Watercolour painting for beginners with Christine Forbes

Ref: S2D32008

Location: West Dean
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Places available

About this course

Learn to handle brushes, use colour and study form and composition as you paint in watercolour.

Course Description

On this structured programme, you will learn how to use observational drawing to gather information and then apply this to your painting. You will find out how watercolour paper and paint interact, and how to use brushes for wet and dry techniques.

You will learn the main principles of watercolour painting through a series of exercises and demonstrations, and create a colour wheel for reference. You will then generate sketches and develop your own techniques through to a finished painting. The tutor will support you with one-to-one advice, question and answer sessions and a group review. The tutor will introduce you to the basics of composition and you will learn about visual editing.

Some poetic inspiration will be provided by the tutor. There will also be an illustrated talk on selected artists to show you different working methods.

On completion of this course, you will have gained plenty of practical knowledge about watercolour painting and understand how to make the most of the spontaneity of this medium.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course, some paper will be supplied for the first evening session.

What students need to bring

  • Please wear old clothes.
  • Please bring any of the following items that you may have:
  • HB pencil, 8B graphite stick (Lyra or Koh-i-nor) and a plastic eraser
  • Knife/pencil sharpener, masking tape
  • A4/5 sketchbook
  • Daisy mixing dish
  • 2 sheets of A1 cartridge paper (140gsm), cut into 8 sheets
  • 1 sheet of good quality watercolour paper (300 gsm), cut into 8 sheets
  • Brushes – suggested sizes: flat, soft hair, wash brush, size 20; nylon round, sizes 10, 6 and 2 (bring other brushes if you have them)
  • Watercolour paints – suggested colours: Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, French Ultramarine, Hookers Green

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • The College Craft Shop stocks a good range of drawing materials, watercolour paints in a good variety of colours (tubes and pans), including Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, French Ultramarine, Hookers Green, daisy mixing dishes, flat, soft hair, wash brushes in size 20, nylon round brushes in sizes 10, 6 and 2, sketchbooks and paper.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals.


Christine Forbes, tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Christine Forbes

Christine Forbes is a Sussex artist and graduate of Northbrook College, Worthing. Her background is in design, acting, fashion and catering. She has been teaching for over 16 years (both adults and children) and includes: The National association of Gifted Children and HMP Ford. She continues to work for private, club and corporate clients. Christine exhibits regularly and is a member of the Sussex Watercolour Society. She runs her own gift card business.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.