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Expressive Watercolor: Inspirations Everywhere

Instructor: Susan O’Neill

Students capture the essence of what interests them in loose, vibrant, and expressive ways. From still life to landscape to the human portrait, students explore the expressive character of painting with watercolor. Participants learn to observe and interpret the dynamic relationships that exist between elements within the pictorial space. They gain confidence in working with watercolor through understanding brush and paint control to create luminous mixes and subtle nuances. Students work with a variety of subjects and learn to embrace the magical qualities of watercolor through a variety of inspiring subjects all found in and around their home. Included are discussions of historical and contemporary examples, and instructor demonstrations. The goal is to help students create work that is fresh, vital and alive. The finished work will be a record of the journey.

This class is taught on the Zoom digital platform.

For more information, contact The Art League School at 703-683-2323.

All Dates & Times

Class Supplies

Expressive Watercolor:  Inspirations Everywhere

Expressive Watercolor:  Inspirations Everywhere with Susan O’Neill

NOTE:  If you have previous materials bring them to class. No need to purchase all new. We will discuss different pigments and paper during the first class.

Supplies can be expensive, however, better quality materials yield better results.  Quality over quantity is what is important. You do not need an abundance of materials. More advanced students may bring their favorite supplies rather than purchasing new. When buying a brush consider how it holds water and the point, kolinsky sable are best for this, however squirrel hair brushes are more inexpensive and a great substitute. This will make a difference in the experience and quality of work that you produce.


-Two to three watercolor brushes, large in size, no smaller than #10

-Paper for exercises (even for exercise I would recommend a better quality paper, such as Arches or Fabriano (you can tear large sheets into 4-6 smaller sheets for the exercises. These exercises will be invaluable for learning to understand and grow in watercolor painting.

-Several colors of paint – red, yellow, blue, and Burnt Sienna are enough

-Porcelain mixing dish (small kitchen bowl is fine)


A surprisingly good and popular brush for price:  Silver Brush 3000S (Brand)- Black Velvet Short Handle Blend Squirrel, Round, Size 12. You do not need many brushes. One nice round that will come to a point and can hold a good amount of water is important. If you can only purchase one brush I would recommend a #12 squirrel mentioned above watercolor brush.

  • One stiffer synthetic watercolor brush (any).  All will be discussed the first day of class.
  • One larger “mop” brush.
  • One Cat tongue wash brush.
  • (OPTIONAL) #8 or #10 or #12 Kolinsky Sable Round are always a sure bet but they can be expensive. The Silver Brush/Black Velvet, above, is a great brush. You would not need a Kolinshy Sable brush.

No need to buy new if you already have some brushes, you can use what you have but have at least one good brush with a nice point and full belly,

a stiffer synthetic watercolor brush (any).  All will be discussed the first day of class.

***Do not buy new if you are unsure. They will be discussed on the first day of class. If you are in-person class the Instructor will have some to try.


It is not necessary to purchase all new paints if you already have a basic set of soft tube colors. You must have one warm and one cool color for each hue. See below for choices. I would recommend ‘Professional artist grade’ over ‘student grade’ paints to achieve better results. (Winsor & Newton student grade watercolor is called “Cotman” so take notice when purchasing the Winsor Newton brand.)  Professional artist-grade paints contain more pure saturated color and less filler. Your tubes will last for years, so consider this an investment.

Paints are best in fresh soft tubes. Do not use old paint dried on your palette, your results will never be ideal. Sometimes it is okay to use dried paints if it has only been a week/month or so. Not 15 years old.

COLORS to purchase:  Not all colors are the same across brands. For example, a basic color such as Burnt Umber may look and paint differently depending on brand.  NOTE the word “OR” in the categories below. One warm and one cool hue from the list below are necessary for a well-rounded palette. **The colors that are underlined are essential to have.

(Plein-Air painters may want to have convenience colors, meaning ‘readily available,’ for quick access in ever-changing light. Usually, greens, oranges, and purples fall into this category. For example, you know that you will be painting flowers or the Carribean, a brighter color such as fuchsia or teal may be needed as well.

TUBE COLORS are great but pans are fine as well. 15ml tubes are the best value and will help you to more fully explore watercolor.


warm (must have one) —Cadmium Yellow Medium (warm); Daniel Smith New Gamboge (warm) OR Hansa yellow deep (warm) / Hansa Yellow Medium – (warm neutral)

cool (must have one)Hansa Yellow Light (neutral ) OR Azo yellow (transparent cool)  OR Cadmium yellow light (opaque cool)


warm (must have one) — Cadmium red light (warm) OR  Scarlet lake (warm) OR  Pyrrol Scarlet

cool (essential are underlined)Permanent Rose (cool) OR  Quinacridone Rose(cool)  AND  Permanent Alizarin Crimson (cool)

BLUE:  (all are essential):

Cobalt blue (neutral)

French ultramarine blue (warm)

Cerulean blue (cool) or Phthalo Blue GS (cool)

PURPLE:   Quinacridone Magenta, Winsor Violet

GREEN:  Sap green (warm) / Phthlalo green BS (cool) or Hooker’s Green (somewhat neutral) Nice to have a Viridian. It is good for mixes and not as staining as Phthalo.


EARTH COLORS (all are essential):

Burnt sienna, Raw sienna, Raw umber, Burnt umber

Chinese White or gouache



Quinacridone Magenta

Pyrrol Orange Transparent

Perylene Maroon

Quinacridone Gold

Potters Pink (Winsor & Newton)

Cobalt Teal

Transparent Red Oxide


(If you are new to watercolor, purchase basic colors listed above. If you are more advanced, my advice is to spend time getting to know the paints that you already have in your palette rather than buying new colors. I suggest that you hold off for a month or so to work out how you might change your palette rather than just blindly purchasing new color. Of course, a couple of new colors could inspire new directions in your paint mixes.)



Cold press watercolor paper is preferred, and 140lb. or heavier is ideal. Full sheets are 22” x 30”. Arches and Fabriano are two widely available brands.

You can purchase 3-5 sheets and and divide one sheer in four pieces for exercises, homework, or small paintings. Or a watercolor black. I like the Arches Cold Press block 18” x 24”.


You may purchase a large OR medium palette.  Large —John Pike brand palette or any palette with a lid. /  Medium – Mijello Fusion plastic palette that can be folded up.  Palettes should be carried flat to and from class if holding fresh paint so paint won’t ooze where it should not. The Mijello palette states that it is air-tight, but should be placed in a ziplock for possible leaks


Small spray bottle for water

porcelain dishes for mixing. Or a mixing tray

water container

paper towels

pencil and eraser


old tooth brush

Magic Eraser kitchen sponge

A kit of supplies is not available for purchase online through The Art League’s website as there are too many options listed to put together a kit that will meet the needs of all students taking this class.

Please contact us at store@theartleague.org if you would like to purchase a selection of items from the above.

How to Register

When registration is open (check the “Registration starts” date above), click the Add to Cart button to select this course. Add as many classes and workshops as you like, and then proceed to the Checkout page to complete your registration.

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