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Wondered what to bring to a painting course?

Lois and Bill from the Watermill in Posara, asked me the following questions about my teaching style and materials to bring to the painting holiday.

What do like about painting outdoors, speedily, sketching etc.

When painting outdoors, I encourage student’s to start with thumbnail sketches, using a viewfinder to create pleasing compositions, backing up with a photograph.This approach is invaluable, especially if working against weather or time restraints. These sketches should only take about 10 minutes.So if we have to return to the studio we have sketches to works from. Once we are happy with our compositions, I discuss with students how they should develop the painting and discuss any technical issues they may have. Painting from sketches eliminates unwanted detail and provides a freer painting.

What is your preferred style of teaching, demos on location? Studio work?

Within my regular classes I prefer to teach step by step techniques, as most my students want to learn different approaches. More advanced students I encourage them to develop their own style.I run studio workshops where I do a demonstration, and then students follow my example with their picture references. I also do demonstrations to art societies. On holiday courses, I like to combine studio and outdoor work. I tailor my courses to the needs of my students, so if their need a particular demonstration, I can adapt.

What’s the most important thing about making a good painting and drawing?

Good paintings come from good composition, balancing upright detail against the horizontal. Also colour knowledge and tonal range is important.I encourage my students to practice their drawing and tonal values with simple sketches when ever they can.

Does it matter if the student is an absolute beginner?

No it doesn’t matter if a beginner comes, I encourage them to start with a simple composition and colour palette. I discuss materials and usually a step by step approach is best for them. How do you get honesty/yourself into your paintings? I’m not a slave to the landscape; I like to capture the essence of the scene.

I move things or simplify, plus my knowledge of colour. Some students ask why I use a certain colour when they can’t see it, my answer is “once you know the tonal value of a colour you can replace it with any colour of the same tonal value” e.g. when using dark colours, keep the darks interesting, use dark reds purples and blues.

Do you have particular paints/tools/materials you like to use?

My colour palette range consist of a warm and a cool of each primary colour

  • Cadmium Red (warm)
  • Permanent Rose (cool)
  • Cadmium Yellow (warm)
  • Lemon yellow (cool)
  • French Ultramarine Blue (warm)
  • Cobalt (cool)
  • Other colours I use Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Turquoise and Burnt Sienna.

Other materials consist of various watercolour and acrylic brushes.

Have you written any books/Produced any videos which you would recommend to your students?

I have written several articles for Leisure Painter and Saa’s Paint magazines, on Pastel techniques.

I will be soon have a screen test with the SAA (teaching art) if successful to make a DVD on collage techniques.

Tips for people coming to the Mill. e.g. sketching on the spot, choosing your subject?

I would suggest students keep equipment to the minimum when working outdoors, certainly a viewfinder, a small sketchbook, pencils, rubber, a couple of brushes, tissue, small watercolour box, camera, watercolour paper and drawing board.

I will give advice on creating the thumbnails to get started, plus tuition on how to develop sketches into paintings, by on site demonstrations and one to one tuition.

Tips on cutting down on what you have to pack

For working in Watercolour just bring your small box of watercolours, viewfinder, watercolour book/paper, brushes – number 3 rigger, 8 and 10 rounds, putty rubber, small stretch book, water pot, permanent sepia drawing pen and a 2B and 4B pencils with sharpener

If working in acrylics, – a small stay wet palette, small tubes of acrylics, I find the “Atelier” paints are excellent from the SAA, around £13 for 12 colours, plus spay bottle and DVD,

Bring supports, i.e., primed card, or small canvasses that will fit into your suitcase. A selection of acrylic brushes and water pot

If working in soft pastels I suggest a small box of Inscribe pastels, very reasonable at £10 for 72 half sticks, plus a box or landscape Unison pastels retailing at £30 for 18 colours. , also bring a selection of pastel papers in a pad or loose sheets; I suggest Canson, Fabrinano and Colourfix papers by Art Spectrum. All these items are available from major art suppliers, i.e. SAA Jackson’s and Ken Bromley

If wishing to try collage in the studio – bring a black felt tip pen, colour magazine and cardboard primed with a base of orange acrylic.

Don’t forget the camera, sunhat and cream! If you would like to discuss further details please contact me on 01642 712926 by emailing through the site or

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