How to Use This Course (Best Learning Practices)

Learning watercolor is different than almost any other media.  Watercolor is a medium that is driven heavily by method and technique.  What I mean by this is that with most other media, you can just sort of “go at it” and either the method and techniques don’t matter too much, or if they do matter, you can probably figure them out just by painting.  Watercolor is not like this.  To have any sort of success with it, it requires a thorough understanding of techniques, methods, and planning.  Because of this, it is vitally important that learners in this medium develop some sort of  plan for their learning process.

Over many years of teaching watercolor, I have seen student after student get frustrated and quit.  Almost without fail, those students were the ones who didn’t stick to a learning plan; they just “went at it”.  This arbitrary type of learning just doesn’t work with watercolor.  In contrast, the students who adhered to a learning plan were always the ones who stuck with watercolor, and eventually either became advanced painters, or became casual painters that regularly painted with watercolor for enjoyment.  In fact, when I was going through my learning course, I collaborated with many others who were going through it at the same time.  I and three others were the ones who were the most diligent about following the learning plan.  Out of the four of us, three of us are now professional watercolorists, two of us are watercolor instructors, and one of us is a casual painter, but continues to paint with watercolor for enjoyment more than 10 years after completing our course.

Keeping all of this in mind, I offer you my recommended method for going through this course.  Sticking with this plan will not only allow you to progress in the most efficient way, but it will also make your practice time more enjoyable, and avoid much frustration.   Based on years of teaching and teacher training, here is the method I recommend:

  • First, and most importantly, make sure you are using the same materials that I recommend.  I can’t stress this enough. New students are sometimes very reluctant to use professional-grade supplies, especially paper.  The paper you use in watercolor is the most important tool.  It must be one of the brands I recommend, or you simply will not progress in the course.  You will get stuck and become frustrated, and probably quit.  If you already have supplies that you think you might be able to use, please contact me so we can discuss options.  Paints and brushes we can usually sort out; paper we usually can’t.  YOU HAVE TO USE PROFESSIONAL PAPER to be able to learn watercolor.  Consider also that it really isn’t that expensive when you do the math.  For the little paintings we do, it costs about 30 cents per painting, and even for the larger ones, it only costs 50 cents to 1 dollar per painting.  That’s pretty cheap entertainment!  🙂

  • Go through the lessons in the exact order they are presented.  They have all been painstakingly arranged to maximize your learning, and they all build upon each other.

  • Watch each painting lesson all the way through before attempting the painting.  Then print out the text instructions to serve as a reminder as you try it yourself. (For longer paintings this may not be practical)

  • In each painting lesson, keep doing the same painting over again until you can produce 2 in a row that you are happy with.  More is even better. For advanced long paintings this may not be practical.  

  • If you don’t know why a painting failed, submit it to me for advice.  Once you think you have 2 in a row that you are happy with, submit both of them to me for tips and ideas.

  • If you are having trouble with a particular part of a painting, submit the painting to me for help.

  • Continue this as you go through the course.

  • When you get to Chapter 6 or so, you will have reached a level of proficiency that you can depart from this learning structure.  At this point you can start to pick and choose lessons at will, and even begin to do your own paintings.  You can still submit your own paintings to me for help.  I am just as eager to help with individual projects as I am my lessons!

This may all sound a bit too “regimented” for some people, but trust me; it works.  I have seen it time and time again.  When I was learning, I would often do the same doodle or painting 20 times or more! Even now, as a proffesional painter, I very often do 2 or 3 attempts at the same painting to get one that I know I am happy with.

Failed paintings are NORMAL!  I have them all the time, even to this day.  What will happen is that as you progress, you will have fewer and fewer of them, but they will never go away.  Many of the paintings I am showing you in these videos (especially the more advanced ones) I have done more than once to make sure I can paint them on camera with minimal mistakes as I record.  Let go of the idea that you should be making a professional painting with every attempt.  Enjoy the whole process; the successes and the failures.  Learn from the failures and learn from the successes.  Analyze what worked and didn’t work in your painting.  Submit your paintings to me and others for critique to get a more objective opinion about your work.  But most importantly; have fun!