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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > January 2020 > Good design in watercolour

Good design in watercolour

Jake Winkle explains why design is essential to good composition and therefore a painting that will hold the viewer’s attention

Jake Winkle is represented by several galleries, including The Wykeham Gallery in Stockbridge and Collier Dobson in Fordingbridge. His book Light and Movement in Watercolour is available from Batsford Books and his instructional DVDs from Town House Films. Jake uses the Luxartis range of kolinsky brushes, available from

Painting is a two-dimensional art form and whether your work is abstract or realistic the finished image is an assortment of shapes on a flat surface. With this in mind I am primarily concerned with the pattern of shapes on paper and the marks used to render them rather than photographic accuracy or putting everything in.

Good composition is the ability to form shapes into an artistic design. Composition is far more than where to place the horizon or how to create a focal point, or even the rule of thirds. It encompasses every part of the painting from the marks used by the brush to how areas are linked through tonal masses. You just know when you see a good design, it has balance and interest, variety without repetition and darks that reveal lights.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first 2020 issue of The Artist. With a new year of drawing and painting to look forward to Paul Talbot-Greaves suggests 12 ways to help improve your watercolour skills throughout the year. Our four-page diary with the details and entry deadlines for all the main open competitions to enter will help you plan your year, while Bob Brandt's advice will help you maximise your chances of success. Watercolourists will enjoy Ian Sidaway's feature on painting the Rockies, Jake Winkle's focus on why good design is essential for an attention-grabbing composition, Julie Collins' colour-mixing ideas for winter trees and Jenny Wheatley's guide to choosing the best watercolour paper for your style of painting. Follow Robert Dutton and Soraya French and used mixed-media techniques to paint landscapes and flowers, plus Robert Brindley demonstrates how to capture light on water in pastel. With demonstrations in gouache, oils - including how to paint noses - charcoal and pastels, there's something for everyone, whatever your preferred medium. Why not make 2020 the year to try a new one with inspiration and guidance from The Artist?! Enjoy!