Painting with Carol

Techniques, tips and tricks for watercolours and acrylics

Mar 5

Top 5 watercolour questions

I often find the same questions crop up again and again during my classes so I thought I’d create a quick list of the most common things my students ask. They’re in no particular order and if you have your own questions, feel free to add them to the end.

QUESTION 1: What side of the watercolour paper should I be using?

It is hard to keep this answer short. I could write so much about paper as every artist has a favourite kind of paper. There are three main textures:

  • Rough
  • Cold-pressed
  • Hot-pressed

Each is used for different types of painting. Rough paper has the most “tooth” (kind of like goosebumps on the paper) and is used mostly for landscapes. It’s good if you are painting water - if you run your brush over the surface of the paper you can see the paint adhere to the elevations and it will leave the depressions sparkling white as if the sun is hitting the top of the water. I use hot-pressed paper if I am doing any fine detail work, such as lace work which is done with a liner brush. I have found it is not so good if you intend to apply many washes. My favourite kind of paper is Arches cold-pressed, 300G/M. I find it an ideal all-purpose paper. I mostly choose to paint on the smooth side of the paper but it doesn’t matter which side you choose, either side is equally suitable for paint. Some manufacturers place their watermark on the paper and I always tell my students that if the watermark is raised, it is the right side to use.

QUESTION 2: When taping the paper to the board, should I tape all the way around?

Yes, you should tape on all four sides.¬†When I paint I am inclined do repeated washes, I find that wet watercolour paper tends to buckle, especially if you use a lightweight paper. It’s one of the reasons I use 300G/M - you will find it will only buckle slightly when it is wet but it will settle when dry. If, by chance, the tape does lift a little with the water, don’t be tempted to take it off until you have finished with the washes as it will leave a mark on your painting that cannot be removed.

QUESTION 3: What sort of palette should I use?

These days a watercolour palette is not such an expensive item to buy and can easily be picked up at any art store, or even the cheap $2 shops that are around. Do, however, pick a palette that has many wells in it. If the colours you mix run in to each other they become contaminated and can create “mud”. Personally, I like a palette that has a lid. They are of course a little more expensive but I think it is worth it as it stops the paint from drying out completely. I have many palettes as I never wash away the paint - I clean the palette often with a damp cloth or even a paper towel and this way I can use the left over paint months later.

QUESTION 4: What brushes should I buy?

Good watercolour brushes are expensive but the old saying “you are only as good as the tools you use” is exactly right. For many years I struggled with inferior brushes, so I do know.¬†Cheap brushes will not hold a point because the hairs will separate and they won’t hold enough water or paint. They also break down quickly, which can be very frustrating indeed. If you care for your brushes properly, they will last for many years, so I think buying good brushes is a good investment. Try asking for a new watercolour brush for your birthday or Christmas. I would rather have a new brush than a new bra, or a bottle of perfume any day. I will list the brushes I use - for washes I use a number 12 Squirrel mix oval brush, or a number 7 Raphael 803. For general work, I use I use a number 6 Raphael, although I have been using a cheaper version called Rekab 900E Sable-Ester Israel. I also use a number 4 Sable-Ester Israel. For very fine work I use No 3 Raphael 8404. If you are on a budget, however, try a Large Fan brush or a Japanese Hake brush for your washes and the Japanese bamboo brushes also work quite well.

QUESTION 5: How do I care for my brushes?

I would am asked this question every time I teach. After I’ve made the case for buying good brushes I can understand why you would like to know how to care for them. I suggest you use your watercolour brushes only for watercolours. Rinse them in clean water after each painting cession, and shape them to their shape, a “round brush with a point” or “flat or oval brush to a flat or oval”. Make sure they dry to the shape - I usually put them upside down in a glass to dry. Never leave brushes standing in water. If you still have some stubborn pigment left in the brush after rinsing, it can be removed with a little warm water and soap. I also use an amazing brush cleaner that is put out by Chroma Australia that is simply called “Incredible Brush Cleaner”. I swear by it. When carrying your brushes I have found it better to roll them - if you don’t have a paint roll, you can just roll them in a hand towel or, better still, add a paint roll to your present list.

So there you have it. Have I missed anything out? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do to answer your questions.


Mar 5

Poppies pattern packet

Poppies watercolourI promised a new pattern packet and here it is.

Poppies watercolour tracing


Nov 21

Iris at Brewster

Category: On the road

Nov 5

Batemans Bay workshop photos

Category: On the road, Workshops

A slideshow of the fabulous workshop in Batemans Bay. Thanks to everybody who made the weekend so enjoyable.


Oct 31

Workshop at Batemans Bay

I do so like having a post, it is like therapy, but finding the time to update it is difficult, I don’t know how some people can update daily. I admire the discipline they must have.

Pair of Galahs
Image via Wikipedia

Last weekend’s workshop was at my dear friend Judy’s in Batemans Bay. I drove down on the Friday - it takes five hours to drive  from my place to her place. The workshop was on the Saturday and it was a great success, I just loved it. It was so nice being with the girls again they made me feel very welcome. Often when people retire and move away, you loose touch, however Judy will never allow that to happen. In order for us to see one another at least once a year she organises a workshop. Thank you Judy for a wonderful week-end! We painted ’Pink and Grey Galahs‘ and whilst we were painting the wild Galahs were feeding from the bird feeders Judy has in her garden. I say ‘wild’ only because they are not caged (I would hate to think anyone would consider the galahs to be that wild that they would attack). Not many painters are lucky enough to have the birds to actually join them; they are such clowns, hanging upside down and playing around like naughty kids would. Real show-offs.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to go on a painting tour around Europe. I met an American girl on the tour named Arlene and we immediately became friends and had lot of fun together. When Arlene came to Australia the first time, she stayed with me and, as I had a workshop in Parkes organized for the week-end she was to arrive, I thought it would be great for her to come along as she would be able see a little of our country that most tourists wouldn’t get a chance to see. Parkes is a country town in NSW. ‘Why am I telling you this story,’ you might ask? Well as I was writing about the Galahs I was reminded of Arlene’s reaction when she saw her first pink and grey galah: she was amazed at their bright colours and that there was so many of them.

But anyway, back to the workshop. I somehow managed to leave all my good watercolour brushes at home but luckily I had other brushes with me that I could make do with. It made me realise, however, how much easier it is to paint if you do have the right equipment.

Some tips:

  • Tip 1: As Christmas is nearly upon us why don’t you put a good watercolour brush on your wish list? If I could only have one brush, it would be a No.7 Raphail 803. This brush can be used for everything from washes to fine line work. I have an addiction for brushes, I just love them, if I have any spare cash I will always buy a new brush over a new bra any time.
  • Tip 2: Another thing I was once again made aware of. Clean water is essential and you must remember to change your water often - otherwise you end up with a muddy painting. I have a double sided water container; I wash out my dirty brush on one side and use the other side for my painting.
  • Tip 3: When signing your painting, always be aware that you will have a mount as well as a frame so you will need to put your signature a little higher in to the painting.

I have more to tell, but no time to write more. So I will tell you about my new addiction - Card making - that Judy started me on next time.

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Oct 15

Still alive

The problem with owning a blog is keeping it updated in order for it to remain interesting. I am not sure that I have a lot to tell you as I haven’t been painting at all lately -¬† it has been the school holidays and at the moment I am lucky enough to have my eight year old grand-daughter staying with us. What a joy she is to have around! I just love being a Nanna and I try to make the most of it while she still wants me around to do things with her.

There is much to be done over the holidays when you are eight and it’s so much better if you have a friend stay over. Thank goodness the weather was perfect for going to the beach, the water was a bit cold to stay swimming for too long but when you are young there is so much to discover in the rock pools. We came home with a bucket full of shells, star fish, hermit crabs, bits of glass washed smooth all that good stuff.

I have also become the cupcake queen, decorated by the girls with bright green and hot pink icing. We spent¬†four days with my mum, who is ninety now and we like to spend as much time with her as we can whilst we still have her around. We¬†went to the theatre to see a production of Just Macbeth, written for children by Andy Griffith. It was a lot of fun and on the way home in the car I asked Zoe to tell me the story of Macbeth. She said, “I am not sure if I understood it all,” but when she told me the story in her words, she was spot on. Would I have¬†understood Shakespeare at that age? I don’t think so.

All in all the school holidays were fun. School started Monday so it is back to normal again. So I am trying to get back in to painting, even though I have been painting for so many years I still find it hard to get back in to the swing of it after a break.

I am lucky enough to be sponsored by Chroma, and they have asked me to design some Christmas cards using their iridescent colours, which I thought it would be a breeze. Not so! They have to be very simple so that anyone including non-painters can do them. I am inclined to fuss too much - I add a bit here and a bit there, so I have to discipline myself. But I am on the way and things are starting to take shape.

This weekend I am going to be the student for a change. I belong to The Sutherland Arts Society and every year they have a Paint-a-thon. I treat myself to painting with other well-known artists. I learn so much - I have always encouraged my own students to paint with as many teachers as they can, as everyone has something to offer. I am so looking forward to it, I have three days of painting watercolours with Ross Paterson. I will take photos for my blog if I am allowed.

Also, I will be teaching the Pink and grey galahs down the south coast at Batemans Bay on the 25th of October.

Well I should get back to painting Christmas cards. Talk soon!

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Sep 25

I do love Spring

Category: On the road

I have some photos I would like to share with you. My dear friends Ted and Collin sent them to me this week. They bought an old school less than three years ago in a place called Brewster, about 20 minutes out of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. I just love to go  to Victoria for my workshops - I not only run my workshops at their gallery, I also use their home as my base. I call it my R&R as no one looks after me like they do.

Can you imagine how hard the ground must have been, having had all those children running, skipping, jumping on it for all those years? It must have been like concrete. It just amazes me that anything would grow in it, however if you could only see it now, the gardens are just wonderful. Each time I visit they have done so much more to the gardens. The garden is open to the public and it is certainly worth a visit, especially in the spring when the variety of iris will take your breath away.

Ted and Collin have made the old school house itself in to a gallery-cum-coffee shop, but it is more than just a coffee shop -it is a meeting place for all the local sheep station owners who stop off and have a coffee or even a glass of wine on their way to wherever they going. I have seen them arrive on their tractors! It is wonderful to be there, so much fun and laughter. Every month Ted and Collin put on a breakfast for the locals and the coffee shop is full every time. I have just read what I have written and it reads as if I am running an ad for them, but it is such a pleasure to be there I just can’t help myself. If you are in the area or on the road to Adelaide, it is a good stop over for the best cup of coffee around just look out for the signs along the main road.

Wardlin Craft and Garden
344 Kayleys Lane
Brewster, Victoria
Ph (03)53440641

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Sep 16

Christmas art projects

It looks as though I might have to put my travel teaching aside for a while and behave like a good wife and mother as Linden is still not well enough to be left alone. I thought I might get in to the Christmas spirit and start to finish some of the projects I have started to paint and never finished - in fact I pulled out a Christmas box this morning that I started 10 years ago! I add something to it each year; you never know I might even finish it this time. It is amazing, though, how my style of painting has changed over the years. I just love Christmas and all the glitter that goes with it. Because of my travelling, I have been able to accumulate some wonderful Christmas objects to paint from the various studios I have taught at all over Australia. So now is the time to finish them. Why don’t you join me? Finish those unfinished objects. Send me some photos when you do, I would love to see them (and if you’re OK with it, we can post them here too).

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Sep 1

Things are starting to get back to normal

Category: Family

Linden is still not well but he is certainly a lot better. I haven’t picked up a brush in so long and I am starting to have withdrawals. I¬†still don’t have time to paint but I feel I have to do something so I have been sorting out my paints, washing brushes, and filing pattern packs -¬†things that should have been done months ago.

I still have all my paintings that I had packed ready to go on the trip piled up in my lounge room, however. What am I going to do with them? I just don’t know where I am going to put them. The older I get, the more stuff I seem to accumulate. I would like to be able to start again -¬†I would like those people that you see on TV to come in and throw things away for me because I don’t seem to be able to do that. Maybe I should have a garage sale. When I am painting, none of the mess worries me.

Oh well. Now that I have got that off my chest I will get back to trying to be a housekeeper and a nurse. YUK.

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Aug 7

Queensland trip cancelled

Category: Family, On the road

I am so sad at the moment. I have had to cancel my exhibition in Hughenden and my upcoming workshops in Queensland, as my husband Linden is still in hospital. He is still very unwell. I hate to let everyone down like this. I was looking forward to being with the camels I was even hoping that I could ride one. I have already been in touch with each studio to let them know. Everyone has been so kind and has asked me to reschedule when Linden is well again.

I am very disappointed as I look forward to seeing all my friends again. I consider myself such a lucky person as I have been able to make so many good friends doing what I love, “teaching people what I know about painting.” I will let everyone know when it is up and running again.


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