drawing out the negative painting with clean water

Watercolor is about process.  Watercolor is about water. To work in watercolor you need to learn how to use and control your water.  You need to learn when to do what — and what effect you will achieve. It isn’t about “making paintings” until the process are understood and at your command.  This week is dedicated to the tricky business of water and color — what’s known as WATERCOLOR.

basic3Treat yourself to a full four days for learning the basics of watercolor. Watercolor is a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. Before you put it all together it helps to work on the different processes, one at a time.

random wet on wet wash with ink drawing added

Wet on wet: how wet is the paper? What do you do first?  How much paint?  How much water on your brush?  The answers to these questions are what you need to learn to use this important process in watercolor.  It is so easy when you are shown; then try it; then make adjustments when necessary.

basicfamilybasic5(1)Wet blending: wetting a small area and then blending the colors so they go together smoothly; so you don’t get backruns or have brushstrokes in collision with one another.  You play a bit first. Then you learn and practice some important how-to’s of mixing your colors.  And finally you try modeling fruit to made a 2-dimensional circle on your paper appear to be three dimensional.




basic8Brush strokes: there is a beauty and rhythm to the way the brush is handled. Even how you hold it is important. This morning’s session can save you years of frustration! And you will learn why a #1 flat and a #10 round (see supplies) are all you need to make every kind of stroke.


basic7Glazing: part of the magic of watercolor is that you see through one layer of color to the next. Learning how to exploit this helps you learn how to create luminous watercolors.

It isn’t the Fishing; wet-on-wet glazing; wet blending


basic9Negative painting: this challenging process is what allows the white of the paper to appear to effortlessly come off the background and tell its story.  It is the power of watercolor.


madronacezannePutting it all together: after we have practiced the processes we try a simple painting to see when you use each process and how they are combined.  Then you are on your own.  All you need is practice.  Or, if you decide you want more guidance, you can return for another class – glazing in late May others during the summer.

The class is held in the Olga Community Club (Olga Energetic Club) on the east side of Orcas. It is a quiet hamlet about 8 miles from Eastsound, 22 from the ferry.   There are many cottages in the area and it is near Moran State Park, where you may camp.  Driving directions will be sent to you closer to the class time.

basic10Note that the format is two days and then a break, and two more days.  The rest day gives those who have come a distance time to focus on exploring the offerings of the San Juans. Students of other classes have hiked, kayaked, shopped for pottery, gone to other Islands, met friends, gone on horseback rides.  When they return to class on Thursday, they have absorbed the first two days and eager to learn more.

glazing wet-on-wet practice

This class is limited to 10 for a great deal of individual attention. Hours are 9:30 – 3:30. The days are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We have found that the break in the middle allows you to have a breather and absorb what you have learned so far. It also allows time to explore the Islands if you are visiting, or take care of chores if you live locally.


Olga (eastside) area (close to the workshop site): see Lodging in Links

Blackberry Beach — very close to class, right on the water in Olga hamlet. Reasonably priced – Carol Jo Enge, 360-376-2845
Sand Dollar Inn Bed and Breakfast across from Meadowlark Guest House; walking distance. Very popular with students.
Coming with 3 others? Try The Olga House, 100 yards from the workshop site. A delightful private house for rent. 503.645.6240

Another whole house is The Olga BEACH House – about a mile from class. Sleeps 6 (4 beds). On the water.360-393-9661.
Bayside Cottage – several cottages with quiet beach – 360-376-4330.
Be sure and click on their website and click on the map.  You can navigate the entire Olga area.
Doe Bay Resort – many different levels of cabin and camping arrangements. Small restaurant, hot tubs and sauna on site – 360 376 2291,

Lieber Haven Resort – cabins and small marina at Obstruction Pass. Ask for a water view cabin – 360-376-2472
Winter Pond Near Doe Bay (3-4 miles from the class); highly recommended by ’08 students, (206) 783-1961


Rosario area (half way between Eastsound and Olga):

Cascade Harbor Inn – suites and studios with a lovely view; very popular with past students – 360-376-6350
Otters Pond – lovely garden and view of a natural pond – 360-376-6350,
Camping: Moran State Park – 1-800-452-5687 for reservations. 1-800-233-0321 or 360-376-2326 for information. Early reservations a must!
See more excellent lodging on Orcas at: San Juan Safaris. including: Orchard Falls,  and any links that did not respond above

An inexpensive choice in Eastsound is the Golden Tree Hostel in an attractive renovated farmhouse.

Getting there
Highway I-5 to exit 230, route 20. Turn west and follow the road through Anacortes to the ferry (obeying the 30 mph speed limit!) – drive is a half hour from I-5. This takes about 1/2 hour from exit 230.

Ferry: from Anacortes. For schedule information, see the Washington State Ferries Web site or call 1-888-808-7977. The workshops are planned, where possible, to take advantage of off-peak travel times. You need to get a reservation and must be through the toll booth 31 minutes before the published sailing time. Arrive the afternoon or early evening before the workshop, if possible.   You may leave on the late afternoon sailing on the last day. You will need reservations for both coming and going.

Because of the cost of ferry tickets, I will purchase a bulk book of fares.  If you wish, a month before the class you may send me a check for the ticket (price is about $31 as of this writing), half that of an individual ticket.  I will mail you an e-ticket  ticket for car and driver. Let me know if your car is under 14 ft, the rate is less.  The tickets are round trip but you need 2 reservations.

Boats: If you plan to live aboard your boat, or would like to moor it, call me for the different kinds of arrangements possible. There is a fresh water boat launch at Cascade Lake and a salt water one at Obstruction Pass.

Plan to pick up a San Juan Beckons or Springtide on the ferry for a map and useful information.
Don’t forget to fill your gas tank before coming. Gas is even higher on the island!

If you are buying all your equipment, I recommend Merri Artist from McMinnville for supplies.  She has everything on the list at very good prices – no tax, not shipping if you go over $100.  ( – Or Office Cupboard here in Eastsound.

D’ARCHES WATERCOLOR PAPER, cold press, 90 or 140 lb.  It MUST be Arches paper.  If you have any problem with this, let me know.

1″ clear-handled flat brush — such as  DANIEL SMITH Series 28 Aquarelle Brush, Flat 1in or WINSOR NEWTON’s
#10 pointed round brush — white sable series 785  or Connoisseur  (sold at Office Cupboard in Eastsound).


LIDDED PALETTE — such as Aqua Pro, or John Pike, or Steve Quiller’s with at least:

• burnt orange or burnt sienna
• a violet
in artist grade watercolor paint such as
Daniel Smith, Winsor Newton, Da Vinci, Holbein.

mypaletteArrange your paints in a color wheel (ie rainbow). And squeeze them out (half a tube) in your wells at least a week before the class.  Leave them out to dry.
You may bring your own palette as long as it has only artist’s grade pigments.

I use Daniel Smith colors (shown reading top right around to top left).

You may want to buy them all but you may prefer just a red – blue- yellow
red, blue, yellow, green, orange or burnt orange, violet

cobalt green
pthalo green, or Winsor green
cobalt teal blue
cerulean blue
pthalo blue (green shade), or Winsor blue
ultramarine blue
cobalt blue
quinacridone purple
ultramarine violet
quinacridone violet
quinacridone red or perylene red
quinacridone rose
cadmium red medium
Indian red
quinacridone burnt orange (or sienna)
perinone orange
quinacridone gold
cadmium yellow light, or Winsor yellow
or Hansa yellow
green gold


  • I have cobalt green, ultramarine violet, and aurolean yellow on my palette but use them so rarely that you don’t need to get them. You might put cobalt teal and Indian red in this category too.
  • you do not want browns, blacks, white. The paper is the white and we mix luscious browns, blacks etc.

a sketchbook
#2 or 2B pencils
white eraser
2 pint or quart sized water containers
a roll of tissue (tp); also paper towels

a large flat brush such as an 1 1/2″ or 2″ or larger. SKYFLOW is good (but spendy)
A lightweight board
tape or clips

Send $50 deposit (or full payment) to:

  • Buchanan Watercolors
  • 1309 27th St
  • Anacortes, WA 98221



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Questions: 360-298-2641 or email