Thursday, March 27, 2014

Workshop on Whidbey Island

Posted by: Kate

On Sunday I wrapped up a workshop hosted by Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio.  This is the same venue at which Dave tormented baby rabbits last year.  It was a small group, which lent the whole thing a nice intimacy and gave me lots of time to work one on one with students.  Every day started off with a slideshow presentation of the concepts I wanted to introduce, with some high res close up photos of my own work as an example.  I then spent the rest of the day circling around the room painting with people and problem solving. 

I am just plain giddy with the paintings my students produced.  Four days is not a lot of time to do a still life, and furthermore, everyone's still life set up was pretty complicated.  Nobody copped out with a bunch of sissy objects.

One of the focuses of the workshop was techniques for creating wood texture and chippy peeling paint.  Amelie excelled at her rustic old paint, and she's only been painting for about a year.

Kathy had a ton of chippy paint and wood texture to do, and she gave herself the extra challenge of working with natural light on her set up.  She attacked it with gusto and combined additive (applying paint with brush and knife) and subtractive (removing it with a brush and spirits) painting to achieve a convincing paint texture with lots of interest and variation.  She's actually attempting to finish this at home and I can't wait to see a picture of it.

One thing I put a lot of emphasis on was the importance of painting solidly, specifically, and opaquely, especially when painting glass.  Here, George's bottle passes the upside-down test: if you turn the painting upside down and you immediately feel uncomfortable about your freshly painted object dangling in a gravity-defying manner, then you've created the illusion of realism.

I bullied a couple of my students into using tiny eyelash brushes.  Amelie renders a rusty key above.

Katt must have done a scavenger hunt for complicated objects before she came to the workshop.  She showed up with satin damask, and embroidered silk purse, and a handful of coins and pearls (there's a true still life miniaturist in the making).  She nailed the modelling on the purse, which I thought might be the hard part.  We solved the challenge of painting the damask by exploiting "lost and found."  Where the pattern showed up blatantly, we copied the filigree and swirls best we could, and were it was less obvious, we "lost" the pattern into the base colour of the fabric.  This prevents an overly graphic effect, and also shaved off nitpicking drawing time.  The fabric that she painted on the right illustrates this approach clearly.

Chippy paint time on George's painting!  After meticulously woodgraining the old board behind her still life objects, she applied thick paint chips.  George is an accomplished trompe l'oeil artist and it was informative to hear her compare the still life approach I was teaching to the trompe l'oeil methodology she was familiar with.

Meg slam dunked something that a lot of artists struggle with--turning a form that has dense texture AND colour shifts on its surface.  I showed her a simple little trick for creating rust texture and we had fun creating the striated effect on the pages of her book.  She did get to do one thing in particular that I never thought I'd encourage a student to do: she performed surgery on the spout of her oil can and shortened it by about six inches so that it fit within the composition of her painting.

Cary Jurriaans, the school's brain, has a gorgeous studio, by the way.  It was a pleasure to work in.  She provides a lovely spread of home baked goodies and fruit, and with the monitor's help there is a constant drip of coffee in the kitchenette.  She also has a comprehensive stash of still life objects, which we used in an impromptu still life composition discussion on the third day.  For an hour we played around and tried to figure out how many composition "rules" we could break, and still create a nice set up.

Skylight envy!  She has one of those total black out blinds, too.

My next workshop is in May at the beautiful Sadie Valeri Atelier in San Francisco.


  1. Wow!!! Everybody's paintings look wonderful!! I was so sorry to miss this. Next time for sure!

  2. THANK YOU KATE. It was a joy having you here, hope to see you and Dave back in 2015.

  3. OMG this was an amazing workshop. I really appreciated your texture advice which was well illustrated with slides of your own paintings. But you did more—you also were a real coach for us in preparing ourselves for the art world. I appreciated that you were adressing us as actual artists even if we were your students. My art will definitely be impacted by all your advice. You sort of gave me back my freedom for experimenting in going for the best realistic effect. Thank you again, you are awesome!