Back to watercolour school!

I found myself floundering a little for inspiration so decided to try to make the best use of my time with some focussed back to watercolour school study time!

As many of you will know, I’m a great admirer of Paul Talbot-Greaves and a few years ago did a course that he ran on ‘greens in watercolour’. I also had the pleasure of meeting him at the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour Exhibition earlier this year. Here’s a picture of the two of us in front of a selection of his paintings.

I’ve had it in the back of my mind for some time now that the next time I get stuck or lack inspiration or motivation, I’d buy one of Paul’s online tutorials to immerse myself in. This past week seemed like the perfect opportunity, and I knew exactly the one that I’d like to start with: ‘Shadows in Watercolour’. The video is about 45 minutes long and contains lots of practical advice, tips, and a demonstration.

Some of this was very familiar to me after having been on the course on greens, but there were also some brilliant nuggets of information that I don’t recall receiving before but which I’m really excited to experiment with. Shadows usually play an important part in my paintings, so it seems only right that I invest time and effort in understanding them and practising how best to capture them.

I’ve sometimes found that due to working at speed, I’ll take a shortcut and apply the same colour and tone of shadow across a painting, regardless of the type of shadow or what the shadow is falling upon. I should identify the base colour of the area that the shadow falls on and create a shadow mix of that specific colour. This will give my shadow areas much greater variety and also be much more accurate to what the eye actually sees.

Here are my efforts based on Paul’s tutorial:

I tried to paint this in time with Paul painting his demonstration but struggled to keep up with him! While I enjoyed this exercise, I did get a lot of the mixes wrong, and in many places, I applied the paint far too strongly. You can see in the wall on the left-hand side where I had to spray it down after the painting had dried and lift some of the paint off to lighten it up a little.

With that one under my belt and keen to improve on it, I had another go at it!

First off, the drawing of this one was much more accurate to Paul’s reference image. I also spent much more time pausing and restarting the video to allow me time to adjust my mixes. Hopefully, it’s more clear to see in this version how the wall in shadow, and the shadow as it falls across the grass and then across the track are similar in tone and strength but different in colour across each surface. The shadows are also much more luminous and lively, with lots of variety in them.

I felt much happier with this effort, and thought I’d try to apply some of what I’d learnt to a different view:

Although the shadow on the road here is too heavy, other areas are much more successful and overall, there’s a good sense of depth to it. I should also point out that this painting was done quite late at night under an electric light and I think that did play a part in my colour balances! (I might have a little more to say on this next week!)

This particular tutorial costs £15, which is a one-off payment that provides me with unlimited access to the video. As far as I’m concerned, it represents wonderful value for money – especially as I do not doubt that my paintings will improve as a direct result of this (well, that and a lot more practice!) In addition to the specific focus of the tutorial, you also get to see so much more: how and where the brush is held; the use of sponge to control the wetness of the brush; different brushstrokes; when to apply paint depending on the moisture of the paper; breaking the painting down into manageable sections and much more. It’s all there to see and learn from.

Even though I’m becoming increasingly confident and competent in my abilities as a painter, there’s still so much to learn and, fortunately, so many great people like Paul to learn from! Doing this online tutorial has also given me some great ideas of what to suggest as suitable Christmas presents, and I’ve already earmarked a couple of Paul’s ‘full painting’ demonstrations that are likely to feature on my wish list this year!

Thoughts on Back to watercolour school!

6 thoughts on “Back to watercolour school!”

    1. Hi Evelyn and thanks so much for this and yes, some good lessons learnt that I’m trying to carry forward with me! It’s sometimes good just to take a step back and learn from those that are much more skilled and experienced.

  1. I am always looking for ways to rise from a painting rut and admire Greaves’ work. With of the two videos would you recommend as a first purchase? Tia

    1. Hi Suzala, many thanks for this and my apologies for such a delayed response. I think it would totally depend on where you are with your painting. I choose this one purely becuase the focus was on shadows. Paul also has videos that focus on planning your painting, or greens etc. I think I’m going to add one of his ‘full demonstrations’ to my christmas wish list as I think this will most likely cover every aspect, from planning the painting through to the colour theory, and brushstrokes etc. The one I’ve got my eye on is £20 which I think is really good value considering you get lifetime access to it.

  2. Good for you! I like taking classes from people I admire and while not everyone makes for good teaching, quality at a good price is worthwhile. Nice work – and FYI, I think you are a fab watercolorist!

    1. Thansk so much for this and apologies for taking so long to reply – especially so when I know you’ve followed my journey as a painter for such a long time! I really appreciate your kind and generous comments, they mean a great deal to me and really do encourage me to keep on painting!

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