Archive for the ‘Black Sea Art Club’ Category

Yesterday, I read with sadness that Ron Ranson had died, after a short illness aged 93.

The reason for this blog is to pay tribute to a man who almost single handedley influenced my understanding of watercolour painting, and ultimately (many years later) was also to influence my teaching methods.


Until I read his book ‘The Ron Ranson Technique’ many years ago, I had read so much from other artists, that quite frankly it was enough to put me off painting for life. I am sure others can empathise when I used to stand in front of that relatively expensive piece of blank paper, anxious that every attempt should be worthy, and end up framed and on the wall.

My life long ambition to become an artist, only came to fruition after I moved to Bulgaria 7 years ago to semi-retire. Until then family, mortgages and the fast pace of life in the UK had prevented any sustained effort on my part.

All that was to change when I read Ron’s Book.

Until then ‘fiddling’ with the very smallest mapping pens seemed the way to go, but frankly it was soul-less, tedious and not enjoyable. I used to spend maybe 100 hours on one drawing over many days.


Before his books, I used to stand in awe in the art shops, not knowing what to buy. Invariably I came away with nothing. Then I read the Chapter where he encouraged a student to use cheap lining paper, stand up to paint, use big brushes and a limited palette of colours. Suddenly it clicked and it was very liberating for this self confessed fiddler to be free. ranson5

He also quashed my misgivings about all the rules and dogma surrounding watercolour painting, such as ‘It’s the most difficult medium’, ‘You can’t correct errors’, and you must never use white paint or resort to tricks like scraping, salt and the like.

Don’t get me wrong, he was not my only influence in those early days, but he was, by far the most important. In truth, and I don’t think it would be disresepectful to admit that I didn’t really like his paintings, but have later found out that you don’t have to be a great artist to be a great teacher. All you have to do is to impart knowledge in a simple, fun, and friendly way, and having read some of his testimonials recently I figure that’s how the great man was.


In addition to his practical advice on the techniques of watercolour painting, he also talked about his teaching in Paxos, Greece, and I used to think ‘how wonderful, what a life that must be’. Little did I know at the time that my own teaching would be my passport to travel anywhere in the World that I chose.

When I moved to Bulgaria, with my dwindling savings, I stumbled into teaching, after a lady in our village asked if I would teach her. Her husband, who had been in ear shot said ‘have you thought about doing this for a living’. I looked for an art club, without success, so decided to start my own, which I carried on for many years. That experience, enough to test the patience of job, was to stand me in good stead in the years that followed.

Fast forward a few years, and all that reading lead me to write my own e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ an accumulation of all that art book reading from Ron, and the likes of Rowland Hilder, John Blockley and Ashley Jackson.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

I you would like a free copy of my book, please contact me

As I find myself approaching old age I made the concious decision to provide my book free of charge, to try and share the joy and simplicty of my own approach to the subject. It also proves as a reminder to me as my memory fades.

Those dreams of teaching in Paxos sewn by Ron, eventually came to fruition, and to date I have taught hundreds, if not thousands of students in Bulgaria, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bali.

My book is now downloaded every day, and my youtube tutorials have had almost 100,000 hits since I started them. My original paintings are also in private collections Worldwide.

With the advent of the internet, it’s never been easier or cheaper to learn, communicate and spread the word. Gone are the days when coming back with 8 (the maximum number) of art books from the Library was the norm.

When I show my ‘dog-eared’ The Ron Ranson Technique book to students, they invariably ask to borrow it, and I reluctantly but politely refuse. From time to time when I feel my painting are getting ‘tight’ I dig out the book and the hakes, stand up, put the music on loud and after a couple of loose’;wet in wets’ I am cured (until the next time) !



Ron died recently in the USA after a short illness

This is my tribute to a man I never met, but who changed my  (and I’m sure many others around the World) lives forever.

God bless and thank-you to you.

Well this is a subject very close to my heart, how to mix greens.

From birth we experience millions of different greens, so familiar are they to the human eye, that they say ‘never buy a green car’. Have a bump, get it re-sprayed and the human eye will always see the difference between the new colour and the old.

As an artist, especially a beginner it would be reasonable to think that with all that choice in your local art shop, there must be perfect greens straight from the tube.

It’s true that when I teach beginners I do use tube greens from the tube and mix them together. Now about my own paintings DEFINATELY NOT.


‘Barns near Burnsall’ Private Collection in Australia

On one of the very few ocassions I attended an Art Club, in Horsforth  Leeds, the tutor’s favourite green mix was Ultramarine Blue mixed with Gamboge , which I used in one of my earliest paintings above.

At that time I was only painting English scenes, before moving to my new home in Bulgaria, where the tree colours were similar and the mix served me well.

Then things changed, I started to teach in other countries, Vietnam, Bali, Thailand and Malaysia. What served me well in the UK and Bulgaria were simply inadequate in these new exotic climates.

Bamboo, Palms, Banana the list of new greens was endless and new. Then later I taught in Greece and when I arrived, and started painting and teaching I realised that neither in the UK, Bulgaria or Asia had I ever painted a Cypress Tree (with it’s very bluey, dark green colour) or Olive Trees (a silvery muted green)… I had had enough what to do ?


By nessesity (lack of supply by my local art shops in Bulgaria) I had bought the full range (48 colours) in bulk directly from the manufacturers (Tintoretto in Italy) to ensure I could paint without interruption.

This gave me the opportunity to experiment, which I took full advantage of. As you can see from my home made colour card above there are some 12/13 yellows and about 9/10 blues which I wanted to experiment with. This was in Greece and I was looking for the colours for Cypress and Olive Trees.


So I decided to take 6 of my most likely Blues 19,21,22,24,25 and 26 and combine them with my most likely Yellows 3,9,10,35,36,38 and 44

I made 6 colour cards using these combinations and numbered them as above, so I could study the results. I also tried to show the tonal value of each colour going from light to dark on each colour chip.

For those of you who know the colour of Olive trees, that particular Silvery Green.

The Old Olive Grove

Or the dark bluey green of a Cypress tree, I am sure you can see a suitable Green on my colour cards. From a practical point of view it was simple. When out painting hold the colour card up and the choice of colour combinations is obvious.

So when I get asked ‘how to mix greens’ the advice is simple, take whatever blues and yellows and have fun finding out how many greens you can mix. Make you own colour cards, then  you always have them for reference, either in the studio or painting outside.

I hope this helps.

Happy Painting


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I was asked this question the other day during one of my lessons, so thought that I would share this on here.

Call to prayer in Istanbul

The washes on this painting were done very wet and you can see slight buckling of the paper.

Q. What paper do you use and why ?

A. I use 140lb (300gsm) Bockingford rough paper Why ?


Well a few factors really I like how the rough texture, suits my subject matter, and my quite wet painting method.

When I first started I used to stretch my paper, using gummed tape, but now find that I can use masking tape which leaves a nice white edge around the painting, and obviates the need for all that stretching and planning ahead. I can also use the same paper for my students too, as it’s not too expensive.

Another factor here in Bulgaria is that it is usually available in my favourite art shop in Burgas, the Armstrong Centre, where I usually buy a whole pack of 25 sheets at a time sealed in it’s bag. This ensures that after the factory worker that made it, (St.Cuthberts Mill in England) that I am only the second person to handle it.The reason this is important is that the surface should NEVER be touched with your fingers, which always have residual oils on them, which can ruin your finished art work . Something your average art shop assistant seems unaware of !

I would encourage you to experiment with the paper you can buy locally, and when you find one that suits you STICK WITH IT and get to know it’s qualities (and maybe it’s limitations too) .


If you paper is too thin it will buckle badly when you wet it and leave your finished paper in ‘stripes’ where the paint settled in the hollows. Too heavy and whilst it won’t buckle at all the surface can be a little ‘dead’ and un-responsive.



This is a very personal thing, a flat paper surface sometimes called ‘Hot Pressed’ is more receptive to flat washes and more detailed work . ‘Cold Pressed and Rough’ gives all those lovely ‘happy accidents’ where the paint sediment collects in the hollows.Try doing  a wash using say Burnt Umber and Ultramarine and you will see what I mean.

I think that if you stick with the main brands of papers from Saunders or Arches you really can’t go wrong. Most of the main manufacturers will send you samples so you can experiment. A google search for Watercolour Paper should get you to all the manufacturers Worldwide.


Yes you can, but I rarely do, as the paper, having been painted previously on one side is never completely flat. By the way you can tell the ‘face’ front of the paper by checking for the logo. Sometimes you have to hold it up to the light to see the watermark.


I always used to cut my paper, to fit my 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8th sheet standard mounts, but it was very labour intensive especially if I was preparing 20 pieces for a large workshop class. After reading a book by one of my favourite Australian artists John Lovett I used his method of simply marking my board with half, quarter and eight sheet sizes, laying down the sheet and tearing against a large metal square, bought from a DIY store. I handle the paper only by the edges when tearing, then storing it in plastic bags to keep it in pristine condition.

If you are a complete beginner, and find that big white piece of relatively expensive paper intimidating,  (GIVING YOU THE FEELING THAT I SIMPLY MUST PRODUCE A PAINTING) try using Wallpaper lining paper, that should be a liberating experience. Stand up, put some music on, and get out your biggest brushes, and just have fun !

I hope this has been helpful.


Happy Painting !

Following my move to the coast from inland, I have recently started a new art club near to Kableshkovo, Sunny Beach.

New Art Club Sign

Please feel free to print this out and distribute at will

We already have a few members, who attended the first fortnightly club, and want to come regularly. It is for adults only, and is suitable for complete beginners and experienced artists too.

So the next one is scheduled for Wednesday 9th March.

If you would like to come along it’s 25 lev for a two hour lesson, which includes artist quality materials.  Just e-mail me at the address above for further details.

Numbers are limited to keep it informal and friendly, and so everyone gets the attention they deserve.

Happy Painting !