Susan Blackwood

Susan Blackwood: Simple Watercolor Secrets: Using the MAPS System


Video Length: 4 Hours
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MAPS Leads to Success

In this video course, you’ll learn:

  • How to better express yourself visually
  • Susan Blackwood’s exclusive map system to plan out your paintings
  • Why painting the images that stir YOUR soul is the key
  • How to make your paintings worthy of passing on to the next generation
  • How to transform THESE moments into lasting paintings
  • Why drawing nonstop and filling sketchbooks is critical (even if you can’t draw)
  • The keys to creating art so beautiful it stands out in galleries and museums
  • Why painting outdoors (en plein air) is SO important to your success
  • How to see the world with new – watercolor – eyes
  • Exactly how MAPS guide you quickly to a finished painting
  • You’ll see the immediate improvements MAPS can make in YOUR paintings
  • How MAPS will add that missing emotional spark to your paintings
  • A simple way to organize values
  • An easy way to sort shapes
  • The key to edges made simple
  • Color choices simplified
  • How MAPS can help you discover and develop YOUR personal style
  • Learn exactly when to use LARGE brushstrokes
  • The key to adding just the right amount of texture
  • How to take control of your subject matter
  • A blocking-in technique when using MAPS that makes it easy
  • How to create paintings that truly communicate EMOTION
  • Why MAPS can create near-instant positive results 
  • And much, much more!


Susan is a Signature Member of the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society. Her work reflects her extensive worldwide travel. She has painted en plein air (outdoors) in England, Wales, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and China. 

Over 70 of her paintings have been reproduced by several companies and sold all over the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, England, and Australia as limited-edition prints and giclees.

So how does a career like Susan’s happen?

Susan Blackwood began with a burning desire to draw. In fact, in the very early years, the walls of her house became her crayon “canvas.” After that was shut down by her parents, she became a little more creative as she took her pencils and drew behind the curtains. That was only discovered when the curtains came down!

Susan’s parents were both artists. And later in life, when she traced her family tree, she discovered that she has family ties to Rembrandt. So, the love of art and the desire to create art run very deep in her family. This may explain the non-stop focus, passion, and drive to make art.

She has always had an intense level of curiosity. She says her favorite subjects are the ones right in front of her at any given time. Whether in real life or in photos, Susan can find the spark in almost anything she sees. 

Take “gobs” of photos

Susan takes pictures all the time. She takes pictures of everything. “For me, it’s more ‘found’ things, like capturing the way a shadow falls from a tree,” she says.

She has specific tips on exactly how to use the camera to get the most interesting pictures (no matter what kind of phone or camera you have). She uses what the camera captures as a major (but not the only) source of inspiration.

Susan Blackwood has every brushstroke planned as she uses her own MAPS system. In this video, she’ll show you how she plans out a painting and how this allows her to move smoothly from nothing to completed painting in a very short amount of time.

The Freedom of Planning

There’s a true feeling of freedom you experience when you have a plan that’s guiding all your actions. This “plan” actually eliminates stress. It lightens your mind. It allows you to just relax and paint. 

Because you’re following a real plan, you finish more paintings faster, with less stress and fewer mistakes

So, what is this plan?

Susan Blackwood has spent nearly her entire career teaching other artists (and learning from them at the same time) how to approach a new painting. 

She quickly realized that there was no systematic approach used by everyone. Nearly all students start from different positions. They may have a photo or be painting en plein air. Or they may draw a light grid on their canvas or paint an underpainting of varying levels of detail. 

So, she committed herself to doing what those rare great teachers do. She found a way to help

She created a system. She helped students find their way through a painting. She drew them a map. And that was the starting point for the MAPS system (Making Artistic PlanS).

In the beginning, she felt resistance from some artists to the idea of putting some structure on an act so creative. But in a VERY short time, those same artists became raving fans of her MAPS system.

The increase in speed is not at all because of shortcuts or lower quality. In fact, the paintings created under this system are of much higher quality. They have better design cohesion. They are the kinds of paintings you can build your reputation on.


What kind of MAPS are there?

There are eight core MAPS. Others branch off from there. But here are Susan Blackwood’s eight core maps:

  1. The SHAPE MAPS– the way to move from small to big shapes and then the way from large to small 
  2. The VALUES MAPS– how to move from dark to light and back to dark
  3. The COMPLEMENTARY COLORS MAPS– using red and green plus orange and blue and all the complementary pairs for maximum effect
  4. The SATURATION MAPS– the path from muted to pure and back to muted
  5. The TEMPERATURE MAPS– going from cool to warm and back to cool
  6. The EDGE MAPS– from no detail to crisp detail and back to no detail
  7. The MYSTERY MAP 1
  8. The MYSTERY MAP 2

              Those last two MAPS are the ones that put it ALL together. They are the secret sauce for the entire MAPS process. Without these final two core MAPS, your entire painting could fall short of its potential.


              “Creating a painting is using a universal language. If you ‘speak’ the language clearly, anyone, anywhere, in any country will understand it. Using MAPS will give your paintings universal clarity.”

              – Susan Blackwood


              Following the MAPS:Susan Blackwood shows you each step. She explains the MAPS she uses to create the beautiful demonstration watercolor painting. You’ll see just how easy it is to use MAPS in your own paintings. Soon you’ll be painting faster, more confidently, and with fewer mistakes. The MAPS set you free. You’ll enjoy painting so much more.

              The secret behind the MAPS 

              You might be asking yourself why the MAPS work so well. The reason is they clarify exactly what to do, where to do it, and when to do it. 

              MAPS are your guidelines that make it obvious when and how to use values, edges, shapes, color, and more. There’s less guessing on these elements, so your mind is set free to be creative in the moment. 

              It may sound counterintuitive to say these MAPS set you free. But that’s exactly what happens. I promise you’ll feel different when you use this system Susan has created. Her 50-year career is proof that her concepts work

              She has a serious following. Collector demand for her watercolors is at an all-time high.

              Susan has won so many awards that it’s hard to count. She’s a force in watercolor, and that doesn’t happen by luck or chance.

              She built a system that reliably works for her.

              Now she’s sharing it with you in this video.


              In Simple Watercolor Secrets, Susan Blackwood will:

              • Explain the incredible advantage of laying out your painting – IN ADVANCE
              • How to plot your way using MAPS before you pick up a brush
              • Show how shapes, values, and colors are guided by MAPS
              • Teach you how MAPS can help you avoid “getting lost” in your painting
              • Share how MAPS can change the way you paint forever
              • Expose a secret to her success: EVERY successful painting of hers uses MAPS


              Just imagine how much more successful you will be when you begin using MAPS to create your beautiful watercolor paintings. What you’ll learn from Susan will change the way you see the world and the path you follow to create paintings that are packed with emotion.

              The MAPS help it all come together:Susan Blackwood will demonstrate exactly how to use MAPS, and you’ll see it all flow together flawlessly. This system allows you the mental space to freely express your emotions through paint.


              Chapter Outline

              CHAPTER OUTLINE

              • Introduction
              • Find Your Subject & Plan Your Composition
                • Susan guides you through a series of images in this chapter. take a look at photos of the subject we will be painting today, examine options on how best to use our photo references to make a pleasing composition
              • Make Artistic Plans
                • Susan runs through a series of images (versions of the demo she’ll be doing) to  discuss MAPS (Making Artistic PlanS) – artists learn how to create a roadmap before they start painting to find better success in their work. 
                • Points of review are: Shape, Value, Color Palette, Color Saturaturation, Color Temperature, Edges, Details / Texture, Brushwork, and Style
              • Prepare to Paint
                • Using our subject and a version of the demo Susan did in prep as a sample prep for the lesson, we will be discussing how to grid your work and draw it on your paper before you start painting
              • Materials & Tools
                • Review of paper, brushes and how they can be used most effectively, soft pencil for line drawings, important ERASER TIP, limited palette of colors including info on COLOR MIXING



              • Step 1: Wet into Wet
              • Step 2: Large Shapes
              • Step 3: Medium Shapes
              • Step 4: Start the Darks
              • Step 5: Small Shapes