Watercolour collage

Been playing with collage as a background for watercolour and it was fun! I spent the day sketching birds at Bird World near Farnham a month or so ago. This toucan played hide and seek with me. He saw my sketch book, he went in his next box. I put it away, he came out…. I used a vintage map, newspaper cuttings and leaf prints in the background, coated with watercolour ground. If you would like to see an 11 second film, head over to https://youtu.be/fhW_CkXZN9A to show the stages. It’s a technique I’m going to explore a lot more in the coming weeks.8

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How useless am I?

Haven’t blogged for so long. I do apologise, but it’s not as if I’ve been doing nothing…..

I have been planning and have just launched a series of workshops for 2019. So if you fancy joining me, please take a look https://www.lizchaderton.co.uk/section863001.html:

2019 leaflet

I’ve also been busy writing my first book – Painting watercolours on canvas. It will be published by Crowood Press in June 2019. Very exciting and slightly terrifying.

So, New Year’s resolution is to blog more, but I think I said that last year!



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Giant sparrows

I know I’ve been quiet, but I have just had three articles published in The Leisure Painter, and I’ve been running workshops etc. So sorry!

I thought I would share a step by step, as I haven’t done one for a while. A short time ago, i painted a small canvas with a pair of sparrows. I liked the idea of adding rich gold to a humble garden bird we all take for granted. It then occured to me that painting HUGE sparrows, with rich gold would be twice as good.

First I prepared a 90x90cm box canvas, using a mix of one part moulding paste to two parts gesso. This is as good as any of the far more expensive ‘semi absorbent grounds’ you can buy. It does take three coats.

Using Indian ink, I started painting at the eye and moved outwards, just using the ink as you would normally paint in watercolour. I used a permanent marker for graphical lines. You need to suit the size of your mark to the size of the canvas so most of my lines were pretty big, but I used a normal pigment liner for a few finer marks.



I added in the second bird, making sure they blended. You can see I used a lot of salt to make lovely textuaral marks.


Having let it all dry thoroughly, I used some burnt Sienna, Mars Violet, quin gold and sepia to add colour. I really tried to avoid ‘colouring in’ – I want the ink and the watercolour to add up to more than the sum of the parts. Try and stand back from your work to see it with fresh eyes and stand it up if you are working flat.


Now is the scary bit. Gold leaf looks better on a coloured background. Traditionally red oxide was used, here I used the Indian ink. It looks horrible at this point and you ask yourself if you have ruined it. Hold your nerve.


Next, using gold size, the gold leaf (sadly imitation) is applied. I will do a more detailed post about my way of applying the leaf. I am no expert, but it does what I want. Again standing back helps you see what is really there and not what you assume is there…


A tiny addition of ink to make certain lines stronger and add a few blots and it is finished. Now it’s time to lacquer it (three coats) and add a string and backing.


I was chuffed, as I felt I’d kept the sponteneity of the original, while scaling up the impact. What do you think?

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Paintings from Umbria

Just a selection of paintings from my weekend in Umbria with the lovely Sara and David

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A week in Italy

How lucky was I? I got to spend a week in gorgeous Umbria, teaching watercolour to a group of motivated and lovely students. During the week we painted flowers, concentrating on the power of negative painting and fauna, looking at ink and wash, wet in wet, texturing techniques and so on.

We went out sketching special Umbrian cows, saw honey buzzards and wild boar and tried to hide from the incredibly hot sun.

It must have gone well, as Arte Umbria have kindly invited me back next year. So if you like the look of what we did, the date is 4-11 July 2018 (go to http://www.arteumbria.com).

And here’s the week in pictures (I’ll post some paintings shortly):

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Too long…

Quite where time has gone, I have no idea! Sorry for the silence. For quick updates, please like my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/lizchadertonartist) or Instagram/Twitter @lizintheshed. But tHe most exciting thing recently is that the first of my articles has appeared in The Leisure Painter – two more to come:


Yes, that’s my chicken on the cover! I have also spent a week teaching in Italy with Arte Umbria and have been asked backed (4-11 July 2018). And of course, I’ve been painting and experimenting.

…so, welcome back to the blog and I will try harder!

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Figures in watercolour landscapes

For those of you of a certain age (and brought up in the UK), you will remember the song about Lowry ‘match stick men’. Well you have to hum it while you read this post, but instead of match stick, you need to sing ‘He painted carrot men and carrot cats and dogs….’ If you are reading this from anywhere else in the world you may think I have lost the plot; sorry have a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gyhz0h7-P0   .

I decided we would cover figures in landscape in our class yesterday, afterall they help tell a story, can add movement, they create a mood and can provide focus. Yet people are worried about putting them in – they think they will look childish or ‘not right’. As with many things, the less you think you are painting a specific object and only worry about shape, pattern and tone, the better they will turn out. Small figures in a landscape are basically carrots (a vertical stripe, wider at the top and narrower at the bottom) with a dot on top. A big of shadow can anchor them to the ground. On the left is a basic carrot, on the right we have carrot with a bit of garnish:

people6         people4

But don’t include them as an afterthought or they are likely to be stiff and lifeless. You are going to have the best results if you have figures that just walk, stand still, stoop or have conversation with each other. You may find doing them from your imagination far more spontaneous than trying to copy an exact pose – trust yourself!

You need to relate the size of the figure to its surroundings eg doors, windows. You can dress them up, but generally clothing needs to be brighter than other area of the painting. You need to vary the size, shape, position and tone – try to avoid repetition.

Avoid rendering features unless you are doing an illustration or portrait.

Give or take the head to body proportion is 1:7 or 8. We tend to make heads too big as they are so important to us. Shoulders are about 3 heads width across. people7

The above is from (with thanks): http://www.jims-watercolor-gallery.com/painting-people-in-watercolor.html

As people get further away, if the viewer is at eye level, their heads are roughly at the same level but they obviously get smaller. The secret is that their feet vary (move up) far more, while the head stays roughly on the same level. Have a look at this photo:


Hands and feet are bigger than we imagine, but if you paint feet correctly they can look too big. A shadow anchors the person and if the feet disappear into the shadows under each figure it is a good compromise.

If possible, group your figures and let them merge into each other wet in wet, but trap light in between them. You do not need features, but can indicate which way they are moving or looking by where you place a darker portion to indicate hair.

people1             people5

The closer the figure is to you, the darker the colour, whereas a distant figure will be more subdued or greyed. This is important because you do not want the tiny figures to overtake the painting. By painting different length legs, it will look like the figure is moving. In this case make sure the shadow does not connect with the lifted leg.

It’s worth doing loads of them so you have them as reference next time you need a person or two (and look how the first one looks like a sign for the bathroom, while they start to get more life as I go along and get more ‘carrotty’).


Demonstrations and more info:






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