Workshop 13: Paint like nobody’s watching!

Instructor: Marion Rivolier


When I began drawing, I worried about painting well. The feeling was so strong it paralyzed my hand and my brain! The day I learned to forget about it, I passed that hurdle. In this workshop, we will not worry about making “pretty” or “ugly” paintings!

What is a good painting? What does it mean to say that a painting succeeds?

I believe a good drawing is one that effectively communicates the artist’s point of view, one in which the observer can feel  the artist’s choices. It is a drawing that reveals, rather than describes, the space; that interests the observer because it tells a story.

In this workshop, we are going to work on a large panorama, and we will deconstruct the space we see into several parts. We will focus on values, colors and light.

We will set out in search of the honest drawing!  Perhaps it will be poorly drawn, poorly painted, or ugly. Maybe it will lack detail. But these will not be our problem!

To achieve our goal, our tools will be watercolor, brushes, space, and our bodies. We will not make preliminary pencil drawings.

Workshop Schedule 

The workshop will be divided into three parts, with an introduction and a conclusion.

We will begin by mixing and creating colors together : each participant will prepare their own palette using basic colors. Then, we will observe the space and we will try to understand its components: structures, plants, people – as well as its different parts (foreground, middle-ground, background).

Next, through a series of quick exercises we will work with large masses to define the areas we see before us. We will play with warm and cool colors, the light and the darks. We will make several small, quick sketches with a brush to loosen up and free our minds!

In the next step, from the same point of view, we will continue to work with large brushstrokes – this time creating a larger drawing and concentrating on values. These values studies will be done using color mixes that will begin to take on warm or cool hues. We will discover the delights of purple shadows or orange lights!

In the third exercise, we will work on adding more color. We will remember that space is dynamic and moving, and we will try to translate those forces. This will be a large drawing that uses values, color contrasts, masses and lines.

At the end of the workshop, we will meet to review, comment and share our impressions of everyone’s work.

Learning goals

  • Learn to work with large masses of value and color.
  • Sort through what we see: don’t draw everything, don’t express everything, make choices.
  • Find a focal point that will form the basis of the composition.
  • Observe well then paint quickly, because we have understood the space before us. 
  • Feel the joy of color.
  • Feel the freedom of gesture – learn to be sure of your marks, and to not be afraid of making a mistake.
  • Learn to not worry about making a “pretty picture”

Supply list

  • Watercolor sketchbook (Bring two if possible to save waiting for things to dry. A4 (8 1/2″ x 11”) or larger are recommended for beginners.)
  • Watercolors: limited palette (primary yellow, Naples yellow, orange, vermilion, cadmium red, cerulean blue, ultramarine, Prussian blue or Indigo, green, ochre… No black)
  • Three watercolor brushes (small, medium and large)


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