Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Working Vacation

Posted by: Kate

Dave and I have been perfecting the art of the working vacation.  We'd planned ages ago to go on a nice, clichéd, sugar sand beach vacation somewhere, preferably one of those places where people go to be gorgeous and suntanned so that we can pretend to ourselves that we blend in.  Not a chance with my pasty, potato-spud-sprouting-in-a-dark-cupboard skin, though.  When Dave first started dating me I used to slather zinc sunscreen like it was a full body suit, wear sunglasses and a drapey voile shawl to keep off the sun, and I would scuttle around with a parasol between islands of shadow like an earwig.  He started calling me Dr. Moreau.

When I first googled Dr Moreau, I was all like, "Who's been putting pictures of me on the internets?"

This is where we stayed.  Awesome, right?

Sometime between watching a dolphin surface in the distance and trying not to be weirded out by being surrounded by more natural blonds than we had ever seen in our lives, our eyes met and we both knew: we'd outgrown our art student days.  Hopping on a plane was no longer about seeing an art museum.  It was about getting the f*** out of our studios and away from painting, period.

I taught two workshops on either end of this vacation, both of them fantastic fun.  The first was hosted by the Southern Atelier in Sarasota, Florida.  Charles Miano is the man behind the plan there.  I was stunned to walk in and find out that my ten students had multiplied furiously in the night and become 21 students.  Thank goodness I had brought Dave along as my lovely teaching assistant.  People always tell me I'm really lucky to have married another artist that I have so much in common with.  Yep.  I know.

Charles took some pictures of me looking all intense and teachery.

That person in the foreground is performing my patented finder goggle technique.  When trying to match a colour, put a dab of the colour you think is correct on your painting, then isolate that dab and the corresponding colour on the subject.  SO EASY.

Above is the demo I did in between rounds with students.  To keep things simple, we used a limited, low-chroma palette.  It forces students to think about skin tones in a very basic, common sense kind of way.  Flesh colour can either go redder, yellower, lighter, darker, greyer or more chromatic.  That's it.  And when a student says something like, "But don't you see kind of a purplish green with a hint of Payne's Grey in it?"  I stare at them and say, "I didn't know you wrote poetry.  But no.  That's a low chroma orange.  All of it's a low chroma orange.  Now get back to work."

I snapped some pictures of Charles' awesome school and the stunning work he demos for his students.  I've visited quite a few schools and this one's facilities are dreamy.  I don't think there was a poorly lit easel in the entire group.  It's a fantastic place to take a workshop, so get thee onto his mailing list if you are local to Florida.  I myself would love to take a charcoal workshop with him.  Can you believe the demo work he has on display for his students?

Dave and Charles and I were able to hit up the Ringling Art Museum while we were there and bond deeply over some Rubens.  My favourite was this Judith et al painting by Francesco del Cairo.  I love how matter of fact Judith and her maid are always depicted with a bleeding, decapitated head.  It's just something that happens everyday, apparently.

The second workshop was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was hosted by Thomas Rosenstiel.  Fantastic studio space again.  North light!  Waxed hardwood floors!  Exposed brick!  A fully functional kitchen with a constant stream of baked goods pouring out of it like a veritable cornucopia of empty carbohydrates!  Consider my artistic engine primed and whirring!

I got some alone time in at the studio before the workshop started.  A good studio is one where you completely forget your surroundings while you work.

Yes, Dave is always this thrilled when he watches me paint.

I keep my still life workshops small so that I can do what I love best--eating the cherries off of other people's sundaes!  Or rather, painting the fun parts of their paintings to demo specific techniques and painting strategies.  It doesn't really work with a class of more than eight people.  This was a great group.  The fun part about traveling to do workshops out of private studios is that you wind up teaching a tightly knit little friend-group of artists, sometimes with a few out of towners who cozy into the friendly vibe.  The atmosphere is always supportive and fun.

I don't know if Tom is planning on hosting anymore workshops (apart from my next one, that is!), but his studio is just a fantastic space and he really knows how to host a workshop.  Every single contingency had been planned for.  So if you see a workshop listing in Tuscaloosa hosted by one Tom Rosenstiel, give it a closer look.  And if you're an artist being invited to stay with Tom and teach, dear lord, say yes.  You should see this guy's liquor cabinet.  Cough.  I mean.  He's a conscientious host and you will enjoy your stay.

In short, this whole trip to the Southeast was so much fun that Dave and I have decided to do it all over again next year, with different workshops on offer.  A workshop at Townsend Atelier in Chattanooga, Tennessee will be added to the line up.  All information will be posted on my website, Facebook, and here on the blog, by Spring 2016.


  1. Dave . . . would you mind sharing your limited flesh palette? I've use yellow ocher, Rembrandt's Permanent Madder Deep, Old Holland burnt umber, and ivory black and RGH cremnitz white. I can hit about 90% of all flesh tones with this. Thanks

    1. Very cool. I have found that there are so many great variations on a limited palette that do great things. I have tried more than a couple. My usual go to now is Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, either Hemitite or Vermillion, Raw Umber, Roman Black, and Lead White number 2.