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Walking the 2023 Northwich Art Trail

The 2023 Visual Arts Cheshire Art Trail will take approximately 20 minutes walking (although that doesn’t allow time spent actually looking) to complete.

There are works from over 90 artists (the most yet) displayed throughout the town, and over 100 pieces on display in the Visual Arts Gallery (Barons Quay, opposite Wildwood).

We are immensely grateful to the businesses in Northwich for their ongoing support.


You have 2 hours free parking at Sainsbury, and 4 hours at Barons Quay (other paid parking options are available).

The 2023 Trail – starting at 136 Witton Street – opposite the Plaza)

  • Jack Gee Cycles (136 Witton Street)
  • Suttons Hair Studio (134 Witton Street)
  • Poppy Rose Tearoom (132 Witton Street)
  • Rosebank Sports (119 Witton Street)
  • The Northwich Art Shop (111 Witton Street)
  • Northwich Dry Cleaners (109 Witton Street)
  • Store 101 (101 Witton Street)
  • Sew Easy – The Sewing Shop (80 Witton Street)
  • Level 1 Computers (76 Witton Street)
  • Chapel Gift Co (70 Witton Street)
  • Apparel (68 Witton Street)
  • Swift Shoe Repairs (81 Witton Street)
  • Savor Hairdressing (50 Witton Street)
  • Dante’s Boutique (48 Witton Street)
  • Santander (40 Witton Street)
  • Boots Opticians (55 Witton Street)
  • Vision Express (2a Leicester Street)
  • Skipton Building Society (14 Leicester Street)
  • Radio Northwich (Barons Quay Square)
  • VAC Gallery (Barons Quay – opposite Wildwood)
  • Abda Coffee Shop (6 Crown Street)
  • White Ribbon Boutique (47 High Street)
  • Butters John Bee (52 High Street)
  • Vitality Hearing (48 High Street)
  • Lloyds Bank (35 High Street)
  • Barclays Bank (31 High Street)
  • MUTA Furniture (25 High Street)
  • Nigel Bailey Hair (1a Market Street)
  • Gilroy Wilson (7-9 Market Street)
  • Salty Dog (23 High Street)
  • Curtain Magic (13 High Street)
  • Nationwide Building Society (Bull Ring)
  • Wright Marshall (4 Bull Ring)
  • Edward Mellor (10 Bull Ring)
  • Burdett’s Barber Shop (12 Bull Ring)
  • Reeds Rains (Bull Ring)

How to purchase a piece of art

All pieces are for sale. If you would like to purchase a piece, make a note of the name and location and visit the VAC Gallery in Barons Quay (Thursday to Saturday 10:30 – 16:00hrs and they will help you to purchase. Outside these hours email

Pieces will need to remain on display until the end of July.

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Watercolour Pan vs tube

Watercolour paint comes in two formats, one of the most often asked questions is what the difference is between the paint in a tube vs that in a pan.

Winsor and Newton Cotman Tube and Pan

Essentially there is no difference between a tube and pan. The only difference is that the pan paint has been poured and dried. In fact you can create your own pans from tubes by simply squeezing your favorite colours into empty pans.

With a pan though, you will need to work a little harder to ‘wake the paint’. You can gently mist your pans with water from a spray to start this process – only gently as you don’t want to flood the pans as this will cause you problems when cleaning up.

How to use watercolor from a tube

Squeeze a small amount of paint onto your palette and dilute with water before painting. 

The pros:

One of the biggest advantages of watercolor from a tube is that it’s a concentrated amount of the colour, so it will apply instantly vibrant.

The cons:

Depending on the type of paint, if it dries on your palette, it may not “revive” with water in quite the same way as watercolor from a cake. This is due to different formulations depending on the manufacturer (some are better than others in this regard).

Additionally, if you ever don’t screw the top on entirely, your watercolor paint will dry in the tube, and is very difficult to remove from the tube once that happens. 

Watercolor in a pan

Watercolor paint in pans comes as rectangular or circular “cakes” that are fitted into individual pans. They are extruded under pressure, which compressed them into the cakes. They’re dry to the touch, but when you dab a wet brush in the watercolor, it is “activated.”

How to use watercolor paint in a pan:

Wet your brush and dip it on the cake to pick up the pigment.

The pros:

Since the paint is dry to the touch, it’s easy to transport, and you don’t have to worry about tubes breaking open.

The cons:

Because you need to wet your brush and dip it in the paint, it can take a while to get the paint to a good working consistency. Particularly when working in large areas or creating watercolor washes, this can be frustrating. Certain pigments are a little harder to work with than others, and will require more water to moisten and bring to a workable texture.

Can they be used together?

Yes, you can use watercolors in a pan and from a tube in the same painting. You can even mix one color from a tube and combine it with another from a pan. I’ve never had a problem with this. 

Can they be used interchangeably? 

It depends on the level of exactitude you’re going for. Since watercolor from a tube comes out more vibrant, getting the same color with paint from a pan will take more paint and less water.

So … which should I choose? 

Ultimately, that’s your decision. Pans are easier to transport, so perhaps better for painting outdoors rather than in a studio environment.

However, when working in larger areas or creating watercolor washes, the concentrated vibrancy of the paint from a tube can give you more control.

There is no easy answer to this question, personal choice seems to be a bit of a cop out – but essentially it is your choice, and the best way to find out is to try both.

With 40 colours available in Pan and Tube Winsor & Newton Cotman paints are the number 1 choice for watercolour students and artists alike. Browse the colours here

Looking for some inspiration? Watch this FREE short tutorial to paint a beautiful snowdrop with Rebecca Yoxall

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About painting with watercolour – a starters Guide

About painting with watercolour

Many people think that watercolour painting is the simplest place to start. You can achieve subtle tones, and strong vibrant colours with watercolours, but easy it isn’t. However it is certainly worse persevering and remembering that the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination.

There are 3 components to being successful with any new hobby.

  • Research and understanding
  • Buying the best you can afford (it isn’t necessary to buy the most expensive, but remember that if is too good to be true then generally it isn’t (good)!
  • Be prepared to practice, play and don’t expect amazing results at first attempt.

At Northwich Art Shop we sell a wide range of artist materials.

For starting out with watercolour we recommend that you consider Winsor & Newton’s Cotman Paints. Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours are a range of water colours that are made to our normal high quality standards but costs are kept to an economical level by replacing some of the more costly pigments with less expensive alternatives.

The range consists of 40 colours in tubes and pans which possess good transparency, excellent tinting strength and good working properties. There are also a number of excellent water colour sets available in the Cotman range. If you want to dip your toes in then the Seawhite range is a good starting place, and suitable for GCSE standard. However the colour density and pigments in Winsor & Newton Cotman means that you use less to create a good result.

So with 40 colours available where do you start?

Both Cotman and Artists’ Water Colours can be freely intermixed. If long term permanence is required with Cotman, use only colours rated AA or A which are recommended as permanent for artists’ use. (you can download a colour chart here)

  • The three primary colours in Cotman Water Colour are Lemon Yellow Hue, Ultramarine and Permanent Rose.
  • The six colour mixing system we would recommend you choose Lemon Yellow Hue, Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue, Ultramarine, Intense Blue, Permanent Rose and Cadmium Red Hue.

Browse our range of Cotman Paints here

What should I paint on?

You can buy the best materials in the world but if your paper begins to curl at the slightest whisper of water, then your efforts will be wasted. To avoid this happening, use any watercolour pad, block, or loose paper with a weight greater than 140lb/ 300gsm.

The texture of paper you choose gives you different effects with the paint. Depending on your requirements, there are three main surface textures to choose from, although Cold Press (also known as NOT) is  where I suggest you start – something like this would be a good place to start.

  • Hot press: This texture is even and smooth and makes a nice surface for prints and drawings.
  • Cold press: This slightly bumpy texture is the most popular texture for watercolourists
  • Rough: Rough texture has an even bumpier surface than cold press. This surface is good for exaggerated rough texture techniques.

It is sensible either to buy your paper in a BLOCK (this is pre-stretched and most resistant to buckling) or to buy in a pad and using masking tape stick this down to a rigid drawing board. For starters something like an A4 paper will be more than adequate.

What should I paint with?

For centuries artists have been using a wide range of implements to apply paint with, you can go and forage in your garden for the right piece of grass, make a bamboo quill or use your fingers. Or you can use a brush. Now when it comes to research this is where many budding artists hit a total block. There are so many types, styles and flavours of brush. Synthetic fibres are perfectly acceptable in terms of starting our (indeed many professional artists use synthetic brushes.

A good starting point would be a set. We have a couple that I would point out for your consideration

Seawhite 3 brush Set

Proarte Synthetic Watercolour Brush Set

Proarte Sable Brush Set


We do have a great starter set made by Seawhite that would set you off on your journey, we also have the ever popular Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Set


To have a go get yourself some paints, paper (plus masking tape and a drawing board) and a few brushes and let your imagination fly.

Play with the products. Try blending colours to see what you can make. Experiment with water to dilute colours, get to know how the brushes work.

Follow some tutorials on You Tube (there is a world of options) and if you feel grabbed by the idea then consider joining a local art group, or taking a course.

You may find some inspiration here with one of our local artists (Rebecca Yoxall) who has both free and paid for content available online. Why not take a look now

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Pebble /Rock Painting – an essential guide

Rock Painting

Who can do Pebble / rock painting

Skills Required: Beginner. These decorative rocks are extremely EASY. There are a few tricks for making them, but I’ll go over that in each description. If you follow the instructions, you’ll have success.

Painted Pebbles / Rocks

The idea behind these rocks is that you will decorate them and place them in locations for others to find as a “random act of kindness.” Isn’t it a cool idea?

How to Paint Rocks to Achieve Success

Here are my favourite tips for achieving the best painted rocks:

What you might use to decorate your rocks (click on link to go to product – will open in a new tab):

Gesso – a white surface primer to seal your pebble and give you a great painting surface

POSCA Acrylic Markers – available in a wide range of colours and nib sizes

Deco-Art Crafters Acrylic Paint – an affordable range opf great quality crafters acrylic paint (water wash up)

Montana Spray Varnish – to protect your project. Use 3 or 4 coats for best protection

  1. Pick smooth, flat rocks. You can decorate any rock, but it’s harder to decorate ones with ridges. If you can’t find them in nature, the craft stores sell them as do DIY and Garden centres.
  2. Wash the rocks before decorating them. You want to remove dirt so that it doesn’t mess your design. You can wash several at once with dish soap and leave in a colander to drain and dry.
  3. Seal the rock before painting on it. Use gesso primer to provide a clean keyable surface to paint on. This helps so that the rocks (which are porous) don’t suck the life out of your markers or absorb your paint.
  4. Paint your design on top and use several coats . . . let dry between layers. Use an outdoor or multi-surface paint to help them hold up to the elements.
  5. Use small brushes or a silicone colour tool to make small details and/or dots. I suggest that a round brush number 1,2,3,4 size would work well. But browse the selection.
  6. Use acrylic Posca Markers to write on your rocks. These work the best for me! Just make sure to let fully dry before any writing.
  7. Finish off your rocks with a coat (three or four) of Montana Spray Varnish. This will help protect your beautiful painted rocks from the elements. You can choose Gloss (shiny) Satin (soft sheen) or Matt (Flat).
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How to fit canvas wedges

How to fit canvas wedges

When you buy a pre-stretched canvas you may have been surprised to find a small bag of wooden pieces attached to the back of the canvas stretcher. Feedback tells us that a lot of people wonder what they are actually for (and so many just throw them away, or put them in a box with many of their friends. Don’t cast them out … use them

Most pre-stretched and primed canvases will have good enough tension to allow you to start painting on them as soon as they are in your hands. Occasionally you may find that the surface has slackened slightly, before or after you have started painting. In most cases, your canvas will come with a bag of wooden canvas wedges (also known as canvas keys), which can be used to tighten up the tension of your canvas if you find it has loosened.

What causes a canvas to sag or twist?

During the painting process, the addition of paint, collage and other elements will burden your canvas with extra weight, which over time can cause the surface to loose its tightness. Environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, can also cause the material on your canvas to move and shift. If you have completed a painting and find that it is slackening on the stretcher you can use canvas wedges to tighten it back up again.

Insert Canvas Wedges - How To

Time needed: 15 minutes

Step By Step Guide to How to use Canvas Wedges

  1. Insert Wedges

    Insert the wedges by hand into the corner slots, in the orientation shown.

  2. Protect Your Canvas

    Place pieces of card between the stretchers and the canvas in each corner. This protects the canvas from any accidental contact during wedge fitting.

  3. Prepare to Fix the Wedges

    Stand the canvas upright.

  4. Carefully Drive the Wedges Home

    Using a small hammer, knock the wedges upwards into the slots while supporting the canvas with your free hand.

  5. Work in a Logical Way

    Always use the wedges to move one stretcher at a time, thus keeping the canvas square.

  6. Finishing and Tensioning

    Rotate the canvas and continue to knock the remaining wedges with the hammer until the desired tension is reached.