Wednesday 10 April 2024

frangipanis in watercolour


Watercolour painting of Frangipani flowers

There's something so incredibly exotic about frangipanis. Maybe it's because they conjure up images of Hawaii and garlands of tropical flowers. But then there's also how fragile and pure they look, and their incredible scent.

Everyday of my visit to my parents recently I would visit this frangipani tree and breathe in the scent. It was so lovely. I'm really glad I took the time to paint them too.

You can paint these too! I took a number of photos of each step in painting these and the full step by step with detailed instructions is on Patreon and Renee's Studio.

Happy painting!

Tuesday 19 March 2024

the art of loosening up


Watercolour of Refugio San Vicende, Pyrenees, Spain

Lately, I've been loosening up and relaxing a little in my paintings. Having fun and being bold. It's exciting!

When I want to let go and paint with abandon, here are few things that help me. I thought you might find something in this list that speaks to you.
  1. Painting standing up ​
    When I stand at a distance from my painting, I can’t paint tiny details. I also need to hold my brush further back so I can reach the paper, so my brush strokes are looser.
  2. Embracing larger brushes
    It’s rather obvious that you can’t paint little details with a large brush, but there’s also something else. A large brush holds a lot more paint, so you can paint for longer without going back to the palette, allowing me more time to lose myself in each brush stroke.
  3. Stocking up on paper ​
    Having plenty of paper at hand encourages experimentation without fear of wasting materials. I also paint on the back of old paintings, on paper I’ve never thought of trying, pieces of cardboard, anything!
  4. Exploring forgotten colours
    I notice that some colours on my palette run out fast and need topping up often. Others almost never. So I’ve been using colours from my palette that I haven’t touched in a while. I’m discovering new and forgotten colour combinations and I make sure to swatch and label my new favourites for later use.
  5. Experimenting with brush strokes
    For sure, after a while my brush becomes an extension of my hand. But, it’s easy for me to forget to push the limits of a brush. So I’m experimenting a lot with mark making.
  6. Keeping some creations private ​
    Not every painting needs to be shared—keeping some as personal experiments adds a sense of freedom.

Here’s to the joy of experimentation! I hope this inspires you to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.

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Friday 8 March 2024

a rock sculpture on the beach


watercolour seascape

Join me on my favourite beach on the north coast of Spain. We visit every September and part of the tradition is that David builds these huge rock sculptures and I sketch them. Now you can paint one with me too!

Besides the sculpture itself, we have a lovely rainy sky, a sunny beach and a few lapping waves. So a few different elements for you to explore.

Also! Make sure you watch right to the very end, as we have a little surprise for you after my sign off :-)

Happy painting!

Full video tutorial on Patreon and Renee's Studio.

Friday 23 February 2024

white egret


Watercolour painting of a white egret

It's feeling rather spring like here in the Pyrenees, although I think it's only a short spell before winter returns again. I hope the birds know this, because they're wide awake already and the other day we saw vultures building nests and golden eagles doing an incredible mating dance in the sky.

The frogs are croaking too, which means we see herons and egrets about. So wonderfully stately and elegant, they are great subjects to paint!

For this one, I've recreated a painting I did for my mother-in-law over 20 years ago. We abstract the background - this creates a combination of hard and soft edges which mimics those in the egret. Plus it's so much fun!

Find the full step-by-step tutorial on Patreon and Renee's Studio

Happy painting!

Thursday 15 February 2024

quinacridone pigments in watercolours


My quinacridone colours and favourite colour combinations

One question that crops up fairly often is why would you purchase quinacridone colours, when other traditional pigments seem so similar? In fact, it cropped up again in my Patreon forum back in December and I've been meaning to write this post since then.

You'll have noticed that I have 3 quinacridone colours on my palette - quinacridone rose, quinacridone sienna and quinacridone gold. At first glance these seem very similar to other more traditional pigments - permanent rose, burnt sienna and raw sienna. 

Attached is a swatch sheet that shows the differences between my 3 quin colours and a similar traditional pigment. There are also some of my favourite colour combinations - vibrant greens, transparent reds and oranges - colours that just glow!

Here's a bit of background on quin colours if you're not familiar with them - their history, pigment qualities, advantages and disadvantages.


Quinacridone pigments, emerging in the mid-20th century, were initially synthesized for the car industry, offering vibrant and durable colours for car finishes. Their transition into the art world revolutionized the watercolour palette, providing artists with a new spectrum of brilliant and resilient hues.

Pigment Qualities

These pigments are celebrated for their bright, intense colours and exceptional transparency. With a small particle size, they enable smooth, uniform washes. Their high tinting strength is advantageous for creating vivid compositions, and their excellent lightfastness ensures the artwork's longevity.

Advantages Over Other Pigments

Quinacridones are unparalleled in creating deep, transparent darks, allowing for intense shadows and tones without losing luminosity. If you're having trouble getting really strong, dark colours that are not flat and dull, then quin colours really come to the rescue.

Unlike other pigments, quinacridones retain their brilliance in mixes (the paper still shines through and the darks are not flat and dull) and have superior lightfastness, resisting fading under light exposure.


However, quinacridone pigments are not without drawbacks. Their staining quality can be a challenge, as they bind tightly to paper, making lifting and correcting mistakes difficult. 

Additionally, their cost is higher than many traditional pigments, and their intensity may be overwhelming for some artistic styles. It depends on the story you want to tell, but if you're after a soothing, calm scene then quin colours might be overwhelming. But if you want very dark shadows or a pop of colour then they are useful.


  • The first column shows the quinacridone colours versus a similar pigment on my palette. 
  • The second column shows how they make beautiful neutrals when combined with a traditional pigment. Notice, too, how you can combine a quin colour with another colour which has a larger pigment size (like ultramarine) and get beautiful textures.
  • The third column is some of my favourite colour mixes. All the resulting colours are still transparent and vibrant.


I don't want to cause a buying spree! These colours are expensive and if you're just starting out, then other pigments are completely fine. Especially as quin colours don't replace the others (you'll probably need both). But I hope the information is useful for when you've got a birthday coming up ;-)

Friday 2 February 2024

delicate arch


Delicate Arch, Utah. Pen and watercolour painting.

In 2011 we visited Utah and Colorado on a climbing holiday. The wonderful red rock formations, towers, arches and canyons, all set in the desert, were some of the best scenery I had ever seen. 

Long winter evenings right now mean that I've got time to revisit some old memories and paint scenes from photos or from my outdoor sketches. A few weeks ago I painted a little postcard of Delicate Arch - one of the incredible arches in Arches National Park. Someone who saw it online asked if I would do it again as a full tutorial. Of course! An excuse to get out a larger piece of paper and paint the scene properly. Happiness is :-)

In this lesson we paint the arch with lovely back lighting. It's all too easy to always look for a scene with sun coming from the front. But light from behind creates so much interesting drama - a little halo of light and big shadows to have fun with.

I hope you enjoy painting this as much as I did.

Happy painting!

Full video tutorial available on Patreon and Renee's Studio

Thanks to Ryan Jones on Unsplash for the wonderful reference photo.

Friday 26 January 2024

old door


Sketch of an old door behind my house

Who doesn't love watercolour paintings of old doors and windows? They have a charm all their own. And, certainly, a whole series of them hanging together would be really lovely.

In this lesson we use the skills we learnt in the skills lesson on painting stonework and old wood to paint the old door of the barn behind my house. Plus the shadow is super - I paint it in a similar way to the shadows lesson where we painted the flowerpot.

No need to do the skills lessons first, you can just dive in with this one. But if you'd like to learn more, then the skills lessons are there for you too.

Happy painting!

Full video tutorial on Patreon and Renee's Studio.

Thursday 18 January 2024

negative painting in practise


using negative painting techniques in practise

Hi everyone,

After last week's lesson where we painted the abstract goldfish using the negative painting technique, I thought it might be a good idea to follow up with a quick post showing other ways to use this technique.

Negative painting is not just for abstracts. It can be used for ...

  • creating highlights or shapes against a dark background
  • creating a lovely sense of depth
  • painting white objects, where you reserve the white paper
  • painting loose colourful washes or first layers with freedom, knowing you can come on top and cut in to create a shape.

So here are a few examples showing negative painting in practise...

  1. Little ermita : shaping the grasses by painting the dark bushes behind. This is a technique I'm sure you've seen in a number of my tutorials.
  2. Snowy cabin : creating the white roof by painting the mountain behind. You can see how the dark mountain really brings the cabin forward.
  3. White flowers : painting the background carefully around the flowers brings out their shape. This way you don't need to use masking fluid.
  4. Little robin : painting the background around the outside of the bird to create the shape of the fluffy white feathers. Again, no masking fluid.
  5. Mother earth goddess : negative painting is not only for watercolours. For this mixed media piece I first covered the canvas in collage and painted patterns. Then you can see on the world how I painted just the sea, to reveal the shapes of the continents.
  6. Feathers : similar to the earth goddess and the goldfish we did last week. I first painted the canvas in an abstract way, then painted the background on top to reveal the feathers. Working this way, rather than painting the feathers on top of a background, creates a lot of depth and texture. Even in acrylics you can see the background coming through. Plus, like the goldfish we did, it a wonderfully free way to paint, starting loose and tightening up later.

I hope this gives you some ideas of how you can use negative painting. Next time when you're planning the steps for a painting, think about where this technique could be useful.

Happy painting!


Are you surprised to see mixed media paintings from me? Haha! Maybe you are. 

I've been painting for all my life and it hasn't always been just watercolours. I've always painted in watercolours, but it's only in the last 5 years that it's been only watercolours. In previous years I'd paint watercolours only outside and when traveling, then large mixed media pieces in the studio. Five years ago I wondered what would happen if I painted only watercolours and larger studio watercolour pieces too. Of course, you can guess what happened - my watercolour skills improved hugely and so did my joy in the medium. Will I go back to mixed media pieces in the future? Probably. I do sometimes miss painting big and bold. But right now I'm still not finished with this watercolour journey :-)

Friday 12 January 2024

abstract goldfish by negative painting


watercolour goldfish using negative painting

Near my house there's an historic lavadero - an very old laundry area and a natural spring. The big, old wash tub is now a beautiful pond under some huge plane trees. Someone put some goldfish in the pond a few years ago and they've multiplied and grown. I love to go sit and watch them. Its calming and meditative.

When I thought about painting the fish, I had a number of ideas. One thing I really wanted recreate while painting was the peace and meditation they make me feel. Painting abstracts can feel like this, so does painting vibrant colours and wet-in-wet washes.

In this lesson we explore the concept of negative painting. This is when we don't paint the objects themselves (the positive shapes), but the shapes behind them (negative shapes). Painting the background shape reveals the object.

Painting in this was is very absorbing. It's almost like a building a puzzle. And it creates paintings with a lovely sense of depth.

Happy painting!

Find the full step by step tutorial on Patreon and Renee's Studio :

Wednesday 10 January 2024

snowy landscapes online mini-course


Paint snowy landscapes in pen and watercolour

Grab a hot drink, your paper, paints and brushes, and join me in painting some winter snow scenes.

Class dates …
Saturday 27 January and Saturday 03 February 2024, 6pm CET (Madrid).

Equivalent world times (please check I'm correct!)
London: 5pm
Los Angeles: 9am
Edmonton: 10am
New York: 12pm
Sydney: 4am (Sundays)
Auckland: 6am (Sundays)

Small class only. Booking information here.

Monday 8 January 2024

snowy landscape in watercolour


Little red barn in the snow. Pen and watercolour.

There was something so evocative in this reference photo when I first saw it years ago. Something that said freezing cold, winter's day. But it was really the clarity of the colours that caught my imagination - so clear and vibrant.

It feels to me that watercolours are perfect for painting a scene like this. With minimal detail, big loose washes and a gentle touch, watercolours have a clarity all their own.

So in this lesson we focus on how to achieve beautiful washes. This scene may seem really simple, but when you've managed to make clear, unfussy washes, then you've really mastered one of the essential watercolour skills. We're going to leave detail behind and I'm going to show you how to concentrate on the painting process itself.

Happy painting!

Thanks to Jill Wellington on Pixabay for the reference photo.

Full video tutorial on Patreon and Renee's Studio.