Watercolour: still life

Weekend-long practical course

Courses and Classes

  • 7 July 2018, 10.30am — 5.30pm
  • 8 July 2018, 10.30am — 5.30pm

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Samuel Smith, A group of four shells on seaweed (detail), 1840.

Watercolour on cream wove paper. 164 x 99 mm.

Led by watercolour artist Sarah Holliday and working with still-life objects, this weekend-long intensive course will explore various techniques and possibilities presented by watercolour, a wonderfully versatile medium.

It could be said that the use of watercolour paint is the original medium for painting. At its most basic, it is ground pigment mixed with water and a binding material, and would have been used in this form to create images on cave walls. Although the chemistry has been refined significantly since then, the components are still much the same: pigment, binder and water.

This weekend-long course explores the diverse methods, tools and techniques that can be used for watercolour painting, exploring the versatility of the medium under the expert guidance of Sarah Holliday. Participants are encouraged to develop their own ideas and themes and explore the range of possibilities that watercolours present, working from a central still life arrangement.

Watercolour is best known for its transparent properties, allowing layers to be built up, creating a luminosity which to some extent defines the medium. This classic painting technique was perfected in England during the 18th and 19th centuries, at which point watercolour was applied in a series of transparent washes that allowed light to be reflected from the surface of the paper through layers of colour. This technique gives watercolour its unique glow. However, watercolour can also be made opaque by mixing with a whiting and in this form is known as body colour, or gouache. This option allows for a greater flexibility in the application of the paint.

In 1768, when the Royal Academy was founded, watercolour was much practised in the topographical manner, and as a way of making preliminary studies. It took artists such as Paul Sandby, often called the “father of the English watercolour”, Thomas Girtin, and J.M.W. Turner to move the medium into a means of expression beyond just studies.

Still-life painting as a genre developed in the 16th and 17th centuries with artists such as Juan Sánchez Cotán and the Netherlandish School. Their paintings ranged from flamboyant arrangements of exotic fruits and vegetables, to one or two closely studied objects. They were always beautifully composed and immaculately painted. More recently, still life has been painted by artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse and Braque, but it took painters such as Cézanne and Morandi to explore the subject fully using watercolour.

During this weekend-long practical course, using still-life arrangements in the RA Schools’ Life Room, participants will be introduced to the exciting possibilities of the medium of watercolour, learning about the materials and the different painting techniques.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

  • 7 July 2018, 10.30am — 5.30pm
  • 8 July 2018, 10.30am — 5.30pm

The Life Room, Royal Academy Schools

£420. Includes all materials, lunch, and a wine reception.

Book now