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Workshop: Tower Bridge Plein Air with David R Smith

With your host John

Join Minnesota watercolour artist (and Bob Ross fan) David R Smith for this 2-3hr plein air workshop, filmed live with your host John, directly in front of Tower Bridge, London.

This is the first time David has visited the UK, and took place on David's birthday - 20 April 2022.


**See recommended materials below**


David will walk you through the steps to create a dynamic painting of tower bridge using a number of useful techniques. Meanwhile, John will put your questions to David and, from time to time, walk around the location to give you a feel of our chosen spot and the London scene.

Example 1

Example 2

Example sketch

Reference photo

Materials Top-Up

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Most people will be painting along online, while in their studio. Below are my studio materials:

NOTE: additional plein air/outdoor painting materials are listed further down the page)

  • Usual Supplies: palette, water container, masking tape &/or clips, towels, tissue, large spray bottle, hair dryer, pencil/eraser, etc. If you have an iPad/tablet, it can be used to display reference photos.

  • High quality paper (Arches, Fabriano Artistico, etc.). I will be painting with 300lb Rough Fabriano Artistico outdoors, but in the studio, I typically use 140lb Rough Fabriano Artistico or Arches. I’ll paint on a quarter sheet size (11”x15”).

  • If you would like to transfer a sketch, I recommend Craftsmart/MonaLisa Graphite Paper or Loew Cornell Gray Transfer Paper and a colored ball-point pen (red works well).

  • Professional Brand Tube Paint: Your choice of colors, but have some form of the primaries: Yellow, Red, Blue, a dark such as Indigo, Neutral Tint, or Payne’s Gray, and White Gouache.

On my palette: Bismuth Vanadate Yellow (QoR), Cadmium Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Thalo Blue, Cobalt Teal (QoR), Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Red, Opera (Holbein), Viridian, Sap Green, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Lavender (Holbein), Dioxazine Purple, Indigo, Neutral Tint, and White Gouache.

  • Brushes: A variety of rounds and flats will probably work fine. I recommend a Large Round or Mop brush with a nice point. If you’re curious, I typically use a variety of Synthetic Brushes: Escoda Round (Perla) size 12. Faux Squirrel 1827 Liner Aux. Reservoir size 12 (Dynasty). A 1.5” Flat Brush (Miller’s Pseudo Sable Mottler), and a variety of large rounds and mops. There are many options. A couple of my favorites are the Princeton Aqua Elite Quill #6, and the Escoda Prado (size 16).

  • Optional: Brushes for lifting: #4 & #16 Fritch Scrubber (Cheap Joe) and the #2 Artisan Short Flat/Bright long handled (Winsor & Newton).

  • Optional: Palette knife

  • Paint Board: I’ll use Foam Core. The board dimensions should be larger than the sheet of paper, which will be 11x15.

  • For part of the process, we will work at a slant. So, a table easel may come in handy or you may simply prop one end of your painting board up on a tissue box or something.

  • Palette: There are Many options based on your preferences… will you sit or stand, etc. If curious, I will be using a “En Plein Air Pro Advanced Series Watercolor Palette Shelf with cover”. It’s large, but I like that it fits onto a tripod/easel so I have my hands free.

    • I don’t own the whole En Plein Air Pro Package. I just have their palette. However, I know of a few Amazing artists who use the package, which includes easel, palette, tripod, etc.

  • The easel I use to hold my paper is the Guerrilla Painter No. 17 Flex Easel, which snaps onto my camera tripod. Note that I had to cut the easel down to fit into my carry-on. My tripod is the Manfrotto camera tripod - I like that its easel attachment is a ball joint so I can tilt it in any direction.

    • If you don’t plan on attaching your palette to an easel or tripod when painting outdoors, you have Lots of options - You could just use your studio palette, or bring a small travel palette.

  • Misc. Supplies:

    • collapsible water container,

    • Something to carry water in such as a screw top drinking bottle.

    • Sketchbook.

    • Bag or backpack to carry all your equipment.

    • Umbrella – for sun protection. I use the “easy L umbrella”.

    • Lightweight foldable chair. I prefer to stand when painting. Since I’m not accustomed to using a chair, I don’t have a recommendation. However, I have seen others use the GCI Outdoor Pack Seat.


"You did an amazing job presenting the plein air event today in London. Despite the technology issue, I think [the whole team] did an impressive job orchestrating this live watercolor tutorial. I do hope Shopkeeparty will offer more plein air watercolor tutorials on site. So exciting to do!

I am so sorry to hear that John’s computer and cell phone were taken. That’s awful, but to his credit, he kept calm and continued with a very brave presence. Kudos! That’s a demonstration of good character."

Francine Pratt


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