Watercolour painting in detail – nature from the gardens with Amber Halsall

Ref: SSS31287

About this course

Using a variety of nature from the gardens at West Dean, you will be looking at how to portray your chosen items accurately using a variety of watercolour techniques to capture the textures and detail in your chosen subjects.

Course Description

This course will help you to improve your watercolour skills and painting accuracy, encouraging you to look closely at your subject in order to portray it in as much detail as possible. During the course, you wiill visit the gardens to choose items that appeal to you such as fruit, vegetables, flowers, leaves, bark, etc.

You will learn how to use a variety of watercolour techniques to create textures and detail and how to mix and match colours to specimens from a limited palette. You will learn how and when to use wet-in-wet, wet-on-dry and dry brush techniques. You will use different mark-making techniques to create texture. Comparative and to scale measuring will enable you to create accurate initial drawings. Using a variety of techniques and an understanding of negative space, you will be able to create a balanced composition.

Sketchbook studies will be used to develop drawing skills and to gather information about your subjects. There will be plenty of tutor demonstrations and one-to-one tuition.

By the end of the course, you will have produced a completed composition and a series of small detailed studies. You will have developed your knowledge of the various watercolour techniques, colour mixing and an understanding of how to build a painting from start to finish.

Summer School highlights:

The Summer School week is an immersive learning experience with more time to develop your creativity and embrace opportunities for creative development beyond your chosen course. A detailed timetable for your Summer School week will be given to you on arrival. This will include:

• Short inspirational talks by tutors and displays of their work

• A short creative experience session in another discipline/media or course

• An optional evening at the Chichester Festival Theatre (if pre-booked)

• An optional lunchtime tour of West Dean Gardens, the historic rooms at West Dean College, or West Dean Tapestry Studio

• A celebration dinner on the last evening themed on Impressionism, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionists exhibition held in Paris in 1874. Feel free to respond to the theme if you wish.

• Informal end-of-course group reviews and displays of students' work in studios

As evening events are planned as part of the Summer School week, dinner is included in the course fee to enable all students, including non-residents, to participate fully.

Course Materials


  • The College will provide some heavy weight 640gsm watercolour paper.

What students need to bring

  • Any painting equipment you usually use
  • Watercolour paints – artists’ quality preferably
  • Suggested basic colours: Transparent Lemon Yellow, Indian Yellow, Vermillion, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue, Permanent Magenta
  • Brushes in a variety of sizes from 000 to 7 with a good point
  • Drawing equipment - pencil, plastic rubber, putty rubber, sharpener
  • Tracing paper – optional
  • Sketchbook – A4
  • Ruler or dividers for measuring
  • The College will provide a selection of specimens from nature and plant material to paint during the course, but bring any items you have that you may like to include.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good selection of general art materials, including watercolour paints in tubes and pans (artist quality), brushes, hot pressed watercolour paper blocks (and loose sheets), drawing equipment, tracing paper, sketchbooks, rulers, etc.

Additional information

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


Timetable for Summer Schools

Several evening events are planned throughout the week, a detailed timetable for the summer schools will be given to you on arrival.

Arrival Day

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).

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 should vacate their rooms by 10am please.

General Information


Amber Halsall

Amber trained at the University of Creative Arts in Canterbury. She then went on to specialise in watercolour and coloured pencil in botanical art. Amber currently works on private commissions and teaches botanical and watercolour classes. Her work is highly detailed with a contemporary style. She is a Fellow Member of the Society of Botanical Artists, exhibits regularly in London and Germany, and has sold work to private collections in the UK, Germany, France and China.


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

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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.