The Value of Values

Placa Reial Barcelona – Watercolour value study by Paul Raymonde

If you have tried watercolour painting without guidance, you may well have found it fraught with difficulties. To paint it with confidence requires a very different approach to oil or acrylic. However, acquiring some clear methodology gives one confidence. I try to help those that join us on our 5 day workshop in Barcelona develop a solid workable technique.

Because I have seen the same problems and mistakes being made by many people, I decided in the last year to change the way I teach. I have designed a systematic course that starts with basics (complex enough on their own) and progresses to painting local city scenes in full colour. Fundamentals are stressed – particularly ‘Values’ (that is the tonal contrast between dark and light). Failing to make values clear seems to be a common problem in amateur watercolour, and makes a painting very flat.

Necessarily our classes are small. There is a lot of information to impart and I like to give each participant as much attention as possible. I supply all art materials as it is easier if we all use the same equipment. This is a workshop in which I hope learners go home with plenty of new knowledge.

On the first day, I ask students to make a monotone painting – this is known as a ‘value’ study. Not only does it demonstrate the importance of contrast but happily dispenses with the additional worry of mixing colours. We concentrate the lesson on drawing, tonality and watercolour brush technique. Students learn to make a successful ‘wash’, and how to judge and create a clear change in ‘values’. As previous visitors will testify, none of the scenes we paint are particularly simple. I believe however, it is good for people to challenge themselves, even absolute beginners. Jump in and be courageous. Composing an image and fearlessly drawing it from life are vital skills that every artist needs to develop. One learns to simplify and focus.

Having mastered the brushes and values we start the second day. Today we paint with two colours only, one warm and one cool. It can quickly be seen how profound the contrast is between warm and cool tones. The relative ‘temperature’ is in fact far more important than the hue of the colour. This is the second most significant consideration for painters after values. The depth of field in your painting is greatly enhanced and it gives you a powerful tool with which to represent reality.

The rest of the week is spent at prearranged sites in the city painting townscapes from life. We discuss colour mixing and effective palette combinations. This is great hands on experience to master simple watercolour construction. We practice working from light to dark, thinking from large to small and building up our images in layers from background to detail.

Most students go home with five good paintings and are often surprised that they actually painted them themselves. By the end of the week I hope students have acquired enough knowledge to confidently tackle any subject of your choosing.

If you are interested in joining us please get in touch with Angela on

The Great Catalan Calçot Feast

Calçots – Watercolour by Paul Raymonde

If you are in Barcelona in the winter months between December and March you may have heard of the mysterious Catalan meal, the Calçotada. Hugely popular rural entertainment, the feast starts with a large pile of Calçots (Pronounced: kal-sots), fire blackened vegetables somewhere between spring onions and leeks.

Calçots are not grilled or even barbecued but scorched wholesale over a blazing bonfire until the outside is a charred ruin. Revelers are sensibly equipped with bibs and plastic gloves so as to tackle the incinerated legumes with minimal damage to themselves and those close to them. The singed scallion is then grasped firmly by its sooty exterior and its pristine steaming white interior is pulled smoothly from within. This must be firstly dunked in a bowl of red Romescu sauce, a delicious concoction made from pureéd red peppers and almonds. It is then dangled precariously above the expectant diner’s mouth. Sauce dripping in all directions one knows one is truly in rustic paradise.

When the Calçots are finally eaten the festivity normally moves on to plates of grilled meat or sausages, barbecued potatoes and white beans. Wine flows abundantly and merriment abounds. This is a tradition which feels timeless and is all the more valuable in our modern transitory lives.

One goes home tired, full and absolutely filthy but happy and satisfied to have partaken and already thinking of the next one.

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