Earthbound Artist

Articles tagged as Instruction Book (view all)

Why Fewer Paints Make Painting Easier and Better

02 December, 2013 0 comments Leave a comment

To illustrate the tremendous colour range that primary colours allow, I painted the eleven watercolour images shown below as various class demonstrations, using just Permanent Alizarin Crimson, New Gamboge, and Antwerp Blue (Winsor & Newton paints).

By creating mixtures using only one red, one blue and one yellow pigment, the actual colours of your painting are more likely to harmonize, rather than clash.



This excerpt from Watercolour Toolbox: Essentials for Painting Success is reprinted with permission of the publisher. For more details visit

Why You Should Choose Your Watercolour Materials Wisely

25 November, 2013 0 comments Leave a comment

Shopping at your local art supply outlet, or online art store, can be overwhelming.Here are the main items I use and recommend to my students, in order of importance.


I use acid free, artist quality, watercolour paper in the 300 lb. weight, bright white or natural in colour, with a cold pressed finish.

‘Cold pressed’ refers to how the paper is made. ‘Hot pressed’ paper is compressed with heat to make it very smooth. Cold pressed paper is compressed without heat, making it slightly more textured and absorbent, which means you have more time to move the paint around before the paper dries. Hot pressed paper, being less absorbent, dries faster so you have to work quickly, but the paper allows for easier lifting of dried paint from its surface.

I mostly use cold pressed Arches paper in 22 x 30” sheets, which I cut to size. The thick paper dries slowly, does not buckle when wet, and can be painted on both sides, so I prefer it to 140 lb. paper. I use the front and back sides of the paper interchangeably, as they both have good texture. If there is a manufacturer’s watermark, I use the side with the more subtle mark. Avoid student grade paper.

If you choose to use 140 lb. paper, it will buckle when wet, but can be pressed flat after you have finished your painting. When your painting has dried for several days, turn it over and spray the back lightly with clean water. On a flat table, sandwich the damp watercolour paper between two sheets of blotting paper. Next, lay a heavy board that is larger than your painting over top. (You can pile heavy books on top of the board if you need more weight to compress the sandwich.) Leave this ‘press’ alone for at least two days. When you remove your painting, it will be perfectly flat and immediately should be matted or framed to keep it flat.



Sable/synthetic blends work best for me; my favourite is Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II Sable/Synthetic series. I suggest you start with the following brushes:
One - half-inch flat, for mixing colours and for painting straight objects such as buildings;
One - one-inch to one-and-a-half inch flat, for applying washes to larger areas;
Two #12 rounds with sharp points, for general paint application and detail work;
One fine synthetic rigger brush and a calligraphy pen with a fine nib, for applying masking fluid or extremely fine lines of paint.


Choose artist quality watercolour paints in primary colours. My favourite paint brand is MaimeriBlu (M) but I have had good results with Winsor & Newton (WN) as well. I prefer transparent mixtures, so avoid opaque pigments such as those containing cadmium.

Choose any three primary pigments:
A strong, clear yellow, such as Permanent Yellow Lemon (M) or New Gamboge (WN).
A deep red, such as Primary Red Magenta (M) or Permanent Alizarin Crimson (WN).
A brilliant, deep blue such as Primary Blue Cyan (M) or Antwerp Blue (WN).

(Most starter kits use student grade paints and some colours you will seldom use, so I don’t consider them a wise choice.)

Watercolour Palette:

Use a paint palette with deep paint wells and large flat areas for colour mixing. My favourite is a Robert E. Wood palette, which comes with a lid.

Liquid Frisket:

This product is applied to watercolour paper, temporarily, as a waterproof coating, keeping water and paint away from the masked area. Frisket is applied in liquid form and dries to a rubber-like film that preserves the white paper while you paint the surrounding area.

I recommend Pebeo Drawing Gum, as the consistency works well with a calligraphy pen nib and the grey colour shows up clearly on white watercolour paper. Coloured frisket, or drawing gum, does stain the watercolour paper slightly, so I only use it to protect intricate details.

I try not to leave masking on the paper for more than a few weeks, and never expose masked paper to heat (such as from a hair dryer or the interior of a car on a warm day). Heat or the passage of time both cause the mask to adhere to the paper, making removal difficult—if not impossible. Frisket is removed with a frisket eraser.


Using masking tape, attach watercolour paper by all four edges to a board made from foam core, hardboard, corrugated plastic or heavy corrugated cardboard. If using a paper-coated support, protect one side of it with packing tape or adhesive plastic shelf liner, so the board will not be scarred when the masking tape is removed.

I do not soak my watercolour paper prior to taping it to the board, as soaking removes some of the sizing and causes paint to adhere to the paper more quickly. Since 300 lb. paper does not warp when wet, soaking and stretching is superfluous.

Other supplies:

Frisket eraser, small bar of hand soap in a container, large water bucket for rinsing brushes (minimum two quart size), masking tape one-inch wide, empty shoebox or large box of facial tissues (used to prop up your painting support at a comfortable angle), HB or 2B pencil, white eraser, small scraps of watercolour paper for colour testing, absorbent cotton rags (old T-shirt pieces work well), and a toothbrush with stiff bristles (for spattering paint or masking fluid, and cleaning the palette mixing area).

This painting was created on 300 lb Arches cold pressed paper,
using five pigments (3 blues, 1 red, 1 yellow).

This excerpt from Watercolour Toolbox: Essentials for Painting Success is reprinted with permission of the publisher. For more details visit

Watercolour Challenges and How to Avoid Them

21 November, 2013 0 comments Leave a comment


People often say they have heard (or experienced) that watercolour is the most difficult painting medium to control. I have found that the unpredictability of watercolour is precisely what keeps me interested in working in this medium.

I love that feeling of engaging in a partnership with my watercolour materials—paint, paper, water, and brush. I control the paint application, to a certain extent, and the materials provide the ‘serendipity factor’. Amusingly, having tried acrylic painting again recently, I soon became frustrated with the static nature of the medium—the paint just ‘sat there’ on the canvas, exactly where I placed it. Watercolour has motion.

When I started out as a painter, I found it extremely helpful to have other artist-instructors show me how to work in watercolour. I understand the learning curve can be very steep and it is easy to become discouraged. However, given helpful advice and time to practice, I believe anyone can learn how to enjoy the adventure of a partnership with watercolour.

Over the next few months in my blog, I will share with you typical painting challenges most of my students experience and some simple solutions that involve equipment and materials. Stay tuned...


This excerpt from Watercolour Toolbox: Essentials for Painting Success is reprinted with permission of the publisher. For more details visit

How I Made a Video - For Free - And You Can Too

18 November, 2013 1 comment Leave a comment

Yesterday I learned how to do something really fun, cool, useful and easy - make a short (30 second) video using the free version of and post it to YouTube.

The seminar was hosted by the Writers' Community of Durham Region at Trent University in Oshawa and taught by Rich Helms.

Animoto is very user-friendly. You just have to upload a couple of images, type in the text for each slide, choose a background theme, and select the music you like. It's amazing to play with, like PowerPoint on steroids, and you can change the slide order, add or delete images and text, try different music and another presentation style.

And if you want to make longer videos, Animoto has very reasonable monthly or annual fees.

Check out my first two videos and let me know what you think:



Watercolour Toolbox book is here!

01 July, 2013 0 comments Leave a comment

Have you tried to paint with watercolour and found it challenging? Do you know someone who always wanted to try it but never made the time?

I'm here to help. My wrote my first art instruction book, Watercolour Toolbox, to help readers over the 'rough spots' of painting, so they get to the fun part of creativity faster and with less expense than they ever thought possible.

To appeal to those of you who don't paint but do enjoy art and are curious about its execution, my book is illustrated with forty of my original watercolours, and with step-by-step photo demonstrations of eight paintings.

To order your autographed copy of Watercolour Toolbox, click here.

For information on upcoming book signings and art shows, click here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

The Accidental Author

31 March, 2013 4 comments Leave a comment

I wrote this article for the local newspapers recently and thought you might find it interesting.


Artist, painting instructor and author Karen Richardson is happiest when working on a new watercolour and never intended to teach art classes. That happened by a fluke. And she never meant to write a book either, but she did.

Karen had been painting professionally for two decades when a gallery in Whitby asked her to fill in for an art instructor who had to back out. Karen agreed, and taught the perspective drawing and watercolour course. Not only did she find great fulfillment in helping aspiring artists; she also revealed a knack for explaining painting techniques in an easy-to-follow format.

Since then, she has taught hundreds of adult students in galleries in Port Perry, Lindsay, and Peterborough, and at workshops in her Port Perry studio. During these classes, Karen noticed a pattern: almost all students had difficulty with the same issues – such as choosing the right paper, mixing richer colours, controlling the behaviour of paint, and staying motivated when a painting wasn't cooperating.

She found herself explaining over and over how to avoid challenges like these, and how to fix problems when they did occur. A few years ago, she joked to her students "I sound like a broken record - I should write a book!" And her students heartily agreed.

Finally, last fall, Karen started to record all the nuggets of watercolour wisdom she could recall. Two months later, she had a finished manuscript titled 'Watercolour Toolbox', illustrated with 70 photos of her realistic paintings of stones, flowers, landscapes and buildings. She hired a publisher in BC to produce the full colour book, which is due off the presses early this summer.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to receive studio news updates or notice of upcoming painting classes.