The Rocks Workshop: Watercolour on location

March 4, 2019 | Leave your thoughts

A little over a week ago, I taught a 2 day workshop in The Rocks – a lovely historic area of Sydney. We had a lot of rain and the logistics were challenging so I was really happy that I’d hired a workshop room (in Craft NSW) for the morning session. At least we were dry part of the day!

I was amazed that only 2 out of the 12 participants lived in Sydney! The rest were from NSW, QLD, VIC, TAS, SA and New Zealand. We all had fun and learned a lot (me included!) – thanks for being such a fun group to teach and for traveling so far to attend.

It’s a few years since I’ve taught a 2 day workshop in Sydney and over 4 years since I’ve taught in The Rocks area. It’s been too long! This workshop contained a lot of new content (some of it will be in my next online SketchingNow course) and it was fun putting it together and searching for locations. I had forgotten I like this planning stage and also how much work it takes! I spent two afternoon scouting for locations and looking for good areas of shade that the group could sit in – but it rained during the workshop so we didn’t use some of these spost! At least they are ready for next time I teach the workshop.

It was also great to teach an intermediate level workshop – most of the participants have done at least one of my online courses, so we were able to jump right into the fun stuff.

Here is a brief summary of the workshop.

We started with some indoor exercises to develop essential skills -seeing edges and shapes. Here we are drawing some objects on the table using a water bottle as an important reference point.

And then we did a few exercises from photos. This is my demo of the shape exercise which I really like as a simple watercolour study (note: when using watercolour ‘the simpler the better’ is often the case.)

We then went outside for an hour session before lunch and it started to rain. We were thankful that we were in a quiet area and there was a nice awning to sit under.

The exercise was breaking down a complex scene into shapes. We then talked about getting the right pigment to water ratio when using watercolour.

After lunch I did a longer demo and then everyone was free to sketch whatever they wanted in the area. The focus for this session was ‘Finding a story’ and then working in shapes.

It started pouring with rain right at the end of this session, so the next morning we had a lengthy review of everyone’s work. I love doing these and always get a lot of inspiration from seeing how others interpret a scene.

We then spent the rest of the morning doing some indoor value studies. A lot of people tell me that they struggle ‘with colour’, but really I think value (rather than hue) is what they need to focus on. We had a great session with lots of lightbulb moments.

After lunch (we had to change lunch venue due to rain) we went to the main part of The Rocks and I sent everyone out to find some scenes that interested them. It was blue skies and sunny at this point so I hoped we would be able to stick to my plan for the afternoon. We had a chat about them and then I sat down to do a quick demo. But then the rain started again. I decided just to go for it, put my umbrella up and paint despite my page being very wet.


This was the result. Crazy, I know! But I’m glad I took a risk and did this sketch rather than doing nothing.

We retreated to the MCA cafe and sketched the harbour bridge again.

I did another quick demo using a variety of pens.

Here is the final group photo. It was a great workshop and everyone did great work (despite some challenging conditions). Well done everyone!

This workshop was a summary of the main concepts which I teach in my online course: Watercolour On Location


Find out more about  WATERCOLOUR ON LOCATION



And finally, if you are interested in attending a future workshop of mine in Sydney, please join my monthly newsletter list. This workshop sold out in a few hours and had a very long waiting list – all before I announced it publicly here on my blog (so you need to receive my newsletter notification to secure a spot).

(Photos in this article by various participants – thanks all! I completely forgot to take photos this workshop)


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