Here at Painting in France, I have been teaching the intricacies of Watercolour Painting for many years. I’ve been happy applying washes, working wet into wet, wet onto dry – until a few weeks ago when I decided to take the plunge and try working in oils.

Up until now I confess that I’ve steered around the mysterious world of oil paints, mediums, linseed oils and turps. A generous Christmas present of an introductory set of oil paints remained unopened and it was time to open it.

I’ve always been drawn to a dramatic landscape and this scene has been in my mind for many years. This golden stretch of sand is located on South Africa’s garden route near the town of Sedgefield in the Western Cape province.

So, after carefully taping a primed canvas sheet onto a piece of board, I began to loosely sketch out the scene. So far so good. Then I courageously squeezed colours onto my pristine palette (Titanium white, Cerulean blue, Ultramarine blue, Yellow Ochre and Cadmium yellow deep) and began blocking in. This is where the uncertainties began. How much turps do I add to the paint? Should I add any at all? Is this colour too cool? Too warm? For the first time for a long time, I felt out of my comfort zone and was quickly developing a new empathy with my students.

I persevered, painting mixes of colour back and forth across the canvas. It just didn’t seem to be looking quite like the YouTube tutorials I’d studied intently.. I found Andrew Tischler’s tutorials both inspirational – and depressing at the same time. I got the basic colours down and decided to leave it overnight and come back to it. I pressed on the following day adding darker tones with what, I hoped, was more confidence. Slowly but surely it all began to make sense and I began to smile, enjoying the way that you could modify areas adding increasingly thicker paint.

‘Put the brush down and walk away..’ I’ve often said to my students and sure enough, I needed to do the same, as I began to get too involved with detail in the rocks. I had been trying for a more painterly effect after all. I backed off and felt quite pleased with my efforts.

I’ve even had an idea for an exhibition – in two years’ time. 12 canvasses, 12 locations (chosen from my travels), set in different times of day and different times of the year and maybe different weather conditions. A calendar will be available! I’ll let you know when…