A blue and gold watercolour work in progress with a painting brush tipThe advice I am asked for most often at my Open Studios is how to loosen up watercolours. This year’s Cambridge Open Studios was no exception. ‘Do you teach?’, and ‘I wish I could paint looser watercolours’: the theme was repeated in so many questions.

I love sharing my passion for painting. It’s one of my favourite aspects of Open Studios; the conversations about art. The exchange of ideas. The possibilities of shared painting times at later workshops. By the end of July I had agreed to teach three half day workshops before the end of this year for local art societies, and one full day workshop in 2023 in Norwich.

One of the most interesting things about painting is the discover process.  There are moments of delight in seeing something lovely emerge in front of you. Many of these are serendipitous. But you can certainly increase the instances of these with a few simple practices.

A few tips on how to loosen up watercolours:

  • Paint standing up. This was a game changer for me. It gave me a far wider range of movement while I paint.
  • Before you start, take a deep breath, straighten your back and drop your shoulders. A relaxed stance gives you the freedom of movement you need for loose painting
  • Know your materials. Before you can start to add experimental techniques to your work, it really helps to know how to manage your primary medium. In this case, the water to pigment ratio is so important. Get it wrong and you will never get the result you want.
  • Pick the right support. Once again, this is about knowing how the medium will react on a particular paper, or aqua board.
  • Smile! Have fun with it. If you get stressed when the first mis-stroke happens, you will just tighten up even more and that’s going to take you in the opposite direction from the loose style you seek.

If you fancy learning more about creating loose experimental watercolours, you could join one of my workshops or have a look at some of my Youtube videos.