Expeditionary glacier watercolor 39x60inches 1

Loosen Up! Watercolor Workshop

This is a class designed to help create a looser approach to watercolors, enable students to feel more capable with the paints, and end “tight” painting. The workshop focuses on working with water, learning how to mix colors, understanding paper, and understanding the strengths (and weaknesses) of the medium.

Within the 5 hours (1/2 hour for lunch), we’ll work with a “wet-on-wet” approach for much of the time using many different surfaces and methods. Students will work with several pieces and may not finish any of them (because they’ll have to dry). However, the point of this class is not to have you walk out with a completed painting but, rather, with a new “box of tools” to compliment your painting style.

The class starts with going over the basics of watercolor paint and mixing colors. After several exercises on less expensive watercolor paper, we’ll spend some time investigating the differences of different weights and surfaces (hot/cold press, clay vs. paper). Students will go over the basics of outlining and structuring a watercolor painting. In the last few hours, there will be a lesson on “tricks of the trade” and then students will have the opportunity to either begin a still life or work on something they have already brought in (I encourage this so that you can use the acquired tools on a subject that’s already inspired your interest).


To start, if you already have watercolor paints/paper, then you should bring those and we can make them work. It’s helpful (not required) if you have both inexpensive watercolor paper and some good paper (140lb). This way you can do a lot of small exercises without wasting the good stuff.

In addition, I like to have people try 300lb watercolor paper because we’re working so wet - but it’s expensive. So I bring sheets which you can buy (a full or half sheet is fine) - Arches is the most common brand, but I also bring Fabriano. I buy the full sheets (22” x 30”) in bulk, so I bring some to class and they can be purchased at $13/sheet. Also, up to 4 people can share one sheet if they like. This is just something to try and also not required. Although once you work with great paper, you may not want to go back!

If you don’t already have paint, you should have artist grade watercolors in either tubes or pans. I recommend starting with six colors (you can buy small tubes, they do tend to last a long time):

  • Indigo Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson or Permanent Rose

You can save money on brushes as you don’t need to buy the most expensive sable brush. A good synthetic or mixed natural/synthetic is fine. You need at least one round brush with a good tip. You should have at least one larger and one smaller brush. Even if you tend to paint very small, you’ll need something at least as large as a size 12. The brush should feel good in your hand. Generally, any brushes you already have work just fine – you can see if you need something else once you come to class. I can lend you a brush as well.

Looking forward to the workshop!

About the Instructor

Lisa Goren's solo exhibition in our Gallery, The Far Reaches, is on display March 21–April 25.

Lisa Goren was born in California and raised in NYC. And yet she has dreamed of Polar landscapes since she was in her teens. Her first trip took her to Antarctica where she was inspired and captivated by the landscape. Later travels to Iceland, Alaska, increased her love for the Polar Regions. Her watercolors show an unfamiliar landscape in a new light. By using vibrant colors and taking risks with different surfaces, she makes the viewer reevaluate their understanding of both these landscapes and their beliefs in the potential of the medium. Her works create questions about the nature of abstraction and our planet as many of her pieces are representations of unfamiliar, threatened terrains.

Lisa’s work can be found in personal collections worldwide, from Australia to Iceland, and the United States. Her place on the 2013 Arctic Circle Residency was chronicled in an article she wrote for the New York Times and led her to her next phase of her Polar work. She had two pieces in “Gaia - Les femmes et l'ecologie” in Paris to coincide with the COP21 Climate talks. Recently, her Google Talk gave her a larger platform to discuss her travels, art, and the Polar regions.

Lisa has been working out of Boston, Massachusetts for the past 25 years and is Vice-President of the National Association of Women Artists (Mass. Chapter).


Our classes and workshops are open to students of all abilities and needs. We are currently unable to provide one-on-one instruction, though we will make every attempt to address accommodations for full and successful engagement whenever possible.
If a student requires individual supports, parent/guardian/PCA/teacher/ABA Therapists/etc are welcome to attend.
Please contact Christine Ernst, Director of Education, for more information at christine@cotuitcenterforthearts.org.