Posts Tagged ‘watercolorforbeginners’

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


How to make your own Christmas Cards in Watercolour


In my opinion, there’s nothing quite as personal as making your own original Christmas Cards,

and it’s something I have been doing for a few years now.

Because the colours on the cards are very similar, it’s very quick and easy to paint lot’s in one go.


This is 1/4 sheet imperial Bockingford Rough paper split into 4 cards. I tape it down to give a nice edge to the card. When you take the tape off make sure you remove it slowly and carefully or it can tear your finished work.


I then cut the cards, leaving a crisp border around each card. Then using an A4 sheet of coloured card I simply glue or tape the Christmas card to the backing card, having creased, and folded it in half. You can also insert a slip of A4 paper inside to write your personal seasonal message. An envelope and it’s ready to be posted to friends and family.

When Christmas is over the cards can be framed.


Click on the Mistletoe card above to go to the Youtube tutorial.



Click on the Christmas Candle card above to go to the Youtube tutorial


xmas-1 xmas-2 xmas-3 xmas-4 xmas-5 xmas-8

A few more examples of this year’s cards. If you click on the Mistletoe or the Christmas Candle cards above, you can see my Youtube tutorials on exactly how I painted them.

If you click on the YouTube logo below, you can see all my videos on there.


So this year why not try your own original Christmas Cards, have fun Happy Painting.

A very Happy Christmas and New Year to my friends from around the World

Thank-you for all the likes, thumbs up’s and comments !

Note If anyone would like to use these I am happy to oblige, if you would like me to e-mail you the drawings I can do that too. Just e-mail your request to me at or leave a comment.

How to paint a stormy sky in watercolour


Here is my method of painting a stormy sky.

Let me say at the outset that this method is not for the faint hearted, but it is great fun and totally unpredictable, so here goes.

The sky will be painted wet into wet, that is wet paint onto wet paper. The colour I have used is Tintoretto Caput Mortem, but you can use any really dark blue. In the past I have used Indigo, or Paynes Grey or Ultramarine Blue mixed with Light Red Oxide. I have also seen great results by an Australian artist called John Lovett, who uses Indigo, then pours white gouache onto the paper, with great effect.

Because it’s painted wet on wet, the wet paper will dilute the colour, so you can compensate for that by mixing your colour stronger. Watercolour paints dry lighter anyway so don’t be afraid of the dark side Luke…..


First prepare your paint, I use a dish. Make sure that you mix more than you need because this sky will take just a couple of minutes, and the last thing you need is to be mixing more colour during this adrenalin rush. You simply won’t have the time. This is why I use dishes, so mix the paint the consistency of gold top milk.


You can check the tone by dragging the mixed paint up the side of the dish it should hold together underneath the brush, or you can check it on a test strip of the paper you are using. Mine is 300gsm (140lb) Bockingford Rough.

Now wash your brush out and start to paint the sky area with the water. Don’t worry if the water is slightly tinted, as  it helps you see where you have been. Working against the light also helps as I do.  I’m left handed so I work right to left, so if you are right handed start on the left. Work quickly but gently using brush strokes with a large round or mop brush diagonally at about 45 degrees. Choose the biggest brush you can handle, speed is the key on this type of sky.


At the top of the sky leave a few dry areas, but have fewer (or none) lower down. These spaces will be for the shafts of light coming through the clouds when you start to paint. Aim for a sheen on the paper, no uncontrollable puddles or they will end up causing back runs.

Now very bravely and confidently repeat the same brush strokes with your dark blue paint. Make sure that you have wiped your brush on an old towel or tissue. If you don’t the excess water in the brush both weakens the paint and can also cause cauliflowers.

Work really fast and try and get the paint on the paper quickly. I find that particularly with beginners that they are afraid and want to consider every single brush stroke. Frankly working quickly is more important than getting it right. Just whack the paint on as fast as you can !


Hold your board almost vertically and at an angle AND KEEP IT AT ONE ANGLE.

This suggests rain (and also lightning by the way), and rain comes down usually in one direction. Put some paper towel  on your table to mop up the drips. The strongest colour will be at the top of the painting, and the dry patches we left with the water now start to look like shafts of light between the storm clouds.


You can use a water sprayer as you move towards the bottom of the painting, but keep the board at the same angle throughout.


This is how the stormy sky is developing, all those ‘happy accidents’ appearing before your very eyes !

Once you have reached the bottom of the painting, sitting your board flat will stop the movement. Now dry the painting with your hairdryer on slow speed, ensuring that the tape stays stuck or it will ‘cockle’ making your framers job almost impossible.


You can see the shaft of light coming from between the clouds in close up now. As you can see, this colour granulates, as will Ultramarine Blue. I love this about both this colour and the rough texture of the paper I use.


All that’s needed is a simple silhouette towards the bottom of the painting, leaving some highlights where the shaft of sun is catching the right hand side of the lighthouse, and hey presto, you have a stormy painting.



I hope you found that helpful.


You can find more tutorials on my youtube channel, just click on this link



There is a whole chapter on painting skies in my free e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ to read or download it please click on the link below

A Corner of Sozopol

‘A Corner of Sozopol’ by Martin Stephenson

At first glance Bulgaria may seem a strange choice for a painting Holiday. In fact before I moved here eight years ago I have to admit that I had to look at an atlas to find out where it was.
Bulgaria, and Sozopol in particular has been one of the best kept secrets until recent years. Until then it was the playground for wealthy Russian tourists.
Sozopol has a very ancient History, populated by Greeks and called Apollonia. The ancient fishing port still has a Greek flavour, many of it’s residents keeping those traditions. Something you can taste in the many and varied local Restaurants.

Baba's New Broom

‘Baba’s New Broom’ by Martin Stephenson

Because this EU Country is relatively poor, you will find everything here half the price of many more ‘fashionable’ painting destinations. A typical meal with wine will only cost around 25 lev per person (around ten pounds). High quality restaurants abound with International menus, including the local fresh fish. These include Bulgarian, Greek and Armenian restaurants.


Martin sketching the boats in the harbour opposite the studio

What most tourists, coming here for the first time, are struck by is the beautiful Black Sea (turquoise blue in Summer), which has miles of unspoilt beaches, nature reserves and is surrounded by the Strandhza Mountains. Situated just 45 minutes from Burgas International Airport serviced from most UK and European airports.

Your accommodation will be in a local family run 3*hotel with stunning views over the Islands of St. John and St.Peter. The hotel is located just a few minutes walk from our studio.

For artists (and non painting partners) this means that you are surrounded by interesting and breathtaking scenery. When you couple this with the Old Town, with it’s wooden houses and cobbled streets, you can see why artists from all over the World have always been drawn here. Something reflected in the many art galleries in the Town.


One of the many Art Galleries in the Old Town


One of the highlights of the year is the Apollonia arts festival, a ten day annual event in late August/ early September.

Overlooking the Old fishing harbour is our own fully equipped air conditioned studio, where your daily painting demonstrations and lessons will be held, and a meeting point for additional field trips and plein air painting sessions.

Sozopol Apartment

Our air conditioned studio on the Ground Floor

Your hostess during your holiday, Sarah is also an internationally renowned Yoga teacher and Massage Therapist, and will always be on hand offering her services to artists and their partners.

Art & Yoga Holidays in Bulgaria

Your hostess Sarah

Our host Martin has all the materials you will need for your holiday, or you can bring your own favourites with you. He is also an author of the e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ which is free with every booking. Martin also known as Stevo (his nickname at school) is an accomplished watercolour painter and inspirational teacher, he will be on hand as Studio Manager during your holiday offering his own style of encouragement and some Northern humour, ensuring your stay will be both memorable, informative and fun. Martin has taught in many exotic locations including Thailand, Bali, Malaysia and most recently in Greece. He specialises in teaching complete Beginners.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design


We look forward to welcoming friends old and new to beautiful Sozopol, Bulgaria to sum up this beautiful paradise lovely people, great food, fantastic weather and inspirational land and seascapes, and great value for money.

If you would like to check availability, and receive a price list and e-brochure, please either fill in the form below, or e-mail us.

There are other blogs about my watercolour holidays on my blog,including this one

Happy Painting



Whenever I teach a course, one of the first lessons, for beginners to Watercolour painting is usually how to paint in just one colour. Also known as tonal painting.

Close up of The Old Windmill & The Islands

Using just one colour forces you to observe the tonal qualities of a scene. Appreciating it’s tonal values, and how to achieve the resulting  recession gives paintings distance, and avoids flat paintings.

When I teach students from around the World I first get them to ‘really look’ at a scene and to analise how many layers, or ‘planes’ are in the scene. Let me explain…..

I usually advocate painting watercolour landscapes from light to dark so taking the example of a close up of one of my own paintings called ‘The Windmill and The Islands’ the order I painted it was as follows:-

  1. THE SKY

So this scene has FIVE PLANES, EASY !

Although the sky in this painting is quite dark, this is usually the order to paint it, and sometimes a scene can have as many as say 8 planes. What happens is that as you paint the painting the colour gets both darker and also warmer as you move forward into the main point of interest, in this case the windmill.


q. Ah but how do you do that as a beginner ?

a. Try this little experiment with say a Sepia colour.

Take a palette and put a little Sepia (any colour will work) in each of the wells. Load a brush with one dip of water and mix all of the paint into it thoroughly for the darkest tone (number 5 on the right above) paint it onto your test strip of watercolour paper.

Now add say three brushfulls of water for number 4, then say 6 brushfulls for number 3. Keep increasing the amount of water until you get to the lightest tone, number 1. Now in your palette is your paint ready mixed for your tonal painting.

So now use your paint in well one (the lightest tone) to paint your sky, then move forward in your painting using ever darker colours.

Painting tonally like this is a great way to sketch too, and you only need one tube of paint. It was a technique I used when demonstrating on a night outside a gallery under street lights. It was impossible to paint in colour under the yellow lights, but easy painting tonally.

The resulting paintings also have a harmonious feel too.

The Mountain Demo



Martin (aka artstevo)

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