Watercolor Works! Part 1 – Online Painting Class

Series of Four Online Classes With Outside Class Work

Tuesdays, July 7 – 28, 2020 – 6  to 8 pm Eastern Time

Fee $175

This online class is for anyone who wants to learn watercolor  or improve their watercolor painting.  There are pre-class assignments and online group work. 

You will learn the important basics and create a solid foundation of watercolor painting skills.


 How Does This Class Work?

It’s simple! There is a pre-class assignment each week. Email the completed work to the instructor for review and comment.  Attend the online class!

The pre-class assignment introduces the technique or skill for the week and includes a series of easy exercises to give you practice.  Send the completed exercises to the instructor for review and comment. During the online class we’ll review a bit and then dive into a painting project to apply our newly learned skill.

Pre-class assignments and video conference information are sent after registration. Pre-class assignments include background info, complete instructions, useful examples, and drawing layouts.

The online portion of classes are held by Zoom video conference services. Complete info for connecting to the class through Zoom will be sent with pre-class assignments.

Class Schedule:

July 28, 2020  – Our first three classes focused on the important basics of watercolor painting: solid basic techniques, a basic understanding of color and value, and two simple composition guidelines. This final week of class focuses on pulling the first three lessons together. You have the option of working on a subject/scene of your own or the provided scene.

Pre-class work

Find a subject or scene you’d like to work on for the class. It can be based on a painting you’ve already done, but would like to improve, or something you’ve not yet worked on. If you don’t have a subject of your own, work from this painting:

Download a larger image here – https://tonyconner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WW_project_wk4.pdf

Explore your subject

1) Decide on the main subject – there should only be one! In the painting above, it is appears to be the red barn.  Although it could be the trees to the left.

2) Now that you have a main subject, think about it’s placement.  Refer back to last weeks class and the ‘golden sections’ and the ‘L’ compositions.  Your main subject should be placed on a golden section or at the crook of the L. If this means that the subject becomes larger or smaller than in the photo or in the original painting that is fine!

3) Create some small “thumbnail” sketches of the scene with your main subject placed at the crook of the L.  Do at least a few. Thumbnail sketches are small – no bigger than postcard size – that are used to explore the overall composition in terms of shape, value and color.  Download this guide to simple thumbnail sketching for more guidance.

4) When you have an arrangement of shapes and values you find attractive. Do another set of thumbnails, this time in color.  Use a limited palette of color bases around a primary triad. You can use one of the triads from week two or create another. 

In both the value and color thumbnails, really concentrate on getting good fluid washes – think of the wet-in-wet work from the first class. The transparent glow and loose, flowing character of watercolor is unique! Take advantage of those unique properties by using plenty of water in your washes.

5) Prepare a larger size version of the composition you developed in the thumbnail process. If you would like to work on the painting before class, please do. If so, prepare another version to work on in class. 

Working From A Photo

Many people like to work from photos and that is fine. But be aware that working from photos presents challenges, not the least of which is that they are demanding masters! When working from a photo, it is often our impluse to create a painting that is an exact replica of the photo down to the last detail.  As the famous watercolorist Frank Webb is known to say – “If it looks good as photo, then take the photo and be done with it.”  Otherwise, try to use the photo as a reference and starting point and impose your reality onto the photo, not vice versa.

  In Class

We’ll share and talk about your thumbnail explorations. I’ll do a fast demo of the thumbnail process, exploring the barn scene from above. 

Then we’ll paint our compositions – perhaps for the second time for some of you!

Download Class Info Sheet here.


July 21, 2020  –  6 to 8pm  –  This class focuses on what makes a good composition. Pre-class work introduces simple rules for good composition and a couple exercises to re-inforce the principles. In class, we’ll review pre-class assignments and paint a well-composed landscape scene.

Pre-class Work

Download this layout https://tonyconner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WW_layout3.pdf  and transfer the layout to a piece of watercolor paper.

Download the class info print out – it also has a copy of the drawing layout – https://tonyconner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WCworksOnline_wk3.pdf

Basic Composition

This week, we’ll cover two easy and basic rules that will strengthen any painting composition.   They are really easy to understand and apply.

Golden Sections

The image at left shows a flat picture plane roughly divided into thirds both vertically and horizontally.  A red cross marks the spot where two of the dividing lines intersect. The dividing lines are “golden means” and the intersections are “golden sections”.  It happens that the lines that represent the golden means are great paths that help draw the viewer’s eye into the picture.

The intersections of those lines   -the golden sections – become great locations for your focal points and main subjects.

Powerful ‘El’

You might have already noticed that the each golden section (red cross) occurs at what could be the ‘corner’ of an L-shape. It’s already been mentioned that golden sections are great places for your main subject and focal point.  It is great practice to lead the eyes to your subject along two paths – a short one and a long one.  In essence, creating an L-shaped arrangement of objects, shapes, textures, or edges that lead the viewer to the subject.  These L’s can be turned rotated into one of four directions and orientations.   Remember the “L” and use it often!

Look at at some paintings you admire.  Can you find an ‘L-shape’ the composition with the main focal point at the corner?  Take a look at the painting from our last class.  Do you see the “L” in that painting?

 In Class

We’ll talk some more about the ‘L’ composition and paint this scene.

Tinkham Road Farm - plein air watercolor landscape painting by Tony Conner


July 14, 2020  –  6 to 8pm  –  This class eases us into two important concepts about color. Pre-class assignments will have you practice some color mixing and paint a couple small landscape scenes.  During online class, we’ll look at color mixing and landscape painting exercise results and expand our understanding of color with a simple still life painting.

Pre-class Work

Download These Drawing Templates:

Color Wheels

Use the color wheel layout from #1 to explore the colors on your palette. Start with any set of “primaries” – one red, one yellow, and one blue. Place each in the large space labeled with it’s name.  Make a note of the exact color you used from your palette.  Try to remember your work with wet-into-wet and get these colors in their place with lots of color and lots of water so that you get a nice even and transparent layer of the paint.

Next, mix the Secondaries – orange, green and violet.  You probably already know that mixing two Primaries gives you a Secondary color. Mix these on your palette first then place it in the proper space on the color wheel.  In this exercise, you may not get what you expect in the Secondary mixtures.  Do the best you can to get ‘real’ secondaries’; that is, some that looks orange, green or violet.

Once you have the secondaries,  mix the Tertiaries.  These are the colors with the hyphenated names; red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, etc.    As their name suggests,  these are essentially secondaries with a little more of one primary or the other.  Again, mix these on your palette until they look right, then place them in the correct space on the color wheel.

You can download some samples of completed wheels:




Cube Studies

Use the small cube layout for the next three studies.  The point of these studies is to try to change the color and the value of the color to show off the light that is falling on the cubes from the upper left.   Download these two images and use them as a guide



Paint the grayscale (value) version first.  Get your shades of gray with Paynes’ Gray or Ivory Black or a combination of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, or a combination of  Alizarin Crimson and Thalo or Viridian green

Try to match the shades of gray that you find on the downloaded sample.  There’s nothing real surprising here – you expect areas where light is striking to be lighter and shade and shadow areas to be darker.

After you have completed the gray cubes, pa int two more studies using primary colors – ideally, two different sets of primaries.  Use combinations from your color wheel exercises.  Again, try to get the change in color and value to show the difference between light, shade and shadow.

Have all your exercises with you for class.

In Class

We’ll take a look at your color wheels and cube studies and discuss the results – especially what you found surprising and difficult.

We’ll work through the painting project in class.

Download class info sheet – https://tonyconner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WCworksOnline_wk2.pdf

July 7, 2020  –  6 to 8pm  –  This class focuses on three important basic techniques. Pre-class work includes practice exercises for each technique. In class, we’ll work through a painting project, using the basic techniques. We’ll use these same three techniques every week.

Pre-class Work

Watch and practice the techniques in these online lessons:

Wet-in-wet watercolor painting technique

Dry-in-wet watercolor painting technique

Drybrush watercolor technique

Download this layout – https://tonyconner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Watercolor-Works-Painting-Layout-1-scaled.jpg – and transfer to a sheet of 140lb cold press watercolor paper.


Download a comprehensive suggested watercolor materials list. Use it as a guide – no need to purchase everything on the list. Working with what you are used to will help your learning.  I’ll make suggestions for good supplementary materials during class.

Download class info sheet here.

July 21, 2020  –  6 to 8pm  –  This class focuses on what makes a good composition. Pre-class work introduces simple rules for good composition and a couple exercises to re-inforce the principles. In class, we’ll review pre-class assignments and paint a well-composed landscape scene.

July 28, 2020  –  6 to 8pm  –  This final week of class focuses on pulling the first three lessons together on a subject of your choice. Pre-class assignment will have you work through the ‘study’ process, developing an attractive composition for your subject. In class, we’ll review your studies and each will work on their own painting.


Download a comprehensive suggested watercolor materials list. Use it as a guide – no need to purchase everything on the list. Working with what you are used to will help your learning.  I’ll make suggestions for good supplementary materials during class.

Download class info sheet here.

Watercolor Works! Part 1 is an online painting class that duplicates and expands the first day and a half of my Watercolor Methods 3-day workshop.

Watercolor Works! Part 2 – can be found by clicking here.  Part 2 duplicates and expands on the second half of the Watercolor Methods 3-day workshop


Questions About the Class?

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About The Instructor

Tony Conner is an accomplished watercolorist and and experienced instructor. His  energetic approach to teaching and enthusiasm for the watercolor medium are combined to create classes that are both fun and informative.  He excels at providing information and insights to individual students – meeting them where they are and helping them get to where they want to go.

Professional Memberships

  • Signature Member - New England Watercolor Society
  • Signature Member - Vermont Watercolor Societies
  • Artist Member - Salmagundi Club
  • Artist Member - North Shore Arts Association

Tony works from his studio in Bennington, Vermont.

What Other Students Say

I've take several workshops, some taught by prominent and well-known artists. Tony's was, by far, the best in it's quality, approach and teaching style. The small class formate facilitated learning.” - Jane C. , Setauket, NY

Of all the instructors I have seen, you are the most informative. Your method of teaching is so easy to follow and absorb. I wish I lived close enough to attend your classes. You are also a very patient, approachable person . All excellent, Tony!” - Catherine M. , Ontario, CN

I have learned more in this two-day workshop, than in all other watercolor classes I’ve taken” - Rita S. , MA

" Thought there was a perfect balance between theory & practice.  The points you wanted to stress were given clearly & concisely.  You are so passionate about your work.  I have come home energized & enthusiastic - which is exactly what I wanted from the workshop.  " - S. H., Saline, MI

"I've taken several watercolor workshops, some taught by prominent and well known artists. Tony's workshop was by far the best in its quality, approach, and teaching style. The small class format facilitated learning." - J. C., Setauket, NY

" Tony is a wonderful, knowledgeable teacher who shares with warmth and humor" - J. M, Astoria, NY

" Overall, the three days were amazing. I find myself looking at everything in terms of value. " - A. C., Bloomfield, NJ

"...but, Tony Conner has thought of it all, organized it perfectly, and made it fun and inspiring." - G. B., New York, NY