Aubrey Phillips

Back in 1987 I began my journey in watercolor, eager to learn paint watercolors.
In those days I saw a great future in front of me. John Pike was my hero, he was the absolute top in watercolor. And also the first book I bought about watercolor was from John Pike!
Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet were not known yet these days. No books no videos, the dvd didn’t exists, and the founder from Facebook was still walking around in diapers!

Kees van Aalst

Zoltan Szabo and John Blockley filled up the numerous watercolor books, and in the Dutch magazines like Palet en Tekenstift you saw articles of Ron Ranson, Tony van Hasselt and the Dutch artist Kees van Aalst. later I found out that Tony is also a Dutch born artist!

Szabo was also a painter that I liked, only his techniques seemed so difficult to me! And of course Jan Groenhart a Dutch watercolor artist with wonderful Dutch landscapes and a master of how the North of Holland must look!

In those days you saw also watercolor books that were not so good, (in my eyes back then) I saw them in the bookstore and convinced myself that this was just very bad quality in watercolor. Just not my taste and not attractive. No… this is not what I want for my road to become a watercolor painter. That book was from Aubrey Phillips.


Oh boy what was I wrong there!
I was a novice in watercolor, and I didn’t recognized the sublimity of this painter!

It was in the year 2014, I was looking for John Pike photo’s I found a site from the Dutch artist Arie Jekel and when I saw the page from his inspiration I found John Pike, Edward Wesson, Edward Seago and Aubrey Phillips!

The first few artist were my heros too, but Aubrey Phillips I remembered, was that painter I disliked.
But curious why Arie did have Aubrey as his inspiration I looked up Aubrey’s paintings on Google to refresh my memory and instantly fell in love with the style and simple elegance of the brushstrokes. Apparently my mindset how watercolor must look was 180 degrees turned!


Aubrey Phillips  photo apvfilms

Aubrey Phillips caught me, and I want his book!!! And believe me nowhere in the Netherlands I found it, back in 1987 it was in every bookstore, and now nowhere!!

aubrey phillips 2

The texture of the paper helps to create the atmosphere. Warm colours in the front cooler colours in the background

I found the book in the UK and it was in excellent condition, the only minor thing is that it smells a bit (worse) after a moist basement. I tried the freezer, Microwave, Cat Grits. It’s already better than it was, but okay I have the book!


The warm sky in contrast with the cool snow!

The lesson learned is that you have to look further and longer to a artist art. To understand and value it. Dont think its rubbish (like me back in 1987) but study how its done.

The Cotswolds on september evening

The Cotswolds on a September evening

Most of the time when it looks simple it is really hard to make! When something is wrong in a minimalistic watercolor, it stands out like a red flag, therefore everything have to be in the right place. When you see watercolors of the “cracks” among us you will notice the economy of brushstrokes, there is no clutter or mud, just well placed brushstrokes in just the right amount of pigment and water quantity.
“When you can do it in less than one brushstroke you are on the right way!” (J. Zbukvic)


A warm watercolor, and still its a winterscene! It breaths “keep it simple”

Aubrey Phillips have a minimalistic approach to watercolor, he use heavy paper from the Mill Richard de Bas about 400 grams
Colours : Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Monestial Blue*, Cadmium Red, Alizarine Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Light Red, Lemon Yellow, and Viridian, nothing more fitted in his paintbox
Brushes; A Hake 2,5 Inch and a 1 Inch flat, Nr 14 Sable round, nr 11 and 8 Sable round and a rigger nr 4


Another winterscene.  The vertical strokes of the brush are ideal to suggest water.

Aubrey Phillips is a member of the Pastel Society and the Royal West of England Academy and was a Gold Medallist at the Paris Salon. He is a regular exhibitor in London and the provinces and runs his own art courses.

Aubrey R Phillips RWA. Renowned for his pastel paintings of the Malverns and the Black Mountains areas. Born 1920, Astley, Worcestershire. Aubrey Phillips studied at Stourbridge School of Art and at Kidderminster. Phillips lectured at Malvern Hills College and Bournville School of Art, and has had exhibitions at the Timaeus Gallery, Birmingham ( 1981) and at the Patricia Wells Gallery, Thornbury (1988). He is  also the author of books on the use of pastels and watercolours. Member of the RWA, PS,WSW and the Armed Forces Art Society. Solo exhibition at the National Library of Wales. Aberystwyth. Gained a Gold Medal at the Paris Salon in 1966. Phillips worked in and around the Midlands for a number of years in the 1970s, He has been called one of the leading landscape painters of the Midlands. his expansive changing skies are captured by strong strokes and his use of atmospheric colours. Lived in Malvern, Worcestershire.

Arie Jekel
Joseph Zbukvic
Tony van Hasselt
Alvaro Castagnet
Kees van Aalst
Jan Groenhart

  • Monestial Blue is Phtalo Blue, Rembrandt Blue or Winsor Blue

If you like this article, you can read the sequel a friend of my made on his blog after reading this post about Aubrey Phillips.
Click the link below
“brushes with watercolour”

© Edo Hannema


Solutions to paint better


Water, land and sky


  1. Thanks so much for this post! I’ve just ordered a copy of the book! Wesson and Seago are well established as my heroes but it’s great to learn of other like minded artists / influences so thanks very much for the introduction!

    • I hope yours smells better then mine book! its a nice book but owow that smell! haha! Thanks for your comments! I hope you like the straightforward style from Aubrey Phillips! regards Edo

      • Hi Edo – just wanted to let you know that the book arrived (an ex library book and fortunately, it doesn’t smell too bad!) and the book and our email exchange inspired my two most recent blog posts, which I feel I should draw to your attention only because you’re mentioned in both of them! Thanks again for the introduction to Aubrey Phillips – much to admire and learn from!

        • Glad you liked it John, in the mean time I did read your blogs! I like them a lot! thanks for mentioning my name a few times! it was way busier on my site! I will post your blog on my FB so you will notice a increase of viewers too I am sure! 😉

          • Thanks Edo, nice to be able to send some people your way and obviously, I’m all for any introductions that you’re able to make via your FB page. I’ve also followed you on FB – (at which I’m a novice user) in case you want to use that address instead of the blog. Look forward to reading your next posts!

  2. Royce Kitts

    I absolutely love Aubrey. Simplicity of this nature is so hard to achieve. His colors are amazing. Wonderful article. Thank you.

  3. humberto gamiño

    Hi Edo, very nice comments! thank you.

  4. Rick Tracey

    This was a great article. You inspired my to look into Mr Phillips, and was excited to find his watercolor book. His approach is very simple, loose and clean. I have read this book 3 times in a week and 1/2.

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