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Mixed-media water colours

Paul Riley suggests introducing other media to your watercolours, with advice on the best way to do this. It’s all down to good planning…
Venetian Façade – Hvar Island, mixed media on Saunders Waterford HP 300gsm, 18X12in (45.5X30.5cm).

I used quite a broad and stiff pen nib that glided swiftly over the HP surface. The ink is a sepia bought in Venice! It is not waterproof so the watercolour went on first. Gouache was added thickly and carefully so as not to disturb the ink work. Finally, pastel was broadly added for texture. Here I used soft pastel rounds

Watercolour can be particularly tricky, especially for beginners. There are many pitfalls that snare the unwary and the results can be frustrating and depressing. It all seems so simple at the outset – what could go wrong?


Well, as anybody who has tried will tell you – loads! Colours run into one another creating muddy tones and blurred edges. Often as not the painting lacks intensity, looks wishywashy or smudged. This invariably leads to the addition of some other media to save the situation. The first job is to reach for a pen and some ink, or a Pentel-type pen, and rectify those lost edges. The trouble is that the results can often get smudged, creating an obvious mess. By this time, in desperation, you reach for some gouache to clean and recover some of the paint areas and cover some of the ink. But the likelihood is that more muddiness will result. Finally, if all else fails there are pastels, which by some miracle can quite often save the day. If not there are always the scissors. There may be something worth saving if that bad quarter or half is chopped off…!

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first of our new standard 80-page magazine, packed with even more inspiring practical articles to help you to improve and enjoy your own drawing and painting. In addition, this month we also include your free 16-page supplement with details of some of the best art courses and holidays available to inspire and inform your creativity, whatever your level or years of experience. So, whether you love working in watercolour, oils, pencils or acrylics, take your work to the next level with our team of passionate artist/tutors including Judi Whitton on how to use body colour in your watercolours, Haidee-Jo Summers with some useful exercises to help you loosen up in oils, Mike Barr's beachscape demonstration, Paul Talbot-Greaves on how to start with a watercolour mess and end in success, Peter Graham on why the rose makes such a wonderful subject for still-life paintings, Robert Dutton on mastering perspective for city scenes, and Peter Burgess with tips on composition and the Golden Section, to highlight just a few articles in this issue. Plus, there's so much more to guide and inspire your artistic development within our new 80-page issue - enjoy!