Although I am a K-5 art teacher, I am also a practicing watercolorist, and as such, I ocassionally teach watercolor workshops to adults. I have developed a set of lessons that teach the basics of watercolor that I have found are successful for both beginners and more advanced students. They are unusual, so most have not encountered these lessons before. I have also taught these lessons to HS students.
* I begin with giving each student a basic plastic pallett, then have them lay out the pallet with watercolors, if you use tube colors. If you use pan colors, skip this.
* Every student gets a full sheet of watercolor paper- talk about watermarks and how they are important, as well as paper basis weights and thier attributes. Have students tear the paper in half, then into 4ths and 8ths.You should have 6-1/8 sized and one 1/4 sized sheets.
* Using your 1/4 sized sheet for a background, each student should be given "props" for a series of studio exercises, each building a specific skill.
* Excercise One: On a 1/8th sized sheet, have students lay out a couple of sample color excercises- flat wash, graded wash, wet-in-wet, drybrush.
* Exercise Two: Gumdrops. 1/8 sized sheet. One gumdrop set up on the white paper gives the student experience in translucent object painting and shadows cast by it. Object is to capture the visual clues presented by the object and to show where it is located in space by the use of shadows, not the edge of the paper. A day's lesson could be starting with one drop, then adding more to build an arrangement and show relationships between objects.
* Exercise Three: 1/8 sized sheet. Ribbons. I have students cut up a solid colored ribbon into a 5-6 inch piece, then arrange on the paper. Object here is to learn how to paint reflective or metallic surfaces and the shadows they cast. Notice how shadows and surface differ in characteristics from the soft gumdrop. Add more ribbons to make the project more complex. Talk about real-life applications of this excercise--painting a picture of a bicycle or other shiny objects.
* Exercise Four: 1/8 sized sheet. Glass of water with object placed inside. Place on white paper. This explores reflection, refraction and the types of shadows cast by glass. Try different objects for variation.
* Excercise Five: 1/8 sized sheet. Mirrored images. Get some mirror tiles or broken pieces of mirror for this excercise. Object of course is to explore reflected images. Always look for visual clues that tell you which part of the object is reflected, which is original object. Use a favorite object of the students for this- one of thier many body piercing might do!
* Excercise Six: 1/4 sized sheet. Set up a central still life for all to work on together. It should consist of a cloth draped over different levels and some objects with basic geometric shapes, like pottery or containers. Make shure some of the concepts already taught are included here. This will get them painting in a real-life situation.
* This set of painting excercises has been very popular with my students, and each has a real-life application for the watercolorist. Eventually, you should work your way into painting scenery, still-life, or figures, depending on the skill levels you encounter. Hope this helps.Jerry