Rose Still Life Color Study

Still working with Paul Foxton’s latest still life workshop. This week was the rose still life color study. It’s not the whole composition but contains the main elements. I went a bit beyond where I intended today as this was just meant to be a color block in. It was a pretty intense session nonetheless. We accurately mixed all the main colors and some were pretty tricky.

Rose Still-Life Color Study – Munsell to the Rescue

I have the big Munsell color book. This contains about 1600 different paint chips covering most of the colors possible in paint. It’s been invaluable in making me more aware of color. Especially how to mix it both for oil painting and watercolor. I hadn’t realized how bad my color perception and mixing skills were before I started using it. If you want to know more about Munsell see this post. It also includes information on the online ChromaMagic tool which helps you see color more accurately.

After mixing everything for the rose still life color study putting the paint on the canvas went pretty quickly. We weren’t meant to put in petals – bad Michele! However, I wanted to see how it would look and how hard it was going to be to get the pink rose to read well. I had to do a lot of single touch strokes with no blending. This was to get the color changes between the edges of the petals and the higher chroma inner parts. I’m very glad I did this – the full thing doesn’t seem so daunting any more.

Sometimes Cheap Surfaces Aren’t the Best Option

The surface was just a cheapo cardboard canvas panel. These are surprisingly good to work on and only cost around $1 a time. As it came out so well I almost wish I’d done it on something more substantial.

The whole session was a long one – around three hours I think. It’s a long time as you’re focusing intently for the full extent . At the end I was glad to put the brushes down at the end. Paul did give us a couple of tea breaks though đŸ™‚

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop

It was a huge pleasure to attend a Wendy Artin still life workshop. For me she’s the best watercolor artist around right now so the fact the Newton Watercolor Society managed to nab her for a workshop was fabulous!

You can’t beat an in-person workshop to see an artist’s methods

When taking a workshop it’s best to fully embrace the teacher’s methods whether or not you fully agree with (or understand) them. And one of the best things about in-person workshops is that you get to see the teacher demo paintings in real-time. Videos never really capture the process especially if they’re sped up or edited. They often make things look overly straightforward and, if parts are left out, the process looks seamless and effortless.

Problem Solving and Choices are the most Interesting

In practice of course paintings rarely proceed that way. The most interesting thing to me is how another artist makes decisions and solves problems. Where to start, what to start on, which things to put in, which things to leave out. Where they focus on detail and where they simplify – all these things are what makes the painting theirs. People often focus on materials and ‘techniques’ and the physical application of paint on paper. For me the most interesting things are what goes on in their heads before the brush is put to paper.

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – No Drawing!

Wendy’s way of painting doesn’t involve any drawing. This is pretty terrifying for me as I almost never work that way. But we were 100% on board so no drawing it was. She also precedes a painting with a number of small compositional sketches. She prefers scrappy drawing paper for this which isn’t designed for watercolor in any way. The surface is smooth and doesn’t absorb water so anything involving lost edges or blending was right out. The advantage of doing it this way is that you can work really fast and work out a number of ideas in quick succession. She was very hot on us trying out different compositions and framing things well on the page. It’s something I don’t really do but I probably should.

Quick Studies Let You ‘Get to Know’ Your Subject

The other advantage of these quick studies is that you really get to know your subject. The colors, the structure, how the light falls and shows the form – all is usefully getting into your brain for the ‘real’ painting.

First Subject – Radishes!

And some preliminary sketches for the radish

And some sprouts! Who knew they were so difficult to paint? I have to admit when Wendy walked in and brought out a big bag of sprouts I was pretty disappointed. “I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to paint a sprout?” I said to myself. But I was wrong. They’re really quite interesting little critters. Can’t imagine many sales resulting from them though.

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop.  Brussels sprouts watercolor painting by Michele Clamp
Brussels sprouts watercolor painting by Michele Clamp

And a preliminary sketch for the sprouts.

Brussels sprouts watercolor study by Michele Clamp
Brussels sprouts watercolor study by Michele Clamp

Next a kohlrabi!

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop - kohlrabi watercolor
Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – kohlrabi watercolor

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – Kohlrabi Studies

Next some figs!

And a turnip!

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop - turnip watercolor
Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – turnip watercolor

And finally another radish. This really was a stinker. Not so bad in the cold light of day but still….

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop - Bad Radish
Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – Bad Radish

Watercolor Vegetables are a Great Subject

I’ve painted some fruits and vegetables before. Some were for classes and the result is good for teaching but a little ho-hum artistically. But some like this fennel and the cherries below have a lot of charm about them.

Watercolor cherries by Michele Clamp
Watercolor cherries by Michele Clamp

Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – Highly Recommended!

I heartily recommend a Wendy Artin still life workshop if you have the chance to go. In my book she’s the best watercolor painter out there today and I loved every minute of it.

Limited Palette Still Life

This month it was a limited palette still life. The photo has quite a range of colors so it was going to be tricky to choose the 3 pigments wisely. I take part in a monthly oil painting challenge and we all have a go and compare. The photo has quite a range of colors so it was going to be tricky to choose the 3 pigments wisely.

Limited Palette Still Life -  Painting and Reference
Limited Palette Still Life – Painting and Reference

One of the most famous limited palettes is the Zorn palette. That is cadium red, yellow ochre, and black which obviously wasn’t going to cut the mustard if we wanted accurate color matches.

Choose A Limited Palette Carefully

So for this first version I wanted to choose pigments that gave me the best chance of nailing those colors as accurately as possible. This first meant choosing a good blue in order to mix that pot and a bright red-orange to hit the flower. The final color had to be a yellow that could mix with the red to make the orange and also with the blue to make the green of the leaves.

So what to choose? That blue of the pot is pretty green. I had some winsor blue greenshade (which is a phthalo blue) was a good choice there. For the red I went with the really high chroma naphthol red. This red leans toward orange and is very powerful. Should be able to hit the high chromas with that. For the yellow I went with a greenish yellow so I’d have a chance at hitting the green.

The Results Were Good for this Limited Palette Still Life

As it turned out those colors were good choices. The blue of the pot was fairly easy to hit. I undercooked the chroma a little on the flower but that was more due to my slapdash mixing than a poor choice of paints. Similarly with the green of the leaf I pushed the color more toward yellow than it really ought to have been. There’s no real excuse for this – I had the blue and could easily have nudged it back towards the blue.

Michele Clamp Studio Wall

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But on the whole they were good choices and I’m pretty happy with the results of the limited palette still life exercise.

Vermont farm watercolor landscape by Michele Clamp

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