Watercolor Bootcamp, Level 1

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A solid foundation in watercolor painting will help you to grow as a painter. Once you become proficient in basic techniques, you can paint anything in watercolors.

Join professional artist Catherine Hillis and learn how to paint in watercolors, or improve your watercolor painting techniques, in Level 1 of a new 4-part watercolor boot camp course series.

Start Date:

November 20, 2012

Course Length:

4 weeks




Catherine Hillis (bio)

View Course Schedule


Course Materials (included with tuition):

What You’ll Learn:

  • Essential supplies and how to use them
  • An introduction to the basic skills of watercolor painting
  • An introduction to design and composition
  • The basic skills in watercolor painting

Who should take this course:

  • Artists new to watercolor painting
  • Watercolorists who want to review their skill set
  • Beginning to intermediate watercolorists who are frustrated with their progress

There is no substitute for good quality paper and paint. If you want a good result, use only recommended papers. Your paint will “slip off” of inferior paper…it’s difficult to use. As always, the instructor is practical first, so if you have watercolor supplies, please use them and don’t feel compelled to purchase all new colors.


  • Please do not use Strathmore or Canson papers
  • Arches, Artistico Fabriano, Kilimanjaro or Richeson 140 lb. cold-pressed paper, a board (to attach your paper to), and plain masking tape (for mounting paper to the board) OR
  • One good quality watercolor Arches “block” 140 lb, cold pressed, 11” x 14” or larger)


  • Water container, paper towels, pencil and kneaded eraser, a spray bottle for water, sketch book, and camera


  • A palette with a large mixing area. The instructor likes to use a square or circular covered palette with wells around all sides (such as the Robert Wood Palette, or the Quiller Palette)


  • One #8 or #9 or #10 or #12 round brush (Robert Simmons White Sables are excellent synthetic brushes at an inexpensive price)
  • One 1” flat; one 2” wash brush (the instructor has the Steve Quiller/Richeson Co. 1 ½” flat and the ¾” flat)
  • Any fine brushes that you like for detail work (riggers, or fine round tip brushes)

Tubes of watercolor paint:
Use professional grade paints such as American Journey, Quiller, Winsor-Newton, Da Vinci, Holbein, Rembrandt, etc. Don’t purchase Cotman and Grumbacher Academy paints, as they are student grade and won’t provide the transparency you’re looking for. Buy good quality paints and paper and your product will be first rate! If you already own watercolors, bring what you have, use it up and fill in later. Please try to have the underlined colors. Feel free to use professional-grade pan colors, too.


  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Bumblebee Yellow
  • Quinacridone Gold
  • Burnt sienna
Blues, Violets:
  • Quiller Manganese Violet
  • Prussian or Thalo Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Manganese Blue
  • Quinacridone Rose
  • Cadmium Red
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson


  • Perylene green
  • Viridian green
  • Sap Green, Hooker’s Green or Permanent Green Turquoise


Course Syllabus

Session 1: An Introduction to Watercolor Supplies, and An Introduction and Demonstration of The Five Basic Skills of Watercolor Painting and Values
Students will learn about the essential supplies and the basic skills in watercolor painting and will be introduced to the concept of “value”

Reading & Viewing Assignment:

  • Read pages 47-56, 106-107, and 112 in Exploring Watercolor by Elizabeth Groves
  • View the videos “Essential Supplies and the Five Basic Skills of Watercolor Painting” and “It’s All About Values” from Catherine Hillis

Homework Assignment: Paint the five basic skills on your own paper. Paint a value scale. Paint a pear, or a live fruit, referring to the technique on page 112 (you do not need to use plexiglass). Submit your “five basic skills” sample and your painting of fruit for grading.

Session 2: An Introduction to Advanced Watercolor Techniques and the Traditional Still Life. Students will read about advanced techniques and begin putting their skills to work in a still life painting

Reading Assignment:

  • Read pages 57-67 and 111 in Exploring Watercolor by Elizabeth Groves

Homework Assignment: Set up a traditional still life in your studio and paint it. When setting up and painting your still life, refer to the painting steps of the peaches on page 111. Instead of using white paint, try lifting your highlights. Use the wet on wet technique on the pears, the wet on dry technique on the leaves, and use a graduated wash on your background. Utilize as many of the five basic skills in watercolor painting as possible. Submit your still life painting for grading.

Session 3: An Introduction to Painting Skies and the Traditional Landscape. Students will learn how to paint a wet on wet sky and will be introduced to the concept of color intensity

Reading & Viewing Assignment:

  • Read pages 68-84 in Exploring Watercolor by Elizabeth Groves
  • View the video, “How To Paint Skies, Part One” from Catherine Hillis
  • Read the handout titled “How To Paint Blue Skies” from Catherine Hillis

Homework Assignment: Paint several sample skies on your own, using a small amount of yellow and rose beneath the blue. Try a “blue” sky and a stormy sky. After painting your sample skies, paint a simple, traditional landscape using a photograph of your own. Submit all your samples of skies and your landscape painting for grading.

Session 4: An Introduction to Composition and Design. Students will be introduced to basic composition and design and learn about the value of designing thumbnail sketches to perfect a composition. There will be additional discussion about values

Reading Assignment:

  • Read pages 26-45 and 85-135 Exploring Watercolor by Elizabeth Groves
  • Focus on pages 106-107

Homework Assignment: Students will design three different compositions in quick thumbnail sketches. Thumbnail sketches will be reviewed with instructor, and then students will paint a final watercolor from their selected thumbnail for their final class project. Submit your thumbnail sketches for review and discussion with instructor via “Ask the Instructor” in Blackboard; submit final watercolor for grading.

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