WS 12 – Tea Milk and Honey – Seven Years Later: Latest thinking on expressive watercolor sketching


Instructor:  Marc Holmes


It’s been seven years since I first began teaching Tea, Milk and Honey at urban
sketching workshops. Over the years, I’ve refined my approach to be more graphic,
even faster and taking more advantage of wet-in-wet effects.

In this workshop we’ll start with some very fast, small-format sketching to experience the concepts of Tea, Milk and Honey, then complete a large format watercolor on location, working side-by-side.

I’ll demonstrate, then students will apply, as we walk through the steps of my three-value approach, from Tea-tinted sketch, through Milky massed mid-tones, and the final dark accents in Honey-thick paint mixes.

Learning Goals:

  • VALUE STACKING: How to see the world in terms of Light-to-Dark painting.
    Learn to see the Lightest Local Color that goes underneath the future mid-tone
  • SHADOW SHAPES: How to isolate the form of cast shadow, and apply it on top of a silhouette – and – when to shortcut the system by going directly to mass tone.
  • BRUSH HANDLING TECHNIQUES: Fused Strokes, Charging-in, Edge Pulling – three simple techniques are all you ever need. Bonus tips might include covering large areas (skies) and solutions for people, trees, or water – whatever might be unique to the sketching location.

Supply List:

  • NOTE: For the best workshop experience, field test ALL your gear two or three
    days before you come to the workshop. Chairs break, water containers leak, etc.
  • DRAWING BOARDS: To stand, or to work on your lap, you probably want a lightweight drawing board. I recommend Coroplast. Get big sheets from a hardware store, cut to size at home with a craft knife. Two or more boards clipped together are more rigid. I use multiple boards for a day trip (3-5) and tape paper down in advance, so each sheet is on its own backing. I cut my boards large enough for taping 11×15” watercolor paper, (1/4 sheet) with a bit extra for clipping, and will often do two to four small paintings on a sheet. I carry wet boards in my hand and dry boards in a ‘beach bag’ or tote-style shoulder bag.
  • WATERCOLOR PAPER: I use 140 lb Fabriano Artistico Bright White, Cold Press (medium texture). Any comparable artist’s grade paper will do. Cheapest to buy full sheets (22×30”) and cut to preferred size. Also, Canson Montval (student grade) in pads, or Strathmore 300, 400, 500 (higher number, better paper). I don’t like sketchbooks. Too heavy. And you can’t turn the page on a wet painting, so you have to stop working. But – if you only feel properly USk-ish with a sketchbook in hand, that’s up to you 🙂 I would bring three books in small or medium sizes and clips to hold them open when they are wet.
  • POINTED ROUND BRUSH (Sable): This technique is easier with a good brush. I recommend the Winsor and Newton Artist’s Watercolor Sable Pointed Round in #7 or 8 size. (Affordable) If you paint larger, I like a DaVinci Sable Mop in #3 or 4. (Pricey) Possibly, consider a good travel brush (Escoda Reserva or DaVinci Travel Brush, even more pricey!) Otherwise, consider Rafael Soft Aqua or Princeton Neptune synthetics. BTW – I don’t like Squirrel hair. Too soft to draw with – can’t get sharp edges. Also, I don’t recommend water brushes. You can’t control the moisture of the paint with a constant flow of water leeching into it. Also, the nylon waterbrush tip is not suitable for fine drawing or controlled dry brushing.
  • PORTABLE PAINT WATER: I use 125ml/4oz Nalgene bottles to hold water in my board-hand, or in an open sling bag at my waist. Carry three for a full day of clean water. (One larger water gets dirty faster than three small.) Change water at meals and/or washroom breaks. Nalgene also has 60ml/2oz and 30ml/1 oz. If you go smaller, you will need to refill more often.
  • FOLDING STOOL/EASEL: You’re going to have to make the call if you need either. They’re tiring to haul around, but they’re helpful.
  • NOTE: Paints transported as carry-on COUNT AGAINST YOUR LIQUIDS AND GELS LIMIT. Tubes in checked luggage should be packed in clear plastic storage boxes with a friendly note to inspectors saying they are “Non Flammable Water Based Artist’s PIGMENTS.” (Paint is a no-fly word. Don’t say paint.)

My 24 pigment list is on this page:

For some economical triadic palettes see: