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This year perhaps it’s more important than ever to let people know that we’re thinking of them at Christmas. In this landscape scene, I’ve included some elements that often create a feeling of wellbeing and optimism - sunshine and snow - with a Highland Cow included for good measure.

I’m really missing teaching watercolour classes, for me a huge part of the joy in painting is sharing my enthusiasm for watercolour and encouraging others, so I hope that you’ll enjoy this painting as much as I enjoyed preparing it. The hill is based on my ‘backdoor view’ when I lived on the Isle of Skye, and the cow grazed just over the garden fence with the rest of the herd.

I’ve demonstrated this at ¼ imperial (7½” x 11”), so that you could use it full size as a gift painting if you wish, and you can reproduce the painting smaller on your computer or with photos, to produce cards. Printing makes a variety of sizes possible, and can make postage cheaper than when sending large pieces of watercolour paper. You could paste prints of your painting onto card, or you could format a card, complete with text on your computer, and print the whole thing. I reproduced mine at 65% on my printer, to fit an A4 sheet folded to A5; it’s nice to make a standard size so that envelopes to fit are easily obtained.

If you wish, you could leave out the mountain and just paint the cow, but do use some blue sky and snow to set off the colour of the cow.


  • Cobalt Blue
  • French Ultramarine
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Size 10 round brush (mine has a very good point so I don’t need to use small brushes)
  • Saunders Waterford High White 300gsm
  • Paper kitchen roll

Lightly pencil the scene below; only pencil out as much you need to help you; it really won’t matter if an area of shadow or a rock is misplaced.

Click the image below to download the outline.


Step 1:
Using Cobalt Blue, paint the sky and the shadow side of the hill; while the wash is still slightly damp, lift out some clouds by pressing a small scrunched up piece of paper kitchen roll into the wash, turn it each time you press so that you use a clean area of towel, that way you won’t print the paint back on to the paper. Allow to dry.

Step 2: Using a little very pale Raw Sienna (almost no colour at all), paint the left side of the hill in broken diagonal strokes, (leaving some areas unpainted). While the Raw Sienna is still damp use Burnt Sienna to the lower area of the slopes.

Step 3:
For the cow, paint loosely with Raw Sienna (avoiding the horns if possible) dropping in (just touch the brush to the wet paper) stronger Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna, allow the colours to softly mingle, add a little Ultramarine and Burnt Umber mix to indicate the shadow side of the legs.

Step 4:
For the shadows on the foreground snow, paint irregular shapes in dilute Cobalt blue; soften the sunny (left) side of some of these by running a clean damp brush along the edge. Drop in Ultramarine and Umber here and there to the right-hand side of these shadows.

Step 5:
Prepare some Ultramarine and Burnt Umber. Paint the darks on the shady side of the hill. Add stronger mixes of blue and brown into the damp paint. Allow to dry.

Step 6:
Strengthen the wash on the lower left of the hill, once more painting in diagonal lines of varying colour mix.

There’s only one photo for steps 5 and 6; I was enjoying painting so much I forgot to stop for a photo!

Step 7:
Add further washes and detail to the cow, including the horns, use colours already used throughout the painting. Combine wet-on-dry, softening edges here and there, and wet-in-wet. Indicate the direction of the hair but don’t try to paint every hair.

Step 8:
Add foreground detail; shadows, a few grasses etc.

Step 9:
Review your painting; I decided that the legs on the cow were a little too dark so I lifted a little colour from them.

You’ll find more mountain themed paintings in my book Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes: Mountain Scenes in Watercolour, published by Search Press.

Wishing you good health, peace of mind and a happy, if different, Christmas.

Download and print this project in full HERE.

Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes: Mountain Scenes in Watercolour is available from Search Press, RRP £12.99.

Show us your Christmas crafts! Tag us @searchpress or use #SearchPressMakes, we'd love to see them!

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