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The Number One Way You can Improve your Watercolours

How do you improve your Watercolours? Water control, colour mixing and brush technique are all extremely important, but in my opinion, the best thing you can do to improve your watercolours doesn’t even need water!

This might be a controversial opinion, but I believe, The number one way you can improve your watercolours is by improving your drawing skills.

drawing line drawing vermeer sketch cross hatch

There is a reason why the first classes in art school are drawing classes. You have to learn to walk before you can run! Translating what you see visually onto paper is a skill that takes time and study to build, and in it is completely separate from the watercolour technique taught in most watercolour classes.

I often compare watercolour painting to playing an instrument (Fun Fact: I have years of classical piano training). Both artists and musicians need hours of practice honing their skills, but what we don’t always see, is the hours of technical training that happens before they even pick up their instruments.  In music, ear training, sight reading, music history and theory are all just as important to your development as actually playing and writing music!

Just like we can train our ear to tell the difference between a major and a minor scale, we need to train our eyes to see visual cues like proper perspective, form and value. An artist that can quickly and accurately sketch what they see in front of them, is similar to a musician with perfect pitch that can play back a melody effortlessly. 

Good drawing is particularly important in watercolour because the medium is so “unforgiving.” Once a brush mark is on the paper, it is not easy to adjust. It is almost impossible to correct a wonky line edge or a building that is too big or small. Having a solid and careful underdrawing is essential. With other media like oil paints, you can repaint and therefore have multiple chances to make things right. But with "one and done" watercolour, your end results rely on a solid and accurate underdrawing. 

Can you take a watercolour class before a drawing class? ABSOLUTELY! Everyone is on a different journey. But if you find yourself stuck and struggling with translating what you see in your mind or in front of you onto paper, a drawing course might be the best thing you can do to improve your paintings!

I will be teaching a 3 week online course on improving your drawing skills this March. In this class I will focus on various exercises and methods to improve your visual skills and help you capture what you see on paper. Of course, the number one thing to improve is always practice, but this short course will help you learn how to practice effectively and help you train your eye to turn what you see into what you capture in watercolour!

drawing, pencils, poster


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