Paint Magazine November 2017



This is the full article I wrote about my experiences, please read until the end…..

My story about how I fell into teaching watercolour painting started when I moved to Bulgaria to semi-retire in 2008.

I had always wanted to be an artist, and after some life changing family events, I decided to take up my brushes. In my small Rural Village was another ex-pat who asked me if I would show her. During her ‘lesson’ her husband who was listening nearby said ‘have you thought about doing this for a living’?

Though I have no formal teaching qualifications, and am a self-taught artist, I looked for private work and ended up teaching Bulgarian Children. Whilst doing so, (initially to help me to learn the language) I found the reverse to be true. The kids coming to me, to practice their spoken English language skills.

During this time I also looked for an art club to join and found none, so I decided to start my own. Teaching ex-pats was a steep and valuable learning curve for me & I still run several art clubs to this day in Bulgaria.

I also decided to write a book and over a 6 month period (the coldest in living memory) I pounded away at the pc (wearing all my warm weather gear, and even fingerless gloves and a balaclava) and an e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ was born. I still give this away free of charge, hoping to bring art to those least able to afford it.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

Please email me if you would like a copy of my book

My experiences in those early days lead to openings in 5 star luxury resorts in Bali, Thailand and Malaysia where I taught for many years. Nowadays I prefer my workshops and painting holidays to be more ‘local’ concentrating on Bulgaria and Greece where we bought a small old English yacht (despite not being a sailor), so I can now be found on deck overlooking the harbour in the early and late season, painting and teaching.

During the Summer I run watercolour holidays from our White Boat Studio in beautiful Sozopol, Bulgaria, where I also invite guest artists and their students.

White Boat Studio Sign - Single

So that one chance encounter, all those years ago and the ability to be patient, adventurous and flexible lead to personal fullfilment in a totally unexpected way.  And thanks to that I realise that my skill being a plain speaking Yorkshireman, coupled with my ability to strip away the mystique has meant that I can literally change people’s lives, and add to their enjoyment of art.

As I say ‘give me 2 hours, and I’ll change your life’. And the hundreds of people who come on holiday, read my blogs, watch my YouTube channel and follow my Facebook pages will testify.

Sarah & Martin

Sarah and I

Incidentally, (and this is not something I wanted to share in the article) the life changing event I mentioned was the diagnosis of my dearest Sister Julie’s cancer. After a long battle we finally lost her. She was a lovely person and a teacher of teachers. After her loss I decided NOT to put off all the things I wanted to do until I retired.

I painted her a present of a scene from our childhood, which had been in my head for over 50 years. Sadly she went blind in the final stages and never got to see it.


‘For Julie’

So I worked on my exit strategy, I sold my business’s, bought a small red sports car, drove through Europe in it, bought a house in the sun, and finally fulfilled my life long ambition to travel and become an artist. All the things that were on my bucket list.

Sarah and I met in Bulgaria.

When people wonder why I am so driven, giving and motivated… now you know. All the days painting (I try to do it every day),  filming, editing and encouraging others to paint is my way of giving something back, after all, that painting went unpainted for decades. Now in my advancing years there is no time to lose.

Happy Painting

Martin Stephenson (stevo)

ps Stevo was my nickname at school (not very original) but shorter to sign on my paintings, signed in the style of Zorro !



The late Rowland Hilder

This is my personal dedication to Rowland Hilder, and how he was to influence my own paintings (and my life)…..

During the days before the internet, I used to come home with arms full of watercolour art books, from the local library.  These included ones by Rowland Hilder, Ashley Jackson, John Blockley and Ron Ranson. All of who’s work I admired and wanted to emulate. Rowland’s hard backed books were a standard, and very welcome Christmas present. I still have those books and still refer to them to this day.

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Roll on a few years and I decided to Exhibit for the very first time. I had put together some early works and had them framed to exhibit at The Winter Gardens in Ilkley near to my home. I think it was an event organised by The International Watercolour Society. If my failing memory serves me I think Rowland was a Secretary of that organisation.

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As I was setting up, there was a scurry of activity in one very prominent part of the hall. To my amazement I was stood next to a full  sheet original by the great man himself.

I was in awe of the painting and don’t recall the actual painting itself, but it would probably have been a typical ‘Hilder Kentish scene’ . It  was the sheer scale and magnificence of the painting. His handling of the medium a masterclass in itself.

When I looked at my own work hanging in the same space, it was clear that I still had plenty of work to do. Incidentally I never sold one piece of art during that exhibition. It was a very sobering experience at that time. But I vowed to improve and carry on regardless.



His moody atmospheric handling of the skies in particular was something I admired greatly.

Over the years I had painted the scenes from his books many times. These were never for sale, I just wanted to experience the painting process Rowland had gone through to get to the finished paintings.

The reason for this post all those years later, is that one of my Russian students to my regular Art Club, here in Sozopol, Bulgaria, had picked up the book. And asked to paint one of his scenes in the near future.

White Boat Studio Sign - Single


That burning ambition to become an artist came to fruition many years later, when following a family tragedy, I decided to sell up, take early semi-retirement, and move to Bulgaria permanently. Over the last 10 years I even wrote an e-book on the subject of watercolour painting and also stumbled upon teaching and running Art Holidays here and a regular Art Club.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

My unusual route into teaching was featured in a UK art magazine in recent months, and you can read about that journey on another blog of mine on here.

Paint Magazine November 2017

Through these Workshops my teaching has been very good for me taking me around the World, particularly Asia and Europe.

Copy (2) of Picture 1940

All of this made possible in part due to the influence of The late great man Rowland Hilder.

I hope you enjoy this short blog.

Happy Painting !


Copy (2) of Picture 1940

I guess the first question you may ask is ‘Why would I’ ?

Well maybe I’ll start with a few numbers. First my e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’.      I wrote the book nearly 10 years ago now and spent most of that time distributing it completely free of charge, all around the World. I would now like to write another for more advanced artists, but that of course takes time and money to do.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

Then of course there is my Youtube channel


Since moving to Bulgaria (to semi-retire) I have been producing watercolour tutorials, and now have thousands of views and hundreds of subscribers.

The total number of such videos is now 63 and again all completely free of charge.     Now they are free, and always will be, unlike some artists, who never give anything away for free. I think we know who they are…..But clearly there are costs in both sound and equipment, but also in the time it takes to edit, and produce them. As technology has moved on dramatically in recent years, it’s been necessary to update my equipment, to the point where my art studio now resembles a recording studio ! The photo below shows just a few items of my latest HD recording gear I use. In addition there are all the brackets, tripods one needs to ensure the very best quality video’s viewers rightfully expect these days.


In addition to both of the above I am also very active online through all the usual places. Try a search on Google for Artist Martin Stephenson or Stevo and you will soon find the paper trail is very long ! Through those popular platforms I am always there to help past and new students with their watercolour journey, and also to the public at large through forums and facebook pages too.


My attitude to both my personal students, and my virtual ones is, and will always be the same. That is to share my knowledge as openly and freely as I can, whilst I can.            And as long as I have the means to do so. This has been truly tested of late, as anyone who knows me will already be aware of.


Which nicely brings me to the reason for this blog, an appeal for patrons to help support my future work. Without which it may not be possible to carry on with the same commitment as before.

Friends have been very generous, they know who they are, and I appreciate all they have done recently to help with my work. Some if not all of them have been past students, and people who have appreciated the help my e-book or youtube video’s gave them, on their painting journey. Which lasts for life by the way, not just for Christmas !



You could buy my e-book for just 10 US Dollars by clicking on this link to Gumroad


You may consider a one off payment via paypal. All you have to do is log on to your paypal account, and make a payment to me securely and in your own currency. Any amount would be greatly appreciated, however small. My account with  them is the same as my e-mail address, which is By clicking on the paypal logo below will take you to . For those outside of the UK logon to your own Paypal site for your own location.



This will have offers, extra benefits and a real community of fans, as I develop it in the future.Patreon-Logo

Whatever you decide to do including nothing at all, please continue to enjoy my work and my teaching.

And if you do decide to help, thank-you so much.

And by the way buying a painting (which I ship Worlwide), or booking lessons, or a holiday will also help.


Martin Stephenson aka Stevo

And just for a bit of fun here is a short introductory video done in 2017 with out-takes…. enjoy ! By the way I no longer use the white boat studio e-mail in the video. Oh and I am wearing my ‘People’s Republic of Yorkshire’ t-shirt !

Click on the link to watch the video

If you have any queries or questions please fill in the boxes below, or you can email me directly to






I have now received the schedule and prices for my watercolour workshop with for 12th/13th October 2019. The brochure is in pdf format, so if you would like the details, please request by e-mail to me at or direct with Lynda at the venue. Places are limited so it’s first come first served. The price is 295 lev for the weekend and includes materials, food, wine and accommodation.

Watercolour Workshop PDF


High in the Hills overlooking a remote valley in the wild landscapes of the Balkan Mountains where some of Europe’s best wildlife plants and herbs can be found, our cosy mountain hideaway simply decorated and furnished to create the perfect retreat accessed only by a narrow track and simply the perfect location to relax you will be surrounded by unique and untouched nature walking possibilities in every direction or just kick off your shoes swing in a hammock and Chill. Experience Yovovski Yetts in the splendid isolation of The Natural Park Bulgarka.

Step out of the hustle and bustle and step into our relaxing woodland environment. Where you can enjoy the magic of the natural world and be amongst the plants, flora and fauna in the untouched beauty of the forest.

Our unique venue can help make your event, retreat or conference just a little bit different.  We can also offer delicious, organic, locally sourced food, vegan or vegetarian diets can also be catered for. Longer stays can be arranged if you find it difficult to leave…


Meditation Mountain Yoga Retreats

Wrapped in nature and hidden deep in the forest. The venue provides a large yoga deck shaded by a spreading walnut tree, a view down the valley and a sense of calm and well-being.


Seating up to sixteen in our restored Cob barn for a conference or business meeting with no interruptions.


Eco buildings and outdoor space nestled next to a little river give your workshops breathing space and a beautiful connection to nature.


Spaces are limited to 12 people, to keep it informal and friendly so I would recommend you book early. Every student qualifies for my e-book ‘Watecolours for Beginners’.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

The workshop is guaranteed to be both informative and fun, and would suit beginners and experienced painters.





Workshops in the USA

Posted: 15/12/2018 in Uncategorized

EBook Front Cover New large file format

Since the advent of the internet and distributing my e-book for the past ten some years, to Countries around the World I have noticed that my audiences are mainly from the US.

Something repeated during my Live Streams and Skype lessons.

Having never been to the USA I thought it may be an idea to try arrange some workshops but where to start.


What’s the current situation for a British Passport holder to get a Visa and what would the cost be ?


Where and at what time of year would be best to come ?

What about a venue ?

How would I fund the trip ?

How would I get students ?

Anyway thought I would just float the idea and see what happens. So if anyone reading this can comment or assist then maybe just maybe it could happen.

Martin Stephenson


Sozopol Art Club is about to start again now that the holiday season has finished.
Includes all artist’s quality materials or bring your own.
Duration 90-120 minutes including a light lunch.
25 lev per person per session
Where – The White Boat Studio 9, Kraybrezhna Street (opposite the Naval College, and next to Kirik Restaurant) see Google maps for directions.
Mobile 0887-227-161


Your new Paint Buddy – artist, author and teacher Martin Stephenson


In addition to all my other activities, I have now started a much more personal facebook group called Paint Buddy.

My aim is to try and give pointers, especially to beginners in watercolours.  The group is open to anyone, but they have to send me a friend request to be added to the group. The intention is not to critique, but to give practical help, support and advice in an encouraging way.

After becoming a member, they can post their paintings and get personal feedback usually within a day or so. It’s only been lauched in the past few days, but membership is already approaching 100 artists, so I think it will be popular.

It’s a support to my youtube channel and my live streams, starting Mid October.

If you would like to be a member go to my new facebook group which is  and send me a request.

I don’t pretend to know everything about watercolour painting, so will be plain and honest if I don’t know the answer. But hopefully other artists will be welcome to chip in if they do. I think my experiences as a teacher will be of help to others. The only subjects I havn’t been able to help with so far, are those relating to portraits, which I avoid like the plague…. I’m rubbish at them.

The group will also be giving links to my e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ and also details of how to make contributions to help me continuing to do what I do, and to give me time to write a second e-book.

If you would like to contribute using either method the links to do so are in this word document below

Open this word document to get my e-book and to see how you can help


Thanks for taking the time to read my blog see you online ‘virtually’ !

Your new Paint Buddy


Be part of  my live streams with me Martin Stephenson

Once the busy Summer Season of teaching finishes in October, I will be streaming live on Youtube every week. The day and time are still to be confirmed, but likely to be at the weekends.

These live streams will include about 60-90 minutes tutorial on the most popular Watercolour Techniques and Tips filmed at the White Boat Studio in Sozopol, Bulgaria. Unscripted and un-rehearsed you will be able to watch me painting live ‘warts and all’ and ask questions during the live transmission using the chat feature.

Prior to my lessons starting you can even ask me to paint your favourite subject. The only thing I won’t be painting is portraits. To request a particular subject just either fill in the contact form at the bottom or send me an e-mail to or

If you have seen my other YouTube tutorials, you will know that my way of teaching is simple, straightforward and fun. If you are a complete beginner to watercolour painting, or are a more experienced painter, then this is the place for you.

I don’t subscribe to all the silly rules usually connected with this wonderful medium. Instead you will be encouraged to spread your own artistic wings, and develop your own painting journey. For sure there are some basic things you need to master, and these will come only with practise, but my own attitude that ‘anyone can paint’ is reflected in my students rapid progress and understanding.

If you need a list of supplies so you can paint along just let me know, and I’ll email you a PDF.

My own experience teaching over many years, during my various Art Clubs, Art Holidays and Workshops is testament to this attitude of keeping things simple, and my many students endorsements on my other blog on here should give you the encouragement to subscribe and get involved.

During my past live demonstrations things don’t always go to plan, but my lack of fear of failure should ensure that these live feeds will be unpredictable but also great fun.

They will be based on my successful e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ which is free to anyone that requests it.    The complete book (20 lessons and 157 pages) features full colour graphics, and is jam packed with everything you need to know on the subject. For skim readers it even has those ‘lighbulb’ moments that shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can download my book, prior to my live lessons by filling in the contact form below. Or read about it on another blog here Just like my book, if you expect to find instruction on Colour Theory, Perspective or all the other boring stuff then this definitely will NOT be the place for you.

As my live streams develop, you will be able to receive updates and sketches in advance, post your own paintings and get critique and feedback from me. I have just launched a brand new facebook group called Paint Buddy to do just that.

During the last few months, I have been testing new equipment and software to ensure that the experience will be of the highest quality. This includes studio quality sound and HD Cameras. The lessons will be filmed live at the studio in Sozopol or in my studio at home in rural Bulgaria where the occasional sound of livestock, or storks chattering should be the only distractions.

Some of my new ‘Toys’ !

In the coming weeks I will do the odd test using all my social media platforms, so you may see me pop up somewhere.  You can me in all the usual places on the interweb, so just search for Martin Stephenson, Stevo or Artstevo.

If you would prefer private tuition using skype, just let me know my skye name is Martin Stephenson

If you add me to your skype we can chat about what you have in mind, and I can give you the prices.

Maybe you will attend one of my popular Year Round Workshops and Painting Holidays here in beautiful Sozopol, Bulgaria. Or maybe we will meet in Greece or in Asia. If you subscribe to my blog you will be able to keep up with all the News and my whereabouts. We at the White Boat Studio also invite Guest Artists and their students, so if you belong to an art club or society, or are a teacher, please contact me using the form at the bottom.

My live streams will start with Watercolour Painting, but I am also a Mixed Media Artist (funds allowing, the subject of my next book), so who knows how it will develop Acrylics, Pen and Ink, Pastels, Decoupage perhaps. As my own journey continues hopefully so will yours. Another feature of these live demonstrations is that they are automatically saved to my YouTube channel, so even if the time zone isn’t convenient for you, you can still watch the recordings at a time to suit you. Whilst initially aimed at the UK GMT time zone (we are 2 hours ahead here in Eastern Europe) I am open to suggestions of timings to suit my audience, so get in touch with your suggestions.

One thing is for sure it will be a great journey together. Through my painting, and my teaching I have met many wonderful people from around the World, both face to face and virtually, and I am confident that my live lessons will be very popular.

So click on the YouTube link below

and subscribe today to join my new Worldwide Painting Community

I look forward to meeting you soon

Martin Stephenson

And finally even though
all my live streams
and my e-book will

There are costs involved, so apart from buying my paintings, which I ship Worldwide,  if anyone would like to either donate money (however small) or become a Patron you can do so in the following ways:-

To make a one off payment you can do this securely to my paypal account by clicking on the paypal link above.

Alternatively you can become a regular supporter using

This word document contains ways to contribute, make a donation and to download my book so just download the word document below where it says links, to read more.

Links for donations and to get my book



‘Painting Waves in Watercolour’

My latest youtube tutorial showing how to paint a simple seascape in Watercolour.

The demo takes you through the painting ‘step by step’, so stand by the pause button if you plan to paint along with me.

Just click on the link below to go straight to the video.

Happy Painting !

Correcting errors in Watercolour

One of the very many Myths surrounding watercolour painting is that ‘you can’t correct mistakes’…

At the off,  let me say that this is completely untrue. If you react quickly with a slightly moist brush, clean water and tissue you can, say lift off splashes in your perfect sky with this method.


Let’s take one of my recent disasters I painted recently (thankfully they are few and far between these days), but it happens to us all.


This is the painting in question, over-worked, little tonal value, no light source, dodgy shadows etc. etc.

So I decided to remove the whole painting, what I call ‘The Sink Treatment’. If you are unhappy with a small section, that can be lifted of with a moist brush and tissue. You may only be unhappy with, say the sky, if this is the case you can simply remove that offending part using the same sink method.

Let me say at this point, that most pigments do stain, in varying degrees depending on the colour, so you will never get back to pure white paper. Also in my case I had painted the stone wall using permanent ink so that stayed put.



Run the tap until it is luke warm, this helps loosen the pigment.


Use a hogs hair (oil) brush or a stiff bristled household paint brush,  gently go back and forth over the painting until the pigment starts to move. Tip your board at an angle so the paint falls into the sink. If you are too vigorous you can damage the surface of the paper.


Keep repeating until you are either happy with the results, or until the water runs clear.


Clean around your board with tissue, and let it dry naturally. I would only recommend this on paper taped to a board, if not the paper may cockle badly as it dries. Mop the water from the tape, and the painting with kitchen roll.

Don’t forget to keep checking the tape to ensure it’s still sticking until it’s completely dry.


Once you have done the ‘sink treatment’ you end up with a pale ghosty image, giving you an ideal ground to start again. I ended up with a misty image which gave me an idea for the subsequent painting.

The following day, I re-painted the painting, using White Gouache to create a misty atmospheric picture I was happy with.

This was the finished painting called ‘Misty morning in the Bluebell Woods’.