Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Watercolor from Start to Finish": I Am Teaching Watercolor at The Art League School!

Week 1: Introduction and Painting Donuts!
"Donut Bliss" (watercolor, 7" x 10")
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My dear friend Alice Kale, who teaches watercolor, has been pestering me to do the same for some time, and I finally surrendered to her persuasion. I took over another teacher's slot at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA. It is a six-week-long intensive introduction to watercolor, called "Watercolor from Start to Finish". An enthusiastic class of 18 has been meeting every Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30 for watercolor fun. At this point, we have just one more class to go. And what fun has it been!. This is indeed the beginning of a new chapter in my art career, as I will continue to teach as a regular staff at The Art League School from now on!

The first week I brought donuts to the class, since I thought their simple shapes and fun associations would encourage the beginners (minus two who are experienced watercolorists) to dive into watercolor without fear. And I was right. Some students ate donuts first and painted them from photos!

Week 2: Fruits and Vegetables
"Carrot Bunch" (watercolor, 9" x 12")

Drawing and painting from life is an invaluable training whether the subject is humble everyday things, or a figure. So carrying on the theme of still life of donuts of the first week, the students were asked to bring some fruits and vegetables of their choice for the second class. Several brought a bagful of produce; I love this class! Shapes got a little more complicated, but we are not so worried about drawing for now. (To those who want to improve their drawing skills, I recommend Bert Dodson's Keys to Drawing.) Instead we are focusing on the importance of values, edges and color temperatures in a painting.

Week 3: Landscapes
"Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur" (9" x 12")

Week 4: More Landscapes
"Yaquina Head Lighthouse Sunset" (watercolor and gouache, 9" x 12")
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For the next two weeks, we painted landscapes. I did a demo of gradated/varigated washes and the students were let loose to work with the photos they brought, while getting accustomed to the watercolor terms such as washes, glazes, wet on wet/wet on dry, dry brush, etc. Landscape painting can get overwhelming with so many elements to deal with, so I emphasized that the class should look out for big shapes first. If one breaks down a picture into big shapes, there are usually only three to five. That's not so hard, is it? But landscapes often involve leaf/grass textures; boy, many went astray with them. It's been 23 years since I started painting watercolors and the memories of the excitement and frustrations are all coming back!

Week 5: Animals
"Emperor Penguin Love" (watercolor, 8" x 6")
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Changing gears, we painted animals this week. What fun it was! Several painted their dogs; many others painted colorful birds. It all comes down to this: paint what you know well and hold dear. And it showed. I am definitely keeping the subject of animals as part of my curriculum.

Week 6: Flowers
"Red, White and Blue" (watercolor, 7.5" x 10.5")
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One more week to go. Next week we will be painting flowers. We actually took a vote on this; between flowers, portraits, buildings, flowers won. But I let the class know they can paint whatever they choose for the final week. It's going to be fun and challenging no matter which!

Week 6: My awesome class intently painting flowers

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