Starting my day with simple shapes, generous washes and a little watercolour magic

February 27, 2023 | 4 Comments

It never ceases to amaze me how satisfying it is to start my workday by sitting outside and putting a few watercolour washes on paper. There is something so special about mixing pigments and water in my palette…

… and then watching what happens when the wash hits the page of my sketchbook.

I guess that some of you are tired of seeing the same view sketched over and over here on my blog…

But for me, every one is a new and exciting adventure!

I love being outside sketching and it’s super special to watch watercolour magic happen on my page. Each day the pigment parties are unique.

(BTW going on a morning walk, getting a little sun and sipping my takeaway coffee are other parts of this daily routine that I love!)

Some days I do feel like varying my view, but if I’ve got a busy day ahead and my mind is more focused on my to-do list than on my morning sketch…

… I’m happy to do yet another version of this scene from the most comfortable bench in the Village Green.

In the past week, as I’ve been getting things ready for a cohort to go through my Watercolour course again I’ve been thinking a lot about two important skills for watercolour sketching (particularly on location):

  1. the ability to reduce scenes into simple shapes and then apply watercolour consistently within these shapes
  2. being generous with the amount of pigment and water in your washes

I know that many people are afraid to add watercolour for fear that they will ruin their ink drawings.  They get frustrated because their watercolour sketches look flat, patchy and/or overworked. Can you relate to this?

Simple shapes and generous washes are the keys to creating lively watercolour sketches and so form a big part of my Watercolour course. The course contains a number of exercises specifically designed to help you get to know the paints in your palette better, create beautiful watercolour washes and develop your own style of sketching.

I’m excited to be organising a group self-paced version of the course – starting on 15 March – so that you can work through the lessons with an inspiring cohort of sketchers from around the world. Find out more here.

And just if you are wondering what I was mixing…

Here are swatches of the three mixes I used:

  • DS Hansa Yellow medium, SCH French Ultramarine and some DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna
  • DS Quin Burnt Scarlet and SCH French Ultramarine 
  • Steels Grey

Find out details of all the colours in my palette here and why I use them here

Three final thoughts:

  • Thinking about values more than colour is the third important skill for watercolour sketching… but I’m leaving that for a separate article.:-)
  • Watercolour painting involves an intuitive feel that you are mixing the right ratio of pigment and water in your washes, so this morning routine of doing a simple watercolour sketch of my local Village Green is a great way of keeping my ‘watercolour feeling’ in tune.
  • It also makes me smile when I see that the dried mixing wells contain beautiful pigment parties!


  • Kimbi says:

    I love this.

    Actually took a page out of your book and started making small zines to take with me on walks. yesterday was the first day i did drawings that i later added watercolour to. it was a really nice experience i enjoyed it.

    this morning i was actually thinking i’ve basically drawn the same thing for about two weeks now and contrary to my belief, i haven’t gotten bored at all. I actually have been seeing things differently adding to them as i go. Reducing the preciousness of the whole thing with each drawing.

    Thanks for sharing on your blog, now i’ve found a way to draw on location and still remain safe.

  • Laurence says:

    “I love being outside sketching and it’s super special to watch watercolour magic happen on my page. Each day the pigment parties are unique….”
    So, so, agree with you !!!

  • Maria Bergman says:

    Hi Liz!
    I’m considering signing up for your Watercolor Class.
    Do you spend much time on demonstrating and applying color values in this course?
    This is an area, (among many others!), that I have trouble with.
    Thank you

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