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Erik Tiemens Watercolor Sketching Workshop

October 6, 2008

We’re just back from a wicked two day workshop with artist Erik Tiemens. Check out his gallery page: or his blog: virtualgouacheland

Erik had us working on two main topics; developing tiny thumbnails and sketches (captured in the field) into more finished studio paintings, and learning his powerful watercolor technique; which involves the use of gouache mixed with traditional watercolor.

His paintings often start as conventional watercolor washes over which he gradually builds more and more opaque gouache/watercolor mixes. (I believe this would be called ‘body color’). His final results have a deep rich tone that brings to mind the paintings of the Hudson River school. It’s a surprisingly flexible method – I found it easy to wipe out whole sections, push back areas with glazes, scrub or scratch back to the original staining pigment…generally it’s a very oil-like way of working with watercolor.

First Exercise: Mark-making random landscapes:
To get us feeling out his watercolor technique, Erik had us work on pages of tiny thumbnails. We’d do a dozen of these at the same time, allowing washes to set up on one, while we worked on another. The idea is to start with random brushwork, and gradually transform the blobs into imaginary landscapes…

Here’s some more taken a little further:

Second Exercise – Field Notes:
Heading out to the rocky coast (only blocks from the studio) we spent an hour sketching in the field. Just making his tiny thumbnails, or ‘note taking’ sketches. The goal was to take these compositional notes back to the studio, and create paintings from memory.

We weren’t meant to try and reproduce our thumbnails exactly, just use them as a jumping off point. These are done back at the workshop, based on what we’d just gone and sketched at lunch. The idea was to keep the spontaneous paint handling from the random landscapes, attempting to force it into a specific scene we’d just observed.

Overall, a great workshop! – besides the magic of ‘gouachercolor’ I discovered the totally hilarious attention deficit fun of working on six paintings and the same time, plus got to watch some impressive start-to-finish demos.

If you ever get a chance to study with Tiemens – grab it if you can. There is talk of future workshops, so watch his blog.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2008 11:07 PM

    All these came out beautifully! Sounds like a really great workshop.

  2. October 7, 2008 7:37 AM

    These are fantastic dude, I’m inspired to try some :)

  3. October 10, 2008 7:49 PM

    Brilliant sketches!:o)

  4. Sean Thurlow permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:08 AM

    This really is a great method I should mess with. I need to do some…totally.

  5. Jack gamache AiA permalink
    January 19, 2020 12:51 PM

    Would love to attend one of your workshops

  6. Lauren R Sherwood permalink
    May 16, 2020 8:25 PM

    Sounds like a wonderful workshop! Thanks for sharing!! Would you mind telling us what colors you use in your palette? Did you work with a limited palette by chance?


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