Intermediate Watercolor October 2023 – Session 2

Thursday October 19 2023 – 1pm-3pm EST

Zoom link (Passcode 189664)

This week is building on last week but this reference has even less chroma. But its still a nice moody afternoon light scene. It looks a lot more complicated but we’ll be simplifying a lot and concentrating on the large value shapes and their colors.

This reference is square as I tried it with more of the right hand tree but didn’t feel it worked. Square is easier to grid up as well.

I will record the drawing ahead of time and send out a link to it (it will also be on the youtube playlist too). Please come ready with the drawing done.

(All session materials are linked off the main page)


  • Student paper for mixing color swatches
  • 100% cotton paper for the full painting (I’ll be using 11″x11″ but 9″x9″ is a good size too)
  • Value scale (See the Useful Tools page)
  • Pencil/Paint/Palette/Water/Paper towels/masking tape
  • Brushes: A larger brush for the sky and foreground washes. A slightly smaller (10 or 12) for the trees, house, and more detailed areas.
  • Colors: Cobalt blue, Ultramarine, Burnt sienna, Vermillion/napthol/cad red (orangey red), Cad lemon/hansa yellow (greenish yellow), yellow ochre, black.

Reference Photo (click to enlarge and right click to download)

Reference Photo with grid

My Color Exercise Version


Drawing video

YouTube player

Class recording

YouTube player
Session 2 - my class version
Session 2 – my class version

27 thoughts on “Intermediate Watercolor October 2023 – Session 2

  1. Really enjoyed the 1st session and looking forward to tomorrow’s! I am enjoying learning about the Munsell Color theory and the way you do the color swatches in the beginning. It was so helpful to mix colors and get the correct mixes every time as I worked on the painting. I am happy with the results! Thank you.

  2. Thanks for challenging us with a farmhouse! The grid system for sketching helped it from getting too wonky in shape. I guess I rushed some of my mixing so the shadows are lower in value than they should be. Maybe a Halloween house! You were talking about glazing- is this a wash with gouache? Would this help lighten the shadows? Thanks

    1. Oh this looks great! Lovely even washes, good chroma, great drawing. Fabulous! Really nice to see this. I really like the intense chroma of the green with the low chroma of the house and shadows.

      As for glazing over with a thinned out gouache? Hmm. I’m not sure. It’s worth a try though. My worry is that the opacity of the gouache would make things look a little ‘muddy’. But John Lovett routinely mixes in opaque white with his work so frankly why not give it a go?

  3. I am enjoying the class, subjects, and I really like your process! Looking forward to still life:)

  4. Hi Michele, Thanks for the session. I learned a lot even though I seemed to have had some trouble applying that knowledge. I find it hard to paint along since I miss most of what you are doing. I may start watching you then painting later even though I generally find it had to just watch. Anyway, I had a hard time with the values and kept trying to adjust them with limited success. I have never used tube black before and find myself somewhat resistant to doing so. I had a neutral tint from Sennelier, which was quite black, but now have one from Holbein, which has a bluish tint. My only other black is a small tube of Soho lamp black. Is there a brand you (or anyone else) suggest? Doesn’t adding black limit the transparency?

  5. Well it looks pretty darn good to me Diane. You’ve hit the values really well and that triangle of light on the house really sings out. Some of the bushes on the left could come down a little in value but they’re out of the center of interest so it’s not important. Your windows are really nice – not too stark but they definitely read as windows.

    All in all really nice!

    And I’m sorry it was a lot to take in and paint along. I know its hard and I get excited and start rushing ahead. This next session will be a lot more measured and I’ll take more painting breaks so people can paint without having half an eye on me.

    If you’re doing pure monochrome studies I like to use Payne’s gray which is slightly bluish. A neutral tint would work as they’re almost never absolutely ‘neutral’. Pur black always looks a little bland in isolation.

    My black is lamp black (can’t remember the brand – Da Vinci?) It’s very intense and you don’t need much to modify colors. It really shouldn’t affect the opacity of the colors as we’re using so little compared to the other pigments. Compared to the opacity of the cadmiums its negligible.

  6. I’ve changed the server so it allows uploads up to 5Mb now so you don’t have to resize. I’m assuming this should cover most people’s images. Let me know if not.

  7. I uploaded the color version separately with basically the same comments. As you know, I had trouble uploading. Thank you for your encouraging words.


  8. Thanks, again, Michele, for your patience and advice. I imagine your teaching pace suits most people. I tend to be slow; I know this from past and present experience!
    I have had a real problem working fast enough that the paint does not dry before I finish the rest of what I am painting. Of course, this issue only gets worse in the winter.

    I meant to upload the color version first. I started it in class and finished it later. I then used edit to make it monochrome so I could see the values better. I did not not do a value study first. Perhaps I should. I also need to mix more paint in advance and give the black paint a chance.

    1. Lovely Laura! Nice feel to the washes – you can almost see the paint mixing on the paper. Yours is a little higher in chroma than the others and its amazing what a different atmosphere results.

        1. From what I remember of your work you naturally paint in a higher chroma so I can see how its hard to tone it down a bit. One idea could be to keep some regions high chroma and contrast those with lower chroma areas. I really like the way that looks. The session 3 still life has some of that in it.

  9. Thanks for another lovely lesson in painting!
    I had trouble with keeping the house lighter and the trees darker! I am not completely disappointed, because I learnt a lot. Please let me know what i could do better in the second version! Looking forward to Still Life!

    1. Looks great Ritu. I remember you saying you had your trees too light and you could push them a couple of steps darker. They’d frame the house and provide a nice dark shape to complement the rest of it. I especially like your foreground shadows. I have a tendency to keep them too light and yours have a nice depth to them.

      For the second go I’d maybe have a go at loosening up some of the edges. The line of the path across the middle could do with having less definition – it’s cutting the whole thing in half right now and is a bit distracting. Oh (and I’m sure you know this) keeping the horizontals truly horizontal (polytunnel I’m looking at you) is one thing that you can’t play fast and loose with unless you have a really good reason to.

      But a great job and really nice to see. The colors are perfect.

      1. Oh and don’t be disappointed. I bet if you put it away for a few weeks and come back to it you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Everyone is always far too hard on themselves. A bit of space helps to be objective. (Although I have to say the opposite also happens. You do something you really like and then 2 weeks later go ‘ugh!’)

  10. So I’ve had a go at lesson 2 – This has been a real challenge for me as I clearly don’t see colour tone and value correctly! What an eye opener!

    I was sure the house was far too dark – but in the end maybe it wasn’t! Foliage and trees I struggle with – but I also can’t manage a straight line – neither drawing it in the first place nor painting in – so this was a really tricky task for me!!

    Great challenge! My foliage and tree remain an area that ‘needs improvement’ and then I managed somehow to smudge paint in the foreground! As with the first exercise- one to go back to and try again!

    1. Yes! That house looks far too dark when you put it down. And then when the trees and bushes go in it magically lightens up! So glad you noticed this. My brain still screams at me ‘too dark!’ every time I do it but I have to shush it and do it anyway. I don’t think that will ever go away.

      The painting looks lovely. Beautiful calm muted colors and a real sense of light on the building. Foliage is always tricky. We tend to put too much detail in and it ends up looking busy. But the values are good and you have nice rough edges.

      1. I would love to be able to paint trees and bushes that look remotely tree like –

        It was watching you demo landscapes that got be hooked! Landscapes, cityscapes and animals are my faves!!would just be great to be able to pint them well

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