Outdoor watercolour sketching – compositions with Kim Whitby

Painting - Water Based

Ref: S3D11816

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About this course

An outdoor watercolour sketching course with a focus on composition structuring. You will be using the rapid colour sketching medium of watercolour in sketchbooks.

Course Description

Learn essential water-based wet drawing skills for the outdoor artist. You will develop skills around watercolour drawing in sketchbooks, with a focus on how to structure compositions or plan future compositions.

Build your confidence and enjoyment of ‘en plein air’ watercolour sketching in a fun and individualised way. You will consider colour in an outdoor setting, and work directly from observation. You will be unpicking how sketchbook drawings can be used to visually explore an environment and might be evolved to inform and develop a finished composition.

You will use sketchbooks to draw and paint outside; making many rapid drawings by exploiting the speed and spontaneity of watercolour, and investigating ways of composing artwork. You will be encouraged to explore the outdoor palette by colour mixing from a limited selection of colours and direct observation, and begin to develop a colour mixing reference card for future use. You will be encouraged to respond to whatever aspect of the outdoor setting most appeals to you. The College will be the location for this outdoor course where architecture, landscape and vegetation are readily accessible for first hand observation.

Any additional skills required when working wet and developing a work on paper (where the paper acts as the white) will be included as necessary with tutor demonstration of any relevant approaches required. The tutoring will be as flexible and individualised as possible.

By the end of the course, you will have practical experience of outdoor watercolour working and sketchbook sketching. You will have gained confidence to enjoy using your sketchbooks outdoors, with new focus.

The course aims to foster greater awareness of some of the concepts used by artists when composing pictures and you will have explored some of these practically. You will have used a limited colour palette and begun to develop an approach to ‘en plein air’ colour mixing in the landscape.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • Sketchbooks with watercolour paper inside good quality. At least 3 in various sizes would also be good but not essential. For example pocket sized/A4/ larger.
  • (Seawhite of Brighton make a good quality and affordable version. Cass too. Tutor uses Moleskine and Royal Talens. )
  • Cartridge paper sketchbook – any size
  • A selection of brushes for watercolour - round / filbert / flat / rigger as a basic requirement.
  • (Please make sure they are not all small. One or two 1-2cms wide - or even larger. The tutor’s filbert and flats are 2.5cm wide.)
  • Paint - watercolour pans or tubes. The tutor prefer pans outside.
  • Seven watercolours minimum (a few more maybe but keep it a small selection)
  • The tutor suggest - something like:
  • •A lemon yellow (your tutor uses Cadmium light)
  • •A dark egg yolk yellow (your tutor uses Cadmium dark)
  • •Bright red (your tutor uses Cadmium Red)
  • •Crimson red (your tutor’s preference Alizarin Crimson)
  • •A light blue (your tutor uses Cerulean Blue)
  • •A darker blue (your tutor uses French Ultramarine Blue– or maybe Cobalt, Prussian Blue or Phthalo)
  • •A Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber. (not too warm - these vary greatly by brand)
  • Tissue/cloth
  • Mixing palette/tray - a watercolour tin will do the trick if you have your paints in one, this is what the tutor uses.
  • Waterpot (or jam jar) suitable for outdoors.
  • Water bottle for transporting painting water.
  • Pencil (2-8B)
  • Very hard pencil (H4-6)
  • Bulldog clips (available to borrow)
  • Some prior planning and preparation will be needed to get the most out of this outdoor experience in terms of comfort. Please read the additional information prior to the course.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Sketchbooks with watercolour paper inside good quality – various sizes
  • Sketchbooks with cartridge paper inside – various sizes
  • Brushes for watercolour - round / filbert / flat / rigger - in various sizes
  • Watercolour tubes and pans in various colours– Schminke and Winsor & Newton
  • Watercolour sets - pans – Schminke (various tin sizes)
  • Palettes
Please think about what you will sit on to work.: mat, folding chair, portable table? Lightweigh portable folding chairs are available to borrow from the College, you are welcome to bring your own. As you are using sketchbooks and moving frequently you will be working on your lap as much as possible. Practise with your equipment in the kitchen or garden before the course as this is the fastest way find out what you need or want to adjust. Please dress appropriately remembering the British weather can change even within a single day. Sunblock/sunshade/hat/warm clothing. It can be surprisingly chilly in Britain, even on a summer’s day when sat stationary for long periods. A bag/trolley to hold and transport everything.


Kim Whitby

Kim Whitby is an experienced educator with a first degree in Art Education at King Alfred's College in Winchester and has latterly gained a Fine Art Masters Degree at Aberystwyth University. She teaches regularly in London and with organisations, groups and societies. 


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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