Watermill painting tutor James Willis


James Willis

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Painting by watermill tutor James Willis



The setting for the latest James Bond film, Matera in the South of Italy, is an architecture painter’s paradise. Using a complimentary palette, I try to capture the effects of late evening in this study of the city. Careful preparatory drawings for the foundation for this evocative subject.

Painting by James Willis a tutor at the watermill in Italy

Downtown, Agra


A painting of a busy street inspired by a trip to India. An overwhelming experience. The vibrant palette makes use of primary and secondary colours arranged to capture the sense of this atmospheric scene all derived from on location studies made whilst perched precariously in a Tuk-tuk.

Painting tutor at the watermill in Italy James Willis

Grand Canal, Venice


Who does not love Venice?! This bright view of the famous Venetian Canal uses wet in wet washes to make subtle grades of colour and tone with details picked out in sharper contrast to focus the activity in the foreground.

Painting tutor James Willis at the watermill in Italy

End of Day, Rome


This unusual view of Rome was taken from the top of Castello Sant’Angello. The bird’s-eye perspective grabbed my attention for the start of my composition. Using a hot palette of colours and tonal contrasts the heat of the Roman afternoon and atmosphere appears through the paint.

Course dates

Course Completed



James Willis began making paintings whilst at school and graduated with honours in fine art and music at the University of Chester, in England, followed by an M.A. in the History of Art at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has tutored and lectured at Sir John Soane’s Museum, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and the North Hertfordshire College, as well as running regular live and online courses in painting, drawing and art history.

James says: “My work is inspired by my knowledge of architecture and historic paintings as well as a love of buildings, landscapes and the effects of light, shade and colour.“ An avid sketcher, James begins his creative process with drawings and watercolours made on location. He says: “The joy of being a painter is having the chance to respond to places and people and share his enthusiasm, knowledge and process to inspire others.”

He works mainly in oils and watercolours, always supplemented by many drawings. He has exhibited widely and his work is in public and private collections in the UK and abroad. His book, Painting Buildings in Oils, was published in 2020 and he has contributed features in drawing and painting to several publications over the years.

You can learn more about James and his work on his website at https://www.jameswillisart.co.uk/

Praise from some of James’s previous students

James is a delightful teacher as he gives good explanations of techniques, tempers them with anecdotes, adds references to well-known painters and usually throws in something humorous. He is always encouraging all his students to look more closely, to try different techniques and colours and to “Be bolder!”

Your teaching is natural. That makes it so enjoyable.

You’ve created wonderful effects which will encourage me to have another go!