Painting People in Watercolor – A Simplified Approach

If you are interested in painting people with watercolor,‭ ‬quickly,‭ ‬simply,‭ ‬and in an impressionistic rather than photorealistic way,‭ ‬then this course is for‭ ‬you.‭ ‬Annette demonstrates her simple watercolor‭ ‬approach to painting the figure,‭ ‬using light and shadow to‭ ‬simplify the form.‭ ‬ You will begin this workshop learning how to firstly‭ ‬‘see‭’‬ and draw a figure using just two value shapes.‭ You will then move on to painting the figure in monochrome and then finally,‭ ‬using just five colors,‭ ‬simplifying detail into one connected shadow shape.‭ ‬This online watercolor painting workshop is for those‭ ‬who have already painted in watercolor before and are familiar with the basic techniques.

Start Date:

August 26, 2014

Course Length:

4 weeks



COURSE MATERIALS (included with tuition):

  • Painting the Figure using Light and Shadow by Annette Raff
  • Exclusive handouts & images created by Annette


Annette Raff (bio)

View Course Schedule



What You’ll Learn:

  • Seeing and drawing in just two values
  • Linking value shapes to simplify
  • Using color in a creative way‭
  • Creating soft and hard edges with watercolor
  • Painting from photographs
  • Painting watercolor people within their environment

Who should take this course:

  • Watercolor artists that are already familiar with basic watercolor techniques
  • Artists who wish to paint people in an impressionistic manner
  • Artists who wish to improve their observation and‭ ‬watercolor painting skills
  • Watercolor painters who wish to‭ ‬‘loosen up‭’ their watercolor painting style


  • 6B graphite pencil‭
  • Kneadable eraser‭
  • Tracing paper
  • Drawing pad‭ ‬11‭ ‬x‭ ‬14‭”‬ approx.‭ (‬medium tooth‭)
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • A4‭ ‬sketch paper
  • Watercolor brushes
    • Round brush with a good point approx.‭ ‬size‭ ‬12‭ ‬and one smaller one approx.‭ ‬size‭ ‬6‭ ‬or‭ ‬8
    • Flat‭ ¾‬ or‭ ‬1‭”‬ brush
    • Small chisel or flat brush approx.‭ ‬size‭ ‬1‭ ‬or‭ ‬2‭ ‬for softening edges
  • Watercolor paints‭
    • Cerulean Blue
    • Burnt Sienna
    • French Ultramarine
    • Permanent Alizarin
    • New Gamboge
    • Black or Burnt Umber or Sepia or other darkish color‭
    • White gouache
  • Water containers
  • Watercolor paper‭ ‬– 300‭ ‬gsm,‭ ‬cold pressed or medium‭
  • Fabriano or Bockingford is recommended
  • Painting board to rest your work paper on
  • Tissues and Rags
  • Hairdryer
  • Masking Tape

All assignments should be scanned, or photographed at full size, at 72 dpi or better, jpeg. All assignments must be submitted through the Blackboard System for evaluation. Note:‭ ‬This Course includes both written information in pdf format and a downloadable DVD.‭ ‬It is recommended‭ ‬that you print the written instructions.‭ ‬You may download the DVD at any time throughout the course and pause and rewind as necessary.‭


Session‭ ‬1‭ ‬– Learning to See and Draw Value Shapes

  • Read the PDF Lesson‭ “‬Introduction to Painting People in Watercolor‭” by Annette Raff
  • Read the PDF Demonstration Lesson‭ “‬Drawing a Young Woman‭ ‬– Using Light and Shadow to Simplify with Two Values,” by Annette Raff

Once you have read the above demonstration hand‭ (‬Drawing a Young Woman‭)‬,‭ ‬print the photograph supplied of the‭ “‬Gentleman Leaning on his Car‭”‬.‭  ‬Follow the demonstration instructions,‭ ‬just as I have described here,‭ ‬step by step.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬you are to use the supplied photo rather than the photo I have used in this demonstration handout.‭

Homework Assignment‭ ‬– Session‭ ‬1 Using the photograph supplied as reference,‭ ‬follow the steps described in the demonstration handout.‭  ‬You will need to begin with a line drawing as described in Step‭ ‬1.‭  ‬For the purpose of this exercise,‭ ‬you may trace if you wish,‭ ‬or you may prefer to draw.‭‬From this line drawing you will produce a second drawing using no line and just two values as described in Step3‭ ‬of the demonstration handout.‭Please scan both the line drawing and the two value drawing for assessment.
Reading Assignment Lesson 2

  • Read and print the PDF Demonstration Handout “Painting a Young Woman in Monochrome – Using Light and Shadow to Simplify with Two Values,” by Annette Raff
  • Print the “Photo 1 – Gentleman Leaning on His Car”

Follow the demonstration handout instructions, just as I have described, step by step. However, you are to use the supplied photo (Photo 1 – Gentleman Standing by Car” rather than the photo I have used in the demonstration handout.

Homework Assignment – Session 2
Paint the “Gentleman Leaning on His Car” in monochrome watercolor as explained above. Scan and submit your Watercolor Painting for Assessment.
Session 3 – Girl at Cafe – 2-Value Drawing


  • Print both “Photo 3 – “Cafe Moments” and “Cafe Moments 2 line drawing” to use as a reference throughout Session 3 and Session 4.
  • Re-read “Drawing a Young Woman” PDF demonstration handout.
  • Just as you did in Session 1, follow the demonstration handout instructions “Drawing a Young Woman”, to produce a line drawing on to ordinary paper. This time use the Girl at the Cafe photos instead. You may trace from the line drawing supplied if you wish, as the ‘real’ work will be in the shading!
  • Using the tracing paper as an overlay, produce a 2-value drawing by shading with your pencil, as you have done previously in Session 1 using no line and just 2 values. This will be used as your reference for Session 4!
Well done … you deserve a ‘cuppa’!
Homework Assignment – Session 3
  • Re-read “Drawing a Young Woman” pdf handout.
  • Draw or trace the woman at the cafe and produce a 2-value drawing (as described above). Submit via blackboard a photograph or scanned image of this 2 value drawing for feedback

Reading Assignment Session 4

  • Re-watch the DVD “Painting the Figure using Light and Shadow by Annette Raff”.
  • Rub the back of your line drawing with a 6B or 8B graphite pencil and then trace on to your watercolor paper.
Make sure you have your 2-value and your photo reference nearby and easy to see.

Begin your painting of the woman seated at the cafe. Remember to let the colors mingle especially under the table and in the shadows. Dip your brush into your wells of color often and keep a nice ‘bead’ going! That way you can take your time and not rush!

Homework Assignment – Session 4
  • Please scan or photograph your finished painting of the woman seated at the cafe and submit for assessment via Blackboard.

Well done. This is an intermediate to advanced level painting. Remember that it is the ‘doing’ that is important in these courses, not the finished painting. You will be exploring new techniques and incorporating approaches that are outside of your comfort zone! You have taken the first steps (maybe even a leap!) to the next level of your learning curve. For a while you will feel a little uneasy and this is normal. Well done!

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