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Discovering watercolours

I’ve always been a little intimidated by watercolours.  Their unruly and random behaviour when dropped into a puddle of water puzzled me. How could this be the medium of choice for those precise, highly detailed botanical artists? I didn’t understand.  I was looking for a weekly artistic outlet and decided to invest some time to find out more.

Having painted very little since school, in 2019 I enrolled in a watercolour class at the Brisbane Institute of Art under the expert guidance of Mia Clarke. Mia is amazing; she’s impulsive, chaotic and usually 5 minutes late!  But she’s also a brilliant teacher, always cheerful and encouraging, has a great balance of demonstrating technique and enabling you to play, and can help you tackle any roadblock. She’s ambitious too - the 18 week course packs in loads of techniques and subjects. Our first exercise taught us the basics of when to use wet on wet and wet on dry with some small studies of gum leaves. In the ensuing weeks we painted sunflowers, landscapes, geese, mountains, abstracts and much more, churning out masterpieces weekly and growing in confidence.

I became a fan of those unruly explosions of colour, learning how to apply paint in a controlled way to generate interesting patterns and textures.  In the second half of the semester we moved into combining watercolours with other media, including printing with a gel press.  I loved the anticipation of a print, not quite knowing whether the first or the second pass would work the best or how the paint would mix when pressed. I started working on my own projects in between classes, becoming more experimental, tackling harder subjects and combining watercolours with other mediums.

By the end of the course not only had I gained a good appreciation of watercolour painting but I also felt inspired to create again.  

The BIA has some amazing weekend and term courses, and if you haven’t created before or for a while it’s a great place to kick off your creative journey.


Mia Clarke’s contact details:


 Stormy sea watercolour  Geese study watercolour  Watercolour Broken Wing  Jeffrey Smart watercolour study

 Gel Print Welcome to the Matrix  Under her eye watercolour  Jellyfish watercolour