Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Growing Pains and FCA Workshop Review

High Tide on the Nicomekl River
Acrylic on Canvas 11" x 14"

The weekend workshop hosted by the Federation of Canadian Artists featuring Robert Genn, with guest artist Alan Wylie, was three days full of information, painting exercises, demonstrations and entertainment.  Ocean Park Hall in Whiterock was just big enough to hold the 25 enthusiastic artists in attendance. We had the double doors flung wide open, sun streaming into the room and Genn's friendly dog, Dorothy, wandering around amongst us. The dog seemed to have radar for detecting when her master stepped out for even a moment; she would immediately start whining pathetically. Several of us women would go Aaaaah. Genn would re-enter the room and say "Pull yourself together!" I am pretty sure he was talking to Dorothy.

We did timed paintings 11' x 14' in 37 minutes - now that is a refreshing exercise that forces you to loosen up. The photo on the right shows class paintings. We brought in our own paintings and had them critiqued; we had individual attention to the pieces we worked on in class. And we painted outdoors on the banks of the Nicomekl River. Most enlightening, we watched Bob paint.  There was nothing missing from the weekend. A lifetime of working as an artist has given Bob Genn a wealth of information to share and his generousity of spirit came across to all of us: he is inciteful, humourous, and a real pro.

But... the weekend was a roller coaster for me. By attending workshops, we sensitive artists, open ourselves up to the growing pains that come with change and improvement. I laughed and I cried (or felt like it). I embraced change and I balked at it. One afternoon, I felt like my paintings were wonderful and another day I was sure that I do not know how to paint at all.  In time, I will digest all the input, decide what is right for me and take a pass the things that don't fit.  Here are my take-aways (I do love a good list).

Ten Eleven Things I Learned or Re-Learned at the Workshop

Acrylic glazing techniques - something I've been curious about for a long time.

Be generous with the amount of paint you use. If you are worried about cost, buy cheap paint, it works too.

Commit with each stroke with the full knowledge that you can change things. With acrylics, no one will know what mistakes are on the paint layers below.

Let the hand of the artist show in the painting.

Paint the foreground first, get it right, then work back through the other layers.

Try for more than two or three layers in the composition, try four or five or more. Foreground, mid foreground, mid-ground, mid/background, background, sky.

Be free to change things you see to make them work, don't be slavishly bound to the source. Let the painting speak to you.

Three sources for content : what you see, your own references, what you create in your mind.

Let go of the details, simplify, simplify, simplify (Shelley)

When deciding on a gallery to handle your paintings, contact some of the artists whose work is there already and get their scoop.

Three Bonus Take-Aways from Other Artists

From Alan Wylie - Use linear strokes when painting water. Find your own voice in this business.

From Amanda Jones - Think warm colours to bring things forward, cool for receding. I knew that, but haven't applied it much.  Getting that tip at just the right moment to solve a problem was invaluable.

From Elsa B. - By her actions, I was reminded to paint what you love. Elsa embodies this.


  1. I've only attended one workshop on watercolor - and I really loved the experience. Judging from your work you had a very good experience too! As usual I love your color. When I was in school I heard things like it takes a lifetime to learn color. I do my best teaching it with all the enthusiasm I can muster - but maybe there is some truth to this saying. Great job - lovely spot you found there too!

  2. Sounds like you had an amazing time and thanks for passing on those tips. Great landscape!

  3. Hi Gary.. thanks for your colourful comment :-) I like this expression: "Value does all the work, colour gets all the credit." I think I read it on Carol Marine's blog. I've always loved colour but my use of it has strengthened since I've learned to separate my paint mixing decisions - values first, then colour. But I'm likely preaching to the converted.


  4. Hi Liz... thanks for stopping by and checking out the new post.