Liz Seward Watercolour Plus Workshop


Notes & photos taken by C. Head

Liz Seward is a long-standing member of Frimley & Camberley Society of Arts and she began the day by reminiscing about the rooms we were in and all the many occasions she had taught in them.  She has been a Chairman of our Society and she is very familiar with what is involved in running the Annual Exhibition. We are lucky to have benefitted from her wealth of experience and professional know how over many years.  During today’s workshop Liz will illustrate ways to add interest and texture to watercolour paintings using watercolour pencils, colour pencils, watercolour crayons and marker pens.

Liz showed several examples of her work to illustrate what happens when using these additions to pure watercolour.  The first photo is a flower painting although Liz said it could almost be two paintings with the tea and toasted teacakes making its own composition. The use of coloured pencils works beautifully for the kind of details seen here.

Liz is also well-known for painting lovely woodland scenes.   She likes to paint ‘en plein air’. For this she finds watercolour pencils are very convenient. 

It is a good idea to start with a pencil drawing.  Liz recommends that you always do a pencil drawing first when working from a photograph.  This is a tonal sketch that Liz did of Sprat’s Hatch Bridge on the Basingstoke Canal. 

Recognising negative spaces can make such a difference.  Using the under-painting to outline the positive objects is very effective.  Liz used this half-finished floral painting to illustrate this.  

She suggested that some people might like to use one of the either outline of trees or pears to develop the idea of painting the negative space first. Quite a few people took up her suggestion. 

She often works with four colours  to do the under painting: a yellow, a red and two blues.  Today she will use Yellow Hansa medium, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue (reflects both red and yellow and creates good light greens, not so good for dark shades), and Prussian Blue (has a yellow bias and is better for making greens).  Creating shades of green could be a whole workshop in itself!  Liz advises against using green colours themselves in underpainting as they tend to become muddy as soon as other colours are added to them.  Liz also advises against Payne’s Grey for much the same reason.  An artist who uses negative painting to good effect is Linda Kemp:

Here is the demonstration Liz did with the tree outline. She put down the four under paint colours and then painted in the negative shape with darker shades still using the same four colours.

Here is FCSA Chairman, Peter Tuitt, working with the tree outline.  He managed to produce two versions during the course of the day.

Helen also used the tree outline to experiment with negative space painting.

Tracey decided to have a go with the outline of the pears.

While Val applied negative spaces and under painting to her pansies.  

Craig also worked on two versions of his waterlilies.

This is Carole attempting a floral painting while applying what was being taught.  She did not know, until Liz told her, that Opera Rose is not colour fast and will fade with time.  Such a shame as it is a fabulous vibrant pink colour.


Watercolour pencils: This is a set of Caran d’Ache watercolour pencils.  It is possible to buy them in different size sets, some specialising in particular colours such as flesh tones, greys, earth colours, etc., it is also possible to just buy a single colour that you want once you have got a basic set.  Liz demonstrated how by adding a little water on a brush and painting over the colour the effect of watercolour is achieved.  She warned that artists should NEVER put the pencil directly into the water pot.  The water will just go up the barrel and ruin the pencil.  However, you can load your brush with colour by taking a wet paintbrush over the tip. 

Colour Pencils: Liz also has a fabulous set of dry Permanent Colour Pencils by Caran d’Ache which she was given as a thank you for a workshop she gave.  She recommends using moments of boredom to practice using pencils to produce a gradient of tone from pressing very hard to very, very lightly.  These pencil colours can be overlaid but should not be wet.

Neocolours:  Some of the participants of this workshop had bought the set that Liz produced when her daughter-in-law was running the art shop in Camberley and ordered these sets to be produced on Liz’s behalf.  They are water soluble pastels.

Marker Pens: Liz also demonstrated how Winsor & Newton Pro Marker twin tip pens can be another useful tool.  She added a little water on a brush to move the ink from the marker to produce another interesting effect.  This works especially well when depicting silver birch trees.

Brushes: These Da Vinci Chisel brushes are what Liz likes to use to create her distinctive watercolour style of painting.  She also likes the Pro Art Sablene brushes that are available now for painting in watercolour.  

Watercolour Paper: Liz recommends working on hot pressed watercolour paper when using colour pencils.  There are three different kinds of watercolour paper:  Hot pressed, Not and Rough. Here is a good illustration of the difference between them along with an explanation of which is used for what purpose from Ken Bromley Art Supplies website.  

Surface Types

Perhaps one of the first choices you will encounter when selecting a watercolour paper is choosing a surface type. Generally, watercolour papers are one of three different surface types; Hot Pressed (HP), Cold Pressed (NOT) and RoughHot pressed is the smoothest watercolour paper and is great for artists looking to render their subjects in fine detail. This paper is popular with illustrators and designers as it gives a flat finish good for reproduction. Cold Pressed paper has a medium textured surface favoured by beginners as it is compatible with a variety of techniques and applications. Rough, as suggested by the name, is the most textured watercolour paper. The deep pits in the paper are brilliant if you want to get the most out of the granulation of your watercolour paints. This heavily textured paper is well suited to those with a loose watercolour painting style.

The four hours of the workshop went by so quickly and everyone was so busy painting right up to the very last minute that there was not time to put all the work together for a plenary.  The photos here are by no means a complete account of everyone’s work and these notes were taken while being one of the workshop participants.  Hopefully they give some idea of what was learnt during a very enjoyable workshop.

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