Post Charles Reid – Black and White Photo

An alternative to painting outside on the last day was painting a black and white photo.   I brought the photo back with me and decided to paint it.     This was done in a watercolor sketchbook so the paper isn’t great but it’s not too bad over all.

The original photo. Getting a likeness is very difficult and especially at this scale.

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 5

Day 5 results.  Not one of my best admittedly but the drawing was good – especially the car.   Oh – and this marks a significant milestone too!

So sadly it was the last day and, due to the room being used to stage an exhibition, we were outside.   I thought this was a bit off.  What with this and the construction noise that was constant throughout the week I would have been a bit miffed if I were Mr Reid.  I can’t see him rushing back sadly.

Anyway – we all parked ourselves outside.  The subject was chosen more for location  – outside and in the shade with easy access to bathrooms.    He actually states those 2 things as being what he looks for when taking groups on location in his Watercolor Secrets book.   As an aside – trying to read borrowed art books while eating indian food shouldn’t be encouraged.  After Mr R had requested an interesting car Suzy (who organized the workshop) had brought in her original cinquecento.

The drawing begins – back to the Fabriano cold press today.  He started as usual with the contour drawing – I actually like watching him draw almost as much as his painting.  Very soothing.   He started with the car headlight and worked out from there.

We had breaks every 20 minutes as usual.  There was a distinct lack of energy today – last dayitis.

The drawing was finished in around 30 minutes as usual and he started in on the painting.  First the dark bushes went in to highlight the car.  Then a series of greys went in for the car.  Some tending blue, some warmer with added yellow ochre.     After another break the house wash went in – again the color was varied to give interest.     Mr R. emphasized that the wash should go in in one go and you can move the brush around and go over regions as long as you don’t lift the brush.   I tried this and it does work.  

Dona and Leigh discuss the finer points of brushwork.

After leaving the wash to dry he went back in and finished the painting.  A darker wash went in to represent the cast shadows and the windows and doors were put in.  Frankly I don’t think it’s one of his best but the subject matter wasn’t the most inspiring either.

Charles and Pat (who drives a convertible mustang) chat during a break.

Scott takes a photo of the finished product.    The umbrella is a huge sailing umbrella which casts a blue hue over his paper.  He wasn’t bothered by this – I know this would be a big no-no in some painters’ books.   He is generally dismissive of a lot of ‘rules’.  Composition,  fugitive (supposedly non lightfast) paints,  subject matter – all these are treated very matter of factly.  I appreciate that. 

The dinky cinquecento – the speedo goes up to 140km/h.   Maybe a tad optimistic.

More milling about – there was a lot of that today.

Our happy crew.

At the end he marked in the siding lines.  Not entirely successfully in my view.   Nice car though.

In the afternoon we got to work.    A few of us painted from photos but most of us hung out outside under the tree and painted the car.

The view from my easel position.

The drawing – this was great fun to do.   Never knew cars had so much little bits on them.  The complicated shapes actually make it easier to draw – lots of reference points and angles.   I screwed up the perspective annoyingly but no matter.

On with the painting.  This was hard – the paint kept drying too fast so my wet in wet washes didn’t work well.    While I was doing it I wasn’t particularly happy but it doesn’t look so bad now I look at it again this morning.

The final thing – I really had to speed up towards the end and the house wasn’t very inspired but not too bad overall.

And the milestone was – I sold it!!   Suzy (whose car it is) asked if I would sell it to her.  I said she could have it but we settled on a nominal sum of $50.   I was extremely pleased with myself.

The proceeds – I’ll keep this in my brush wallet for emergencies.

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 4 Still Life and the return of Charlie

My effort for day 4 – I’m pretty happy.

So day 4 already!!! Another still life today and a similar setup to yesterday but no Charlie the seagull (although he was present on the table).   Quite a lot going on with this one.   As you can see Mr R. is not precious about his still life objects.   A used coffee cup was improvised to break up the right hand side a little.

We’re pretty used to the process now.   30 minutes of contour like drawing – connecting the objects,  not drawing outlines, making sure the internal shapes are defined and merging shadows with shapes where needed.  The paper is the rough Schut paper again – I’m liking this more and more.

The first 20 minutes of painting.   Mr R.  went straight into the vase portion with some very strong viridian which I thought was not going to work at all.   Turns out he knows what he’s doing and I don’t.

After another 20 minutes – more of the flowers put in and some of the table objects.   Standing is Judy Reid – probably telling him off about something.

Mr R’s tools.  Nothing fancy here.

More shots of the painting mid point.   I’m really getting to appreciate the way he can represent dense foliage but leave white space to keep things from getting murky.  It’s a skill I’m yet to acquire (as you’ll see below).

A shot of the painting setup and an action shot.   You can just see the chair he sits in in the top photo – it’s incredibly uncomfortable and very low to the ground.

The final picture.  I think I like this better than the previous one.

All demo paintings were put up for sale.   After the prices were announced I decided against buying one.  If I’d had the cash handy I’d have put my name down for one of the still lives – probably this one.

Prices were 700 and 1100 for the portraits and 1400 for each of the still lives.  Hmm.  And this is way below gallery prices.

Ok – now for our turn.   As it was my turn in the front row I got first pick of the still lives (lifes?).  I plumped for Charles’ setup again so I could try to put into practice the things I’d seen in the morning.   I also snuck Charlie back in again.   

The drawing – 30 mins for this.

The first 30 minutes of painting.   I  started off pretty stiff (in the vase region) and put in a conscious effort to loosen up the ol’ brushstrokes in the top flowers.   Not too displeased at this stage but was struggling.

Here’s the photo of the setup from where I was sitting.

And here’s the finish after another hour or so of painting.  I really sped up towards the end.   Mr R. said he didn’t like the bottle as it didn’t connect to the rest of the objects and he’s right.    He suggested including something to the right and in front of the bottle to offset this (I cropped this picture and there is actually some spare space).

This was a tough session – getting everything drawn and painted in the time takes a lot of concentration (more so than the figure paintings interestingly).  Also we’re all getting better and more sophisticated with our paintings since the first day so we have more to get done.     Glad to come back for a rest today.

Before going back to the hotel Boris and I made a small trip out to Nobska lighthouse.   I have intentions of getting up early and going out tomorrow morning to paint this but we’ll see how that matches up to reality.

As well as the lighthouse there are great views of the shoreline.

Boris behaved himself in the carpark.   This is a bit hairy as there is room for precisely 3 1/2 cars and it’s on a nasty, narrow blind corner.  Reverse at your peril.

Tomorrow – we’re outside for trees and buildings.  Can’t wait!!!

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 3, Still Life

Results of day 3 – I’m pretty chuffed with this.  No Charlie the seagull though.
Full story :

Day 3 – still life day.  And there was his seagullness himself.  And doesn’t he look fine?
So today was flowers, fruit and stuff.   I’ve been looking forward to this one especially (and not just for the seagulls).   Flowers are not my favorite things to paint, mainly because I’m crap at them so I was all eyes and ears to see how Mr Reid went about things.
btw – this was my view from the back row.   This would be pretty useless apart from the fact I’d bought some small binoculars with me.  They are fantastic!  It’s like being 6 inches from the paper.  You can keep your front row seats.

Anyway – on with the demo.   First the drawing as usual.  He was using a different paper today – Schut paper.  This is dutch and not widely available in the US.  It’s not cheap – about twice the prices of Arches – and it has the distinction of being Judy Reid’s favorite paper.   Apparently it is very absorbent so doesn’t allow much lifting or reworking which isn’t a problem with Mr R’s technique.  It also has an interesting texture.  It’s supposedly rough but it didn’t look like the usual rough texture which has a pronounced tooth to it.   The tooth was less pronounced and coarser grained which allows for interesting brushwork without feeling like you’re painting on a brick (something which Mr R. said about Arches 300lb rough.  Chortle!)

There wasn’t as much description going on today as there was with the figure painting and Mr R pretty much just got on with it.   First there was 30 minutes of contour drawing.  Emphasis on drawing connected objects,  joining shadows to objects and giving as much, or more, emphasis to the inside shapes of things.

The setup – with seagull.   Mr R. is a big fan of a non-arranged arrangement and likes to paint things that look as though they’ve just been left there.   He also likes things that just happen to be at hand – hence the paint brushes and tubes and the Edward Hopper book.    

An action photo.   He sits very close to the subject and very low down.   This gives his figure paintings a distinctive look – the model is above eye-level with a good view of the nostrils and a relatively small head due to the perspective.   For the still lives this effect is less pronounced.

Towards the end of the first 30 minutes of painting.  Everything is pretty much painted just once and left.   He leaves a lot of white space which certainly isn’t evident in the photo but gives a liveliness to the painting.  He’s also extremely careful about where he places his darks. For white flowers the dark leaves a pretty much all that defines their boundaries.   Similarly he treats his edges with great care – which ones to keep sharp and which ones to keep soft to just give an impression.

You can just about see the effect of the Schut paper here.   In the lighter areas you can see the coarse soft tooth – it gives a mottled finish to the paint.  you can also see the amount of white space he’s left in the foliage. 

Here we are almost finished.   He got rather grumpy at this point.   The art center is having some renovations done in the basement and they were putting up drywall.   This apparently involves the use of a tool that sounds like chairs scraping across floorboards every 5 seconds and gets really annoying.  About 5 minutes after this Mr R. got up and refused to do any more.

The finished painting (completed after the drywallers had gone to lunch).   And very nice it is too.

Each of us had a critique of one of our paintings over lunch.    He was very kind to everyone but not to the point of abject flattery.    If your painting has a person with a head that’s five times the size of their feet he will point this out as probably not the best feature of the painting.  But we don’t really need to be told that.

So – on to the still life.   There were 6 different ones set up around the room.  I wanted Charlie the seagull but the front row people had the first choice so I didn’t get the chance.   I did want an arrangement with a lot of white flowers however so I plumped for the one below.   I was sharing this with other people and they decided they wanted to clump all the fruit together.  I really didn’t want this – I wanted the scattered approach with different objects linked by shadows.  I snuck in the lemon and lime on the right hand side and chose to ignore the squash things.

The drawing – I’m usually pretty happy at this stage.   This took around 30 minutes to do.

The start of the painting – probably after around 45 minutes.    This was an extremely difficult painting to do and I concentrated extremely hard.   I usually finish a painting in well under two hours but this was close on a 3 hour job and I hadn’t really finished then.

Having said that I really learned a lot in this afternoon’s session.   It felt like putting a puzzle together.  Where do I place the leaves to make sure the flowers stand out?   Where should I have sharp edges to the flowers and where should I leave things soft?  Where do I put broad strokes and where to put detailed ones?


The finished piece.  (There are a couple of gaps but I ran out of time).     This is a huge improvement over my previous flower pictures.

Oh – Charles patted me on the shoulder and said ‘beautiful painting’.  <Blush>

Finally some action shots of all of us at work.    I think everyone had a pretty successful afternoon.
Right – I’m off for a Ruby Murray courtesy of  Falmouth’s finest establishment.

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 2. Charlie the Seagull

This is Charlie the seagull and this was almost the most expensive seagull ever.    Yesterday Judy Reid was fetching in some props and flowers for today’s still life.   I went over and asked whether they’d brought any wooden duck decoys as Charles often uses these in his still lives.  They are interesting things to paint and are something of a signature for Mr Reid.    Unfortunately Judy said so they hadn’t brought any which I thought was a bit of a shame.    So then I had a brainwave – this is a nautical town yes?    Surely, in one of the many shops on Falmouth main street there would be something approximating a wooden duck?  So at lunchtime off I went and traipsed through pretty much every gift and knick-knack shop in Falmouth.  Lighthouses yes.   Tea towels with ships on yes.   Oven gloves with embroidered lobsters were obviously very much in vogue.   Ducks no.
But then I saw him.  Not a duck but close enough and he looked very fetching perched on his stick nestled between the ornamental lighthouses and seashell encrusted lobster pots.  And considering the amount of money already spent on this week another 18.99 wasn’t going to break the bank.   I snapped him up and trotted back with him nicely wrapped up in a brown paper bag.
Oh boy was I pleased with myself.   Announcements were made to the class  – ‘Look what Michele has bought!’.   I accepted the accolades with grace and humility and he was put in pride of place next to the plastic fruit and pottery armadillos for the next day.
But then – oh dear.   I reached into my bag to get my phone out to take a picture and no phone.  Frantic searching through the amazing amount of crap that all of us had brought didn’t find anything.   Ringing my number didn’t turn anything up either.   I must have left it in one of the many shops I’d just spent the last hour scouring.   I had no option but to go and look for it and, if it couldn’t be found, spending the next 5 hours changing every password I’ve ever set.   I’ve been waiting 9 months for this course and was going to waste a good portion of it because I’d been an idiot and had to be teacher’s pet.
Back I went.  Back through the shops with life size pewter seals.  Back through the racks of plastic flip-flops and boxes of Cape Cod fudge.  Back through display after display of tastefully anonymous silver jewellery.   
And there it was.   Sitting next to the cash register in the same shop that I’d found Charlie the seagull in.  I must have been so excited to buy him that Mr Samsung Galaxy S3 was left behind.
Back to the Art Center I went again.  Hot and annoyed and having wasted another precious hour of painting.    
He’d better bloody use it after all this trouble.

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 2 – Portraits

My painting on day 2.  I’m reasonably happy with this.  Again Charles said not to do too much (although he did tell me off for not putting the foot in – my homework for tonight).
Day 2  – the full story.

Portraits again today and like yesterday we started with a demo.    The model today was Jeanne who I later found out is South-African and lived in France and the UK before moving to Falmouth 5 years ago.   This makes for a very interesting accent but she was a great model and Charles seemed to take a bit of a shine to her.   She works at the Art Center and teaches art to children and teenagers but today was kind enough to model for us.

Today was going to be a full body portrait and Charles started out by showing us how he measures out the figure so it fits on the paper and is correctly proportioned.   He first lightly draws in the head (at least 2-3 inches high).    He then measures down the figure in head lengths and notes which bit of the figure is at 2 heads, 3 heads etc.  These positions he then marks on the paper. In this case 2 heads was chest level,  3 heads hit the top of the hands and 4 heads came to the bottom of the foot.

Interestingly he said that it’s better to make the head smaller in relation to the body than larger.   Apparently Sargent made his bodies 10 heads high (in reality they’re around 7-8).   It’s a distortion but it’s an acceptable and indeed flattering distortion.   Catwalk models have the same kind of effect.
He started the drawing with the features – the nose first,  then the mouth and then the eyes.   He then went straight to the hands and drew them mostly as a single mass (no sausages here).   Before going on he made sure the hands were big enough – they should be a head length in size.  Once the head and hands are in everything else pretty much slips into place and it’s a tip I will certainly use in future.

After the hands he finished off the torso and legs.   He concentrated mostly on the internals – the folds and creases of the clothes – rather than the outline.   This makes it easier to draw as it’s mostly abstract shapes and stops people ‘drawing from their heads’ as he puts it and putting in standard, sausage shaped limbs.

Here is Jeanne – you can see why Charles liked her 🙂

Onto the painting – first the shadow under the nose – a strong cadmium red and raw sienna mix.  This was then pulled out with a damp brush to provide color in the rest of the nose.   The mouth was cadmium and alizarin with some cerulean at the corners and underneath the bottom lip.

The eyes went in next.  First the irises – dots of color leaving small white highlights.  The ubiquitous damp brush cam out again to fill in some of the spaces with lighter values.

This first part took quite a bit of time – 30 minutes for the drawing and another 15 minutes to put in the features.  

Next he moves onto the shading of the face and the hair.   The color he put on for the side of the face seemed initially to be far too strong but after he’d pushed it around a bit it dried to a much more subtle color.   The hair went in with very thick raw umber paint (with no water at all) and was lightened with water and also thick raw sienna.  Strands were indicated by scratching out regions with his thumb.  ( I tried to do this and all I got was a very grubby thumb).

The jacket and sweater were done together.   The paint was put on very thickly to start with (alizarin for the sweater and black with ultramarine for the jacket) and then pushed around with a lightly damp brush to make value changes.   Note the small strip of white paper he left for the chain of her pendant – masterful!!

In the next 15 minute chunk he put in the trousers and hands.  The fingernails in the hands were basically left white and the trousers were indicated with a very light wash with thick dark accents to indicate shadows.  This was all put in very quickly.

We were almost done at this point – here Charles is modifying something with Jeanne looking on.

Charles has a distinctive way of getting excess water off his brush.   There’s no way I could get away with this at home.

The finished article.   Finishing touches were to indicate the quilt underneath here with strong viridian and alizarin stripes.   Works pretty well I think.

Charles, Jeanne and masterpiece.

After this we broke for lunch.   I had an errand to run so I trotted into Falmouth.   This turned into a bit

of a saga which I’ll write about tomorrow.   This meant that I was 30 minutes late starting in the afternoon so didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.

As I did Katrina yesterday it was my turn to paint Jeanne.  The pose was pretty similar to the one in the morning.  I prefer this as it means we get to practice directly the things that C. talked about in the morning.  Here’s the initial drawing which I was pretty happy with.   (Charles’ comment – nice drawing.)

Starting in with the features and the hands.   I wasn’t very happy with the face – I’m finding it hard to get good color and things look a little washed out.  Everyone seemed to like it though and I was discouraged from strengthening the color.

Starting in with the sweater and jacket and trying to keep some looseness and lost edges in the folds.

More hands, trousers and, it’s hard to tell here, but I strengthened the eyes which improved things.

The ‘final’ thing.   Again I was strongly encouraged not to go any further although Charles came across and told me off for not putting the foot in.  I’m kind of ok with this  – could be a lot worse.

Photo from where I was sitting.  She’s moved her head a little from the original pose.  Can’t complain – I wouldn’t like to keep still for hours on end.

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 1

My results on day 1 – the full story is below.

So the day finally arrived.  Boris was loaded up and at 8am off we went to Falmouth Art Center
I was almost the first there – we wondered whether we’d have to paint the ladder but it was only there to adjust the lighting.   The Center is impressive – large and airy and obviously quite new or at least newly renovated.

After coffee and complimentary bagels Judy and Charles arrived.    Judy is obviously the organizer and keeps everyone informed as to what is going on.  She shuffled us around a bit so we could all see while Charles settled himself in his chair in front of his easel.

Our model (Katrina – like the hurricane) sat in 15-20 minute chunks while Charles drew and explained what was going on.  Having read his books and watched several of his videos the information wasn’t completely new but there’s nothing like actually seeing someone draw and paint who knows how to do it.

He went surprisingly slowly  – this was after the first 15 minute section with just a rough outline of the head and more detail of the nose and mouth.

This was after 30 minutes – most of the time was spent on the features with the hair and shoulders put in in a couple of minutes or so.    Looking closely at the drawing there are surprisingly few lines.  He strongly urges us not to ‘sketch’ with multiple feathery strokes but put down decisive lines.   Even so the sparseness of the drawing was surprising.

The time went incredibly quickly.  I thought only 5 minutes had gone by when the buzzer for the first 15 was up.    Amazing how absorbing watching someone else draw is 🙂

Finally onto the  painting.   After saying that he usually doesn’t do an underwash he proceeded to do just that.  I can’t remember the rationale but it doesn’t really matter.   He used cadmium red, raw sienna and cerulean blue and a fairly large number 14 brush to put some warmth into the face and some color into the hair and sweater.   With these washes he didn’t keep to the outline but pushed the washes into the surrounding areas.

After another break and when the wash was dry it was straight into painting the features.  He said he usually starts painting at the same place he starts drawing.  In this case it was the nose and mouth but in other cases it could be the eyes.  He was careful to stress that there was very little water in his mixes and it was interesting to see how he got value changes.

He started by putting in the cast shadow under the nose in a dark mix of cad red,  cerulean and raw sienna.   He then took a slightly damp brush and pulled the paint out into the other areas of the nose and face.  This enables him to get unified color but also a good range of light to dark.

He paints as he draws – extremely slowly and carefully.   The nose and mouth stage above took another 20 minutes.   As with the drawing he stressed that we shouldn’t follow the outline but leave gaps and soft edges to indicate form.

The next two parts were the eyes and then the planes of the face.   For the eyes he went straight in with the dark of the lashes and the iris.   The iris he put in in small dots and leaving some white of the paper. Then he goes back in with a clean damp brush and softens areas by pulling out the pigment.   Interestingly the white of the eye he put in as quite a strong raw sienna.  It looked out of place when it went down but looked fine when the rest was filled in.
The side of the face he put in with an extremely strong and apparently dark mix.  Again this dried much lighter (although I’m not sure it was completely successful).

 Finally the hair and the sweater was put in.  This was done comparatively quickly and he made good use of his fingernails to scrape out the light regions.

Not bad huh?

Then it was our turn.

After lunch an extra model arrived and half of us sat in front of her and half in front of Katrina again.   I chose Katrina as I wanted to put into practice the advice Charles had given us in the morning.   I took the first twenty minutes to do the drawing.   I felt reasonably happy at this stage.  
Oh and Charles’ comment  – ‘Good drawing’. 

After the underwashes as he had done it was time to start on the features.    I felt that I was working extremely tentatively and would have liked some stronger color but the features came out pretty well.  

It’s probably hard to tell the difference between this and the previous version.  I was getting a bit jittery and didn’t want to muck anything up.  I did strengthen and warm up the shadow underneath the nose as well as add some subtle washes to give form to the nose and brow area.   I was pretty happy with the eyes – I tried to follow Charles’ advice to put the iris in with dots and leave white space.   I think it works well.

At the previous stage Charles came round and said that I should leave it pretty much as it was.   I should leave out the hair and sweater and even the shadow on the side of the face.  He did suggest putting some color into the cheeks and calling it finished.  Which I did.

I was then at a bit of a loose end and there was about an hour to go so I started a fresh painting aiming to put in some bolder color and have a go at the hair.    For a quick rendition I was pretty happy.

So that was day one.    I enjoyed every minute of it.

Charles Reid Workshop – Day 0

Well I’m finally here in a hotel in Falmouth MA ready for the workshop tomorrow morning.   I booked this back in January and now the time has finally come.   My checklist is :

 –  Does my easel work?  Yes.
 –  Can I erect said easel quickly and efficiently as though I’ve been doing it all my life?  – No but I can make it stand up without it toppling over.  Mostly.
 –  Do I have enough paint?  Yes.  Probably enough for the next 12 months.   Although that doesn’t stop me fretting.
 –  Do I have enough paper? Ditto.  Unless I do more than 80 paintings in the next 5 days.
 –  Do I have a good way of attaching my water pot to the easel? (This is a crucial step).  Yes – 2 different sorts of hooks with multiple backups and 2 different water pots.  All researched extensively on Amazon.
 –  Do I have a sketchbook of the right size for taking notes.  Yes – again with multiple backups.
 –  Do I have a mechanical pencil,  kneaded rubber, brushes of varying sizes? Yes, yes and yes.
 –  Do I have a small pair of binoculars for close examination of demo paintings?  Yes.
 –  Do I have various items necessary for outside work?  These include hat,  bug spray,  sunblock, umbrella, portable water container and stool.  Yes.
 –  Do I have a plentiful supply of kitchen roll.  Yes.  Freshly plucked from the basement this morning.
 –  Do I have my phone (with camera) and a wire to charge it?  Yes – both USB and powered cables.
 –  Do I have my laptop for bloggage?  Yes – I’m writing on it.
 –  Have I planned my route to the art center? Yes.  Planned on google maps with timings and alternative routes.  (It’s about 400 yards from here)
 –  Have I forgotten anything?   God I hope not.

I’d better do some decent paintings after all this.   I’ve spent a fortune so far.