Last week Susan and I travelled to the Madeline Island School of Art (MISA) to take a workshop. MISA is located on Madeline Island, the largest and only inhabited island in the Apostle Island chain. They are in the Wisconsin section of Lake Superior. They are a very fascinating and beautiful destination.
The workshop was with Ted Nuttall who is an amazing watercolour portraitist. He appears frequently in The Watercolour Magazine. He has been on the cover 3 times. He has also won numerous awards in many of the biggest exhibitions including the American Watercolor Society which is the biggest of the big.
This image is very representative of his style.
Ted is definitely an intuitive painter. He paints very deliberately, with a lot of thought. He employs a style of using many light transparent layers to build up the feeling of depth. He also adds an element of energy and excitement to his paintings by the use of what he calls ‘Sloppy Dots’. Sloppy dots are really just little blobs of colour. They are fascinating in that up close they appear to be very busy and haphazard but when viewed further back they just blend into the portrait. All you notice is that the portrait is a little more interesting and involving..
You can see an example of this approach in this detail of an eye.
The challenge of putting this approach into practice is that it’s hard to give a recipe on how to use it. It’s hard to say ‘just do this or that’ when it’s such an intuitive process.
Here is another example of sloppy dots creating hair.
What I found during the workshop is that when you just loosen up and give it a try it’s actually much easier then I would have expected. At least to do my version of it.
I went to MISA last year to take a workshop with my hero Joseph Zbukvic. They bring in a lot of big name instructors. They run 3 different workshops every week so it’s a very busy place. They have quilting, photography and writing workshops as well as all types of painting. It’s not inexpensive but they do treat you royally. It’s also a neat experience to be on an island even if you’re just a 20 minute ferry ride from Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Here is a shot of the MISA campus.
Here is the inside of our studio showing some of the class. It’s in the top of that barn like structure in the centre of the photo above.
I found this workshop to be extremely interesting and useful. Part of the reason I that I feel I got so much out of it is that I had already been experimenting with portraits a little bit. So I had already been thinking about and practicing some of the challenges of doing portraits.
One of my big lessons was to lighten up on value. Here is a perfect example. This is one of Ted’s reference photos.
Before this workshop I would have focused so much on the dark suit and the dark hat and I would have painted them as strong darks. Now, here is Ted’s rendition. I find it so interesting to imagine the thought process he uses to go from this photo to this light and lively painting. It’s a challenge to me to try to assimilate this lesson but I’m finding it an exciting challenge.
The other big take-away for me is the challenge of using some of these sloppy dots and unusual colour accents in my own work. I will be posting the paintings I began during the workshop soon but it’s a much slower process than I am used to so it’s taking it’s time . . . and that’s just fine.
Ted had some other original paintings and some giclees at the workshop and one of the original paintings completely captivated me. I liked them all but this one went way beyond liking. The painting isn’t quite finished but we have ordered a giclee as soon as it’s finished. The original sells for $4500.00. I’ll be proud to have this painting in our home.
Both Susan and I really connected with Ted. He is a very gentle and generous guy. We are the same age and we appear to like a lot of the same music so it was fun to meet and get to know him a little.
Thanks for the great experience!