I only had two students in my Paint the Night class last night at the Vanguard Gallery in Moreno Valley, but they both had fun. One of the questions were, what kinds of birds are they? Jenibirds? Blue fronted swifts? This is a very popular image, and sometimes students use their own imaginations and create red-fronted Jenibirds, or once, blackbirds.
A couple days ago one of my Absolute Beginners students came to the studio for some follow-up lessons. She had been practicing in the intervening year and had also bought some books containing lessons. They were fine books and she had learned a lot from them as you can see from the work she produced that she showed me.
Some of this students work. Yes, I know it’s a photoshop together, just couldn’t get the right angle for a table-top shot.
Nevertheless, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and a youtube video a million, then sometimes a little bit of extra in-person instruction is priceless. Sometimes I’ve shown students the difference between the brushstrokes they’re making and what they need to do to get the effect they’re aiming for by making the two types of brushstroke on their inner arm. Often it’s also picking up on the slight difference between to two in order to guide them.
Many years ago I went through a bird-painting phase. A couple of these have made great subjects for my Monday afternoon class. This Monday just past, I guided the group through creating a flamingo that had folded its long neck up so it could hide its beak in its wings. Here’s the group having completed their versions of Folded Flamingo.
About 15 months ago, ‘Jo’ took my absolute beginner’s class. Earlier in the month, she took the class again, not having painted very much in between. One of the things that I ask at the beginning of the class is what the student hopes to get out of it. It can help me tailor the class a little to hopefully cover any specific items. In this class Jo was lucky in that she was the only one, so we got to discuss her progress a little more.
She had indeed painted the day before, using watercolor crayons. The papers were tiny piece of printer or drawing paper – not the best surface. Jo expressed that she had had difficulty making out what she had painted afterwards and had ended up using ink to define the items painted. Towards the end of the afternoon, after the standard Shadows exercise, we looked at Jo’s paintings and I thought we could tackle one of them as a larger watercolor and make a more realistic painting.
Working a little larger does help. This time we used watercolor paper (Canson 140lb cold press) – about 12×9″. I drew a quick value sketch first on a scrap to outline some of the changes that we would make to make the little barrel cacti look more round, and the rocks “rocky”. The main adjustments were addition of shadows/shading to bring out the shapes of the cacti and rocks. I suggested a simple blue sky/purple hills/sandy mid-ground behind the cacti in order to make them stand out from it, rather than a green one of a similar tone. The cacti flowers didn’t come out as well as hoped – I’m not by nature a floral painter and they were a little on the small side to do much more with than a bit of impressionism.
Jo said her husband thought everything she painted was wonderful, but when he came to pick her up after the class and we showed him the before and after, there was no faking those eyebrows shooting skyward. Here’s the before (on the right! 🙂 ) and the after.
Monday’s cactus painting on the right, and Tuesday’s redo with Absolute Beginners class and a little individual guidance.
On Monday I taught my regular class at the Trilogy gated community. I caught a few students working on the last few stages of their exercises. They all want to remain anonymous so no faces! The last one is from one student who took it home and completed it later.
It’s easier to do those wires by painting down, rather than up.
Trilogy in La Quinta is a gated community with an active creative club. A couple months ago I got the opportunity to become one of the watercolor class instructors there, and teach about twice a month on a Monday afternoon. It’s a guided-tuition class, a little like the paint-n-wine format in that all students complete the same painting, but with much more of a learning opportunity focus.
I get so wrapped up in demoing and guiding, that I usually forget to take photos of the class in action. But this time, I persuaded the ladies to let me take a pic of their completed exercises to put on the blog.
Yes – they all look great!
They sure do make me work too! Not only do I need to prepare the exercises, but I get requests of trying subjects that I don’t usually do, so my skills get stretched as a result. Seems like we’re all having fun, though!