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.
And a preliminary sketch for the sprouts.
Next a kohlrabi!
Wendy Artin Still Life Workshop – Kohlrabi Studies
Next some figs!
And a turnip!
And finally another radish. This really was a stinker. Not so bad in the cold light of day but still….
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.
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.