Introduction to Watercolour at City Lit

Just this week I completed a 3 day evening course in watercolour.  As random as that sounds, the word random just about sums up the course!  Based at City Lit, this 9 hour long course on Introduction to Watercolour cost me just over £70, which I think is a great bargain for what I got out of it.


Day 1 starts with me legging it to the class through some torrential rain, but the venue was actually a nice modern building not far from Drury lane, which walking around on the other two much dryer evenings was really nice.  This is where a lot of the theatres are and cute little art shops and cafes.  I definitely need to go back here for a proper exploration. 


Anyway back to water colour.  There were about 15 people in the class; half my age, half mature adults, but everyone was really friendly and open to discussing their experience of art and what they want to get out of this course.  At first I was a bit intimidated as most people seem to do art in their spare time, whereas I was what I felt was a novice as I haven’t really sat down and worked on art since GCSE’s.  Yet, I was really excited to get stuck in, as I did really love art at school and it was my best subject overall. 


Now when I signed up for watercolour, I didn’t really know what I was signing up for, I just kind of envisaged myself at some easel painting some dreamy landscape like a natural.  Unfortunately this bubble was burst immediately when we were told that with watercolours you can’t use easel, you have to keep the flat. So after Lesson 1 I learnt primarily about wash techniques, and the use of water to blend from light to dark.  This would essentially make up most back grounds, but involved A LOT of patience as wet on wet wasn’t always as effective as wet on dry, so you had to really make yourself wait for your piece to dry before continuing on.  So it was often handy to start two pieces on work on one while the other dries and vice versa. 


Lesson 2 was all about layers and introducing other colours.  Now it seem obvious that sky should be blue and grass green, but at the end of the day a whole mixture of colour can create a scene or image without necessarily sticking to reality colours.  My only issue was getting the right combos, but sometimes the most contract colours made the more effective overall painting.


It wasn’t until lesson 3 that I really started to get some direction.  I’ve always been more of a skilled copier, i.e. drawing and painting from photos and occasionally still life but not as successfully.  So when it came to this class and just making it up and doing whatever you wanted I felt quite lost, and a bit frustrated as I felt I needed instruction and didn’t know where to start.  So I brought in an image I had already sketched and drawn with pastels of a Mandarin duck.  It had an array of bold colours that I hoped would make it easier to paint and I ended up doing much better than I thought and spent some time really adding detail and texture using many of the new techniques we had learnt that lesson.  But I decided not to overdo it, which is so tempting with watercolour as it involves just one off movements and leaving white spaces, which is hard to adjust to being such a perfectionist!  Anyway I did a few more paintings using washes and imaginary landscapes and I was actually really pleased with the results.


After the 3 days I had really grown more confident in watercolours and genuinely look forward to doing it in my spare time.  But my City Lit experience won’t end there.  There are such a vast array of courses and subjects and I’ve already signed up for a journalism one and Egyptian history one so I can dabble in all sorts of new things. It’s such a great way to keep your mind keen and active when maybe work or life isn’t particularly stimulating.  Overall I really recommend taking a look at the prospectus and seeing if anything floats your boat because it really is worth it.


About wilsoemi

A 1st Class Biological Sciences graduate, with a Masters degree in Conservation Biology. Dedicated to nature and conservation, with over three years voluntary experience in environmental and conservation charities and NGO's. Currently working for the World Society for the Protection of Animals and volunteering for London Wildlife Trust.
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One Response to Introduction to Watercolour at City Lit

  1. Peter says:

    Hi Emily, this sounds great! I will have to check the City Lit courses out. Mandarin was a fine choice of subject too! Peter

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