Depicting space using watercolours : a 6 week course

Gail Astbury

26 Apr - 31 May

OPEN Ealing Arts Centre W5 2TD

£100 (Pay As You Go Rate : £20 per session)

Class details

During this new six week course we focus on depicting space using watercolours. It’s led by practising artist and tutor, Gail Astbury. You can develop your own subjects, practise different spatial devices and watercolour techniques.


2 – 4.30pm

26 April – 31 May

Block Booking Fee: £100

Weekly Pay As You Go Fee: £20

Limited to 12 artists

In this new course we take inspiration from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge; in particular from the ideas and techniques of contemporary artist David Hockney. He is exhibiting works throughout the museum and in the Heong Gallery until August 22nd, 2022.

His drawings, paintings and digital artworks are shown in a series of provocative encounters with historic works by artists including Claude Monet, John Constable, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition explores his obsession with how we see the world, and how our vision of time and space can be captured on the surface of a flat picture.

Hockney follows a tradition of creative experiments with optical devices similar to

  • Ingres’ proposed use of the camera lucida
  • Canaletto’s camera obscura
  • the birth of Renaissance naturalism in the 15th century

However, Hockney acknowledges that optical devices don’t wholly correspond to the way we see the world. He knows we are mobile and emotional viewers; our eyes are connected to our brains and to our hearts. We see things through
the filters of memory and feeling, and in relation to our own bodies. And he knows that we are all different.

The Heong Gallery is in Downing College. The display charts Hockney’s pioneering modern experiments from the 1960’s to the present day in bringing hand, eye, and optical instruments together.

The Course

26 April – The Perspective Window

Exploring Florentine space and vanishing points through Hockney and Fra Angelico. Looking at interiors and exteriors and how perspective works on buildings in contrast to nature.

3 May – Landscape

Hockney calls Landscapes a spatial thrill. This week we look at how to paint skies and washes with glazes and overlays in the foreground. Constable and Hobbema are the older influences.

10 May – Creating Illusions of Space

Hockney references Poussin and Canaletto when creating stage sets. He makes use of models and collaged cut outs.

17 May – Illusions of Space cont

Hockney looks at Brueghel’s use of aerial viewpoints

24 May – Exploring the Flower Gallery

“How do you make flowers last? Paint them every day.” Something David Hockney does. We shall try out some still life techniques with fresh flowers.

31 May – Shadows in art

The advent of photography brought the seeing and use of shadows with it.

During the course we will watch some of his insightful lectures on this subject and draw reference from his excellent book Secret Knowledge. We will also look at his use of photography and digital aids..

Throughout the six week course you can develop your own subjects and ideas alongside practising and perfecting different spatial devices and watercolour techniques. By the end you will know how to depict space with confidence.


Each week we provide support notes for you to keep. We send them to you before the class so you can bring the right equipment. Don’t worry we also give you a hard copy for the session. We also share any links of video clips that Gail shows in class so you can refer to them again.

You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the studio, but you’ll get more from it if you have some experience in painting with watercolours. We limit our class sizes to twelve. This means that you not only benefit from personal tuition but also enjoy peer support. So, why not join us for this short course and focus on depicting space using watercolours?


We supply the following equipment and materials

  • Watercolour Paper for the preliminary class and colour mixing exercises
  • Palette
  • Water Jars
  • Kitchen Paper
  • Cotton Buds
  • Sponges

You will need to bring:

  • Watercolour paints
  • Watercolour pencils
  • Brushes (various shapes round/flat/mop and sizes ranging from 4, 6, 8,10 and 12)
  • Watercolour paper for the final class painting
  • Watercolour sketchbook
  • Your Apron


Course Details

OPEN Ealing Arts Centre W5 2TD

Dates: 26 Apr - 31 May
Tuesday 2:00 pm
Fees: £100 (Pay As You Go Rate : £20 per session)

About the tutor

Gail Astbury

Gail Astbury has a B.A. (Hons) Fine Art Painting from Wimbledon UAL and has recently gained an MA in Contemporary Arts Practice from Goldsmiths University and Tate Galleries 2014. Her work has featured in many prominent locations such as London’s Trafalgar Square, the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Academy and she has works held in the collection of the MMSU Museum of Modern Art in Croatia.

Gail makes series of paintings and watercolours in her studios in London and La Péruse, southwest France. Her work starts with her immediate surroundings, taking photos, sketching and amassing a picture library to draw reference from. She then plays with the imagery, using scale, colour, edits and zoom to select and highlight interesting focal points. She uses a range of techniques from renaissance lighting and brushwork to the colour and decorative compositions of 20th century modernism through to contemporary mass media image making and production. The resulting paintings are celebratory, they tell visual tales and proclaim societal hopes and fears. 

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