The Watercolor Workshop: Composition and Still Life

Get ALL of our courses, ebooks, live lessons, critiques, lesson plans and more today.
This course features:
4 Hours of Instruction
19 Videos
18 eBooks
30 Day Money Back Guarantee

Lesson Description

A look at several compositional strategies including repetition, balance, color relationships, focal points, using odd numbers, and the "mirror test". A loose watercolor still life painting is started in this module.

Lesson Materials

140 lb. Cold press watercolor paper, HB graphite pencil, Kneaded eraser, watercolor paints (Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Pale Hue, Yellow Ochre, and Burnt Umber), nylon brush, mixing palette. *Cotman tube watercolor paints are used.

Lesson Resources

Download eBook

Reference Image

Lesson Discussion

  1. HOW DO YOU DO THAT??? If I try to use so many wet colours I end up with mud!
    Guess I just keep trying til I get the magic!
    Again, great teaching Matt

    • Hi Barbara :

      I’m Dale…another student. I’m sure your painting looks better than you think…One thing you can try is…I make a little ” frame ” out of printer paper with a small window. I use this to block out the painting and just see a small portion at a time… like an inch or 2 square…then I can see the detail of both the teachers and my own work… If you block out Matt’s painting in places…it looks like mud too ! I think perhaps just going back and making the painting a little simpler for yourself will help you see how the ” mud ” got into your work ! There were so many colours being used…and they were colours that can easily become muddy…it seems to me that it was an easy mistake ! Maybe just practice this exercise over again with less paint…and I’ll bet it turns out much more to your liking ! After a little more practice…you can add the other colours in ! I hope this helps { and is allowed }…I got very confused with this painting as well ! ! ! Good luck ! Take care….Dale

  2. Thank you so much for your course I find your way of teaching really good.
    My question is can you use Atelier Interactive paints as watercolour in this way? I would love to try the watercolour techniques but did not want to buy more paint in case I don’t like it. Also I have a pad of 100lb water colour paper which I haven’t used yet will it work ok with this?

    Many thanks Toni

    • Hi Toni,

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with the Atelier paints so I can’t offer a suggestion there, but I would suggest using a heavy watercolor paper. 100 lb. paper will likely buckle. I would stick with at least 140 lb. to avoid much buckling.

  3. Hi Matt,

    Great video – I learned a lot.

    Once you wet your brush and select the colors for the inside of the palette, do you ever add more
    clear water to the brush? In the video you don’t mention this and I am a bit curious. The brush
    seems to get “clean” on occasion but I am not sure how?



  4. I am wondering if a person could sketch out their still life with watercolour pencil versus using graphite. In my mind, this would eliminate the graphite lines. What is your opinion on this?

  5. I just finished module 6 and pears look like a 4 year old did this. I’m hoping that in module 7 it’s going to look better with practice. I’m hoping it will become much better over time. Also do you clean your brush after each application of paint?

  6. My first attempt at water color. Lesson 5 beginning of the pears. I must say my pears do not look like your examples. I have mud looking / rotten pears. On to the next lesson in hopes these can be made to appear better.

  7. I am about to start my first tutorial here (during my free trial) and so far I am really excited about the site! 🙂

    One small request: Would it be possible to include an option for closed captioning?


  8. Working my way through this course very slowly as our Community Centre has recently started a Watercolour class for 2 hours every Friday which I have also joined. Can’t have too much of a good thing! I find your courses much more supportive and interesting with all the information materials you provide and the excellent demonstration videos. Thanks Matt! Also, I am following your “Getting Sketchy Live” series on YouTube which are amazing. Just finished The Rose and will be doing the Row Boat this evening. Just one thing I would like to know before I press the wrong button – How do I find your latest new videos on YouTube in this series? I would like to tune in as you are actually recording, but most of the videos I have found have been put up the week before, or even a year. Is this a Weekly or Daily series, and can I tune into it via your site? Thanks for all your help. Really appreciated.

  9. Hi Mr. Matt. I really like your program and I am enjoying the watercolor course so much! One question though, is there a trick to keep my paper from puckering up? I am using 140Lb paper. I am new to watercolor painting so I am not sure what to do. Is it normal for the paper to pucker?

  10. Hi Matt,

    Great class. Question: Just want to confirm that you didn’t wet the paper with water before applying the paint. It looks like you just used a very wet brush and that the paper was dry. Just want to make sure this is accurate. Thanks.

  11. Hi Matt,
    with it still being winter and the heat on in the house, I am having trouble getting all the layers of wet on wet colour done before the initial wash dries too much. is there a way to extend it, or am I perhaps putting the wash on too thinly?

  12. I am struggling with this, probably the worst experience of watercolour that I ever had. Please could you say something about the wetness of the colours you are mixing please. I have got three areas of mud, very unpleasant. Perhaps I’m not cut out for this. Sorry to be so inept

    • Sue,

      Hang in there. Watercolor is the most difficult medium in my mind. Be sure that you are letting the washes dry a little in between each application – especially when layering green or red. If these colors are wet, they will mix and create a brown or gray. But if these colors are applied when the layer underneath is dry, then they will not mix.

  13. I have abandoned this tutorial because it is too fast and difficult to follow. I think more detailed explanations would be needed. Very frustrating.

    • Hi Pilar,

      Being frustrated is no fun. But, frustration is sometimes part of the growth. Watercolor is not easy, even though it can be made to look easy. This is a fairly simple painting, designed to teach you layering colors (and composition). This requires a little patience since the layers need to dry. It’s hard to say where you went wrong since I can’t see your attempt. Can you share where in the process you feel the painting fell apart?

  14. Hi Matt. Sorry, I have seen your answer right now. Thank you very much for it. This is the first tutorial in your web that I am not able to finish. And that surprised me a lot, because I love all your tutorials; they are awesome. I think they are the best ones in Internet, sincerely, the best money ever invested in art teaching.
    You are right, watercolor is not easy, not for me. Maybe the problem is that I don´t know when to stop aplying washes, or when let the water dry. And the result is that all colours come together becoming mute and dull. That was what I meant when I said ”more detailed explanations would be needed”. However, maybe I got it wrong and I have to pay more atention next time.
    Thanks again for your answer and for worrying about us.

  15. Am enjoying the course. Will watch the course once, think about it. Watch it a second time trying to practice the skill that is being taught.

Add to the discussion...