The painting of Willemstad from the air was commissioned for a present of a 50 year wedding anniversary. The client supplied a beautiful reference photo of Willemstad from above. It was absolutely a very nice assignment to carry out.

Willemstad in The Netherlands from the air
Painting of Willemstad in The Netherlands from the air

Willemstad is located in the province of Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands. From above you can clearly see that it is a fortified town: the town is built in a seven-pointed star and surrounded by water.


I started to trace the reference photo. I had the photo printed on 42 x 42 cm and with the use of an A2 lightpad I traced the outside lines of the town on watercolour paper.

Then I stretched the watercolour paper on the glass tabletop as I had done before with my assignment of the map of Paris. The stretching is done by wetting the paper, sticking it with watercolour tape and letting it dry. Unfortunately the first time the paper was not properly stretched and it started to bulge when I started the painting.

I made another trace, stretched the paper again and put heavy books on it to keep it flat. To my disappointment, the paper did not stay flat on the tabletop.

I was forced to make another trace and stretch the paper again. This time the paper was completely soaked with water and the stretching went well. The paper stayed flat on the tabletop and I was able to use paint without it bulging.

So a tip for myself and for others: soak the paper in water for a while (minimum of 5 minutes) and then attach it to the surface with watercolour tape. The surface can be a sheet of unprocessed plywood (not too thin) or in my case a glass tabletop. Finally, you have to let the paper dry thoroughly before you can use it.

FYI: I use the tabletop because the paper is very large (A2) and therefore I need a large surface.

This video on youtube (in Dutch) explains the stretching very well.

I could finally get on with the real thing: painting. I started, as with every painting, with the underlayer. I started very lightly, so I could easily build up the colours in layers. In this stage the surface is still a bit rough, but that will be cleared up later when more details are involved.

Working on the painting of Willemstad
Working on the painting of Willemstad

After the first layers I started working from top left to bottom right. Each time a piece of the landscape or the town. I mainly put the details in the ships in the harbour, and the houses and buildings in the town. To finish the painting, I finally applied some highlights and shading here and there.

Willemstad half painting, half photo
Willemstad half painting, half reference photo

Details of the painting

The painting was made on 300 grams Van Beek watercolour paper suitable for A2 size (50 x 65 cm). I used Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour paints and white gouache for the highlights. There is a cream-coloured passe-partout around it with a width of 4 cm on all sides. The frame is 50 x 50 cm and made of a light oak. It took me about 2.5 months to complete the painting.

Willemstad with frame and passe-partout
Willemstad with frame and passe-partout

Are you also interested in a painting of your favourite city from the air? Or perhaps you would like to have your most beautiful picture of a landmark captured? Contact ColourFlux Studio for the possibilities via the contact page.

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