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Pen and ink wash workshop at Compton Verney Art Gallery

Compton Verney Art Gallery regularly run courses of various kinds, and I signed up for this one after attempting my first watercolour a couple of weeks ago. It was a leisure course and was good fun - I learned a bit too!

The idea was to do some botanical painting from life and make a few Christmas cards. The day course from 10am to 3pm was £60 and included unlimited coffees/tea, biscuits, a pack of blank cards and a drawing pen. It was very well organized and the staff were extremely welcoming. There is a cafe for lunch and of course the galleries to wander around after the course had ended. The course was in a dedicated artists studio with plenty of space for about 20 people.

We started with an introductory talk and were given handouts with help on creating a composition from the huge variety of things collected that morning from the Capability Brown landscape that surrounds the gallery. There were fungi, leaves, berries, pine cones - all sorts as you can imagine - and a collection of dried Christmasy things such as herbs, spices and dried fruits.

After arranging the bits we'd garnered, we set about drawing our collections in pencil directly onto the watercolour paper. We used a cut out frame to help get the scale and placements right. (See below). There was plenty of help from our tutor who also gave demonstrations and individual support.

The next step was to ink in the outlines, going over our pencil marks with a steady hand, and using a handout copy some of the marks such as stipling and cross hatching to add a small amount of shading. There were no shadows or base ie a table, drawn in.

A light watercolour wash was added after wetting the paper (wet-in-wet technique). The paints, brushes etc which were provided were artists quality.

I really enjoyed switching off for the day, and trying something new, and would certainly try another course if one caught my fancy. I can recommend Compton Verney as a venue (no affiliation).

The most useful thing I took away? To draw a leaf by doing the veins first not the outside shape. If you put the veins in you can easily draw round them to get the shape. Perhaps that sounds obvious to you but it was a first for me and helped a lot.