Home / Classes / EXPRESSIVE WATERCOLOR: Inspired Painting


Instructor: Susan O’Neill

*This class has reached capacity.  If you would like to be added to the wait list, please email school@theartleague.org.  This class costs $240*

Capture the essence of what interests you in loose, vibrant, and expressive ways to create a painting that inspires! Using a variety of subjects, students will explore the expressive and magical 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. Working with a variety of subjects, students learn to embrace the magical qualities of watercolor through a variety of inspiring subjects. Included are discussions of historical and contemporary examples and instructor demonstrations. My goal is to help students create fresh and vital work. The finished work will be a record of that journey. Supplies are listed below.

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

All Dates & Times

Class Supplies

Expressive Watercolor: Inspired Painting Supplies

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.

Expressive Watercolor:  Inspired Painting 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.
  • (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,

***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.

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.

YELLOW: Must have one warm and one cool yellow

warm —Cadmium Yellow Medium; Daniel Smith New Gamboge OR Hansa Yellow Deep / Hansa Yellow Medium

coolHansa Yellow Light (neutral ) OR Azo yellow (transparent cool)  OR Cadmium yellow light (opaque cool)



warm (must have one) — Pyrrol Scarlet, Cadmium Red Light (warm) OR Scarlet lake (warm)

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

EARTH COLORS (all are essential):

Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, 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 for week 1 and for watercolor sketches. 1 sheet of 300 lb fir the fiinal project which we will work on each week. 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”. They are expensive.



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



Sailor Fude De Mannen – Stroke Style Calligraphy Fountain Pen – Nib Angle 55 Degrees

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

To submit enroll, please 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 submit your registration. Online registrations must be confirmed by office staff in order for your enrollment to be completed. You will receive one notification when we have received your form, and another when we have confirmed your enrollment in a course.

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