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To the last session of the oil still life workshop with Robert A. Johnson last weekend, I brought a glass cup and some daffodils from my garden, determined to learn how to paint a glass filled with water. I was torn between the desire to work on my own painting and the temptation to watch the teacher paint tulips, grapes, Chinese ginger jars, etc. Somehow I managed to focus on my problem solving, which is what painting a picture is all about, instead of joining in the conviviality of the class watching Robert's masterly mini demos.
He didn't get to my easel until the end of the day, busy helping other students. To the nearly completed painting of mine, he added his finishing touches. One vertical stroke on the right side of the glass, it already looked like a glass! After a bit of simplification, blurring, some palette knife work, the glass was done. I joked that the painting now needed two signatures.
Among many things I learned in three days, two stand out. Robert emphasized the importance of figure and portrait painting as the fundamental part of artistic growth. It doesn't matter whether you are a still life painter or a landscapist. Another is my own conclusion: find the best teacher you can and learn from him or her--that will save you from a lot of frustrations and bad habits. So I decided to take a workshop with Robert Liberace soon, a star in today's figure painting, who happens to teach at The Art League in Alexandria, VA. Step aside. I am unstoppable!