Last weekend I taught an in-person workshop at Swinton’s Art Supplies in Calgary. It was a fabulous weekend. The participants were an excellent group, very enthusiastic and very friendly. Quite unusually there were many watercolour beginners in the group. That turned out to be an advantage because we were able to proceed at a very appropriate pace. Here are some photos of the class at work.
First Painting: Piazza del Popolo
This is an excellent subject because it teaches so many valuable lessons such as how to create a luminous wash, how to paint all types of figures as well as the often unrecognized idea of ‘eye level’. Whenever we paint a group of people basically all the eyes need to be on the same line which we call eye level.
Here are an assortment of the particpants’ paintings. They are all works in progress.
My Demo Paintings: Piazza del Popolo
Here are the 2 paintings I did. I’m including how the painting looked at the end of the workshop for reference and then the final version.
New York City Scene with Yellow Cabs
I made some significant changes to the composition. When I got it home and looked at it I realized it needed the buildings to go back further down the road. So I added a couple of extras and it helped.
Such a great group and such and enjoyable workshop. It seems so odd but also so familiar to see all the masks.
I participated in a wonderful art event the past weekend in Rosebud, Alberta. Rosebud is a little hamlet that is almost totally dedicated to the arts. We’ve visited Rosebud many times to go the theatre but this is the first time I have actually stayed there, if just for a weekend. It felt great to be a temporary resident of Rosebud. I even participated in the drum circle and got to perform a couple of songs. I camped there and the sense of peace and quiet especially at night was wonderful.
Anyway, this is one painting I did. It’s based on my plein air study. It’s a view from the top of the valley looking down on Rosebud. I been drawn to this view for a number of years but I was never sure how to paint it. This style is something completely new for me which makes this painting super exciting.
This next image is a view of the ‘downtown’. Again I’ve looked at this scene many times and it never really spoke to me. This time I had a bit of time to kill and I wanted to try something so I just started with a little pencil sketch and all of a sudden I thought there was some potential. This really showed me that anything can be turned into a good subject. It’s all about the eye of the beholder. So don’t keep looking for the perfect scene. Work with what you have and turn that into a great painting. This is a plein air study.
It was a great time and many thanks to all the organizers who made me and all the other participating artists feel so welcome.
I had the pleasure of offering my first in-person workshop in 16 months. It was for the Gibsons School of the Arts. They do a fabulous job of presenting quality art workshops every summer. They are a very vibrant and friendly group.
The participants in the workshop were also an especially great group to work with.
The Paintings Piazza del Popolo
The first demo was of the Piazza del Popolo. It’s a great subject that teaches so many useful watercolour skills. We took a lot of time learning how to create a mass of background figures.
I’m including a detail of these figures. They tend to look unfinished when you look at them up close but from a distance they magically become figures.
Another thing that I use frequently in urban landscape painting is what I call ‘ghost figures’. They are figures in the foreground that are there to draw you in to the painting. I particularly like the way that their lower half sort of disappears.
The participants’ examples.
The last demo we did was a scene from Granville St in Vancouver. We didn’t have time to finish it but you can see that everyone is well on their way.
Boats At Gibsons
We also did a painting of boats at Gibsons. This was a challenging painting but as you can see from our Wall Of Fame it was also well done.
The workshops are now being held in the High Beam Dreams which I believe was originally a church. A great space.
Here are the paintings I did. I finished them off at home.
I just love teaching art so it was a wonderful experience being in Gibsons. Many thanks to everyone who participated for making it such a great experience. Thanks also to Dee for being my excellent assistant!
Plein Air Painting
After the workshop Susan and I spent a week meandering to the end of the Coastal Highway (about 150 km). I did a few plein air paintings which I super enjoyed. I remember so much more of a location when I paint it then I ever do from a photograph. It’s the greatest way to visit new locations.
I just completed a 3 day on-line workshop for the Ottawa Watercolour Society. I’ve done quite a few on-line demos but this was my first workshop. It was a great experience. All the participants were very enthusiastic, everyone was very motivated to paint. It was also the mix I like. There were really accomplished artists who were less experienced with watercolour. There were some relatively new painters and some very experienced watercolourists.
Thoughts On Zoom Workshops
Zoom is an interesting technology. It has some advantages over an in-person workshop mainly the really clear, unobstructed view of the painting combined with the ability to zoom in on certain sections. The main draw back is the inability to do that over-the-shoulder mentoring that happens in a live workshop. The main thing, however, is that it is very possible to have a great educational experience over Zoom.
The first demo was a practice in painting people, both close and far away. It’s a painting of the Piazza del Popolo. The other painting was the Flat Iron Building in NYC.
First I’m going to post my demos. I’m including the version as it was at the end of the workshop and also the final. version for the benefit of the participants.
These are the participants paintings. Most of them are works in progress. They really represent a high level of achievement. Well done all!
It was a fabulous workshop. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and it was a pleasure to work with a group of people so interested in improving their watercolour painting. Thanks to the Ottawa Watercolour Society and thanks to Jane for all her help!
After a year of isolation my first in-person workshop will be happening April 17 – 18 at Swinton’s Art Supply, Calgary. For information visit Swinton’s website. You can also call the store 403-258-3500.
I’m very excited about this workshop for 2 reasons. Firstly I want to emphasize ‘how’ I approach almost any urban Landscape subject. In other words I want to show the process I use. It’s a fun and easy way to paint but the main benefit is that it gives you a consistent plan to follow when doing an urban landscape painting but in truth it will also work for many other subjects. The second reason is that I decided that I wanted to do something completely different on the second day. So for the first time I’m going to do something I’ve been working on for a long time – namely a portrait. I imagine many people will be very surprised but I intend to show that even a subject like this that might seem daunting can be done fairly easily with the right process which is what I’m going to show.
On Thursday, Nov 19, 2020 I did my first zoom demonstration for the Calgary Sketch Club. It was a fairly stressful process simply because I got a new, powerful piece of hardware that I hoped would make the experience better for the viewers. I worked beautifully.
Here is the painting as it was when I finished the demo (1 1/2 hours).
I spent about another hour in the studio and this is the final version.
I’m really happy with the painting and I’m over the moon with the process. I think I can use this technology to continue my teaching in this most challenging of times.
I have been doing a lot of portraits lately and, for me, the hardest part of a portrait is the hair. This is especially true for portraits of women. To create hair that has volume and definition is a real challenge.
As much as I enjoy art when it’s easy, I actually do appreciate these challenges. They aren’t always fun but I always learn from them because they motivate me to figure out what the problem is.
So, with this in mind I began to practice various portraits. This was one of the first ones.
The first thing I learned is that black is not a great colour for shadows on a face. As far as the hair goes. The shape is accurate, it reads as hair. There is also a little value contrast in it. It is a little lighter and redder on the right side. Overall, however it’s just a dark blob that adds very little to the portrait.
So I knew there was a problem in the way I approached hair. I wasn’t seeing the shapes within the hair. So I took a new subject and did a portrait in pencil where I had more control.
This was when the light bulb turned on. I was seeing the detail and the various shapes within the hair. All I needed to do was copy them with paint.
So I took the ideas from this pencil sketch and painted them.
This is the portrait that I painted. I actually filmed it as a video lesson. I’m very happy with it. The hair has a nice feel, it appears real and it supports the subject.
Accepting A Challenge
This process of practicing a challenging subject is something I do a lot because that’s how I learn and grow as an artist. I don’t like it when paintings don’t work out but I have to admit that I learn more from my failures than my successes. I just enjoy my successes but I learn from my mistakes.
P.S. When I finish editing the video I’ll be putting it in my newsletter. If you are interested in receiving my newsletter please contact me. The next edition will be coming out soon. Contact me.
One of Calgary’s great people, artist and store owner Doug Swinton and his son Rion came by today to film me doing a demo for his FaceBook Live weekly painting demo. Like anytime you are with Doug it was a really fun morning. Thanks to all involved and to my wife, Susan, who stayed the whole time to offer moral support.
In my lastpost I showed a little study I did of this same subject. I really enjoyed the subject but the painting was unsuccessful because the figures got completely lost in the dark doorway behind them. With that painting I redid the figures in gouache and the painting was rescued.
However, I wanted to redo it and try to make the figures work but only using watercolour. This is that painting. It was definitely not easy. I’ve never been so mindful of value, always asking myself how the shape I was painting fit into the overall composition. It was a fine line to have the dark doorway in the background yet still have the darkest darks in the figures. It was a technical challenge but because of that it was an opportunity to learn.
The other big challenge was to have the face of the guy really express an emotion. Again it’s a challenge to get detail into such a small shape. Again I feel that it works really well.
Finally, the drawing was very tight but I’m pleased that the painting is actually quite loose.
I have a lot of fun doing these quick, little watercolour studies. It’s a chance to practice ideas with minimal pressure. I just glance over my photos and the first one that catches my interest gets painted!
A Glance On Stephan Ave
This one had really interesting architectural shapes and a neat attitude from the subjects. When I painted it I liked everything except the figures. They were completely lost in the background. Since it was a failed painting, at that point, I decided it was gouache to the rescue! The figures were completely redone in gouache.
River & Osborne: Waiting To Get Home
This one came about very accidentally. I took the photo with my iPad on a bright, sunny day. The iPad created a whole different feeling. It was a blast to try and keep it wet and atmospheric.