective

All linear perspective systems are based on the simple idea that objects that are farther from you appear to be smaller.  Perspective, or linear perspective, is a system for representing the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. There are 9 lessons in this section that will introduce basic linear perspective and show practical ways to use it in your paintings.