Monday, April 24, 2017

4-Day Watercolor Workshop

I spent 4 days in Charlotte, NC teaching a wonderful bunch of artists at Nancy Couick's Studio. The students were enthusiastic and so willing to try new, challenging concepts. 

Day One
I demonstrated painting features, skin tones and a head-only portrait. 

The students then painted their own versions.
Student portraits

Day Two and Three
Students finished their head-only portraits and started planning larger, personal works of art using value sketches and color studies. We discussed color harmony, values, and most important, the "why" (not what) of our painting. 

Day Four
Students worked on their larger paintings by following their color studies and value sketches. Students learned to self-critique and we ended the workshop with a group critique of everyone's work. 

I learned something too. A student told me about a nifty, new tool from Rosemary Brushes called an eradicator (which I bought) that removes paint from a painting without damaging the paper. It works great!

Thanks to all the students who attended and helped to make the workshop a great success!

3rd Annual Cabin Retreat

This winter, I snuck away on my "Third Annual Painting Retreat" which was, basically,
me alone in the woods with my paints...and a few select amenities.

The weather was beautiful and completely uncharacteristic for February in Pennsylvania, so I was able to spend some time painting outside.

Here is a sneak peak of some works in progress. I look forward to sharing the finished
paintings with you later this year at my open studio and upcoming exhibition.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Step Seven: Framing

This is the last step of "7 Steps of A Painting". Here are steps One: InspirationTwo: Computer DesignThree: Value SketchFour: Color Studies, Five: Drawing and Six: Painting.

Framing is an artform in itself and the right framing can make your painting look even better. However, talk about overwhelming! There is a dizzying array of choices of mat style and color, framing, and choice of glass or acrylic. Taking the time to find an excellent framer is so worth the effort. The framer will help you make a decision by narrowing your choices to fit your preferences. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Step Six: Painting

This is Step Six of "7 Steps of A Painting". Here are steps One: InspirationTwo: Computer DesignThree: Value SketchFour: Color Studies, and  Five: Drawing.

People often ask me how long it takes me to paint a portrait. They are surprised to find out that the planning and design take about twice as long as the actual painting. Having my value sketch and color study to guide me takes the guesswork out of which colors to choose or how light or dark areas should be, allowing me to paint freely and confidently. It also eliminates the question I hear in every single workshop, "what should I paint in my background?".

Monday, March 27, 2017

Step Five: Drawing

This is Step Five of "7 Steps of A Painting". Here are steps One: Inspiration, Two: Computer Design, Three: Value Sketch and Four: Color Studies.

Now that you have excellent reference material, a design and composition plan, and a color scheme, you are ready to start your drawing. There are two ways that I use to draw my image onto the watercolor paper: freehand drawing and trace/freehand combo.

Drawing Freehand
When I paint from life, I have no choice but to draw freehand. This means I am looking at my model and drawing what I see without the aid of a grid or other tools. Strong drawing skills can only be acquired with practice. I also draw simple figures and cityscapes freehand.

Trace/Freehand Combo
For my large, complicated designs, I do a combo of tracing and freehand drawing. Watercolor paper can only withstand so much erasing without damaging the paper. To avoid that, I first print out my figures the exact size I want for the painting. I cut them out and arrange them on my paper. I trace an outline of the figures and then draw in the details. This saves considerable time and erasing because I know I at least have my figures in the right place before I finish the drawing.

I draw my images onto 260 or 300 pound Arches cold press paper. I use the rougher side of the 260, and the smoother side of the 300. I use an HB or 2B pencil and a kneaded eraser.

Below is a new painting I have drawn up, ready to go!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Step Four: Color Studies

This is Step Four of "7 Steps of A Painting". Here are Steps One: Inspiration, Two: Computer Design: and Three: Value Sketches.

My students like color studies much more than the value sketches of Step Three. The color studies are small, 5x7" paintings that are fun to play around with because it allows you to try out several of different color schemes, especially a color combination you wouldn't normally use.

Here is my value sketch from Step 3.

Because I wanted to keep the original colors of the stain-glass window, I decide to paint with an analogous color scheme of blue, blue-violet, violet, red-violet, and red, and a complement of yellow. I can see how the painting will look and feel before starting on the larger painting. I like it, so the next step is the drawing--stay tuned for next week's post.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Step Three: Value Study

Here we are at Step Three of a seven-part series on creating a painting from conception to framing. Step One discussed inspiration and Step Two covered computer design.

Step Three is the probably most hated step among my workshop students. Beginner students find it difficult to understand how a small, black and white rough sketch can improve their paintings. It takes time and lots of practice to see the benefit of arranging your painting into simple black and white value shapes. The arrangement and adjustments of the value shapes can make or break a painting.

In Step Two, I showed you the initial computer design for my painting, Disconnected.

I took the image of the mother and child and combined it in Photoshop with the image of the stained-glass window and a brick wall. If you squint your eyes at the design, you can see that there is not a good mix of light and dark values. The stained-glass window, the upper left shadow, and the figures are almost the same value and there is no impact. The shapes all blend together. I can adjust those values with a little sketch.

In the value sketch, I adjusted the lights and darks so that the highest contrast on the mother, keeping her the focal point despite the busy stained-glass window behind her. The window is mid to dark values with the darker shapes leading from the upper, right corner to the figures. The figures are framed by the vertical and horizontal lines. 

Next week: Color studies.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Step Two: Computer Design

This is part two of a seven-part series on my process for creating a painting. Last week was Step One: Inspiration.

Once I have my initial inspiration, I put the image into Photoshop to work out the concept and design. As I explained in step one, the original photo had many detracting elements that did not add anything to the painting.

As I looked at the photo of the mother and child, I thought of "Madonna and child" and began to play with the idea of a modern-day Madonna and child. I browsed the internet for images of churches and stained glass. Juxtaposing the mother and child with the stained-glass image shown below made me think of the many ways that people today feel either supported or disconnected by the church. Placing the woman and child below the Madonna seemed to suggest that the woman was being watched over, or is it judged? It will be up to the viewer to use their own ideas and experiences to interpret the painting for themselves.

I run out the computer-enhanced image in a 5x7 size so I can proceed to my next step, value sketches, which is next week's post.

Original photo

After computer design

Monday, February 20, 2017

Step One: The Inspiration

The next seven posts will explore the steps of creating a painting from beginning to end. The steps I follow are, roughly: inspiration; computer design; value sketches; color studies; drawing, painting; and framing.

This post explores step one, the inspiration. This is the "why" of your painting. Why were you draw to this particular image and why do you want to paint it? The answer to that question will guide your decisions through the painting process.

Here is the initial reference photo for my painting, Disconnected.

About The Photo
I was walking in Charleston, SC and saw this young mother and baby sitting on the curb. I was drawn to the loving way she held and looked at her son, as well as the beautiful lighting on her hair and arm. This was all I needed as inspiration.

Copying the photo as-is was not an option. The location, car, and vegetation detract from the imagery of the mother and child. How to incorporate the inspiration into a well-designed and conceptual painting? Stay tuned for next week's post.The next several steps will be focused on the design and composition.

Next week, Step Two: Computer Design.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Watercolor Workshops for 2017

Watercolor portrait and figure workshop for all levels
Nancy Couick Studios
Syllabus and supply list
Photo reference guide

Students go beyond mere portraiture and the goal of achieving a likeness. We will delve into the design and planning that are integral in telling a story or communicating an idea. The workshop progresses through the stages of a painting, from initial inspiration and reference material to value and color studies to final painting of a figure or figures. Although students may complete one or several paintings during the course of the workshop, the ultimate goal is not to create a masterpiece, but to experiment with new ideas and techniques and to make plenty of mistakes.

Watercolor figure workshop for all levels
New Kensington Art Center
Syllabus and supply list
Photo reference guide

This one-day workshop is designed for students wanting to incorporate more creativity and personal expression in their figure paintings using values, edges, and backgrounds.

Watercolor Master Class for all levels
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Sunday, October 15 will be a special private welcome reception for students and an
art tour of Nemacolin's world-renown art collection.

Learn to paint expressive and creative portraits and figures in watercolor. Enjoy three days of creating, learning, and inspiration in the brand-new studio space of beautiful Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Bring a spouse or non-painting friend to enjoy the many amenities of Nemacolin and make it a getaway retreat for all of you.

Syllabus and supply list will be posted April 1st.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Drawing From Life

In Pittsburgh, there are lots of opportunities to attend figure drawing sessions with a model. The hard part is fitting it into your schedule. I try to go once a week for practice, camaraderie, and inspiration. Here is a sketch from the last session at Panza Gallery. The session was three hours, broken into 2, 5, 10, 15, and 30-minute poses.

Model Sara, charcoal over watercolor, 1/2 hour pose

Monday, January 30, 2017

American Watercolor Society 150th International Exhibition

The American Watercolor Society is a nonprofit membership organization that began in 1866 to promote the art of watercolor painting in America.

Each year the Society holds a juried exhibition of watercolors from artists throughout the world.

My painting, What Plagues Us, will be included in this year's exhibition. It will be held at the Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY from April 3-22, 2017.

To find out the story behind What Plagues Us, click here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Let's Paint Together: Upcoming Watercolor Workshop

I am headed to Charlotte, NC in April to teach a four-day workshop at Nancy Couick Studios. Workshops are a great way to immerse in painting, creating, and learning. You can check out the class description and supply list or register using the links below.I hope you can join us!

"Going Beyond A Likeness"
Nancy Couick Studios
Charlotte, NC 
April 5-8, 2017

Potos from my last 4-day workshop for the West Texas Watercolor Society:
Demo for the West Texas Watercolor Society
Watching the demo. You could hear a pencil drop!
Student portraits from Day 1
Student color studies for their next painting
Lots and lots of studies!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Art of Watercolour magazine

I was thrilled to have my artwork included on two full spreads and to see so many of my watercolor idols in the latest issue of The Art of Watercolour! Thank you to Laurent Benoist, who edited my writing into something coherent and to Janine Gallizia, who asked me to part of this wonderful magazine.
All you watercolor nerds can order the print or digital versions here:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Getting A Likeness in Portrait Painting

To achieve a likeness in a painting, the values have to be accurate.Getting accurate values (lights and darks) can be tricky because a perceived value is relative to the other values surrounding it. For instance, when a value is surrounded by darker values, it looks lighter than it actually is. The reverse is also true, lighter values surrounding a value will make it seem darker.

Below is my painting from a weekly figure drawing session that I attend. The first image is before the values were adjusted. You can see that the face feels flat and the eyelids look to prominent.

In the second image, the values depicting the eye sockets and the lower part of her face were darkened and create a more realistic painting. The values on her forehead and cheekbones now look lighter because of the added darker values on her face and in the background.