Helpful watercolor video lesson

Hi everyone! Just a quick post to share a watercolor video that I found last night that I think is great. I watch a lot of “speed painting” videos on YouTube. I love these videos because you can see hours of painting compressed down to just a few minutes. It’s not only fun to see how other artists work, but it’s also amazing to see a painting materialize right before your eyes.

This video is from Gillian Marklew-Allen, a UK-based artist who does beautiful watercolors.

What I found particularly helpful about the video was watching how she used layers to build form. Instead of using a few simple washes of color, she adds layer after layer of paint in a wide range of colors to create her subject’s skin, hair and clothing. It not only gives the painting a lot of depth, but it also makes it far richer and more interesting to look at than if she had just created the skin with a simple wash of one or two colors.

I also really love the beginning of the video where she starts laying in color. Instead of meticulously placing color, she lays out blobs of color in the general shapes that she needs.  At one point it is just random colors on the paper with no indication of what it is going to become.

It is a good reminder that all paintings go through a phase where they look nothing like what you are trying to paint. I tend to give up during this phase instead of pressing on through.

From now on one of my  goals is going to be to push through the “ugly” phase to see if I can add enough depth and detail to transform the painting into something that is a bit less blobby and a bit more interesting.

At any rate, I hope you find it as insightful and inspiring as I did. I know I am going work on implementing some of the techniques in the video in my own paintings to see if I can get better results. Let me know what tips you pick up from the video!

Also, you can learn more from Gilly or take some of her classes at these other places as well:




  1. One thing I’d like to say is that I like your website style! It’s very clean and informative.

    The question I have for you is that how you learn from speed painting? I am a beginner and also watch a lot of speed painting on Youtube, but I still don’t know where to start.

    • Hi Cece! I think the biggest thing I learn from watching speed painting is how other artists approach a painting as a whole. Some people work on one section at a time until it is totally finished – like if they are doing a portrait they might do both of the eyes, then move on to the nose, then the lips, etc. Other people put layers of paint over the whole painting, starting with the light tones and working to the dark tones. Since I am still learning, this gives me ideas for some of the different ways I can approach my paintings, too.

      Speed painting videos are great for getting the “big picture”, but crummy for learning much about how to actually paint. For that, I watch teaching videos that are specifically geared toward beginners. Kelly Eddington has a lot of helpful beginner videos if you haven’t checked her out. Here’s a link to her YouTube channel:

      ArtistsNetwork.TV is also great for learning. It costs money to watch the full-length videos, but you can actually pick up a lot of helpful tips from their free previews without having to pay. Just choose “watercolor” under the workshops and you will see tons and tons of videos.

      Another thing I would highly suggest for learning is to go the library and check out “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”. It is amazing for helping you see things the way they really are instead of how your mind brain *thinks* they are. It’s geared toward drawing, but is also really helpful for painting, too, since it teaches you to see things like an artist.

      Obviously I’m still learning, too, so those are the only tips I have for now. I think the best thing we can do is just practice, practice, practice! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!


  2. I share the same struggles. I just recently picked up watercoloring. I have no art background. I’ve always been able to sketch things pretty easily, not saying they look…wow-worthy, but I get the process. But I seem to lack the patience you need when laying down the blobs of colors. I too want to get to the end too quickly. This post was a nice reminder that it’s not a race! I’m just trying to figure out what paints to buy. I have the teeny tiny Winsor and Newton pocket field half Pan set. But I want more colors! I have some tubes of cheap stuff and I can def see that you get what you pay for. Do you have any recommendations? I did see your awesome set you got from your parents. Nice! What are some other good pan sets?

    • Hi Sara!

      I’m definitely not the best resource when it comes to recommending paint. I am still using the St. Petersburg White Nights set that I got from my parents. I have had to order a few replacement pans for it, but it has lasted a surprisingly long time. I got it in Aug. of 2013, so I’ve been using it for four years now! The thing I like best about the set is the intensity of the color. It also seems like the colors in my paintings haven’t faded at all over time, which is nice. The only downside is that they are more expensive than a lot of other brands. There are some 24-pan White Nights sets on Amazon that are a little cheaper than the big set I got, but I don’t know if they would give you enough colors or if you want to spend that much money.

      I have the little Winsor & Newton Cotman sketcher set, too, and I really like it, although I don’t use it nearly as much as my big set. Windsor & Newton is a good brand, though, so if you could find a bigger set of those it might be a good option. Some of the other brands that have heard good things about over the years include Schmincke’s Horadam Aquarell line, Grumbacher, and Sennelier. I’ve also heard good things about some of the Japanese watercolor sets. I’ve been eyeing the Kuretake Gansai Tambi set on Amazon for awhile now and probably am going to buy it in the next couple of months. I love how it has metallic watercolors along with the regular paints. Plus, the pans are huge, so I imagine the paint would last a long time. It’s got really great reviews, too.

      Hopefully that gives you some ideas that you can explore. I always check on YouTube to see if there are any reviews of art supplies before I buy them. A lot of times people will do color swatches or will make sample videos that can be a good way to get an idea of the way that the paints actually look before you invest.

      If you wind up buying a new set for yourself let me know which set you choose and whether or not you like them. I’d love to try out some new paints, too! 🙂 Sorry I’m not more help. Have a great one!

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