top of page

Guest ARTicle: Using Youtube to Hone Watercolor Skills

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

by John "Randy" Stout, Watercolor Artist and SAGE Member

A little girl and her uncle smile at the camera while working on a drawing
Randy Stout and his niece practice sketching together

YouTube is full of wonderful general instruction that helps me expand my thinking. Watching a watercolor master is generally more enjoyable than any TV show. Seeing the processes that various individual artists use reminds me that everybody’s point of view is important and unique.

They can inspire and motivate - sometimes, like now, when that is exactly what’s needed - helping find a way out of a problem, or different paths through the tough spots. The possibilities are endless.

Three Suggested Artists:

Sarah Yeoman - wet in wet - composition - very little detail  - |

Peter Sheeler - Lots of small, quick, simple line + wash paintings.

Iain Stewart - Instructor at the Wyoming Watercolor Society workshop in Sheridan 2017(?) | Watercolor Workshop Lesson Tutorial  - |

A few notes I made while watching

his magic happen on YouTube:

- His sketches alone are works of art. Seems to always begin with a pencil sketch.

- Uses a small , limited palette with only 5 mixing wells. 

- Doesn’t worry too much about dirty water.

- Uses granulation, value and color seemingly without even thinking about it.

- Always tapes the edges with regular masking tape.

- Top down varied washes leaving (in his words) “islands in the stream” white highlights.

- Helpful narration. He makes it look and sound easy.

Watercolor painting of mountains at sunset. There is a lake that reflects the pine trees in its water.
"Geneva 19" by Randy Stout

Best practices for learning from YouTube (or other online references):

-Pick a technique or style or subject, or color scheme.

- There are so many videos to choose from! Just watch a few, and don't watch all day. The point is to actually create work and learn by doing. 

-Get some ideas, get inspired.

-Turn off the computer - or pause the video - turn on the music or however you work.

-Do 3 or 4 practice thumbnails or sketches - start simple and small.

-Try to put your new ideas onto 1 sheet, maybe 8 x 10 or your preferred size.

-Review your results.

-Notice how the watercolor fades as it dries, notice granulation, blended edges, 

contrast, composition, hard and soft edges, pure and neutralized colors.

-Do a better one, based on what you just learned, maybe out of your comfort zone.

-Get out of your comfort zone into a new, fun, and adventurous learning zone.

A few other online sources:

American Watercolor Online has a good newsletter:

Urban Sketchers -

Instagram - I use it just to follow artists

National Portrait Gallery Virtual Collections -

The not very short list of a few other great artists to watch:

And Many More…

I’d like to hear from SAGE Artists about their online suggestions. Please send your suggestions to


bottom of page