Anna Mason’s Online School


Hi everyone, today's post is a bit different then usual since it’s more of a review then a how to create a certain project post. I have been wanting to learn how to use watercolour paints for a really long time, but I also knew that I would have trouble painting in a very loose way (which is usually associated with watercolours). So, I was looking for a teacher that could teach me how to paint in a detailed way with watercolours!

And then I came across Anna Mason’s art work: which is watercolour, but in a really detailed and realistic way. I decided to buy the minimal amount of high quality supplies to be able to take the free class that Anna provides (so that you can see if her style of teaching is working for you) and after that I was hooked and bought the rest of the paint colours she advices. I also found that I love Anna’s special brush line.

If you are following me on social media then you have seen pictures of today’s paintings pass by in the past months. I thought it would be fun to create a blog post about my experience and answer some of the questions that I have received. If you have questions after reading this post feel free to ask me or sent Anna’s School an email.

Now, Anna’s lessons are in English, but even when your English is not 100 % you can still follow along, because Anna speaks clear and in a calm voice, she explains what you can see her hands are doing (in most of the video’s). Once you have subscribed to the school (which is possible for one month, 6 months or one year, with an automatic follow up) you have excess to all the tutorials that are provided (as long as you are a school member), which are about 70 at the moment, with one new one each month in addition to the present ones.

In the end I subscribed for a 6 month period, which I have almost completed at this point. The next 6 months I know I won’t have much time to paint so I think about subscribing again in Fall. Then I will start again with the beginners level.

All the tutorials available are categorized per difficulty level (from beginner to pro, in four levels) and in addition to that you can follow a beginners path from one tutorial to the next in a way Anna thought best for you to learn the skills that you need in each following lesson, which I think is awesome. Most tutorials are nature inspired (which I love), with a few exceptions (like a spoon or a cupcake).

I was stubborn though and decided not to follow the provided path as a beginner: after the pear class I completed three other beginner tutorials and then skipped to the intermediate level where I also completed three tutorials. Each tutorial has it’s own challenges and I learned a lot, about how to use watercolours paints, how to apply them to the paper, how to create visual texture, in what order to apply the paints to the paper, how to mix colours to create new ones, how to look at a picture to create the realistic but painted look I was going for!

Some things that I find worth knowing / tips before you start:

- Schedule your time for painting (block time in your (busy) schedule);

- When you have finished a tutorial, choose your next one, print the outline drawing that is provided with each tutorial (you don’t have to be able to draw to be able to paint!), when you have small amounts of time prepare your next painting and start painting when you have more time.

I have experienced mental difficulties starting or picking up a painting that I haven’t had time for after a couple of days: you don’t want to ruin what you have already created, you might think you can’t do this, that it’s too hard, but please, try at least, in the end it’s only paper and you can always start over! Every time, once I started painting, that feeling went away!

That being said, I started one tutorial that I never completed, I wasn’t having fun and I couldn’t really see the details I needed in the video, I guess that was one of Anna’s earlier ones, so I decided to move on to a different subject and video that I liked better. But I also picked up my brush several times, not knowing if I was able to finish the painting in a way that I would be satisfied with, and I did complete all the other paintings that I started, which I’m really proud of;

- Make sure that you have plenty of time when you have scheduled your painting session.

I had no prior experience of how to paint with watercolours but I do have experience in other mediums but not in creating projects in a realistic way.

Each tutorial took me way much more time then Anna estimates: I think this is partly because I have no experience and partly because I’m a perfectionist and I only completed four beginner tutorials before skipping to the intermediate level.

During the last parts of each tutorial I started focusing more on the picture provided and painting what I saw, and less on what Anna was doing, but incorporating the tips she provides, and always watching if I didn’t miss anything important, this also might have caused that I have spent more time on a painting then Anna estimates, I guess I like to do things my own way;

- It is hard to step away from a painting that you have invested hours of your time in and really see if you are done or not: I found it helpful to take a picture (in good lighting) and judge from that (are the highlights light enough and the shadows dark enough for example);

- Don’t compare your end result to other peoples work and then talk yourself down: not everybody starts at the same starting point, not everybody looks at the provided pictures in the same way, I for example know that I can see much more details then most other people because I have 120 % vision (with contact lenses that is), not everybody is willing to spent the amount of hours that I spent on one single project;

- Some of the older tutorials, I think these were the first few ones where Anna was still working on perfecting her teaching method, are a bit more difficult to follow for a less experienced painter like me (I like it when Anna mixes the colours and at THAT moment tells me what she is doing, not afterwards when the paint is already mixed and she is telling how to mix the paint when she already starts painting, but that is just my personal preference // I also prefer a zoomed in view of the area she is painting at the moment, not an overview of the entire painting while she is painting a small detail that I can’t recognise from that distance). That being said: almost all of the video’s are really good quality and for filming tutorials also goes, learning by doing!;

- Anna provides a full list of materials that she uses (also available if you’re not a school member), which is awesome if you have no experience, and yes, of course you can use what you already have, but it might be a little bit more time consuming to mix the right colours or achieve the same effects with different paints and/or paper. I found that the list of supplies isn’t that long, all her tutorials are painted with the same limited amount of paint colours and you really only need a little bit of paint for one painting, so once you have a certain tube of paint it will last you a long time. Since I painted during the wintertime I also found a daylight lamp very helpful;

- Incorporated in the school is also a Community with a Forum where you can ask questions (about problems you experience, equipment questions and so on) and talk to other school members from over the whole world, which is really nice.

You can also upload a picture of you completed painting to share with the other students and you can see what other students have created in the past;

- I used my laptop for running the video’s and my Ipad for showing me the picture of the item I was painting, this way I didn’t have to switch screens constantly which saved me a lot of time: this also means, since I’m not painting on an easel, but flat on a desk, that my painting and the picture are right next to each other.

That's it! If you have any questions feel free to ask!

These past six months were a really awesome experience, I love Anna’s way of teaching, the tutorials are really good, and I’m thankful for Anna providing this way of teaching to learn others how to paint like she does!

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