Greg Howard is a professional fine artist specialising in atmospheric, dramatic landscapes in watercolour & soft pastel. His work can be found in collections worldwide and he is a sought after tutor due to his easy going, informative no nonsense approach to the medium.

I provide demo’s and workshops up and down the U.K regularly and in the course of this I get asked one question more than any other and that is ‘How do you loosen up your watercolours?’ Well I’m going to let you into a little secret now and tell you the one thing that made a huge almost overnight difference in my painting.

Can everyone please stand up!

Slim Shady (Eminem)

Yep that’s right! The single thing that made the biggest change in my painting and allowed me to almost immediately produce loose watercolours was when I decided to paint standing up.


Sounds silly doesn’t it and I apologise if you feel like that is a bit of an anti-climax but bear with me here. Why does standing up make such a difference! Well….


Loosen up man!


First of all standing at the easel loosens you up and I don’t mean like a laxative. Rather instead of using your fingers and wrist to make movements with your brush you will start to use your whole arm and even your whole body if you are painting something particularly exciting.


This will naturally lead to your paintings being looser and as a result of you being that wee bit farther away from your board you will be more likely to use larger brushes which again will help hugely if looseness is what you are aiming for in your work.


Reduce Painting Related Injuries


Secondly and this is an important one.


You will find that you reduce stress related injuries that can arise from regularly sitting hunched over a drawing board such as back, neck & shoulder strains, curvature of the spine and so on. You also massively reduce the likelihood of you looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame later in life!


These are very real conditions that can impact your quality of life severely so even if standing up to paint is not a realistic option for you then at least make sure you take regular breaks to stretch out the kinks. You will be surprised how much you tense up without even realising especially when you are concentrating.


Look at the Big Picture!


Thirdly and this is the most important reason I can give you for converting. Standing up allows you to step back and look at your work from a whole host of different angles which is the single most important thing you can do when you are painting. If you are sitting at a desk hunched over a painting I guarantee that you will not see that obvious mistake you have made until you come back to the painting which will usually be when you want to show it to someone else and believe me when I tell you that they will be only too happy to point it out to you! Examples of this could include figures being the wrong dimensions, faces in rocks, trees or clouds, buildings and figures being the wrong scale, horizons not being straight etc. the list is endless.


Worse still you may spot your mistake when your painting is hung at exhibition. This has I am ashamed to say happened to me before – Result: Lesson learned!


Always take the time to look at your work properly during the creative process this way you will avoid any future embarrassment and the best way to ensure you continually do this is to stand up while you paint.


The one problem I did find to start with was that even though I’m a bit of a short arse the desk I used to paint at was a little too low and you really need your drawing board to be at the correct height in order to paint comfortably. So what I done was rig up my drawing board with one of these little metal bracket plates that then attaches to my camera tripod.


Problem solved! Not only can I now adjust the height of my drawing board but I can also adjust the angle of the board which is important when you are using watercolour. This set up has proved to be so much better than a fixed board in so many ways because it gives you so much more control over what is happening on the paper.


This set up is also fantastic if you work outdoors as it is extremely lightweight. You will probably have your tripod with you anyway if you are in the habit of going out to take photographs for source material so just add a lightweight drawing board with one of these plates attached and your good to go.


Much better than trying to lug a french easel up into the hills - trust me!!

Drawing Board Camera Tripod Plate

Next time I’m going to be talking about why bigger is best! 😉

Love this OR hate it? Let me know in the comments!…


  1. Russ

    Got one of your paintings. Love it and wish I could paint like that. All tips are welcomed

    • Greg Howard

      Thanks Russ much appreciated 😀


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