“I Think I Can”

Turkish TramWhen I first saw the reference photo we were going to use for the most recent “Live Lesson” series at The Virtual Instructor, I was both excited and terrified.

I loved the photo! It was exactly the sort of rainy-day urban scene I’ve always wished I could paint, and even I could see the beauty of the simple primary color schemes, the reds, the yellows, the blues.

Yes, I loved the image, but how could I ever draw something like this? And then, if I managed to draw this train — actually a Turkish tram, we learned — how would I paint it?Β This was, you see, a “line and wash” project.

But I took a deep breath, followed along with the lessons week by week, and can now finally announce that “The train has left the station!” It’s finished. It’s done. It’s gone from my drawing board.

The first step, of course, was to draw the image. I didn’t think I could. In the end, though, my thought process was a bit like “The Little Engine That Could” — a popular children’s story. You’ve heard it, I’m sure. It’s the story of a little engine on a train filled with treats and toys for the girls and boys… and facing the steep incline of a mountain before it.

That’s very much how I felt when I thought of creating a drawing from this image! Impossible. Far too difficult for me to even attempt.

But, I did it. One line at a time. A mark here, a mark there, and gradually a rhythm began to develop. “I think maybe… yes, I think I can… I think I can…” Like the little engine that discovered that it could, indeed, pull the train cars over the mountain, I discovered that I could actually draw this busy street scene.

I did simplify the scene — a lot. I concentrated on getting the tram itself as accurate as I could make it, then simplified the background buildings and the crowd of people gathering around. I was pleased with my drawing.

Drawing the scene in graphite, however, was merely the first step. Next, the entire drawing needed to be inked. I used an 005 “Needle Drawing Pen” from a set I recently purchased. Ink Pens

I followed the same plan of action, slowly but surely, line by line, focusing on the tram and keeping all else as simple as possible. Again, I liked the image I’d created.

Finally came the watercolor process. For me, this proved to be the most challenging part of the project, partly because of my over-simplification of the scene. With the crowd of people, as an example, I wasn’t sure how to use the watercolors to create the illusion I wanted. Because I’d left out so many details, I wasn’t sure if the piece would “read” as it should.

My Turkish Tram (2)
The Turkish Tram – 5 x 7 Line and Wash by Judith Kraus on Strathmore Hot Press Watercolor Paper

While I didn’t come away with a work of art, my completed project definitely exceeded my expectations. I liked my “Turkish Tram” better, I think, before the watercolor application, but I liked the painting process itself. It gave me a chance to “be an artist”, to choose the right colors, and to think about how to turn those vague marks into something that does resemble a crowd of people.

Another thing I enjoyed with this project was the opportunity to work onΒ hot press watercolor paper. That was a first for me. Hot press paper is smoother than cold press, making it well suited for line and wash. I’ve included a link in the caption above.

Of course, what I liked best was the realization that I can take on seemingly impossible challenges and find a way to work through them. Again, my line and wash isn’t a work of art, but it’s a valuable lesson in patience, persistence, and possibility. I’ll take that lesson with me as I move on to other drawing and painting projects. I know now that I can do far more than I might initially think, and that once “I think I can”, I reallyΒ can do it.

I hope you enjoy my “Turkish Tram.”




    1. Thank you. It was a fun challenge to figure out how to do that crowd of people, how to simplify the whole scene, how to draw the tram! It’s encouraging to know that I can push myself — with a bit of guidance — and do more than I initially think possible. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Yes, I had to simplify! Too much detail in a reference photo leaves me cross-eyed and confused! I decided to focus as best I could on the tram itself. Overall, I was pleased with how it turned out. I could have added a few more details to the background, but I like the choices I made. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I agree.. having too much detail might just make things very muddled. The main focus of the reference photo is, after all, the tram, and that is what you focused on. You definitely feel pleased with how it all turned out. Keep it up!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep, exactly! I’m glad I was able to show the crowd and some of the background, and I hope I did just enough to make it believable. I don’t like art that’s too fussy and overly-detailed. Even if I could create it, I probably wouldn’t LOL! I like art that’s more suggestive and impressionistic.


    1. Thanks. It was one of those “one-hour-at-a-time” projects, otherwise I definitely would have been cross-eyed! Altogether the project took 7 hours for the instructor to complete. His was much more detailed, so even though I followed along lesson by lesson each week, I didn’t spend quite as much time with the watercolor work as he did.


    1. Thanks. One thing I really like about doing the “live lessons” with The Virtual Instructor site is that Matt (the Virtual Instructor) really does push us out of our comfort zone with the projects he chooses. I do enjoy trying new things, and I’m often surprised to discover how much better I can do than I expect. πŸ™‚ That’s always a very good feeling.


  1. I thought about trying this one too after I signed up for a free trial and watched the video. But the amount of line work (hatching) gave me cold feet! Good job simplifying – nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been a member at The Virtual Instructor for 5 years now, and I highly recommend Matt’s courses and tutorials. Every time we have a new project in the “Live Lessons” I think it’s impossible, but when I follow along and take my time — and simplify, where necessary — I find that I can do more than I thought.


    1. Thanks. When I first saw the reference photo, I shook my head. I loved it, but I was sure I could never draw anything even remotely close! I was surprised to see that I can sometimes do a lot more than I think. πŸ™‚


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