I had the privilege of teaching a workshop for the Toronto Watercolour Society. I would like to thank Eleanor Lowden, the president of the TWS and Carolyne Pascoe, the workshop co-ordinator for giving me this opportunity. It was especially enjoyable for me because I love Toronto and also as a watercolourist it’s a treat to be with a group of people who share my love of this special medium.
The workshop was a wonderful experience. I just love watching the process as a group of individuals come together into a single group supporting and encouraging each other. For me that is one of the more important indicators of a good workshop. So thank you to everyone for a great workshop.
The workshop was held at the Assembly Hall on Lakeshore Blvd. It was originally part of a mental health hospital opened in 1888. It was closed in 1979 when the government wanted to change the model of institutionalizing patients with mental health issue. There are a few of the original buildings left and they are extremely attractive from the outside. Inside they have been completely modernized and some of them are part of Humber College. The Assembly Hall is owned by the city and is mainly a rental space with an art focus. There is an extremely moving tribute to the original hospital using the words of the patients themselves located just outside the Assembly Hall.
Once again there was a wide range of abilities and levels of experience. I must admit that I enjoy this particular challenge. It is so gratifying to be able to support and encourage those with less experience and it’s also great to see how the more advance painters take my process and make it their own. It’s also very helpful for the class to see all these different approaches to a subject. I’ve always maintained that participants in a workshop can learn a great deal from each other.
I did 2 demos during the workshop. This one is a real favourite of mine. It’s from a part of Toronto that I always visit, Kensington Market. It’s such a jumble of vibrant life. I love the fact that the photo I used was one of the few that needed very few changes because it was such a great composition right out of the camera. It was also an excuse to have some fun with colour.
The other demo which I call Toronto Works was a general introduction to my urban landscape process.
I thought I had finished Toronto Works in the class but when I got it home I noticed a couple of changes that I wanted to make. I thought I would do a short video clip to illustrate these changes. Watercolour’s reputation is that it is a very challenging medium and it’s hard to make changes. Certainly with oil and acrylic it’s possible to scrape out or white out sections and just redo them but it is also very possible to make changes even very dramatic changes to a painting. While the changes I made to this one are not dramatic I hope that watercolourists will find comfort in the fact that change is possible.
A Concluding Word
This past month with this workshop in Toronto followed immediately by a week in Nelson, BC and then a mini-workshop at the Leighton Centre in Calgary has been the most intense month of my teaching career. It has been an experience that has challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone and from which I have grown. I am very grateful to be in this place at this time of my life.
I just want to end with the comment of one of the participants:
“Thanks Rex, it was a very good Workshop. I learnt a lot and it’s because of all the hard work that you put into making the workshop such a success. Well done!