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Expressive Watercolor: Make Visible the Invisible- Online

Instructor: Susan O’Neill

Capture inspirations in loose, vibrant, and expressive ways. Students will explore the expressive character of painting with watercolor. Learn to observe and interpret the dynamic relationships that exist between elements within the pictorial space. Gain confidence in working with watercolor through understanding brush and paint control to create luminous mixes and subtle nuances. Students learn to embrace watercolor’s magical qualities through a variety of inspiring subjects. Included are discussions of historical and contemporary examples and instructor demonstrations. My goal is to help students create work that is fresh, vital, and alive. The finished piece will be a record of that journey. This class in presented on Zoom.

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

All Dates & Times

Class Supplies

Expressive Watercolor: Make Visible the Invisible

Expressive Watercolor:  Make Visible the Invisible, 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 purchase the best that you can afford. What is most important is a good sable brush. 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 figure gestures and exercises

-Three colors of paint, example: red, yellow, blue

-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 sable round or squirrel mentioned above watercolor brush.


I suggest three brushes for this Fall class. 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, such as the brush above, a stiffer synthetic watercolor brush (any). All will be discussed forst day of class.

#8 or #10 or #12 Kolinsky Sable Round is always a sure bet but they can be expensive.



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 is 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: (essentials are underlined – best to have a warm and cool of each color. Suggestions are listed.)


warm (must have one) —Cadmium yellow medium (warm)  OR  new gamboge (warm);  OR 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)

EARTH COLORS (all are essential):

Burnt sienna, Raw sienna, Raw umber, Burnt umber

Titanium White



Quinacridone Magenta

Pyrrol Orange Transparent

Quinacridone Gold

Potter Pink (Winsor & Newton)

Cobalt Turquoise Light

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.)



Several sheets of 140lb. watercolor paper sheets or a watercolor block will be fine for this class.

Paper suggestions in sheets:  Arches or Fabriano Watercolor Paper 140 lb.

Size:  For blocks the recommendation is 10” x 14” or larger. For loose sheets 22” x 30”

(these sheets may be torn into halves or quarters if you wish).

Paper Surface:  Cold-pressed and Hot-pressed (which is smooth) are what I will be using in class. Rough tends to be more difficult with figure painting unless you are doing something highly unconventional.

It is really a personal preference.  Buy paper that says, “100% cotton or rag content.”

Each brand of paper differs. Fabriano also makes a paper called soft-pressed which is in between hot and cold-pressed.

A watercolor block is an easy option especially if you are interested in Plein air painting, as the paper won’t have to be mounted down. Or several sheets of 140lb. loose sheets 22” x 30” watercolor paper sheets torn into easily manageable sizes for painting excursions. Then mounted on a board.




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. There are many options for plein air paintings in this department. Simple solutions are best. (see some images below.)

My favorite plein air set is the Winsor Newton Cotman Watercolor Field Box Set of 12 Half Pans (which I fill with tube paint once the half pan it empty. Or remove the cake and replace with desired color)



porcelain dishes for mixing. Or a mixing tray

water container

paper towels

pencil and eraser

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