Watercolour painting techniques and tutorial with Steve Griggs I Colour In Your Life

Watercolour painting techniques and tutorial with Steve Griggs I Colour In Your Life

G’day viewers, my name’s Graeme Stevenson, and I’d like to invite you to come on a journey of creativity and learning and adventure through the series Colour In Your Life. There’s an artist in every family throughout the world. Lots of times there’s an artist deep down inside all of us as well. So grab your kids, your brothers, your sisters, your aunties, uncles and mums and dads and come and see how some of the best artists do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi, folks, well we are in Central City, in Colorado, in the United States. A fantastic little frontier town; it was a gold town in the eighteenth century. An amazing place, and we’re going o be with one of Colorado’s most distinguished watercolour artists, Mister Steve Griggs. (Steve) Hey, Graeme. (Graeme) Welcome to the show. (Steve) Thank you. (Graeme) It’s wonderful to be here. (Steve) Great to be here. (Graeme) Now we just went through the gallery with your darling wife Sue, (Steve) Yeah. (Graeme) and had a look around. Sue’s basically called the Art Whisperer, (Steve) The Art Whisperer. (Graeme) is that correct? She actually managers you, (Steve) That’s correct. (Graeme) does all your multi media and your business for you. (Steve) Right. (Graeme) Fantastic way to lead your life is to have your partner be part and parcel of it. (Steve) It’s a lot of fun (Graeme) Yeah. (Steve) and we’re just starting to really kick it out, so it’s cool. (Graeme) She’s amazing. You’ve got a couple of degrees as well in the arts field as well. Tell me a bit about that? (Steve) Well, I studied my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University, (Graeme) Aha. (Steve) and I degreed in studio art there. I did an emphasis on industrial design, and then I did some study in California, at the Art Centre Collage of Design. (Graeme) Aha. (Steve) The building that we’re actually in, it’s a very historic building by any means of course, and this whole town is a very historic town. (Steve) Yeah. (Graeme) But this has more of a meaning to you from the year 1989. (Steve) Oh, yeah. (Graeme) So what happened then? (Steve) Well, lets go back in time. (Graeme) Aha. (Steve) We had just moved here in eighty-eight, and in nineteen eighty nineish, we were walking this building. There was an art show on this building, I believe it was a Gilpin County Arts Association, and I said to Sue, I said some day – I’d been painting for a long, long time – but I said some day I’d really like to show in a gallery like this. (Graeme) Sure. (Steve) Fast forward to two thousand and five, and I had been painting again and I had submitted to a show, got accepted into the show, didn’t realise the show would be in this gallery. (Graeme) Yeah. (Steve) And the night of the exhibition we were coming up the stairs Sue turned to me and she said, do you realise that this is the very place where you said, someday I would like to be in a show like this. (Graeme) All those years ago. (Steve) Yeah, and the rest it all history. (Graeme) That’s amazing. But your love for art really started with your mum giving you (Steve) Yeah. (Graeme) a watercolour set. (Steve) Yeah, when I was about ten ish, we… I came from a really good home but we weren’t real wealthy, and so buying art supply and things like that was a stretch for the family. One day I was out with my mum and I was looking at a watercolour set and she said, would you like that? And I said, sure. So she brought it for me. It was six, six tubes of craft tin paint out of Chicago, and that’s where it started. (Graeme) Fantastic, and you’re also the President or the Director of a number of watercolour societies in Colorado. (Steve) I sit on the board of the Colorado Watercolour Society, (Graeme) Okay. (Steve) and Sue sits on the board for Foothills Art Centre, down in Golden. And we’re very involved in the art communities. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. Well it’s an amazing history as far as you’re concerned, (Steve) Yeah. (Graeme) but the whole area has an amazing history regarded as the richest square mile in the world isn’t it? (Steve) Yeah. (Graeme) It’s pretty. And the most haunted town in America from what I can hear. (Steve) Right. (Graeme) Well what we’re going to do today, is I’m going to step back as usual, and we’re going to watch Steve do what he does He’s a very, very talented man. And you’re going to see somebody that actually knows really how to handle watercolour. A master of watercolour. Doesn’t labor over it, they come in there, they make a couple of strokes, and they produce an amazing picture, and that’s exactly what Steve does. So I’m out of here and you’re going to take over. (Steve) Awesome. (Graeme) Thank you. (Steve) Okay. (Graeme) Okay, Steve, like all other great master artist, you actually keep a journal as well. You keep a journal about your sketches (Steve) I do. (Graeme) and what you do. (Steve) Correct. (Graeme) Can we have quick look at that (Steve) Oh, sure. (Graeme) because you’ve got some amazing stuff in there. (Steve) I don’t go anywhere without my sketch books. I do all of my, my thinking and working out of my designs in my sketch book, just to how you a couple of examples here. And so I’ll be working on a concept, or I’ll just be trying to get some painting time, so I’ll do some sketches of some people and backgrounds. And every once in a while I’ll run across a thought that I think is particularly rewarding, so I’ll capture that in the, in the pieces in book as well. (Graeme) One thing that I have noticed about you is that you’re very prolific. And I think it’s extremely important for an artist to continue his craft and do it every day. (Steve) Yeah, (Graeme) Very, very important. (Steve) I try and get brush time every day. (Graeme) How do we start off then? I mean what are we going to paint? You’ve actually got one up there that we’re going to, that you’ve previously done. (Steve) I have this sketch, and I’d like to take this sketch, I like the action of this sketch; I like the movement and the people. I’m going to take and try and repeat this in a little larger format. And in my process I would start from my sketch book, go to something like this, and then I would lend a larger piece. This is a half sheet of a hundred and forty pound Archers watercolour paper. That’s kind of my sweet spot. I like ninety pound too, I’ll do a lot of ninety pound demonstrations in my workshops. So I’m going to do this sketch today, we’re going to develop that up into a painting and that’s where I think we’ll start. (Graeme) And what type of materials are we using? You’ve got some Graham paints? (Steve) I do, I have some of your paints I’ve got some M. Graham Paints that I’ll be working with today, I’ll also have some Daniel Smith. (Graeme) Yep. (Steve) These are my two favourite lines of watercolour paints and I paint with them all the time. I like the granulation I get out of Daniel Smith, and the colour, colour and the way that that Graham will wet up repeatedly as it sits in my palette. Both these brands are awesome, so I recommend them, and I use them and I paint almost exclusively with Princeton Art Brushes. Today, I’m going to be using Neptune’s and I’m also going to be using Elites, maybe a little bit of… mostly those two brushes. They are great; they have great water holding capabilities, they maintain their shape. And you’ll see as I’m painting today, I abuse my brushes, and these brushes will take what I give them and they still come back for more. So I really love these brushes, can’t say enough. I’m going to squeeze out some paint, a little bit of Quinacridone. This is, this is the Graham Paint, I’ll squeeze out some Quinacridone, it’ll give me my yellow I want, orange-yellow. I’m going to use some Quinacridone Sienna, in Daniel Smith. This paint looks gorgeous when you get it on paper. And lets see, what else. I like phthalo, so I’ll squeeze a little bit of that out, some Phthalo Blue, and I also have some indigo in my palette. I’m going to start and one more Daniel Smith. I want this Rose Ultramarine, this has a blue and a red in it and it will granulate and I love that. And that top wash on those buildings is that Rose Ultramarine, so lets get after that. (Graeme) Okay. (Steve) When I start I wet my paper a little bit with some water, and then I will hit the initial wash. The initial wash I’m going to hit up this building shape up here, that’ll be my rose. Lets get that going, take that down just a little bit with indigo. And I want this one to be a really wet kind of wash, so here we go. And again, I’m trying to make this in my workshops, I don’t sketch my, my drawings. I like the activity and the life I get in trying to produce the painting fresh, so my initial wash is going down. That will be the washes that will direct them through the painting process. So I’ll get a little bit more rose, a little bit more indigo, and I’m just going to hit this down here a little bit and let that trail down. (Graeme) So where about is that actual scene? (Steve) I think this is a building that is on the campus of Denver, the University of Denver. (Graeme) Aha. (Steve) And now I’m going to let that wash just kind of and percolate and settle in. I’m just going to come over here and get some of this Quinacridone, and drop a little bit of warm down here cause I’ve got this cool colour coming down the page. And I like that, I like those little jewels of light that are right now in there so I want to keep that. Drop a little bit more water in here and let that kind of just bleed down to the bottom of the page like that. So I’m going to mix these two colours a little bit that purplish and that brown and just kind of come right down this page like this. (Graeme) You’re not pushing that brush in, you’re just letting it float over the top. (Steve) Yeah. I like to… that’s what I love about these Princeton Brushes, is that they’re very pliable and they’re great for doing these, these washes. These are quill brushes that way. Okay, so now I’ve got that coming down the page, and I’m just going to lift out some of these wet marks so I don’t get too much, I don’t get too much back-run. I don’t mind back-runs or cauliflowers, I think they add character and life to the painting. But I’ll just lift that out cause I know that’s a danger zone for the painting. (Graeme) So do you normally just let that dry? (Steve) Let that dry, yeah. (Graeme) Okay. (Steve) We’ll let that dry and then I’ll come over the top of that with my darks, and then work some colour work some colour around the page, but it’s all on the top of the dry, the dry wash. (Steve) Alright, well this paper’s dry now, so I think I can do my next wash. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to do one more wash over the top of the building with this number eight quill, and then I’m going to change to a number four. And the reason why I’m going to do that is I get a little bit more control, I can do a little more finer artwork, calligraphy with this brush. So lets get another wash going over the top of that. I want to redden that down a little bit more, so I’m going to come over here and get some of my ultramarine, that Rose Ultramarine again, and just hit it with a little bit of blue. Just come back and get a bit more purple. Now I want to wet that water that down, there we go, now I’m getting a real lush mix of colour, and I’m just going to get over the top of this, right up here like this. And look how that blue’s kind of separating. Isn’t that gorgeous? (Graeme) Very pretty. (Steve) Beautiful, okay, comedown here a little bit more, and I’m going to hit that with a spray too. Right about now, I’m going to come up here and I’m going to hit this, this leading edge on the bottom and I want that to just sort of gradient down. (Graeme) And you’ve got some other pieces that are a little similar they’re great street scenes. You’ve got one called Blue Monday, (Steve) Blue Monday, yeah. (Graeme) which just looks fantastic. (Steve) Thank you. (Graeme) And then Bossa Nova Rhythm. Where did you get that name from? (Steve) Sometimes we do naming parties at our house. We’ll invite friends over, I’ll put up a bunch of images up on my easels, and we have a great time just coming up with these creative names. That painting however, I think Sue came up with. It just picks up the rhythm of the painting really well. So I’m going to come up and grab some Phthalo Blue and a little bit of that Quinacridone, knock that down to a dark green. Put a little tint in it. There we go. And I’m going to start hitting my figures in. Sometimes before I actually get into laying a figure down, I’ll just come up and practice, make sure I got the colour, get some marks down, and it just kind of warms me up for what I’m going to do on the piece. Let me throw a couple of these figures back into that, into the painting down here. (Graeme) Aha. (Steve) I want this to have a feel of it going back in space. (Graeme) So some of your influences over time have been some people we know and work with as well. Is Jo Zbukvic, (Steve) Yep. (Graeme) and Alvaro Castagnet, but you’ve also been a great admirer of Ratindra Das, and John Yardley, as well. (Steve) Yeah, John Yardley is an English painter. I don’t think he’s still painting these days, but he has a very graphic style, very different from mine. He’s very precise in his paintings, but I love his paintings; they just really emit life. And he’s really good at capturing the scene. And Ratrinda Das, he is a geometric kind of painter in my view, real organised, real designerly. All those guys, I just love their work – they’re amazing. (Graeme) Your figures in a lot of your street scenes have a familiarity about them. You’ve got one that’s called Evening on Sixteenth Street, (Steve) Aha. (Graeme) which is the sun shining down I’d say at the end of the day, casting shadows. It’s very, very nice. (Steve) Thank you. (Graeme) So in the workshops that you hold and they are very successful. You do a number of them every year. But you had a lady in Gunnison, Colorado who hadn’t painted for some time. (Steve) We spent the afternoon together and she, she came up to me at the end of the workshop and this was so meaningful to me. She literally had tears in her eyes. She said her hadn’t painted in about ten years, and she said the workshop just really helped to ground her, and bring her back into that and it was just really a, a real touching moment. It was cool. (Graeme) So what cityscapes do you often go to photograph, or just do plein air? Is it mostly Denver, or do you move around a lot? (Steve) Mostly Denver. I really enjoy certain sections of Denver. I like to go to Union Square, which is right by Union Station, in Denver. There’s so much life and activity in that square I can sit in there with a cup of coffee, and I can do three or four paintings, sketches at a time there. (Graeme) Actually, one of the ones that you’ve had during your life in your art career is water and boats, pieces like Peaceful Harbour, which is just lovely. And then Safely Home, always a good place to be after you’ve been out on the water. (Steve) I grew up in Detroit, but there are harbours everywhere up and down the coastline, and when I go back I will spend a lot of time just hanging out on the harbour. There’s just such a great feel; I get a lot of inspiration from there. (Graeme) Wonderful. (Steve) I also want to put some, some dark up here. I want to do something with this up here, so I’m going to just get some pigment, and I’m going to model up here. (Graeme) What sort of brush have you got there? (Steve) I have a Mottler brush. This is a Princeton, a Princeton, they call it the Mottler. It’s just a flat, stiff kind of brush and you can push paint with it. And I’m just going to kind of come up here, and put some marks in to kind of break that up. I don’t really like what’s going on right there in terms of its passivity, so I’m going to put some marks across there. Hit that with some spritz, and take that off the page. And then I’m going to come over the top of this with some accent marks, so that’ll help that. Come back with a couple more scrapes. Yeah, I kind of like that. (Graeme) It’s really unknown impressionism. (Steve) A lot of people ask me what I am. I think I do get a lot of almost abstract in my paintings, so they’re kind of on a borderline. (Graeme) I thinks as an artist, that you and Sue have managed your career really well, and I think part and parcel of that is being part of other art societies and art clubs. And you’re a signature member of the Rocky Mountain National Watercolor (Steve) That’s right. (Graeme) Society. (Steve) Right, that, I achieved that last – I think last year, two years ago, along with Colorado Watercolor Society. We find out soon on the National Watercolour Society. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. And you also spend your time very graciously doing demonstrations of art for a number of different societies around here in Colorado as well. (Steve) We do. We’ve been invited to demonstrate in many of the art guilds, Arvada, Lakewood, Mountside, art guild to do demonstrations, and we do that in Parker. And this fall, I’ll be teaching two sections of watercolour class. It’s a workshop, four week workshop at the Art Students League of Denver in September and October. (Graeme) So if anybody wants to catch up on all of this information, particularly to become part of your workshops as well. What’s your website address, Steve? (Steve) The website is Steve Griggs watercolor dot com. It’s real simple, go there – it’s a great site. My wife worked on it and she did a fabulous job. She’s the Artist Whisperer as we already said. But go, go there: Steve Griggs dot com. You can find links to our Facebook page, and that’s where we keep a lot of our current information, but it’s pretty much all there at Steve Griggs watercolor. (Graeme) Fantastic. (Steve) I’m going to go in and pop out some highlights on some of these guys. The highlights add the pop and the sizzle to the painting. There we go, get that up there. (Graeme) It really does add life and movement. (Steve) It does doesn’t it? And then I want to break up some of that surface up here, so I’m just going to point a mark up there and spritz it, and let that just sort of bleed down, and see if it’ll lighten up some of that. So I like what we’ve got going on up here. I’ve got some pretty wet stuff going on. I need to I need to kind of let that go, but right over here on this side is a great opportunity to put a vertical in. So I’m going to go get some of this indigo paint, and I’m going to knock it down just a little bit so it’ll be dry. (Graeme) And the importance of as you said, verticals in watercolour painting. (Steve) Well for me, I think that they the verticals, over the top of a wash, especially if it’s got some body substance to it, it just adds that dimension of depth. So it pushes this building, like I’m hoping it’ll push this roof line into the background. So you just hold your breath, brush down, and bring it down like that. (Graeme) And that’s it. (Steve) And then I’m going to just sort of put a little traffic something, maybe a if I put a little red there or orange that’ll yeah, lets give that a little bit more definition right down here. There. Now I’ll take my knife, just scratch back a little bit. I want to get some lines across the top, so I’ll just go for that. I’ll throw some paint a little bit just for visual interest. Lets do that down here too. Okay, now right there is where I want that vertical, and I might be able to let that just sort of bleed into a dark here something like that. So here we go. Are you ready? Hold your breath. Okay, and I go right through that white just like that. With that, the painting is finished. I’ve said what I want to say, I’m going to get in and out of this. I took this energy of this painting, put it down here into this. We’re ready to sign. I’ll will say just one final thing about this, When we sign our paintings – we should always sign our paintings. For me, when I sign my painting what I’m saying is on this day, at this time, under these conditions I created this piece of work. Tomorrow could be completely different; yesterday was different, but on this day I created this piece. It’s an expression of beauty; it’s an expression of art and my soul, and so it deserves to have a signature on it. So right now I’m going to just pick an area, come down here and sign it. (Graeme) And voila. (Steve) And voila. (Graeme) Alright, folks, a fantastic day in Central City, in Colorado. It’s an amazingly historical town. Steve, (Steve) Graeme, thank you so much. (Graeme) no, no, thank you. Thank you, one of America’s great master watercolour artists, and it was a great privilege for us to be here today. And as you can see, it’s sort of like less is more sometimes. You don’t have to force it. And if an artist knows exactly what he’s doing the picture just seems to grow out of the piece doesn’t it? (Steve) It does. (Graeme) It’s quite amazing. (Graeme) Now if somebody wants to come along, and particularly go to your workshops, if you’re in Colorado area, or any of the states around and you’d like to come and see Steve, your website address is? (Steve) Steve Griggs watercolor dot com. (Graeme) Yeah, come in, lots of other things going on in Steve’s website. And Sue his darling wife helps him to manage all that. They are a very fantastic team to say the least. We’re going to continue to move on. Colorado – a beautiful state, (Steve) Yes. (Graeme) absolutely glorious. This little town is quite is quite amazing it really is fantastic. As we always say – remember: make sure you pit some colour in your life, (Steve) Colour in your life. (Graeme) and we’ll see you again next time guys. Bye now. See you. (Steve) Bye now.


  • mehashi says:

    What a stunning gallery space! I like how descriptive Steve is as he works, it's great to understand the thinking behind the practice. Especially as well practiced as he seems to be! Great show as ever Graeme and team! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Paula Decker Haynes says:

    Steves work and studio space are amazing. Thank you Greame and team for yet another get intervie.

  • haroldo gomesDOUTOR SABER says:

    muito bom – perfect

  • Katie von Olendรถrp says:

    I enjoyed so much seeing this piece of art being born.
    What an amazing artist…
    Thank you so much for this video! โค๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ

  • Rachel Edington says:

    Pretty Amazing! Now I need a road trip to Denver!

  • Mairead Harkin says:

    beautiful work

  • Patrizia Cathey says:

    I have come away from viewing Mr. Griggs' episode feeling impressed and inspired ! Also, I'm very impressed by Mrs.Griggs contributions on the business side! Great team. Thank's Graeme for another wonderful episode!

  • Marija Nielsen says:

    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ Great video and what a beautiful soul, that Mr Griggs…

  • Lorraine Watry says:

    Fantastic job Steve and great painting!

  • ChristieDrahnak says:

    Wonderful interview! I had the honor of taking a workshop with Steve and Sue and they are as kind and generous as Steve is talented! Truly delightful!!! Highly recommend his workshop if you get the chance!

  • Helen Gillis says:

    What a stunning painter and such a nice man!

  • John Arnold says:

    Wonderful show and episode. Love this channel!

  • Marion Wigzell says:

    Easy when you know how lol. I love Steve's sketch book. So many artists manipulate images on photo editing apps these days (not a negative thing to do), but a good old fashioned journal is wonderful ๐Ÿ™‚ Marion

  • mrsnutty88 says:

    What a wonderful insight into your beautiful work and processes. Loved it so much and also loved seeing your sketchbook. What brand of sketchbook do you use Steve, if you donโ€™t mind my asking?? I really love the size and the way it handles the watercolour. And thanks to you Graeme for another informative episode. Vicki.

  • lindyhoney14 says:

    Beautiful watercolour . What did you spray on your paper after the water, please

  • Maysoon AlDooriaines says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful skills. Very informative and inspiring.

  • Isle of Mull FPV says:

    Its always interesting to see how people lay out their work area, the pallet and default choice of colours, brushes, the work station / easel they use. I use a water pot with a second pot set inside it – one to wash the brush, the other as clean water. Saw that once on a vid – but it was never mentioned. Notice he puts his paint tubes in between his pallet and the painting. Kind of strange way to work.

  • Pj Lewis says:

    good one! …. (from another artist who grew up in Detroit)

  • L. Mariposa Marangia says:

    Very nice representation of your art mind and creations, Steve. I am so glad you shared your sketchbook. This is where you keep the jewels before they emerge for the showing. Mariposa

  • Anuj Dwivedi says:


  • Jeffrey Scott says:

    When an artist makes it appear so easy and effortless it says to me he/she has become a master of the medium.
    As a painter myself, I truly enjoy watching another person channel the talent they have been blessed with to a blank piece of paper.

    Amazing body of work, well done sir…

  • Dawn Buckingham says:

    Great video Steve!

  • Jamie McFarlane says:

    He's clearly exceptionally good at what he does, but to be honest I think the "sketch" that he was using for a reference was quite a bit better than the piece he produced for the video.
    As always though, it's interesting, and helpful to my own work to see the process other successful artists go through to create their work.
    Work harder, practice more.

  • Timon Maxey says:

    Great episode and very nice work Steve – like the abstract element in your work!

  • darsh mart says:

    You are a great bonanza for art enthusiasts – Best of luck

  • meow says:

    Excellent liquid style

  • Stephanie Garrelts says:

    This is my favorite CIYL episode. Beautiful BEAUTIFUL work and very skilled at teaching and explaining your thinking process. Love the looseness and pops of color.

  • VeganMarcella andMore says:

    that was fun

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