Here is a fun way to practice painting in watercolor. Make a series of greeting cards.
1.Divide a half sheet (15"x22") of 140# watercolor paper with 1" tape into 4 sections (7x10" each) as shown. When cut and folded, each one becomes a 5x7" card. For a horizontal card, position the paper so the deckel edge is down, making a nice border accent on the front of the card. Mark across the fold line 5" up with a light pencil line.
2. Paint the sky with a wash of Cobalt Blue and Cobalt Violet. Add a tiny bit of Raw Sienna if the color is too bright. Use a 1" flat brush for this to avoid too many small brushstrokes. While the sky wash dries, wet the entire snow field with clear water. Be careful to leave a verrrrry thin edge of dry paper between the ground and the sky so the first wash doesn't bleed into the foreground. As the sheen goes off the clear, wet paper, paint the vertical snow shadows under the areas where the barns and trees will be. The timing has to be just right. Use the same color mixture as the sky, but slightly thicker paint. The soft edge, wet in wet, gets the desired soft, blurred shadow edge that says "snow". While you allow this to dry, you can repeat these steps on all the other card sections of your paper. By the time you get back to the first one, it will probably be dry enough to paint the barns.
3. Use a 1/4" flat brush or #8 round brush and thicker paint to make the barn shapes on dry paper. A hair dryer can be used to ensure that the paper is completely dry before you do this. Mix Burnt Sienna and Alizarin Crimson for the barns. This should be about the thickness of heavy cream. Stroke this color from left to right about 2/3 of the way across each barn shape. Quickly rinse and reload your brush with the same thickness of Raw Sienna. Now paint from right to left, completing the barn shape. As this last brushload of Raw Sienna just arely touches the damp, red paint, they will merge. Repeat this step on all your other cards. Allow everything to dry before you start the trees.
4. Trees and more snow shadows.
Trees: Use a #3 rigger or script liner brush. Mix Fr. Ultramarine Blue or Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna for the dark base of the trees. Thicker paint creates darker tones. Dilute it with water for the lighter limbs and branches. Wet and squeeze out the water from a natural sponge. You need one with lots of texture to create the dead leaves and fine twigs in the canopy of the trees. Tap the sponge into the remaining trunk color in your palette, then tap in the tree tops. Create as much variety as you can without overdoing it. Work around the group of cards, allowing a bit of drying time between applications. You can make fine textured dots by spattering with a toothbrush, too. Make sure you protect the rest of the painting with paper towels where you don't want spatter.
More Snow Shadows: Make sure everything is dry. Use clear water and a 1" flat brush to carefully rewet all the snow. Use more of the sky mixture, plus a bit more Cobalt Blue to lay in the contour shadows of the hillside, wet in wet.
5. Cut and fold. Make sure everything is bone dry. Use scissors or a paper cutter to cut the cards out along the inside borders of the tape. Fold in half. There you have it: your own series of hand painted watercolor greeting cards!
Note: Each one will be slightly different as you move from one to the next, changing a little here, getting more confidence there.