Planning a Year’s Watercolour Classes


I teach a private weekly watercolour class for 18 super people.

The task of getting 39 weekly watercolour classes planned for the academic year 18-19 has been exciting, hard and satisfying. Ultimately has given my poor old mind peace instead of constantly thinking about what to paint for next class each week.

I decided to get to grips with my planning as prior to doing so I had been going by the seat of pants and only picking a subject about 4 days before teaching it.

This was proving exhausting and irritating and didn’t allow me to put as much in as I wanted.

I had shied away from planning long term as I didn’t think I could stick to the plan and stick to my choices. I have trouble with commitment!

So I dove in and committed 39 images to paper and then arranged them so that my students would have different subjects/themes and approaches each week – to keep them interested you understand!



This was the start! Nothing planned but a big sheet of paper ready to start getting ideas down on paper.


I spent a few days on gleaning the best images for my students.


Things I had to consider and agonise over for every one were:-

1 Interest value for my students

2 ability of my students – ranging from complete painting beginner to very well versed multi media artists

3 doability – what could we reasonably paint in about 2.5 hours

4 Challenge/stretching value – was this going to help people learn something new in each class whilst still reinforcing fundamental watercolour techniques as well as exploring several new special effects and equipment

5 colour scheme – trying to always change the main colours so that we explored all 16 colours on our class palette


Once I had picked 39 images I printed them off and cut them all out (see below) and began the fun element of arranging them in date order so that I ended up with an appetising mix for the year’s programme.


It was a blast to be able to pick up and physically move subjects to get everything perfect before I stuck them all down.

I could then allocate exact dates and know what I was going to be doing on any given date!

This was a first for me.


Now I knew what I was going to be doing I could do the following which I have found very fulfilling:-

  • get the outlines done
  • work out all the colours I would need
  • decide on how best to teach it by doing small studies of more complex subjects
  • understand the tonality of each painting to better explain all the lights – mids and dark tones to students before painting
  • prepare any further support materials such as extra close up images of elements in the subject to get nitty gritty detail and
  • mull over the emotional side of each painting – deciding on what it was I wanted to say about it.



Being this prepared has also allowed me to produce a programme for my students so that they know what is coming up too.

I also tell them what kind of paper I would recommend for each subject etc.

In class I now feel able to give my all and to give more one to one student tuition because I am ready and more relaxed – knowing what I am going to do.

All this done I find that I now have more time for my additional art activities such as designing for greetings card and poster companies and creating watercolour tutorials for my Youtube channel.

Finally I have more time and impetus to go more deeply into my own painting path and explore hunches and impulses as they occur as weeks go by.

What have you found that planning or lack of it does for your creativity?




12 thoughts on “Planning a Year’s Watercolour Classes

  1. As a former PA who worked in a big college I am totally impressed by this Alison! Wow! Wish I lived in Wales again close enough to attend your classes – I’d be inspired and motivated! I’m already learning from your last two blogs the benefits of planning rather than trying to jump straight in and expect the end result to be a masterpiece, which it isn’t!! Many thanks for sharing this extraordinary work.

    1. I too used to be PA to the Director General of the National Museums & Galleries of Wales and yes – organisation was all. I’d love to have you in my class. That has made my day to hear how you find this blog useful – I’ll keep ’em coming then. A

  2. Hello Alison – if I lived in Wales surely I would be a member of your weekly class…I love your work and your tutorials… I am very organised, no matter how big or how small the task. I plan, because it frees me from potential disasters, I don’t flounder, it frees up my time, frees up emotional and mental space so that I can focus on the job at hand to do the best that I can and most importantly it frees up my potential to let my creativity loose once the foundation has been laid down. And, like you’ve discovered it’s soooooo good to know clearly what you are aiming to achieve and how you are going to get there…. My committment phobia relates to locking myself into other people’s long term projects…

    1. That is so kind Magdalena – thanks! It really does help being ahead of the game doesn’t it? And yes – I feel so much more creative once I have clearded my path so to speak. I too find it hard to join in with communal plans – I am an Aquarian and a Fire Horse – so that’s probably why!:) So glad you find the tutorials enjoyable. What creativity are you into?

  3. Thank you so much I teach classes in Arizona at our winter home golf community. I was just starting to think about what to do and I’m thrilled to have this. It’s wonderful information.
    I’ve only got three days to get packed, fly done and figure out the first class. I’m so gonna do this because I’m stressed out the night before

    1. Hi Jean – well that was very fortuitous then and I am glad it helped in some way. What classes do you teach. Did you fly to Sky Harbour ? I was there in Oct 2005 for a 3 month stay in the 4 corners – trip of a lifetime. It is horrible being unprepared the night before – good luck.

  4. Good for you, Alison! If only I could be so organized! I know you can now take a deep breath and enjoy teaching! Thanks for all you do; I so enjoy your videos on YouTube!

  5. This is excellent. Your class are lucky people to benefit from such well planned lessons, and you must fell wonderful ( and a bit smug!) to have everything so well prepared.

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