Gord's Books & Videos

The first book, The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, published in 2000 has been one of North Light Publishing’s best selling books. It is a take-along guide that shares practical tips, techniques and advice in a language you can actually understand. This interesting art book by Gordon MacKenzie is one of the best fundamental watercolor books for beginners and experienced painter alike. Unfortunately, supply is now limited and you will have to hunt a variety of Art Stores, book dealers, used book outlets, etc., to find this informative treasure of watercolor information.   

If You Can Only Have ONE Watercolor Reference Book
April 7, 2000
Reviewer: P. S. Fagelson from Washington, DC

If I were to reduce my not-inconsiderable watercolor reference library to just one book, this would be that book. It blew me away! Gordon MacKenzie covers everything from which brushes to use for what and how to select your paints based on ingredients (a matter of growing importance) to compositional principles. I've had the book less than a week and, honestly, have referred to it practically every day for one thing or another related to painting. The book is laid out in an orderly and progressive format which made things easy to find when I went back. It is filled with photos of his work and delightful illustrations and sketches. The writing style is comfortable and enjoyable. I particularly liked that the captions on his paintings told how he achieved various effects, both in technique and composition. The only thing I found missing was a section on portraits, my particular area of interest. However, the principles and information Mr. MacKenzie shares applies equally well to all subject matter. The Watercolorist's Essential Notebook is well named and likely to become my standard gift to painter friends, if my enthusiasm hasn't persuaded them to buy it for themselves!


Gord’s  second book Published May 2006 focuses on the three major elements of landscape painting, i.e. Sky, Land and Water. This popular book is readily available through on-line book dealers, book stores and art supply stores. It reviews the basics of the first book and then applies them to painting those three landscape elements. Again, the language is easy to understand and the results achievable. Most importantly, this guide's instruction teaches artists the foundations of strong composition and encourages them to pursue their own individual style to create landscapes that are compelling and unique. An outstanding resource for all watercolorists

November 21, 2009: Clear and readily accessible lessons on all aspects of painting landscapes with watercolor. Filled with easily understood tips for beginning artists regardless of medium. Excellent companion to Mackenzie's first Watercolorist's Essential Notebook, although there is some overlap. Very useful chart for assisting the new watercolorist in choosing the best pigments (paints) from many of the reputable manufacturers world-wide. If you can only buy one watercolor book, this is it. Great instrucional watercolor book by Anonymous

I was surprised to see another book by Gordon MacKenzie. What more could he say that he had not said in his first book? Plenty! In fact, I consider this book to be much more valuable than the first. This book focuses on landscape painting and is divided into three parts: tools and techniques, composing landscapes, and landscape elements. It begins with an expanded paint quality chart comparing more paints by more manufacturers. Sweet! I can pick and choose the best paints with confidence now. But the best part of the book for me was the information on painting the essentials--water, skies, rocks, and trees. I expected this book to be good, but it was great!
(Texarkana, AR USA)

The Best Art Book I've Ever Bought

Over the years I've bought many books, to assist me with my hobby. For anyone who is trying to paint typically Canadian landscapes this book hits the nail on the head. It covers every aspect of landscapes that you can think of and some you wouldn't have. Some of the topics include, lighting, reflections, perspectives, waters tranquille & rough (above & below the surface), skies of various kinds, backgrounds (rocks, trees, grasses, forests & meadows). Best of all he includes various tecniques to get the desired effect. He also takes some of the mystery out of which colours to choose for your landscape and then he teaches you how to manipulate them. To me buying this book was money well spent. Kaino

Gordon Mackenzie's new book is a worthy addition to his "The Watercolorists Essential Notebook." If you are looking for a lot of pretty pictures to copy, this is not it. If you want to become more proficient and creative as a watercolorist, this is your treasure! Regardless of where you are on the pathway in using watercolors, this book holds valuable instruction for your self improvement. It can be a life-long guide as you strive to produce better and better work. DON'T MISS IT! (Yorktown, VA).


Gord’s DVD Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook--Lanscapes –See how it is done.

Follow along with the creation of three evocative landscapes and a range of stunning effects, from sparkling water to sun-dappled snow. You'll love how easy and straightforward MacKenzie makes it for you to loosen up your style and evoke a strong sense of atmosphere.

Available from Amazon, North Light Publishing, and various art stores.


"KEEP PAINTING", had an limited release in January 2018 but due to technical problems at Northlight is not being formally released, along with its videos, until March. This includes blogs, social media, newsletters and mailings. It is currently available through Amazon and Northlight Books.

No one is exempt from creative constipation. Every artist knows the joy of completing a successful painting but also the frustration and disappointment that comes with less successful works but it's those dry periods, those "How do I get going again" times that this book addresses.

The creative spirit would seem to be a fickle thing. I believe that this innate gift, once we start using it, doesn't want us to get comfortable. Granted, with each new attempt is the need to repeat and perfect the skills involved and explore variations within it but with every success in that area there is the danger of getting comfortable but our spirit knows that we can always do better and wants us to keep growing and expanding our abilities by continually challenging our ingenuity. When we slack off by doing the same old, same old we fail to challenge ourselves with anything new and start digging our trench and building our wall.

What we have done is progressively fail to employ the creative powers within us and in doing so we replace the excitement of the whole process with a sort of creative limbo.

In every painting I do I try to build in some sort of challenge, something that I haven't tried before, be it ever so small. This wee challenge keeps me excited because i know that if I'm not excited about my work I can't expect the viewer to be.

In this, my final book, I have tried to offer ideas and inspiration that will help you re-engage your creative abilities by offering you ideas that you may not have thought of before that you can take and run with on your own.

The following INTRODUCTION and TABLE OF CONTENTS from the book will give you further insite into the book.

The FOUR NEW VIDEOS shown will also be released at the same time as the book.


This book may be a dangerous to open. It will, at times ask you to use your own judgment, imagination and ingenuity to generate your own pictures ideas. There are some step-by-step demos throughout where ever I felt the need for clarity but often I rely on your intelligence and experience to carry on without training wheels.

This book is really intended for those who have painted for a while but feel they are up against a wall and need a creative kick in the pants or those who likewise have set their paints aside for a while because the process has lost its excitement and appeal.

I understand completely.

I have 5 ideas I want you to keep in mind while you read this book.

  1. You don't have to paint the way you paint now.
  2. You don't have to paint what you paint now.
  3. You have no one to please but yourself.
  4. Growth comes with persistent stumbles and a positive attitude.
  5. Your creative spirit is waiting for you to try out your new wings.

This book is not written to showcase what I can do but to make you aware of options opportunities, variations that you can do.

I want to offer ideas that you can take and run with, explore and develop and use in your own way. I want to encourage you to try some new approaches as starting points for a whole new painting adventure.

Later on in this book is a section on how to use photographic reference material creatively but the ideas presented will work with any original idea or sketch you have. Before we get to that section we will explore a wide range of compositional options and painting approaches that you have at your disposal.

It is my sincere wish that with a re-sharpened focus on your painting you will come to realize that the process itself is merely a bridge or vehicle you use to reach a broader and richer experience of life and that by satisfying your very nature to be creative you are connecting to all others of like spirit and purpose.

When you sense that something at your very core is changing you will realize that painting is as much about discovering and using your true nature as it is about making pretty pictures.

Painting then becomes the outward activity for tapping into the personal landscapes our memory and imagination have created on our soul and making our “self” visible.

Table of Contents

In Search of Inspiration
---Deciding what to do--the hardest part

--constructing art that is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying

Gradations and Reversals
--adding variety and realism with these often ignored features of the natural world

Mingling Colours and Passages
--letting the magic of watercolours and the viewer's imagination create a more engaging experience

--Using climate conditions to set the stage for your visual drama.

Wee People
-adding life to your work with a few tiny figures

Working with Photographs
-exploring the creative potential of reference photos

Passing on the Spirit by Teaching Others
-Tips on Nurturing artistic growth in yourself by teaching others

And Four New Videos