Workshop 6: Watercolour Your World, One Mix at a Time

Instructor: Jane Blundell

Workshop description 

In this workshop we will explore artist quality watercolour to understand how to use it when sketching. It will cover pigment characteristics, colour choices and colour mixing, to enable the participants to set up the best possible palette of colours for their individual purposes, and learn to mix them to create the exact colours they see when sketching the urban environment.

Learning goals 

  • To understand watercolour characteristics – opacity, staining, granulating, transparency – and how and why to use certain pigments
  • To understand the importance of warm and cool colours in mixing
  • To understand ‘primary’ colours in watercolour – their uses and limitations
  • To be able to mix realistic greens, oranges, purples, browns and greys from a limited split primary palette and understand which may be helpful to have as premixed colours in a sketching palette
  • To understand the importance of special mixing colours such as Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Green
  • To understand how to neutralize colours.
  • To be able to set up a personalized palette that allows you to mix the colours that you need, preferably by only mixing two colours at a time.

Workshop Schedule

First hour

  • We will explore the different characteristics of pigments and show how and why certain pigments might be used when sketching.
  • We will learn how to fill palettes from tubes, including possible additives, and how to care for brushes when sketching. 
  • We will discuss different palette setups including how create a palette and to travel light with watercolour
  • We will explore limited palette setups – advantages and disadvantages e.g. a CYMK or only 6-colours.
  • We will discuss warm and cool colours and have each sketcher identify what they have and perhaps what they might like to add or remove. 
  • We will chart current palette, looking for gaps in mixing possibilities, identifying characteristic of each pigment – includes demonstration of how to mix watercolour to various strengths (tea, coffee, milk and cream)
  • Personal palette consultation with each sketcher.

Second Hour (or more)

  • We will create triad colour wheels and explore how limited palettes can be used for colour harmony.
  • We will paint a quick thumbnail sketch study in each triad to see how they look in a painting. Experienced sketchers may choose to work larger. Beginners may wish to spend more time on the wheels and do this as homework. Triad sketches may be classroom based or en plein air depending on time and weather.

Third Hour (or less)

  • We will create additional mixing charts of numerous greens, purples, oranges but especially neutrals in a sketchbook for ongoing reference. 

Final half hour (or less)

  • Sketchers look at each other’s charts, wheels and sketches 
  • Pigment and colour Q&A session 



Supply list 

  • A ‘dot card’ of my palette with 19 colours to try will be supplied
  • Watercolours – bring all you have, as well as your usual palette colours. 
  • Note – if buying colours, here is an excellent palette of 10 – 12 colours. All are Daniel Smith, though other brands of artist quality watercolours are fine. They are very versatile for sketching and perfect for this workshop. (See also my website tutorials and resources here for alternatives in other brands)
  1. Hansa Yellow light or Hansa Yellow medium or other mid or ‘greenish’ (cool) yellow
  2. Hansa Yellow deep or New Gamboge or Quinacridone Gold or other orange-yellow (warm) 
  3. Pyrrol Scarlet or other orange-red (warm) 
  4. Pyrrol Crimson or Permanent Alizarin or other crimson red (optional but useful. Remove for just 10 colours)
  5. Quinacridone Rose or Quinacridone Red or other pink-red preferably made with the pigment PV19
  6. Ultramarine or French Ultramarine
  7. Cerulean Chromium
  8. Phthalo Blue (green shade) (optional – remove for just 10 colours)
  9. Phthalo green (blue shade)
  10. Goethite or Raw Sienna or Yellow Ochre or Mont Amiata Natural Sienna
  11. Burnt Sienna or Burnt Sienna Light or Transparent Red Oxide
  12. Indian Red
  • Brushes: Usual brushes plus a ¼” flat or ¼” dagger brush is VERY helpful. If you are looking for good travel brushes consider Da Vinci (e.g. Maestro size 8), Rosemary and Co (e.g. R9 squirrel mop or R2 sable #8 or R12 dagger) or Escoda (e.g. Sable #8) in particular. A size 8 with a good point will be all you really need for most sketching, perhaps with a water brush or smaller sized brush if desired.
  • Ruler
  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil 
  • Pen for notes
  • Waterproof black pen
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