Top 6 tips for beginner painters with Noëlle Griffiths

Taking up a new hobby, like painting, can be exciting yet daunting at the best of times but throw in equipment and new terminology and it can feel a bit overwhelming before you have even started.

FEAR NOT! We have teamed up with Noëlle Griffiths, our painting holiday tutor in Spain, to ask her some important questions beginner painters may ask.

Noëlle Griffiths studied Fine Art at St Martin’s School of Art, London from 1978-82. She left London to live in Snowdonia, North Wales, to paint professionally in 1985, and has taught art part-time since 1987.

Noëlle paints in oil, acrylic and watercolour as well as making artist’s books. She has exhibited her paintings and books widely since 1983, and has work in public and private collections in UK, Spain and US. Her books are collected by the National Library of Wales, British Library, and V&A Museum amongst others.

Since 2005, Noëlle has spent time in the Sierra de Montanchez and made many paintings and artist’s books inspired by the landscape, birds and quality of light. She now runs her own painting holidays there based on both landscapes and cityscapes.

She has taken the time to answer some of our questions to prepare the beginner painter.

1.What’s the difference between watercolours, oils, and acrylics?

There is a big difference between watercolour and oils/acrylics. Watercolour relies on the white paper to create lights, but both oil and acrylic use both the white surface to create bright clean colour but you can also create whites or light areas. This means that you can change and develop your painting with oil and acrylic in a way that you cannot with watercolour.

a. Is one more affordable than another?

Acrylic is more affordable and the most versatile.

2. As an artist, is there one in particular you prefer to work with? If so, why?

I like painting with all mediums as each has a different quality. I love painting with acrylic or watercolour on a good quality watercolour paper – using both in a thin watery way. I also paint with acrylic on a sized unprimed canvas, as this allows the paint to stain and layer. I tend to paint with oil only on canvas.

3. If someone uses a different medium than you, are your tutorials still beneficial? How so?

It doesn’t really matter which medium students use, as a lot of teaching is about how to look and interpret what you see. All painting is about interpreting colour, tone, and mark making, alongside with composition. I encourage all students to experiment and be playful with whichever medium they use.

4. Is it easy to switch between paint types?

Yes, and you can paint on top of acrylic with oil. You can also use mixed media bringing in drawing tools with painting.

5. Is there a material better to paint on than others for each type of paint?

Personally I prefer to paint with oil on canvas or wood. Paper and cardboard are best suited to watercolour, acrylic or mixed media. Canvas suits all mediums except watercolour.

6. Any advice for a beginner painter looking to do their first shop?

Whichever paint you buy, don’t buy the cheapest. Buy a middle price student quality paint. All paints are simply pigment with a binder. The cheaper the paint the more filler or binder and so the colours will be less intense. Buying the three primary colours (red, yellow, blue), three earth colours (burnt sienna, burnt or raw umber and yellow ochre) along with black and white is a good basic palette.


Follow this link for more information about Noelle and her painting holidays in Spain.

Or, feel free to explore our full range of painting holidays here.