George Politis | Watercolor Step by Step Painting “Life Can Be a Struggle”

In this step by step demonstration, I will paint some ruined metal staircase that I found really interesting. I will paint in pure watercolor, using DANIEL SMITH watercolors.

Rusty things convey some melancholy. They are really interesting, as they are reference to an earlier age, full of life and (possibly) joyful moments. Yet… today they are only ruing. Still, one can see the beauty in them, if they are depicted in such a way that makes them stand out. This is a matter of composing and choosing the right contrasts and value relations….

George Politis, step 1 painting "Life Can Be A Struggle"

Step 1 painting “Life Can Be A Struggle”

Step 1.
I start with a warm color (usually yellows and light reds) underpainting. This unifies the watercolor and gives a warm effect even in cooler and darker areas. In that case the dominant color in my underpainting was New Gamboge.
Then I start to establish the local colors step by step. I work in many layers, so I am really patient and do not push to the final colors and values very fast.
Some indication of wood texture is already there….


George Politis, step 2 painting "Life Can Be A Struggle"

Step 2 painting “Life Can Be A Struggle”

Step 2.
I carefully paint around the areas that are reserved for the metal highlights. Gradually I build up background darker values using several blues, Moonglow and certainly Imperial Purple, which definitely lightens dark areas and gives “life” to them.


George Politis, step 3 painting "Life Can Be A Struggle"

Step 3 painting “Life Can Be A Struggle”

Step 3.
I give more depth in the overall structure, by gradually painting darker shapes. Also starting to work on the metallic parts of the staircase.
Mainly using Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Gold, either wet in wet or drybrushed.


George Politis, step 4 painting "Life Can Be A Struggle"

Step 4 painting “Life Can Be A Struggle”

Step 4.
Painting in several areas one by one, moving around in the watercolor.
Introducing more Sleeping Beauty Turquoise. Building up darks, which brings more light to the prominent metallic parts. Also working further on the texture of the wood. The use of Moonglow, Shadow Violet and Imperial Purple make the lighter areas glow in the sunlight.


George Politis, step 5 painting "Life Can Be A Struggle"

Step 5 painting “Life Can Be A Struggle”

Step 5.
More texture. Going darker. Stopping, evaluating, painting again. I paint in many layers, patiently, not pushing things… I am trying to bring interest to the metal highlights. This is the target, everything has to work in that direction. More texture on the metal. Also to the wall at the back.


George Politis, step 6 painting "Life Can Be A Struggle"

Step 6 painting “Life Can Be A Struggle”

Step 6.
I finish the watercolor by painting some more texture and by further darkening and toning down the background so that the eye is drawn to the highlights.


"Life Can Be a Struggle", by George Politis

“Life Can Be a Struggle”, watercolor painting by George Politis


Photo of George Politis George Politis paints in watermedia and lives in Thessaloniki in Greece. He is a signature member of AWS (American Watercolor Society), RI (Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors), AWA (Arizona Watercolor Association), NEWS (North East Watercolor Society), IAF (Institut des Arts Figuratifs) and has served as President of the Artists Society of Northern Greece (2009-2015).
His paintings have won many awards, including the “Commended Award in Watercolor”, “Best Watercolor” and “Best Mixed Media” at the International Juried Exhibitions, Australian Society of
Miniature Art in Australia; the President’s Award, the Da Vinci Award and twice the “Award of Excellence” in the Arizona Watercolor Association Members Shows (2001, 2007, 2011).
He has served as juror in National and International watercolor exhibitions and he is the organizer and curator of the Thessaloniki Biennial of Watercolor (“Watercolor International – Greece”). His paintings are featured in art books and catalogs (International Artist 2001, L’ Aquarelliste 2000, L’ Art de l’ Aquarelle 2012, The Artist 2000, 2002, Artissime 2013, Le Grand Livre de l’ Aquarelle etc.).

3 TIPS from George Politis:

1) Dry brush and spattering techniques produce excellent textures.
2) Mix your colors on paper, instead of mixing on the palette. More vivid colors, beautiful variations.
3) Explore colors from the PrimaTek series by DANIEL SMITH. Experiment with them, find out more about their qualities, learn how to use them more effectively!

My 3 Favorite DANIEL SMITH Watercolors used in “Life Can Be a Struggle….”.

Quinacridone Gold… Definitely one of my favorites. Granulating, rich, diffusing beautifully!!
Imperial Purple. I believe this was a just decision to name it “Imperial”! I love this color! It gives warmth and interest in shadows, and very classy results.
Moonglow. A fantastic transparent granulating color, which I use a lot in shadows. This gives a beautiful variety of colors when diffused!

“My work depends on texture. I emphasize on it as I want to be able to create the various effects of time on metal, wood or wall. A good variety of transparent vs opaque colors, granulation qualities and certainly lightfastness are very important to me. When I discovered DANIEL SMITH watercolors, I knew I had everything I needed. A great range of colors (that can suit everyone’s needs), well ground to be consistent tube after tube.”
—George Politis

The DANIEL SMITH colors I used in the painting.

New Gamboge
Quinacridone Gold
Raw Sienna
Burnt Sienna
Piemontite Genuine
Hematite Genuine The granulating effects it gives are… unique!
Imperial Purple
Shadow Violet
Mayan Dark Blue
Cerulean Blue
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise
Lunar Black

George Politis painting "Life Can Be a Struggle"

George Politis painting “Life Can Be a Struggle”