Workshop M: Light in the Spaces Between: A Watercolor Workshop

Instructor: Nina Johansson (Sweden)

Location: Prinsep Street, Selegie Arts Centre


Workshop description 

Every building, tree and piece of street furniture in a city scene interacts with everything around it. Shadows are thrown on neighbouring buildings, light is reflected from one wall to another, colours interact, and in the midst of it all, people and vehicles form a constant stream of movement.

When I look at a city scene, I am often mesmerized by how light changes on it´s way down into the street. It starts out bright and strong far above the ground and becomes darker, more defining and more rich and juicy when it reaches street level. This is true both in strong sunlight and the gloom of Swedish November.

This workshop is about how to render this light and shade between buildings in pen/pencil and watercolour, while keeping the colours as clean as possible. After some simple colour mixing practice, to learn how to avoid mud, we will try to capture the light of day as it falls down into the street, keeping local colours clear and strong while still rendering the changing values.


Learning goals

Participants will work with quick sketches in pencil or pen (according to their own preferences), and then use an overlay of watercolours for conveying light and shade.

They will learn how to mix watercolours in a way that will keep colours clear and strong, without the risk of making ”mud” – something most watercolourists want to avoid.

We will also try out different brushes, to find which works best for different situations.

Workshop location

Princep Street, Selegie Arts Centre


Workshop Schedule

After a brief intro, we will look at examples of how light in a city can be captured in watercolour.

  1. Overdoing it – approx. 1 hour
    After a short demo, participants will work on a street scene with very strong contrasts, to sharpen the understanding of how light changes and moves through the layers of a street.
  2. Mud-less colour mixing – approx. 40 minutes
    A little bit of colour theory, a demo, and a few exercises will increase participants´understanding of how to mix watercolours without making dull mixes. It is possible to work with both light and shadow and still keep the colours strong and clear!
  3. City light in the spaces inbetween – approx 1 hour 10 min
    Participants spend the remaining workshop time putting into practice what we have learned so far, by sketching and rendering the light falling down into a street scene. I will give personal feedback and advice to those who want it.
  4. End – discussion and conclusion – approx. 20 minutes
    We end the workshop with a group gathering, to share our sketches and talk about how we solved various value and colour problems.

Supply list 

Bring your favorite pen and/or pencil, a box of watercolours and various paintbrushes. Make sure to bring both small and big round brushes, and one or to flat, if you have. Waterbrushes (with water in the barrel) are good to bring too. A waterbottle and a container to dip brushes in is also necessary.