Words of advice – what watercolour tutors say

I belong to a watercolour group on Facebook called Watercolour Techniques and Tips (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1726005714353976).

Someone asked about the best watercolour advice they’d ever been given and it resulted in a long and varied discussion. I laughed, as I reckon I’ve said every single one of the phrases.

So, for a bit of fun, here they are (and I left out the ones I don’t say). Are there any you would add? Or any you disagree with? What was the best piece of watercolour advice you have ever been given?:


When you know better, you do better

Look at where you are going, not where you have been

Know where is your light coming from

Work in the direction of form

It’s your first, not your only

Mix thick and plenty

About tone

Tone does all the work and colour gets all the glory

Don’t be afraid of the dark


About water

Hands in pockets until it is dry

Control the water not the paint

About looking

Paint what you see, not what you know

Paint shapes not things

Squint at it

Stand back

The further away the better it looks

About doing

Just try

It’s only paper

Done is better than perfect

Don’t be afraid to waste paint

Patience makes progress

Put miles on your brush

A painting a day

About mistakes

I meant to do that

Mistakes are happy accidents

Oh oh, oh no, oh well

About stopping

Less is more

Don’t fiddle

Stop too soon, not too late

Easier to do too much than too little

Know when to stop

Don’t overwork it

When you are finished, stop

Watercolour is like golf; the less strokes you do the better you are

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Can you really wash off a watercolour canvas?

Painting watercolour on canvas is really liberating. For all sorts of reasons… From the lack of framing, to the freedom to paint large, to the way the colour flows across the surface, to the way that you can correct mistakes….

But canvases are expensive if it all goes wrong. So is it true that you can wash them off and start again?

The answer happily is a resounding Yes!

Here’s my before canvas – it was a short demo piece I did on a workshop about 18 months ago. It’s got a lot of viridian, so I knew it would be a challenge.

First of all, use warm water and a stiff brush. An old scrubbing brush is fine. If that doesn’t remove all the paint, you could use Magic Eraser. That usually removes every vestige of colour. At this point you can allow the canvas to dry and then start painting in the normal way.

I have never found the ground to lift, though some people tell me it will. Should that happen, you have at least saved the canvas and can simply recoat it.

If the colour you have used is a staining one, for example alizarin or viridian, you will find that a light shadow may remain. In which case, just dry the canvas and then add another coat of watercolour ground.

And here is the after: Can you see the shadow? Hint: It’s upside down!

I’ve done a short film on YouTube, so you can see I haven’t made this up. I do a short watercolour tip each week, so please subscribe if you are interested. https://youtu.be/Qok6-cje3jk

If you want some tips on painting watercolours on canvas, you can a pdf of them here: https://lizchaderton.co.uk/landing-page-2/

If you want to see how to prepare a watercolour canvas, take a look here: https://youtu.be/j7yYyIrTESA

If you want to make your own watercolour ground this short film gives you a recipe: https://youtu.be/WNIDkxsY3Q0

I’ve written a best selling book called ‘Painting Watercolours on Canvas’ published by Crowood Press, so if you want lots of examples and tips you might like that. I also run a Facebook group, so why not join? https://www.facebook.com/groups/463275440905151

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Carne Griffiths workshop

Playing with ink, throwing tea into the mix, the making sense of it all. What a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon.

And look at the result!

Ooops, this was the real result of three hours in a Shopkeeparty workshop with Carne Griffiths, whose work I have admired for a long time.

Starting with a tonal drawing on a full sheet of Bockingford Not 200lb, I sketched out our muse. I used a 4B and struggled with smudging.

Then we switched to ink, using fountain pens with Waterman inks. I had Inspired Blue and Absolute Brown. We drew over some of the graphite, mixing inks in areas we wanted to be dark.

The next stage came easily to me – splashing water about to activate the watersolubke inks and get them moving. We also used black tea, to introduce a unifying theme. It should have been freshly brewed, but mine was stewed.

After drying, we returned to either dip or fountain pens to effective build tone ans surface pattern with posh doodles and contour lines.

This was the end of the workshop, but I continued. I disliked the graphite, so erased most of it even through the ink washes. I got more into the doodling and it became more intuitive and finally I added touches of gold with culture Hustle gold acrylic. Gold leaf would have been nice, but it was the end of a long day.

Surface detail

Would I do this again? I like the bleeding of the inks and tea. I am not sure zen-doodling is entirely my thing, but maybe… was it fun? You bet! Thanks Carne.

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Experimenting with gold leaf

I started the year with this painting of a jay, which had been living in my head for a few months. It needed to fly free!

I like to learn more about each animal I paint. Did you know I studied zoology at university for a while? So I learnt about its acorn stashing habit and that it’s Latin name translates as ‘chattering acorn eater’. Well it obviously needed an oak tree….

My challenge was then how to introduce the oak without distracting from the bird….hmmmm.

I hit upon the idea of oak leaves glinting through the gold. I mused that I could use texture paste, but I didn’t have a have a handle stencil or stamp, so how could I do this?

I love baking, so I grabbed an icing bad and a few nozzles, filled it with texture paste (if I ever offer you a cake, check the icing carefully…). The first nozzle was too big, so I used the finest I could find and piped a leaf. It sat too proud, so I tried letting it half dry and squished it down a bit. This looked horrible, so in the end I let it dry and then sanded it right down. The leaf is so thin that even a hair shows through, so I only needed a hint of texture. If I do this again I might sand it even more, without damaging the canvas of course.

I knew the leaf would break over the raised areas, so I tinted the size blue. If it showed through it would add to the effect. And then it was simply a case of leafing the surface.

If you want to emphasise the pattern, dragging a little Indian ink over the raised areas then rubbing it back would ‘antique’ it, I reckon. Maybe next time.

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Providing a diversion – beginners’ watercolour course

Here we are in the middle of the third lockdown (if you are in England – different in Scotland and Wales) and it’s a toughie. The first we had the gorgeous spring weather, the second we had Christmas to look forward to, but this one is grey and cold and damp.

Well, I need to think positive – I need a diversion. And if I need a diversion, don’t other people? So I brought my plans forward and started working on an online beginners’ watercolour course. I had planned to do this in March, but there was no time like the present.

And it’s just gone live! You can see the introduction here: https://youtu.be/1EpHIR0IwFI You get lifetime access, you can repeat things and can work at your own pace, when you like.

Aimed at people who say ‘ooh, I wish I could paint’ or ‘I used to like art at school’, I set out to make sure this course covers the basics of materials and techniques, but then quickly goes on to help people paint real pictures.

I want people to come away with the skills, experience and confidence to paint pictures of their own, so each exercise builds on the previous and are full of transferable skills. So the exercise might be to paint a feather, but you can use it to paint a leaf, or a bowl of fruit, or a misty landscape. You get the picture!

We cover the basic things you need to get going, then techniques and jargon – washes, dry brushing, wet in wet. I throw in a few things I wish someone had told me (paper is more important than paint, for example) and how to plan/simplify. We use masking fluid (see the cherry tree above) and really put tone through its paces (see below).

I think it’s pretty good (she says modestly). You can find out more over at www.lizchadertonstudio.co.uk. If you are not a beginner, I have courses on painting animals, pen and wash etc and will add to them each month.

So if you need diverting, hop on over and I hope to see you there.

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New course added

My new courses website has only been live for a couple of weeks and it’s going great guns! I have students from the UK, Italy, Australia and France so far. What fun!

cola pen in action

I’ve fallen in love with dip pens over the past few weeks and my latest course shares this passion.

Red kite pen and wash

I’ve just added a new line and wash workshop, showing you how to make and use a cola pen. And then to use it to paint a red kite.

cola pens are brill for urban sketching

You can see the preview here: https://youtu.be/5-QCCDMxuSo or go to http://www.lizchadertonstudio.co.uk

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New online courses and book available

I set myself a New Year’s resolution to launch my own online courses….for all those people who couldn’t come to workshops.

Scroll forward and COVID happened. It made online courses even more necessary, but gave me less time to develop them. Too much fire fighting!

Scroll forward and finally I have done it! To coincide with my new book (out next week). My Painting Animals in Watercolour covers all the workshop material and a bit more, and brings the book to life. You can find them at www.lizchadertonstudio.co.uk

Screen grab of http://www.lizchadertonstudio.co.uk

I am excited to share it with you. Take a look here: https://youtu.be/G0UCvm16mSc The prices of the courses varies depending on length and content from £15 to £78. Hope you enjoy them!

The first two courses….lots more to come

And I’ve also done a flip through the book here: https://youtu.be/OUH7Mirxtw4 It’s published by The Crowood Press on 16 November 2020 or thereabouts! £9.99. You can buy online or in store. Perfect for Christmas!!

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Watercolour stag

Yesterday, I lead a workshop with ShopKeepArty.com to paint a stag in watercolour.

Isn’t it amazing that you can be painting with people in Canada, USA, across Europe and into Australia all at the same time?

ShopKeepArty runs free taster sessions each week at 2pm GMT on a Tuesday and Thursday and also paid for workshops for artists around the world. The workshops are a 2-3 hour more in depth session.

I have to say my workshop painting is never quite up to what I would do if I were on my own in the studio! There is pressure on you and of course, articulating what you are up to tends to interrupt the flow. But I hope that everyone enjoyed it and learnt a lot.

This is where I ended up yesterday:

We also explored how colour plays with our emotions. This stag is from my new book, which will be published in November by Crowood Press. Pretty much the same view, but a totally different feel in the cool blues.

We played with textures and I showed different versions to inspire people.

My next free session is on 15 September 2020, when I will demonstrate how to make your own dip pen and then on 22 September the workshop will be all about pen and wash using that pen. You can sign up here https://shopkeepeasy.com/lizchaderton or here: https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses (won’t be live for a few days after I post this).

You can also buy videos of the workshops if you missed them first time round.

So, have you got a favourite out of my herd of stags??

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At last, I have started a newsletter!

About time too, you might think. If you fancy having a short update each month, please sign up via this form on my website: https://www.lizchaderton.co.uk/contactform.html

All you have to do is pop in your email, and of course you can unsubscribe at anytime.

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Online masterclass 23 July 2020


On Thursday I did something new…. an online class with over 200 people.

Shopkeeparty.com run free sessions twice a week, so I did I did one all about painting animal eyes in watercolour.

It was not without drama. Having done the tech test on Weds, I woke up to find that the telephone wire which supplies our house had snapped in the night. No phone, no internet, which was a bit of an issue. Luckily a lovely friend let me use her house, so I went armed with bleach and hand gel (if you are reading this in 2022, remember covid?). I got it all set up in time and was joined by painters from Texas, Canada, uk, Holland and Australia that I know of.

If you missed it, the whole thing is on YouTube. Search for Shopkeeparty here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z320X-J7TjA

As a follow up I am doing a masterclass on 23 July and it would be fab if you could join me. It’ll last 2-3 hours and will be the nearest thing I can do to inviting you into my studio to paint with me. Well paint a colourful curios cow. Well start with the eye and work out, using wet in wet and texturing techniques. It’s £35 for the three hours, with options for individual critique afterwards.

THis is the link to book: https://shopkeepeasy.com/lizchaderton/workshops-tutorials/portrait-masterclass

Any questions, just shout!


Posted in animal portraits, Art, how to, portrait, step by step, Techniques, Uncategorized, Watercolour, workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment