Bring some colour into your life

Bring some colour into your life

Anyone can add colour to city’s art scene

There’s a number of places in Nanaimo you can go to delve into your artistic inkling.

Looking for a little therapy from a hectic week?

Try taking an art class, especially if you’re the type who needs to work with your hands and engage the right side of your brain to decompress from a busy day.

Between Nanaimo Parks and Recreation and private arts supply outlets and studios, there’s a number of places in Nanaimo you can go to delve into your artistic inkling.

Be prepared to think outside of the box. Painting, for instance, isn’t just about pigment and brushes. Watercolour techniques bring a surprising tool kit to hand, like brushes, for sure, but chopped up credit cards? And then there’s that thing you do with a toothbrush.

“Oh, that’s splatter,” said Helen Binns, watercolour course instructor for Iron Oxide Arts Supplies. “There’s splatter, there’s sponging or stamping, graded washes, puddling.”

First thing to learn in water colouring is how to perform a graded wash by applying colour from dark to light on paper. “Puddling” means adding colour to a puddle of water or paint already on the paper.

Learning to control pigment, water and paper to create texture, shadowing and depth can be challenging, but watching colours flow into one another and seeing how they react with the paper as they’re applied is fascinating.

Chopped up credit cards are for creating rock textures, fences, grass or cityscapes by dragging their points and sharp edges across paint and paper.

Sponges make leafy textures for trees. Lay down a dark pigment along the edge of a wet surface and the pigment bleeds across the moisture and birch bark appears before your eyes.

There’s a high degree of control, but it’s not in watercolour’s nature to do what you want it to.

“You have to persuade it,” said Binns, who is also a professional badminton coach with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

Her three-hour classes are dynamic and cover a lot of ground in each session.

“One thing I learned working with teams is they get bored really quickly, so you’ve got to keep them doing and hide the learning,” Binns said.

She got serious about watercolour painting when she travelled around the world in 2005  with a basic painting kit and a little paper.

“The thing that I love about watercolour is all you need is a small paintbox, three brushes, a little plastic container and your water bottle… and you can sit anywhere,” Binns said.

Learning watercolour techniques doesn’t come easy to everyone, but those who take longer to learn them often become the best artists, Binns said.

“There’s a lot of different ones going on for all skill levels, from basic drawing – draw the world around you – to abstract watercolour classes, to acrylic and more,” said Willow Friday, owner of Iron Oxide. “The classes are always evolving.”

Prices vary per class type and there are classes for kids, too. There’s a class schedule on the business website at

Classes are also available through Creative Escape Art Programs at; Island Girl Art Studio at; 4Cats art studio at; and Nanaimo Art Gallery at