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Watercolor for Absolute Beginners

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  I really DON'T have any artistic talent, and I can't draw at all. Will I really be able to paint if I take this class?

A:  Yes, you really will. This isn't a drawing class, and you don't have to know how to draw -- you can still learn to handle watercolors well enough to produce appealing  paintings. We begin with brushstrokes and controlling the water, then move on to simple landscapes, still life, flowers, and more.

You'll also learn the best ways to enlarge and trace images or photos that appeal to you -- your own photos, or images you find online -- and turn them into paintings using the skills you've learned. (That's not 'cheating', btw...even professionals trace their images.)

Remember, even accomplished oil painters can't produce perfect watercolors at first; watercolor is unlike any other paint. As beginners, you’re encouraged to risk, experiment, and sometimes make a mess.

Everything in the class is aimed at getting you familiar with the materials and techniques so you can paint on your own. Patience, persistence, and practice are required; producing masterpieces, however, is not.

Check out this student work to see where other self-described "talent-free" students began, and what they were able to do after a few weeks. If they could do it, so can you.

Q: What can I expect to learn?

A: Through demonstration and individual, hands-on help, you’ll learn all the basic watercolor facts and techniques:

  • washes, glazing, dry-brush, wet-on-dry, and wet-in-wet painting
  • the paints and papers that insure success rather than “mud”
  • color mixing and composition
  • how a full value range takes a painting from bland to dramatic
  • how to paint landscapes, trees, still life, flowers, and more
  • how to choose mats and frames, and care for your supplies

Q: Do I have to show my work to the whole class? I'm nervous about being criticized. 

A:  Don’t worry! Beginners always feel nervous about showing their work or listening to "critiques” of their paintings in class, but relax -- we're not preparing for an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. Be assured this class is zero-pressure.You’ll be encouraged to share your work during class and learn from each other, but there will be no “criticism”  -- only encouragement, suggestions, and patient help.

Q:  What are your credentials?

I'm Joan Iaconetti, and I've studied watercolor at the Cooper Union and the Art Students League in New York. Sixteen years ago I took up watercolor, and soon became pleasantly obsessed with it. Unfortunately, the two classes I took -- both with accomplished professional artists -- never covered the basics of working with watercolor, and left me confused and frustrated. As I taught myself from books, I began to put together the course I wish I'd been able to take -- this course, "Watercolor for Absolute Beginners."

I love teaching, and have taught at every level from third grade through graduate school and adult education. Here's what some of my watercolor students have said about this class:

"Joan has set a tone in the class that makes it easy to experiment and take risks -- a real necessity with this medium. She's also very knowledgeable."

"Her enthusiasm and helpfulness reduced my fears about trying something new."

"I can't imagine a better watercolor teacher."

"She's terrific -- encouraging, enthusiastic, and supportive."

Q:  Do I have to buy a textbook of any kind?

A:  No, a book is not required. But do take a look at some recommended books, even if you just browse through them in Barnes & Noble, the Strand, or online.

Q:  Should I wear a smock, or old clothes?

A:  You can, but it's not necessary. Watercolor isn't nearly as messy as oil or acrylic paint. However, accidental spills do happen, so don't wear your best white silk! Washable dark clothing is best.

 Q: What art supplies will I need?

A: You can either purchase your own supplies listed in the Materials List or you can order a “Beginner’s Kit” -- ten half-tubes of quality paints in a portable covered palette, a pad of 12 sheets of top-quality Arches brand paper, and 5 good-quality student brushes --  for $60.00 (about 15% less than buying it all yourself).

 If you run out of paint during the 6 weeks, refills are free; additional paper is available for $15 per pad. If you'd like a kit, please reserve one before class begins.

PLEASE NOTE: The ONLY thing I insist on is ARCHES brand paper, always available in my studio at cost, currently $15 for a 12-sheet pad.

You'll also need everyday supplies when paintings at home:  Kleenex and  paper towels, a ruler and a pencil, and a small spray bottle. Those will be available to borrow during class. 

Q: When? Where? How much?

The 6-week course is given regularly; the next beginning date is at the top of the home page and on the Sign-Up page.

Class meets once a week for 2.5 hours. Evening classes begin promptly at 7 pm and end at 9:30 pm.  Saturday noon classes run 12 noon to 2:30 pm.

The One-Day Workshops run about 5 hours total including 45 minutes for lunch. See the Sign-Up page for all the times and details.

The tuition is $285 for 6 weekly classes, payable by PayPal online; if you pay in cash at the first session, there is a $10 discount.  

You can order and pay cash for a $60 Beginner's Kit as well (about 15% less than buying it all yourself). Click for complete sign up information.

Note the ONE-DAY WORKSHOPS are $140 when paid online via PayPal, and $130 in cash at the door. The Materials Fee is $5, which means you borrow everything you need, and of course keep your paintings at the end of the day.

LOCATION for all classes and workshops:

Take the NORTH elevators (to the left) to the fifth floor; go to the end of the hallway, and STUDIO 509 is just around the corner.

"24-32 Union Square East" is the same address as "Park Avenue South, between 15 and 16 Streets."
The studio is in the Park South Plaza office building two doors north of the Raymour-Flanigan furniture store...two blocks north of the Union Square/14th Street subway station.

Trains: 4,5,6,L,N,R,Q,W   Do check to be sure the L is running, especially on weekends in 2020.

If you have other questions, or want to sign up, just email me. You can also call or text my cell at 917-804-1635.

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