Design Principles in Watercolor

We will use compositional tools such as principles of design and color theory to open doors in your watercolor painting. These tools are relevant to both representational and abstract picture making. This course is both foundation-level and a means to take your work to the next level. We will work on paint handling, color, and drawing. We will learn to plan a work using the principles of design and color theory (harmony, rhythm, balance, dominance, contrast, etc). We will troubleshoot and develop strategies to make images clear, expressive, and complete.

These concepts are tools that help manifest the poetry in painting. These concepts will be presented in the flow of class, while you are painting, so that these ideas will be presented in the context of your own work, as the ideas become immediately meaningful. The lessons will be practice-driven rather than academic. The goal is for you to make your work, the compositional tools are a means to that end.

We will work from still-life objects and live models. You are also welcome to work on pieces in progress (compatible with watercolor), variations on your or others’ past work, photographs, and/or abstract or conceptual subject matter. The course’s lessons will adapt to suit the work you want to make.

Please note: this is a 9-session course. Fleisher will be closed on Monday, May 29 in observance of Memorial Day.

Special Notes

This is an in-person class which will take place onsite at Fleisher. Please review our COVID-19 community safety policies for current guidelines.

Tuition Assistance is Available

To make our classes and workshops accessible to everyone, Fleisher offers tuition assistance every term so that everyone can join our creative community. Tuition assistance applications can be completed once registration is open by clicking here. The deadline to apply for spring term assistance is Friday, March 10; Notifications will be sent by Monday, March 13.

What you will learn:

  • We will handle paint, water, brushes, and paper to expressive, articulate effect.

  • We will develop and carry out a strategy.

  • Learn the basic principles of two-dimensional design.

  • Awareness of color interactions: harmony, saturation, and complementary.

Required supplies:

  • Watercolors, either Tubes or Half Pans. Recommended colors:

    • Ultramarine Blue
    • Lemon Yellow
    • Permanent Rose
    • Viridian
    • Cadmium Red,
    • Cadmium Yellow
    • Pthalo Blue
    • Dioxazine Violet
    • Yellow Ochre
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Raw Umber
    • Burnt Umber
    • Lamp Black
    • Chinese (Zinc) White


    Useful extra colors:

    • Cobalt Blue
    • Cerulean Blue
    • Aureolin Yellow
  • Recommended watercolor brushes:

    • 3/4-in wash flat
    • #10 round
    • either a #4 or #5 pointed round
  • Watercolor Paper: 11×14 inches, or larger hot press 90 lb minimum (blocks or pads are good)

  • Watercolor palette with wells. A “butcher tray” (available in art supply stores) is also good

  • Two containers for water

  • White eraser

  • Drawing pencil (HB or harder)

  • Clear plastic ruler

  • X-acto knife or Olfa snap-off knife

  • Masking tape removable (Blue)

Recommended (Optional) Supplies:

  • Masking fluid

  • Gouache basic painting set. Same colors as above. Or, a basic set of ten colors