I taught a 2 day workshop at the Leighton Centre this past weekend. It was a wonderful experience. I have been thinking a lot about my painting and my art career lately and a lot of the ideas I have been working on seem to have become integrated in my working method. From theory to practice. One way that I notice this is in the 2 demos I did. I think that they are the best demos I have ever done in a workshop setting. When I teach I look at my demos as tools to aid my teaching. This is very good for the students. The flip side of that is, however, that I pay less attention to the demos as works of art and more as examples to teach. This time there was a much better balance. I also feel that I was successful in achieving my goals for the workshop which were to go beyond just trying to copy a subject and instead to really express a vision. To tell the story that inspired the painting. This was the closest I’ve ever come to reaching that lofty ideal.
Technically speaking I was exhausted at the end of each day because it was very intense and I think I also worked everyone pretty hard. One sign of a good workshop for me is when the students do a lot of painting. This workshop was over at 4 pm and on Saturday people were still painting at 4:30 pm and on Sunday we painted right until 4. I’ve taken many workshops and this is not always the case.
The first day was an urban landscape theme. I based it on this photo of a wet day in Toronto. The photo was taken by my friend Brian Hindle.
This is such a made-for-watercolour photo. The wet street with lots of reflections and the wonderful shape of the building. This subject spoke to me of mood and mystery and I really wanted to focus on the drama suggested by the 2 vehicles right in the centre so I ignored much of the detail and focused on my vision, the story I wanted to tell. Here is the thumbnail sketch that I created to express my take on this subject. You can see that all the detail is subordinated to the overall goal.
This is my demo of this subject. I got just over half of it done in class and then I finished it at home. I had forgotten to leave the bright shape on the right so I did a lot of scrubbing out with a toothbrush in my studio. This actually made the painting even more interesting.
A friend of mine and an excellent painter, Brent Laycock, said on one of his DVD’s that a good painting should have little sections within it that speak all by themselves and I feel that, in this case there are a couple of magical little paintings within the big painting . Here they are:
On the second day of the workshop the subject was ‘the figure’. This is the demo I did. The original photo taken by my wife, Susan, was drenched in a story of this girl sitting by the pond with her thoughts drifting off. I call the painting Pondering both because she is by a pond and because she is pondering.
This painting particularly in the jean jacket employs a style that I don’t use a lot, namely lots of layering. I did 4 light washes to create the texture of the jacket and then a couple more washes to add the dark parts. If I was doing this at home I could easily have done 8 – 10 washes to get even more texture before adding the darks. Very time consuming but also very effective. Also interesting was the use of a 1″ flat brush to create the ripples in the pond.
Finally some shots from the class. Thanks again to everyone for being part of this great experience.