Category Archives: workshops

Quick Studies in Oil

Quick Studies – Oil & Acrylic – Friday

oil painting 2 pearsWe are blessed here in Santa Cruz, CA to have so many great art instructors.  For the next 4 Fridays I will be taking an oil, quick studies painting class with Barbara Bailey Porter at the Santa Cruz Art League.  Is there an emoticon for a person jumping for joy?

Using small canvases, big brushes, and a short painting period, the intention is to paint the impression and not overwork or over analyze.  This is a 30 minute painting on an 8×10″ canvas panel, two pears.  I love painting pears, the irregular shapes, the variation in colors, and afterwards the lovely delicious treat of eating the pears!

Summer Arts 2015

Cabrillo College Summer Arts 2015 Workshop


Sanzu no Kawa

Our local junior college, Cabrillo College, in Aptos CA, has a fabulous Summer Arts program every year.  For me it is a wonderful “Stay-cation”.  This year Tim Craighead is teaching a week long abstract painting workshop.  It is just what I needed for my River series.  I needed to break away from my source material and take my paintings to another level.

Free online art workshops

free online art workshopsFree online art workshops? Free?
Strathmore online workshops!  I love it when big companies give back to their customers.  And these workshops are wonderful.  The great thing about them, besides being free, are that you can take the course at anytime day or night and the workshops are available through to the end of 2015!  Instructor feedback is only available for the duration of the initial offering.

There are three workshops offered this year.  I’ve been wanting to take a workshop from Patti Mollica.  I’m excited that she will be offering an acrylic painting workshop.

Strathmore Free Online Art Workshops 2015

The first workshop begins March 2.
1. Bold, Expressive, and Unconventional Printmaking
Instructors: Traci Bautista
2. Expressive Acrylic Painting
Instructor: Patti Mollica
Start Date: May 4, 2015
3. Exploring Pen & Ink
Part 1 : Hand Lettering & Calligraphy

Instructor:  Maureen ‘Marzi’ Wilson
Start Date: September 7, 2015
4. Exploring Pen & Ink
Part 2 : Drawing

Instructor:  Alphonso Dunn
Start Date: September 21, 2015



Figure Drawing Challenge Final Project

I dream of flying.  The last project of my online art course, “Figure Drawing Challenge” by, a 30 day course with daily online videos, drawing assignments, coaching calls, and instructor critiques.  All for $15

Final Project: Transformation 1

Final Project: Transformation 1

Online classes

“Taking Online Classes” part 2. In July I took an online art course from Artist Network University (ANU). I had always wanted to take a workshop from Betsy Dillard Stroud,  but either the time was not right or the place was too far. An online course seemed an attractive alternative, but how well do they work?

Floral assignment, working in layers

Assignment 3: Work in progress

The setup
Signing up for the course was simple. The cost for the four week online course was $170 US, compared to a four day workshop with Betsy Dillard Stroud which usually runs more than $500. BlackBoard was used for communicating assignments, uploading your work, feedback, and sharing. I did not care for the BlackBoard interface. I found it limited in navigating efficiently to the sections I always used, taking too many links to get to the assignments, feedback, and sharing sections.

The instructor
Betsy has been teaching this module, Painting Abstraction and Abstract Realism in Acrylics, for many years. It appeared that she used the written materials from her workshop. In addition, I was able to find a YouTube video from one of her workshops.  Also she provided one video for the first assignment, learning how to make rubber stamps.

Assignment 1: Work in progress

Assignment 1: Work in progress

BlackBoard provides an interface to communicate with the instructor and Betsy was diligent in answering questions. Answers usually arrived the next day. ANU runs on EST. I am on the west coast, PDT.

The assignments
As this is a course Betsy has previously taught, the assignments were well thought out and fun. Each assignment built on one another. She provided examples of her own work for the assignment.

Each week had one assignment, though the students could do more than one piece, however only one piece could be submitted for the assignment. Some assignments gave you more than one option to choose subject or technique.  I found the assignments took me 3 to 10 hours to complete.  We worked primarily on watercolor paper, though she allowed us to work on canvas if we chose.

I am a visual person and I would have liked more video demonstrations. One for each assignment would have been terrific.

The critiques
Finished assignments were due on Fridays; this was achieved by uploading a digital image to BlackBoard. Instructor feedback came in the next day, which was great. Betsy provided in depth analysis of your painting, praising the good parts and giving valuable suggestions for making your piece stronger. This was the best part of the course.

Blackboard provided a section to share your work with other students. One

Final project: Putting it all together

could upload a work in progress or a finished piece. It is here where we asked questions or shared techniques. On this note though, it was often confusing where one was supposed to do this and often the students would receive an email saying we were posting in the wrong section. Plus the sharing only worked if other students took the time to post. Here I felt the online course was lacking, it was not like taking a break during a workshop and wandering around to view other works, sharing techniques, breakthroughs, challenges, products, and ideas.  This stimulation is invaluable, we learn not only from the instructor but also from each other.

Would I take another online course? I think I would if I were familiar with the instructor, or if it were an instructor from whom I would never be able to take a course. While there were short comings I did learn new techniques and I liked the paintings I produced. Was it worth $170? I think with the techniques I learned, I could generate that much in the paintings I will be able to sell. Could I have learned this from books? Probably, but I’m the type of person that needs an assignment to get going. For me, taking a class gets me further than I would on my own.

One would need to have experience working online.  Photographing one’s work is a challenge in itself and the topic for another course.  One needs to know how to upload images, navigate links, and post messages.  While it not impossible for a novice, it could become frustrating.

I think this course could have profited from more video content. The biggest lack I found was in student interaction. Sometimes being an artist is a lonely profession and in taking an online course, one still works alone.


Big black shape exerciseIn frustration, I loudly exclaimed, “I hate this!”.  Then I noticed the left side of the painting wasn’t too bad and if I cropped it…

In order to kick start myself I signed up for an online workshop from Betsy Dillard Stroud offered by ArtistsNetwork University.  I had not taken a workshop online before and I wanted to see if it was worth it.  I am on my second assignment and, like the first, it has been challenging, which is good.

When I find an assignment challenging I feel as though I am learning something; I am moving into unknown territory.  And frustration give me a chance to make a break through.  With frustration I am give the opportunity to give up or keep going.  To keep trying, to experiment, to take chances.  The painting doesn’t always turn out, but the lessons learned are are the real reward.

The workshop, ‘Painting Abstraction and Abstract Realism with Acrylics’, is 4 sessions; each session is a week long.  Assignments are due on Friday.  ArtistsNetwork University uses Blackboard to post and distribute course materials and assignments.  There is a critique blog for students to post work and have each other comment.  There is a message board for class discussions.  You may communicate to the instructor in a private blog.  You can scan or photograph your assignment and submit it for grading and the instructor writes a critique of your work.




Painting is like dieting

The best way to learn to paint is to pick up a brush and begin.  While classes and books can be helpful, nothing takes the place of practice.

The best way to learn to paint is to pick up a brush and begin. While classes and books can be helpful, nothing takes the place of practice.

Painting is like dieting.  There are as many ways to paint as there are diets.  What works for one person may not work for another.  A person’s personality, likes and dislikes, background, schedule, family, and opportunities make a difference to the success of the diet.  And so it is with painting, there is no one way to paint.

New painters are often confused with techniques and rules that may be conflicting or cumbersome, such as ‘never use black, black is a dead color’, ‘real artists don’t use black’,  ‘mix your greens’, ‘always begin with an underpainting’, etc.  Whether you use black or green depends on the type of painting you do.  Ad Reinhardt made a career from his black paintings, as did Franz Kline.   JMW Turner, Vermeer, Zorn, Renoir, Winslow Homer, all used black in their palette.  Real artists learn to use black.

Filoli : Fight for what you believe, Love your fellow man, Live a good life.

Filoli : Fight for what you believe, Love your fellow man, Live a good life.

I recently read a list of painting ideals; one of them really struck a chord with me, ‘Your style is what you’re doing academically wrong.’  Make mistakes and learn from them; what you may learn from your mistakes, may be what the naysayers have not yet learned from their mistakes.

Watercolor blooms, watermarks, used to be considered mistakes.  Recent watercolor artists have learned to use the bloom to great effect, such as Antonio Masi; a gentle spritz from your water bottle applied to a fresh background wash creates a nice underlying texture.

Rules have their place in learning to paint, but don’t overlook the possibilities of breaking the rules.  We have much to be grateful for in making mistakes, after all Champagne was a mistake.

A lunch time sketch while eating a Mayan Burrito from Taqueria la Cabaña.

A lunch time sketch while eating a Mayan Burrito from Taqueria la Cabaña.

Back to the paints: a brief interlude

Part II: Composing the figure


After the bath

Moving away from copying and using local color is not an easy thing to do, at least for me.  And even though the instructor had  suggested we need not use skin tones, most of the class did anyway.  After a disastrous first attempt, my second attempt was more successful.  I felt rushed and harried with an hour pose but maybe this was better.  No time to fuss, quick deliberate stokes that still retain their freshness.

Here are some ideas I had to help me move toward figurative abstract without using local color:

  1. Use the complement of the color you choose initially.  So instead of going with a flesh-tone go with the complement, something a bit greener
  2. Use one step brighter or duller of the initial color.
  3. Use the opposite temperature of a color.
  4. Using the color wheel move one step warmer or cooler than your initial color.
  5. Randomly choose 3 colors for your figure, by spinning the color wheel.
  6. Use only shades of blue, or only yellows, or only greens.

This session was about composition, paying attention to positive and negative spaces, de-centering, and using a warm and cool palette.

Cabrillo SpringArts 2014 Workshop: Approaches to Painting the Figure with Claire Thorson

Found Art Project II

Found Art Mandala

Found Art Mandala

For me, finding the ‘found objects’ is the fun part, assembling the pieces is harder.   Lynn declines the class field trip to the ‘Last Chance Mercantile’, “I have too much stuff already”.   LL. not only has a storage container, but also an airplane hangar.  Found objects have crowded me out of my studio.  It’s time to put that potential  to use.

Beverly Rayner, our instructor, is a fount of knowledge; she shares with us her years of trial and error with glues, paints, nuts, bolts, wire, welding, etc.  In a previous post I shared my project proposal.  The sticking point in the proposal was how to put together the rusted elements without changing the patina.  Steve recommends epoxy, which is what I end up using.  Epoxy comes not only in a 2 part liquid form but also in solid form which solved one of my major problems, attaching the heavy gear.

Side view

The finished found object mandala turned out very close to my original idea.  Along the way new ideas appear to create a solid and pleasing piece.  Circular shapes dominate the piece, creating a simple aesthetic.  The repetition of the circle reinforces the idea of the wholeness. Smaller pieces in the outer circle, composed of copper, verdigris, rust, nuts, gears, and natural wood, create variety and break up the monotony, while at the same time echoing the theme.

The patina of the rust was maintained and augment with a wonderful verdigris.  The color scheme is limited to natural tones set by the patinas, the rust and the copper green verdigris.  A simple wood frame supports the mandala.  The top border gives the piece a feeling of a gate.  The finished piece will be set in concrete and installed outdoors.

Mixing it Up is an art workshop with mixed media artist Beverly Rayner.




Getting back to painting, a brief interlude

Approaches to Painting the Figure, class 1: Planes & Volume, Limited Palette

Acrylic on Canvas 18x24" 2014

Acrylic on Canvas

It’s been almost a year since I last painted and this was a great class to take to get back into it, limited focus, limited palette.  This was a single day, four hour workshop.

“Unity”, our instructor said, “this is what I’m looking for in these paintings”.  We began with three poses, 15 minutes each: fill the canvas with paint, paying attention to only the light and dark, no details.  Then, after a break, we go back to each pose, spending an additional 40 minutes to finish them.  An hour is not a long time to finish a painting.  And beginning this way was not how I’m used to painting.  I was being pushed out of my comfort zone.

She circled us as we painted, occasionally calling out “value”, and “don’t forget about figure ground” or “if your colors are getting muddy go back to painting the simple planes”.  At these suggestions, it was a good time to step back, evaluate, and make adjustments.  Using large paint brushes helps me to keep the painting loose.  For me, painting is working back and forth, between values, coaxing the paint; being patient with the brush, making a considered stroke, remembering not to overwork the piece, to stop while the strokes are still fresh.

Breaking up the poses and sessions was such an unusual way to paint, but judging from the class’ results, it worked.  And the limited palette helped to unify the piece.  At the end of the day I was tired; it was a lot of work, but it felt really great to get back to the paint.

Cabrillo College extension is offering  SpringArts 2014, weekend workshops.