How to paint a highland cow, and have some fun!

How to paint a highland cow, and have some fun!


It's Thursday again, the the sun is shining brightly, but the temperature has dropped considerably and I can see lovely autumn colours everywhere. I love to make the most of these crisp clear days, and notice the colours in the landscape. Each day it seems to get a little more intense and you can feel the world turning towards winter. The news is increasingly gloomy and it feels , sadly, as though we all have a long winter ahead.

So what cheers everyone up, and is dripping in autumn colour, a lovely , shaggy, characterful highland cow, lets revisit how he was painted, forget about the world for a while and have some fun.

I love painting these shaggy haired creatures, who seem to have a personality all their own.

Step I 

Draw your cow



Step 2 

I paint the tightest parts first so I begin with his nose ( there are no eyes to paint on this beast!) Thinking carefully about lights and darks , I like to add blues to the pinks.


Step 3

Next is the horns, there are many more colours in there than you think. and remember to add shading so they have that nice 'rounded' feel.



Step 4 

Now the fun begins....water lots of it and flood the hairy bits with water and an under painting of yellow


Step 5

Here you can be as mad or restrained as you like . I like to think about what makes the animal you are painting what it it is. A bird it maybe the wings, a zebra it's the stripes a highland cow it's the shaggy coat. So I want to emphasize that in the piece, I add colour take it away, spray the piece with water, splatter, flick turn it upside down and generally make a mess, but always looking at what is happening if you like it ,keep it ,if not blot it out. Practice and see what happens....


Step 6

I also want to give an impression of the rest of the cow. Same as the head really but fainter so I paint it then fade the colour away with lots of water, it gives the head the focus


Step 7

Almost there, let it dry then you can add more splatters, and I like to add some gold ink and white acrylic flicks and splatters to finish the whole piece off....


I hope you found this fun, sometimes being free and loose is much more tricky than being precise and measured, I don't quite know why, perhaps because there is no right or wrong way to do it. Try to let yourself go and see what the paint does, and when it looks good leave it!!!

I hope this has cheered you up a bit , and you can 'mooove' on to a happier place ( I apologise for the terrible joke, happy painting everyone  


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Love this. I want to paint a Highland cow for my Scottish friend’s 60th birthday and I love your one. Thank you for the inspiration. X

Trixie Baker

Hi Rachel
I love Highland cows in fact I’m doing one for my son in Acrylics he wants it in really bright colours but I’m going to have a go at yours in watercolour too
I haven’t done much watercolour and can’t wait to have a go. My friend and I are looking at a 2-3 day beginners course fot April any ideas

Carol Kobylanski

Can’t wait to try this! I have always been fascinated by Highland cattle, from the time I grew
to love those antique black/white paintings! I want to do it loose and free and this demo has
encouraged me for go for it! Thank you!
BTW I like how you leave the colors up to me. It’s freeing!


Found your fabulous watercolor artwork today!!! It cheered me up greatly (we are in the midst of a 2-day Spring Snowstorm; we still have the previous 2.5 feet of snow on the ground before this storm).
Your beautiful watercolors did make me mooove on in my day :)
Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents, may you have a Great Day and keep up the great artwork!


You are so generous in giving us this painting to be inspired by and allowing us your thoughts and tips. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I began working on a pencil sketch and then found your painting. Brilliant!

Betsy Feller

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