Watercolour painting – light and shade, warm and cool with Brian Smith

Ref: S2D32218

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About this course

Learn how to create mood, atmosphere, form and focus by using light and shade, and warm and cool colours, to improve your painting skills.

Course Description

The simple materials of water, paper and pigment have many options with the way they can be used. Learn how to consider these choices fully to produce individual work and develop your own painting style.

On this course, you will explore:

- How to use light and shade to create form and focus

- When to use warm or cool pigment to create emphasis

- Where to use warm or cool colour

- Whether to mix pigments thinly or thickly; how to do this on the paper to give variation and life

- Mother colours and how they create unity in paintings

- Detail and suggestion in your brushwork and how both can be right

The course begins with some quick painting exercises to get you started. You will then explore your options, supported by one-to-one discussions with your tutor, as well as group reviews. Working with large and small studies, you will develop your ideas in your paintings, working in the studio and grounds of West Dean, weather permitting.

This course will help you to become a more accomplished artist on this journey of exploration. You will leave with studies, exercises and finished pieces, which will help you move forward to broaden your painting boundaries. You will gain a better understanding of colour, light, brushwork and composition, and of the options available to achieve different results.


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


  • We have a generously stocked craft shop, which opens daily from 8.30am–2pm.
  • For any materials you need to purchase from the shop, we suggest you do so during the first morning of your course, after having discussed with your tutor.

What students need to bring

  • Please bring one reference photo of your choice that could be used as the framework for a study.
  • Water spray atomiser bottle
  • An old blunt knife (similar to a butter knife), not a scalpel
  • Saunders Waterford or Arches Watercolour Paper 140lb, 300gsm in all surfaces
  • Windsor & Newton Artist Quality tube paints - any you may have at home - recommended colours to be discussed
  • Bleedproof white paint by Windsor and Newton (or Dr. Martins)
  • Selection of watercolour brushes (a 4 or 5 round, 9 or 10 round, 1.25” flat and a mop) – with these you should be able to accomplish most things. If you have other brushes, bring them with you.
  • Adhesive tape, pencils 2B and 4B, putty and plastic rubber

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials are available to buy, including Saunders Waterford or Arches Watercolour Paper 140lb, 300gsm in all surfaces, Windsor & Newton Artist Quality tube paints in a good range of colours, bleed proof white paint by Windsor & Newton, a selection of watercolour brushes, including a 4 or 5 round, 9 or 10 round, 1.25” flat and a mop, adhesive tape, pencils 2B and 4B, putty and plastic rubbers.

Additional information

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


Brian Smith

People and Architecture are the main focus of Brian's watercolours striving to capture mood, light and atmosphere in daily life. His paintings have been exhibited at The Mall, Bankside and the RWA Bristol gaining awards. He has written articles for International Artist, The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines. He now demonstrates and tutors Watercolour nationally. In 2020 he was elected as a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.


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.