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Splashing Water on a Watercolor cityscape : Early this morning

Painting a rainy cityscape with watercolors on paintingdemos.com
Inspiration / Painting technique / Step by step demonstrations

Splashing Water on a Watercolor cityscape : Early this morning

Splashing water on a cityscape can add a nice look and feel to it.

After reading about artist Tim Saternow in the Winter 2012 issue of American Artist Watercolor magazine, I really liked his cityscapes and wanted to try adding drips on my watercolors.

Watercolor is a very technical and precise medium and I have a tendency to get very controlling with it and I though adding drips afterwards might be a good way to loosen up a bit. I will try that same technique on a watercolor portrait see how it works.

How to paint a “splashed” cityscape in watercolor and mixed media

Here are a few pictures of the painting in progress.

step by step watercolor cityscape painting tutorial

Start by transferring your drawing to your watercolor paper.

You might also be interested in: How to make your own lightbox for tracing on watercolor paper

Then you can preserve a few white areas with masking fluid. In that cityscape I started by an under painting with mostly yellow ocher and a bit of green

step by step watercolor cityscape painting tutorial

Then I added dark grays to the picture and define a few windows with washes.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate andΒ I receive a small compensation for sales. ThatΒ does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping theΒ content of this blog free.

Yarka St. Petersburg Professional Watercolor Pans

Same palette of traditional colors the great masters used a century ago. Liquid-poured means semi-moist pans respond instantly to a wet brush. 24 pans in plastic case. Also individual pans. – Master Set

removing masking fluid and softening edges

When you are done with the big washes, you can take off the masking fluid and soften a few edges with water and a stiff brush. I also added a few darker areas to increase contrast. At this stage you can use watercolor pencils to add details as the colors you add with the pencils will move more than the painted colors when you later splash the painting with water.

free cityscape painting lesson

I add more definition, mostly to the cars in the foreground and painted a few bright colors for the red lights and street lights.

splashing water on watercolor paintings

Next step is the fun part, splash water either with a spray or a dropper or your hands and let it soak in the paper,moving the paint around.

Early this morning- Watercolor on paper

If the water made some stains that you don’t want to keep, you can always take them off with a stiff brush and water.

This is the finished painting, Early this morning, watercolor and mixed media on paper, 15 x 22 inches.

5/5 - (1 vote)

Comments (192)

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  2. […] Early this morning- Watercolor on paper […]

  3. […] commentsSandrine Pelissier on Watercolor cityscape painting tutorial : Early this morningSandrine Pelissier on How to paint skin tones with watercolor layers : A few tipssiggiofmaine on How […]

  4. I just came across this blog and am delighted you tried dripping. Gorgeous work, Sandrine. I love how this additional layer adds a great deal of mystery to your painting and it also takes off the ‘curse of the hard edge.’ Now try using a ‘sedimentary’ color (Naples yellow, Cerulean, Burnt Sienna…) as a drip or a ‘bloom.’ You’ll find that it sits on top of everything for a more foggy feeling. Or try a ‘staining/transparent’ color (any of the Quinacridones, for instance). This will not cover the under-color but shift the tone and hue. You can also mix any color with Chinese White or Titanium white, and create something known as ‘body color.’ Experiment with different amount of the opaque white and see what happens. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks Tim for your comment, what a surprise! I am a big admirer of your work.
      I like ” the curse of the hard edge”! Reading about your technique in the article helped me accept a part of chance and releasing control on watercolor as I like to get technical but don’t want to loose freshness.
      In my following experiments with “splashing and drippings” I did add some color to the drips but never thought about adding a whitening color. I will certainly try with some white gouache which I think is very similar to Chinese white. I will also try with sedimentary colors.
      I just finished the first phase of painting for a forest landscape, this will be a good opportunity to try either the gouache or sedimentary colors.
      Thanks again!!

      1. Sandrine,
        Gouache works great, but also try Titanium White and Chinese white. Each has a different opacity. Don’t start too thick, especially with the gouache. Build up thin layers slowly.
        One big secret: Have fun! And don’t be afraid of ‘ruining’ something. It always leads to a break0though and a different way to think about painting.
        And thanks for enjoying my work. Are you in New York City? My next show opens Oct. 20th at BoxoOffice Gallery – not New York views but my paintings of the High Desert north of Palm Springs.

        1. Hello Tim, I will try titanium white and Chinese white, sounds interesting. I love having more opaque areas to contrast with the transparency of watercolor.
          I sometimes have a bit of apprehension of ruining a painting but the excitement of taking a risk is always stronger, if I stop taking risks, get too comfortable then I am not learning anymore.
          Unfortunately I am not in New York, I am in Vancouver (Canada). I just looked at the post on your open house on the BoxoOffice gallery blog, interesting to see your interpretation of a smaller town. This will be a great exhibition!
          http://boxoblog.blogspot.ca/2012/05/open-house-for-tim-saternow-artist-in.html

          1. Sandrine, If you find your opaques too heavy, you can always mist with a spray bottle and dab it up with clean cloth (use an old tee shirt – perfect and save a tree!) or use a brush for a stronger lift. Or, for a total re-boot, wash off the entire painting in the tub. Not everything will wash off, leaving enough information for rebuilding the painting. Be bold — it’s only paper!
            My next show will be based on those paintings and drawings you saw in the BoxoBlog, a fantastic artist residency where all I had to do was to paint in the desert. I found the desert all too beautiful, so I sought out abandoned gas stations and old oil tanks.
            Send me your email address and I’ll send you an invite.
            I love Vancouver!

          2. Hello Tim,
            Yes I will try to watch that my opaques don’t get too heavy.
            Right now I am painting a series for a group show so I have a few constraints, one of them being that the painting has to be on board or canvas, so I started mounting watercolor paper on board and really enjoy the look. I varnish them after.

            Yes, please send me the invitation, my email is sandrine@watercolorpainting.ca
            Thanks!
            Sandrine

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  10. hello Sandrine, Leslie White sent me here. I told her I was taking a weekend workshop with Tim Saternow. I liked your blog post and enjoyed seeing your version of a city scene, saternow style!

  11. Gorgeous!

    1. Merci Bon Yoyeur!

    2. Merci Bon Voyeur !

  12. Wow, your work is amazing. I would love to know how to watercolor. Although, the step by step process helped me get the feel of it.

    1. Thanks stelliname πŸ™‚

  13. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks a lot!

    1. Sure, as long as there is a link to my webpages or my blog that is fine.

  14. Incredible work!

  15. AMAZING

  16. Beautiful pics. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  17. Reblogged this on The Fischer Account and commented:
    This is simply stunning. Makes me want to actually start painting again.

    1. Thanks for your comment Kevin, and thanks for reblogging πŸ™‚

  18. Great effort..

    -Arvind K. Pandey

    http://indowaves.wordpress.com/

  19. Reblogged this on myfuturebluecat.

    1. Thanks for reblogging, myfuturebluecat πŸ™‚

  20. Reblogged this on Hey ROU! Let's Go! and commented:
    amaziNg

    1. Thanks Roumeria πŸ™‚

  21. awesome paintings…. freshness seen in every painting.. πŸ™‚

  22. Your work is so beautiful! It’s exactly what a morning in a city feels like when you’re on your way to work.

  23. this is fucking awesome. Finally wordpress puts something good on freshly pressed

  24. Papi

    Extraordinarily Thank you.

  25. Raawwr!

    This is really cool! I recently just picked up some new watercolors again and am anxious to try them out! Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Very nice i love the hazy grey sky!

  27. Do you sell these?

    1. Hello literary kitty, yes I am selling those on my website: http://watercolorpainting.ca/ and I am selling prints on Red Bubble: http://www.redbubble.com/people/sandrinepeli and Etsy : http://www.etsy.com/shop/FineArtPrintsStore

  28. Wow these are beautiful – the watercolours really capture that hazy feel!

  29. That’s a really great effect. I’ll have to show that to some friends of mine.

  30. stable rug

    Those pics are really nice πŸ™‚

  31. you are so talented and creative.. your painting is awesome..

  32. nice effect
    I like it

  33. love it. just love it!

  34. iforhappiness

    Wow, this is fantastic. Great work!

  35. Gilberto

    That’s great work. I really like your choice of colors and details. That would look great in my apartment!

  36. Kimberly

    These are Great! Your a fabulous watercolor…er
    I love how you kind of wash things when there is light hitting it, it makes it look real. Like those days when its too bright to decipher what is in front of you

    really beautiful stuff

  37. This is fabulous! thanks for explaining the process.

  38. Before the drips, your work is technically amazing, but I do like it much better after the drips. They add some indefinable character to the work that really makes it special.

  39. Adding drips does require one to be brave… because there is that lack of control over what happens. I think they worked especially well in your piece because it contributes to that early morning ‘mist’ and the idea that the viewer is looking through a windshield. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Yes Kelly you are right, but I guess it is also the most exciting part because you could loose all the work you did before or make it better πŸ™‚

  40. prosewithabbitude

    Amazing work and skill! Breathtaking how you capture the city.

  41. This is awesome!

  42. there are marvelous

  43. LegosnEggos

    Your technique is impeccable! I love the palette here, and the wash (I think it’s called) makes it. Watercolor is the most beautiful medium! Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

  44. Very talented and a brilliant gift for the world – thanks for sharing.

  45. I wish I could do that!

  46. Thank you for the play by play – the instant I
    saw this my first question was HOW? and you
    gave it to me steap by step. I’ve dabled in water
    color and learned something interisting – a drop
    of water on a leaf leaves a perfectly circular mark
    when it dries. A fleck of white and – instant dewdrop!
    My approch to water color is more zen, any consious
    effort ruins it. I perfer more controll and It’s good
    to see you can be realistic with this medium.
    lately I’ve wanted to draw more eerie misty images
    and I looks like water color is the way to go.

    1. yes rastelly, watercolor is a very versatile medium, it can make very zen and beautiful minimalist paintings and will be great for more eerie paintings too.

  47. Awesome! I can DRAW that good, but I’m terrible at painting for some reason. Oh well, we can’t all be great artists, but we can all enjoy it!

  48. I admire your control when using watercolor. i really enjoy the crispness of the buildings and their contrast with the splattered texture. Do you ever feel that your splatter technique will become too much of a distraction for your piece?

    1. I am not sure, I often feel the need to add something to my watercolors, here it is drips but sometimes it is drawings on top or patterns. If the drips were too much distractions I could always scrub off some to make them disappear or at least less obvious.

  49. thatbackpacker

    This is better than any photograph! It really captures the mood of traffic.

  50. Very nice! Thanks for the step by step with it as well! Would definitely like to try this someday! Thanks again!

    Logan

    http://blog.allamericanclothing.com/

  51. absolutely love this.

    thanks for sharing your talent

  52. WOW!! What a great watercolour. xx

  53. Great Painting! you were very successful in capturing the mood of the early morning hours. πŸ™‚

  54. To someone like who cannot honestly even draw a stick figure- facinating to see and follow the entire process you have. the end result is like a dreamy snap shot of a dark afternoon traffic jam in the rain. beautiful!

  55. Love it. Started my day off with a smile πŸ™‚

  56. Those cityscapes are incredible!! Beautiful work! πŸ™‚

  57. Dana

    I love this. It’s perhaps more remarkable to me since I am not a painter, but I don’t know how much that matters. I really love this.

  58. Great job! I love watercolour paintings but sadly I’ve never been very good at any kind of painting except paint by number. The last few years though I’ve done some “watercolour” photos of the flowers in our garden.
    http://shanecostantino.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/something-im-working-on/
    http://shanecostantino.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/garden-watercolours-2011/

    1. I like your pictures Shanecostantino, very nice textures πŸ™‚

  59. I absolutely love “Early this morning.” I find watercolor to be an incredibly difficult medium to work with, and here you have done an amazing job. I really like the tone of this work, I can’t help but stare at it. I’ve dabbled in acrylics, but mostly pencil drawings. Maybe I’ll post a few on my blog and welcome feedback, however frightening that may be. Once again, great work.

    1. Hello Danya, I found that most people will comment on your blog only if they have nice things to say and yes it can feel frightening to share your work at the beginning but you will get used to it fast.

  60. thank you! beautiful and so cool to see the process!!

  61. That’s beautiful work.

    When I was about 10 years old I used to draw and colour and make posters. I even won competitions.

    Sigh, gone are those days.

    These pics just made me relive those memories.

    Can’t thank you enough for them.

    1. Hello 7heaven, it is never too late to start drawing again πŸ™‚

  62. I love watercolors, and this is pretty!

  63. Those are great pictures! Love the artist.

  64. Joseph Micheal Neary

    wonderful medium for a cityscape. very nice

  65. Beautiful! What else can I say…

  66. sandrarenee

    Thanks – this is all terrific and interesting and like the best “how I did its” makes me think I could do it too. I especially enjoy the story told by each of the paintings, as light and color are added and taken away. The changing mood of the driver in each of those cars as the sky closes in.

  67. Beautiful and stunning πŸ™‚

  68. excellent. love your works!

  69. J’adore…. !!

  70. Reblogged this on aquarelliste and commented:
    o la la j’adore!

    1. Merci fransint πŸ™‚ J’ai traduit quelques demos en Francais sur mon site d’aquarelle si ca t’interesse :
      http://www.watercolorpainting.ca/indexenfrancais.html
      mais ce sont seulement des portraits.
      Bonne chance avec l’aquarelle πŸ™‚

  71. Fantastic piece. I can draw really well but can’t paint…so it’s always inspiring to see someone who can paint so well, especially watercolour!

  72. Have never been able to get my head around watercolour technique. Probably too controlling in somethings and not enough in others. Bit more of a go with the flow splodger πŸ˜‰ Am flabergasted by your technique – very beautiful. The nerve it must have taken to dribble over your piece made me all of a wobble. The after look is very interesting tho. It gives the clouds more shape and definition (tho if you were going for a smog look this might not be what you wished for) and gives the whole piece the overall effect of a photo thro a rain spattered lens. Very impressive, if I may say so and thanks so much for sharing your work and experiment in such detail; much appreciated.

    1. Thanks DoF, I am glad you liked it πŸ™‚
      Depending on my mood I am sometimes too a go with the flow splodger πŸ™‚

  73. Absolutely remarkable, I know how difficult a medium watercolour is to work with β€” so big kudos for that! Thanks for letting us in on your process too.

  74. Such a talented watercolorist!! . . . Thank you for sharing your expertise! Fascinating!

    http://arabianmusings.wordpress.com/

  75. Tired, But « sevemanzoor

    […] recently featured a blog post by Sandrine Pelissier detailing a water color painting of a busy city street. The point […]

  76. I loved seeing the process. Great work!

  77. That is a wonderful picture. Thank you for sharing your picture and the process you used. Oh, if only I could paint!

  78. If this was music, i could play it, but I sure cannot grasp how you create such a beautiful painting. When I paint (seldom) I only see the opaque in the subject. I have never been able to see layers, the way you see that. The use of washes escapes me. I can’t see things that way. I love watercolor when it inspires. Your work is simply outstanding. Thank you for sharing.

  79. your blog is really artistic.awesome blog.

  80. best

    I love that keep it on

  81. I signed on to get some work done, but this piece pulled me right in – Captivating!

  82. First , I thought it is made on computer then i sow the the steps, great job, now i will see the foggy morning difrent thean before. πŸ˜€

  83. Paprika

    wowwwwwwww!!! love it πŸ˜€ it’s inspiring =)

  84. Amazing! Love the sense of lighting!

  85. I am so happy to have found your blog, I am a closet artist and unlearned, hit and miss and I love watercolours have been trying to paint ‘water’ forever. I like that you share, thank you.

  86. This painting is lovely! Beautifully done!

  87. Ay

    What a great piece for the new technique! I’ve never had the patience or the practice for watercolor (prefer the messes I can create with oil pastel!), but I love what you’re doing with the medium. Thank you for sharing!

  88. I liked it before the water splotches but I LOVE it with them! Definitely the perfect touch.
    Beautiful, and congratulations on the Freshly Pressed!

  89. aacohen97

    I really enjoy the way you lay out the entire process of each step, very informative and fun! I am a WordPress photoblogger, and this really made me think about pictures that aren’t taken with a camera, and that are just as beautiful! Great job!

  90. Steve

    These are really great! Want to hang them on my wall

    1. Thanks Steve πŸ™‚

  91. That is beautiful. I wanted to paint as a kid, realized how bad I was and just left it at that.

    1. Well, all great painters were once beginners, just keep working at it and you will one day like what you paint πŸ™‚

  92. I love the light and mood you’ve created.

  93. Superb ! it surely be a high drawing technique ! Drawing was my old hobby too. I also have a posting that contains my drawing. Here is the link http://priajelita.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/hobby-lamaku/ Please check it if you have time. Thank you

    1. Keep drawing Lulu :-), that’s the basis of any great art.

  94. I love love love this. and I love misket too
    peace n abundance,
    CheyAnne
    http://cheyannesexton.etsy.com

    1. Thanks CheyAnne πŸ™‚

  95. michael_beach

    Absolutely love the movement within these paintings. Whilst designing interior architecture myself, i try to keep a sense of unknown about the splashes i use. Dirtying the canvas is the most fun part for me, mistakes really just become the true identity of a drawing/sketch.

    1. Hello Michael. I agree I start to think the messing up with splashes it the funniest part, I guess because it is the part where you have to let go trying to control what is happening.

  96. Wow!! This is fantastic! I seldom read the “freshly pressed” posts on here, but this one certainly caught my attention. I’m not much of an art critic or viewer, but I do know how to appreciate good art. And this is GREAT art! Your technique is very interesting…. It definitely adds to the intricacy of this piece. I love the contrast between the sky and the crowded street. Can’t wait to view more πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks liveloveyourlife, I am glad you liked it πŸ™‚

  97. Tyler Texan

    Beautiful water colors!

    1. Thanks Tyler πŸ™‚

  98. Beautiful watercolor! And I love that you showed the process.

    Thank you for sharing!

    …following your blog…

    1. Thank you and thank you for following the blog πŸ™‚

  99. absolutely adore this…quick question though….in what city does this scene take place?

    1. This is Vancouver (BC-Canada) when you drive from the North Shore to downtown on Georgia street.
      Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

  100. Love this. I can hear the traffic moving. Thanks for sharing your work.

    1. Thanks Joelle!

  101. poppies-and-lilies-lifestyle

    Gorgeous xx

  102. Lovely effect!

  103. Stumbled on your blog and so glad I did. Beautiful work!!!!

  104. So great. I think the drips at the end really take it to the next level. Well done!

  105. Beautiful! I liked seeing the process from start to finish.

  106. Love the step by step coverage, watercolours are one medium which I have had limited success with. Very inspiring to see such amazing work.

    1. Thanks Darkhorse3010, watercolors can be tricky to handle … Although I think you can get a very unique quality of light and transparency effects with that medium.

  107. I feel as though I am inside a car looking at the windshield when it has been raining. Nice effect!

    1. Thanks myownprivatemind, I took the reference picture while driving πŸ™‚

  108. It’s been so long since I’ve painted a watercolor! This is great πŸ™‚ I love the mood of the final painting.

  109. Loving the way you describe your creative process. Experimentation is key for art!

  110. That is a great outcome, and gives the effect of an overcast evening or a rainy smoggy street. The difference between before and after the drips is really quite small, but it makes the painting feel so much deeper and alive. Nice work!

  111. Amazing work, i love how you handle with shadows and textures, pretty amazing.

  112. Cat

    How cool! I really don’t have much artistic ability. You clearly do! πŸ™‚

  113. Ooh, lovely painting Sandrine.

    I’m still trying to figure out what medium and surface I want to use when I start. I’ve seen a lot of step-by-step processes for computer drawing (tablet and photoshop), so I’m wondering how different it would be with watercolours, but I’d imagine not so much.

    As for the feel and experience, I’d expect that to differ between mediums. I still have a small set of colours that I bought for my art class from high school. I haven’t touched them since, and it’s been five years. I’ve completely forgotten how it feels.

    What surface do you recommend for watercolours?

    1. Hello AGIAD, I found that whatever medium I use I always use the same technique which is basically working by layers, even on the tablet.
      I paint watercolors on regular watercolor paper (cold press and hot press) and on yupo paper. Personally I don’t think the medium is very important as you can make amazing art with pretty much anything.Good luck with your paintings πŸ™‚

    2. canvas

  114. frivolousneeds

    I am a newb with watercolour and your post has been of great inspiration! The splashes at the end DOES make the painting better! Thank you.

  115. Very nice work. I’m impressed by the result. I like the breakdown that you gave as well, it really shows all the hard work that went into it.

    Keep up the good work!

  116. Fascinating process – very generous of you to share it with us. Thank you.

  117. valentinedee

    The final painting is gorgeous. I love the look and texture. Nicely done.

    val
    http://valentinedefrancis.wordpress.com

  118. great work

  119. I love the step by step instructions! I can’t wait to try this! Thanks!!

  120. this is friggin awesome. thanks for sharing the process! πŸ™‚

  121. Love what watercolor looks like! You can do so much with it. Your paintings are beautiful!

  122. Beautiful! Great work πŸ™‚

  123. Great art work. A lot of talent is displayed. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

  124. wow, thats incredible… it kind of looks like an old picture. waatercolor is a challenging medium to work with but you did great. i love the smoky effect

  125. This is so beautifully done. Thank you especially for sharing your step by step process on the actual painting.

  126. You are really a wonderful creative person. This one is one of the most interesting and beautiful post I have ever came across. Best wishes to you.

    1. Thank you Arindam πŸ™‚

  127. This is beautiful! You’re very talented!

  128. Great work of art! πŸ™‚

  129. inspirational and beautiful. I love this piece. Totally captures how I was feeling on the first day of February!

  130. lobsterboy

    love seeing the process, the results are beautiful. Thanks for sharing

  131. Very nice …. as I enjoy the softness of your colors here.

  132. beautiful painting !!!
    and with watercolor its even more amazing πŸ™‚

  133. Tricia Aanderud

    I love it – you did a great job capturing the mood.

  134. I love this! I admire anyone who works in this most puzzling medium to me. Well done, beautiful painting.

  135. Carlie Chew

    Beautiful work!

    1. Thanks Carlie πŸ™‚

  136. Bunny Eats Design

    This is so beautiful. I have to be honest, I haven’t really thought about watercolour since I was still in school. The word watercolour reminds of old ladies painting their gardens. Nothing so stirring as what you have done here. I love that even though there are no actual people in your watercolour, it’s still a scene that’s full of us. Great universal subject. This could be city.

    1. Thanks Bunny Eats Design , yes I know watercolor has a bad reputation for being kind of bland :-), but I know lots of contemporary artists that are doing amazing paintings with that medium. If you have the opportunity to go through one of the books from the “Splash” collection you can see great examples of modern paintings with watercolors.

  137. Your are a Visionary. Thank you for the gift of your works! Alice

    1. Thanks Alice, that is a very nice compliment πŸ™‚

  138. Lovely!

    1. Thanks Cathy !

  139. You are incredibly talented! To be able to capture the nuances of such an intricate image — with watercolors?!?! I’m impressed…

    πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Mikalee πŸ™‚

    2. Milalee,

      Seeing your many postings on the “Freshly Pressed” selections has motivated me personally to take part of my day to read each one. The WordPress family is truly a wonderful gathering of the best of the best that we all are.

  140. your blog layout and style is so artistic. i feel artsy just commenting here. great work!

    1. hehe! Thanks πŸ™‚

  141. Pat Provost

    I have often thought of painting what i see while traveling in a car Your painting caught my eye immediately as it captures the emotion of morning traffic better than I have ever seen before. How relevant it is to see life today represented by a living artist

    1. Thanks Pat ! I am the same I often see scenes I would like to paint while driving, the trick is to take pictures safely while driving πŸ™‚

  142. Sophie

    Really captures the foggy morning downtown.Love it!
    How big is it?

    1. Hello Sophie, the painting is 15 x 22 inches , so about 22 x 30 inches with mat and frame.

  143. Holly Herick

    I love seeing your process. Great work again.

    1. Thanks Holly!

  144. Hey this is interesting – love the cityscapes!

    1. Thanks Diana πŸ™‚

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