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Adventures in Learning How to Draw

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Can You Really Learn to Paint from Online Video Tutorials?

“This is pointless.”

That’s what I thought when I first encountered an online watercolour video tutorial.

So I gave up, and went back to drawing from real life.

Why did I think it was pointless?

Because the “tutorial” only involved copying someone else as they created a painting.

How could I ever learn to paint from copying someone else?

I felt angry about this. Copying is not learning how to draw! It’s copying! How dare they call it a tutorial!

I wanted to develop my own style and learn watercolour painting techniques.

I did not want to copy.

And I especially did not want to become a human xerox machine.

Okay, some tutorials talked about being for “beginners”. But all they showed you was how to make your brush wet (tip: dip it in water), and how to put colour on the page (tip: put paint on your brush, then put your brush on the page).

I needed more than that…

So I signed up for a watercolour class in my city. A real, live class.

I went to my Watercolour class, and…

When I arrived, I sat down in eager anticipation. I was sure I’d be taught how to develop my style and learn new watercolour painting techniques.

That’s not exactly how it went…

“This is the painting we’ll be doing today,” the teacher, Alan, said, handing out a pencil sketch for us to – gasp – copy!

Then Alan proceeded to make his painting. He named the colours he was using, and we followed along. We copied Alan’s painting.

The watercolour class was… copying!

After a couple of classes, I realised that as we copied, we were taking in different watercolour techniques.

Plus, as a bonus, each week we had a finished painting.

So, I was won over to the idea of learning to paint through copying.

I am a convert to video watercolour tutorials.

Here are a few paintings I’ve made following video tutorials (click the image to watch the original tutorial):

City Street - Peter Sheeler

From a Peter Sheeler Tutorial.

Splashes Castle

Created following a Teoh Yi Chie tutorial.

Dana Fox's sunset tutorial.

Dana Fox’s sunset tutorial.

Another Peter Sheeler tutorial

Another Peter Sheeler tutorial

What’s so Great about Watercolour Tutorials?

So why do I like video watercolour tutorials so much? A few reasons:

  1. You get to explore! As I follow along, I try out different techniques, brushes and colours that I’d never otherwise try.
  2. You get familiar with your palette. It’s highly unlikely you’ll have the exact same colours as in the tutorial. As you practice, you’ll learn what colours are good substitutes for one another, which colours work well together, and which don’t.
  3. I can’t help myself! I keep coming back for more. It’s so motivating and energising to finish a painting each time you sit down to draw. I especially love tutorials that you can finish in under 15 minutes.

How to Make the Most of Online Watercolour Tutorials

Here are my top tips for online watercolour tutorials:

Tip 1: Follow your bliss

See something and think “I want to paint that”?

Then try it out – even if it looks really difficult. You never know how you’ll get on.

Whatever resonates with you and draws you in will keep you coming back for more – and that means you’ll get more practice.

Tip 2: Slow Down

Did you know you can watch YouTube videos at half speed, or even quarter speed? This is really useful when the tutorial is too fast for you to keep up.

Slow is also good if you really want to focus on the little details

That said, sometimes it’s good to go fast and try to keep up – you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you push yourself.

Tip 3: Try out different tutorials to find the ones that work for you

With some tutorials you will immediately feel like you’re best friends with the video creator. That’s a good thing.

With other tutorials you’ll think “just stop! Please just stop!” Avoid those ones.

What’s a good fit for me? I like tutorials where:

  • You get a finished painting as an end result. It’s much more motivating and rewarding.
  • The tutor shares the colours and brushes they are using, so you I follow along.
  • I can finish the tutorial in 10-20 minutes.

Watercolour Tutorials: Pitfalls to Avoid

I avoid tutorials where:

There are sudden jumps between sections. I prefer tutorials where the tutor shows how they painted everything. It’s not my job to fill the gaps.

The finished painting is way above my level. It’s good to stretch yourself, but pushing yourself too far will just make you anxious and stressed.

What are Some Good Online Water Tutorials?

Here are my favourite watercolour tutorials:

  • Peter Sheeler is my go-to guy for watercolour tutorials. I love his style of drawing, and most of his tutorials can be finished in under 20 minutes.
  • Koosje Koene‘s Draw Tip Tuesday always makes me smile, and often includes watercolour tips such as this trick for painting a pear.
  • Teoh Yi Chie. I especially like his tutorial on Sketching with Watercolour Splashes.
  • Dana Fox has several lovely tutorials, including a simple lake scene.

Do you use tutorials to help you learn how to paint? What are your favourite tutorials? Let me know in the comments.

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