Category Archives: Still Life

Peggi Kroll-Roberts Workshop

Today was the first day of a 5-day Peggi Kroll-Roberts at l’Atelier aux Couleurs in Petaluma.  Peggi has a wonderful unique style for painting the figure, so I’ve looked forward to studying with her for some time.  She’s also a lot of fun.

Today, we started simple: gray scale paintings.  These are done, much like Notan sketches, to both build compositional skills and learn to simplify.  This two-scale gray study clearly separates light from dark.  This is a great exercise.  Normally, I’d do something like this with a black sharpie on white paper, but painting this just gives you that much more experience handling paint.  It also let’s you make corrections in drawing as you go.

2 Color Gray Study

Throughout the day, we kept adding levels of gray.  I was able to get to 4, in this study.  While some students went on to color, I actually liked spending time on these a lot.  Removing color from the equation, and simply focusing on value and composition is somewhat liberating.  I’m happy with the way this turned out.  If I can keep to values this accurate in color, I’ll be a happy camper.

Composition Study, 4 Grays
Composition Study, 4 Grays

I painted all of today’s study on a single large board, which I simply divided up into 6 areas for my studies.

Composition/Value Studies
Composition/Value Studies

Tomorrow, we get to paint the figure!  I believe she said we’d start that in shades of gray first, then graduate to color.  Stay tuned.

John Ebersberger Workshop Recap

I  studied with John Ebersberger this week at l’Atelier aux Couleurs: the Art Academy.

John’s a great teacher, full of energy, enthusiasm, and most of all, knowledge.  He is from the “Hensche School” painting method, whose lineage goes backward from Henry Hensche (John’s teacher and Hawthorne’s assistant), to Charles Webster Hawthorne (Chase’s assistant) to William Merritt Chase. The main ideas of this school of painting (which is really more of method of seeing) is that 1) form can be modeled with color variation; 2) painting in outdoor light; 3) outdoor light/conditions introduce a “light key” that must be represented (eg, from an overcast day to a full sun day).  To give you a practical example of how the school’s differ, a tonalist would mix a shadow color, then add white and a bit of yellow to show the sunlit side, whereas a Hensche colorist would see each color as a completely distinct mix. So while a Hensche colorist may turn a form with color and temperature changes, a tonalist (or “value painter”) may do so with value alone (the range of values from black to white).

I’ve studied this method under Camille Przewodek as well, and can tell you Henche’s method is not a “one workshop thing”.  This is my 3rd, and I feel I’m starting to get it.  It takes years of study and practice, and although Camille has applied the technique to plein air painting, I think it’s best learned with outdoor still life study.  In fact, if you study with her, you’ll probably spend most of your time painting colored blocks in outdoor light.  Sounds boring, but believe me, it’s more challenging than you may realize. In a still life, you can practice with objects and light conditions that are highly varied.

To learn more about this school of painting, I recommend joining John’s Facebook group on Hensche, and not bothering too much with the Hensche Foundation website, which does not present his best work and looks quite stale.

Here are some of my and John’s studies, along with commentary. I hope you find them useful!  If you’ve studied this technique as well, chime in with your feedback by entering a comment on this post.

John Ebersberger Images

As you can see, John paints with a full spectrum palette of color.  If you’re interested in the specific colors, let me know in comments and I’ll list them out [see the update below, all his colors and the brand of paints he uses are listed at the end of this post].

John Ebersberger Palette
John Ebersberger Palette

Isn’t this a beautiful start?  I missed most of this demo, but was able to capture the end of the start, and where he started to work on refining the large pot.  The sides of the pot and the cast shadow on the table are being refined with warm/cool note differences, but he started the pot just as he did the apple, as simply a light and shadow note.

John Ebersberger Still Life Demo (start)
John Ebersberger Still Life Demo (start)

I have a video of this on my previous blog post, step-by-step.  Notice how the shaded side of the head holds together well, even though there is variation between the hair and skin (the lit side, too).  He emphasized this often, that you hold to the large relationships first (figure to background) before you start color variations, and eventually detail.

John Ebersberger Figure Study Start
John Ebersberger Figure Study Start

Click here for a YouTube video demo of the figure start above.

Ed Terpening Images

This was my first attempt of the week.  I didn’t have time to finish it, but I’m happy with the start.  I do think my shadow notes are dark dark, and I started to work lighter color into them (you can see the darker beneath).  I’d also just started to model the blue pitcher and the pear.  Notice that I’ve left white space between each color note.  This can be confusing at this stage of the painting, but it’s important because it allows me to continually adjust color spots and relationships throughout the painting.  If you bring the color spots together too soon, and need to adjust later, you’ll risk creating mud and maybe creating a type of edge that you may not want.

Still Life Study 1, Unfinished  (Ed Terpening)
Still Life Study 1, Unfinished (Ed Terpening)

I was really happy with this figure study, probably my best of the week!  John took a photo too, as he’s collecting examples of studies for his website.  I had time (about 2 hours) to get the relationship between figure (face) and background, and just started modeling the hair and forehead.  Wish I could have finished this one.

FIgure Study 1 (unfinished)
FIgure Study 1 (unfinished)

Here’s another start from later in the week.

Figure Study 2 (unfinished)
Figure Study 2 (unfinished)

UPDATE [July 15, 2009]: I heard back from John, and he’s happy to share both his palette, and his favorite brands of colors too!  Here’s what he wrote me:

Color List

1. Titanium white

2. Cadmium lemon yellow (or light)

3. Cadmium yellow medium

4. Cad. Orange

5. Cad. Scarlet (or scarlet lake) — A must for outdoor work (see specific colors listed below, you may also explore reds made with napthol and perylene).

6. Cad. Red deep

7. Permanent Rose (or quinocridone red)

8. Dioxazine Purple

9. Ultramarine blue

11. Cerulean Blue

12. Permanent Green Light

13. Viridian Green

Earth colors:

1. Yellow Ochre

2. Indian Yellow

3. Burnt Sienna

4. Indian Red, Light Red, or Mars Red

Any paint brand is fine to start out with, you will find what works best for you. Ultimately you want to learn what pigments you are using. Some are right in the name – Cadmium yellow is made from cadmium pigment. Some are not in the name, for instance Winsor Newton’s Permanent Rose is actually a quinocridone pigment.

Regarding less expensive student brands of paint – when colors are named things like Cadmium red hue, or cerulean blue hue, the pigment is not what is stated in the name – this is not necessarily bad, as some of these pigments are useful. For instance the Cad. red hue may be a napthol, a color with strong tinting strength – and the cerulean hue may be a pthalo, a color with strong tinting capability.

Usually I like a warmer and cooler version of each of the primaries and green. Also a small range of earth tones is helpful.

Here is a color list with brand names that I like to use:

1. The Blockx Cadmium Yellows are terrific for use with palette knife. I use Blockx Cad. Yellow Pale, Cad. Yellow Medium, and Cad. Yellow Deep. When using a brush, I prefer the Rembrandt line of yellows because they are more fluid.

2. Winsor Newton, Cad. Orange (Rembrandt, when using brush)

3. Blockx, Cadmium Red Orange – the brightest red available, on the orange side, similar to cad. Scarlet (a bit thick for use with brush, especially in winter).

4. Old Holland, Scarlet Lake Extra – a beautiful transparent red

5. Gamblin, Napthol Red – the brightest red pigment (made by other companies under different names. Gamblin also makes a Napthol Scarlet, which I haven‘t tried yet)

6. Winsor Newton Cad. Red Deep – not bright, but you don’t always want bright. Almost a cool earth note.

7. Permanent Rose, Winsor Newton (Gamblin, Quinocridone Red)

8. Either Sennilier Permanent Violet, Gamblin Dioxine Purple, or Old Holland, Bright Purple. Also try any of the variety of quinocridone pigmented oils. I still pine for the old Rembrt. Perm Violet and Red Violet!

9. Blue – Still experimenting with brands- right now I use the Rembrandt line – Ultramarine, Cobalt, and Cerulean. I also recommend Manganese Blue Hue by just about anybody, but Gamblin is probably the best deal.

10. Viridian – Rembrandt (have not tried too many others. WN, too stiff.)

11. Winsor Newton, Permanent Green Light, and Cad. Green Pale

12. “Sevres” Green is nice (Blockx makes a good one), or Winsor Green by Winsor Newton. (they might still make Winsor Emerald too)

13. Sometimes I use Rembrandt, Chromium Green Oxide (indoor work, and winter and gray day keys)

14. Burnt Sienna (Rembrandt for brush work. Try Blockx Burnt Sienna Deep too – a very “cool“ brown.)

15. Rembrandt, Indian Red –

16. Old Holland, Mars Red-Orange or Blockx, Light Red

17. Winsor Newton, Raw Sienna (I’m sure other brands are fine as well

18. Blockx, Yellow Ochre, for palette knife. Rembrandt for brush.

19. Winsor Newton, Indian Yellow (you might also try Gamblin Transparent Orange)

20. White – Gamblin Titanium White. Blockx is excellent as well, but a little stiff for brush work right out of the tube.
21. I almost forgot!! Rembrandt Turquoise and Winsor Newton’s Indian Yellow – two indispensable colors.

Kevin Weckbach Workshop

Kevin WechbackI spent last week in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona inside a classroom with 4 other enthusiastic students studying with Kevin Weckbach.  Kevin is a generous teacher who both paints well and can explain his thought process thoroughly.  As you may know, this is a rare combination!

I believe I first saw Kevin’s work in the annual OPA catalog.  Among the hundred or so predicatable paintings, there are always a few that sneak past the jury and scream originality and true honesty.  That’s why I wanted to study with him. I wasn’t expecting a lot, because my assumption was that someone this original probably can’t explain how it he does it, but he does so well.

I’m not alone in my assessment of his teaching ability.  Kevin teaches at the Art Students League, Denver, where he took over Quang Ho‘s class (and where he maintains a two year waiting list).  This post includes my class notes, his demos, and some of my own painting studies from the class.

Levels of an Artist

As artists, it’s difficult to measure where we are in our growth, in contrast to other professions that offer levels of certification, by testing practictioners for an agreed upon set of skills.  Kevin described the three levels of an artist:

  1. This artist sees subject matter in terms of facts, much like a computer scanner at the market may recognize a can of Coke.  There is no interpretation.  It is what it is. Many early art students see this way.  When they see a landscape, for example, they see a tree, another tree, a rock, another rock, and so on.  They don’t see and represent a unified picture based on an overall impression, but rather break the objects down into things they can name.  That’s way many teachers will tell students to “squint down” when they look at a landscape, so they’ll see the big shapes and values, and not assign names to objects.  Assigning names is dangerous!  When you do so, your trees will always be green, even when they’re not.
  2. This artist sees subject matter not as objects, but as components, with color, value, texture, and most importantly, knows visual approaches to represent it. This artist intellectualizes the subject. They can use a visual approach to design a painting for a subject.  They make think through many alternative approaches before they decide which is best.  This level sees the can of Coke as a value shapes, texture, and other painting abstractions.
  3. This level sees subject matter with an intuition.  Quang Ho describes intuitive as “gentle awareness”.  At this level, you don’t have to think about how to represent the can of Coke, but can lay down paint within the right visual approach best for the subject.  Color, value, drawing, texture, all the things that I know I think about when painting are second nature to the intuitive level.  When you’re driving home from work, do you think about which turn is next and what street is next?   The intuitive artist has such a foundation of skills and memory, that he can represent more than the basics, without thinking about it.  For me, the surest sign of an artist at this level is the honesty they convey in their work.  In Scottsdale, we went for a gallery walk, and saw lots of dishonest art: paintings forumulated to sell. Great technitians, but you can just feel the lack of heart.  VanGough is a great example of what I think of as an honest painter, which is why (unfortunately) true art and commerce rarely work.

If we all had one system of painting, reaching the intuitive level would be great, but what makes things interesting is the fact that we can represent subjects in a wide variety of visual approaches.  We’re not cameras, we’re artists, so when we paint, we seek to convey how we feel about a subject. If there were only one way to represent a subject, every painting of the Grand Canyon would look the same.  Originality comes about when we combine our feeling for a subject with a visual approach to represent it.

Visual Approaches

So what’s a visual approach?  As you can imagine, there are many ways to approach painting a subject.  Kevin taught 4 of 10 visual approaches to painting.  The 10 include: Dark by Pattern; Local Tone; Light & Shadow; Line; Texture/Pattern; Color; Shape; Form; Siloette; and Front Lit.  Each approach has its own set of “rules”, but the main point is that they provide alternative ways of seeing subject matter and representing it in paint.

Local Tone

This visual approach is characterized by:

  • A limited set of values (generally, 3: light, medium and dark) represented by large, whole/complete shapes.
  • Value groups are relatively close together, resulting in a flatness.
  • Edges are created by adjoining value shapes.
  • Each value group maintains their integrity, eg a “medium” value group will generally have some slight value variations, but not to the point where it “jumps” to another value group, eg, the light or the dark.

This approach may be good for representing:

  • A grey, overcast day in the landscape.
  • A figure with no single, strong, direct light source.

The Mary Cassett painting above was offered as an example of this approach.  It has three clear values, with only slight shifts within them: the light (bed linens, clothes, china), the mediums (table, skin tones) and the darks (hair, back wall, etc).  You can see how each value creats a path for they eye, and is virtually connected.  Kevin’s demo below shows how he approaches painting in Local Tone.  Click the YouTube video below to watch.


This visual approach is characterized by:

  • Lines that divide space and create shapes.
  • Lines that are unique, have character, vary across the painting in size, character, etc.
  • Lines are used to lead the eye throughout the composition.

The Willem De Kooning painting “Excavation” was offered as an example.  Kevin spent the least amount of class time on this approach, so I don’t have demos or more examples to show.  I’m also not entirely sure when one would select this approach over another.

Dark by Pattern

This approach is characterized by:

  • Two value systems (although I would argue the example used on the right (“Wolf Moon” by Andrew Wyeth) is a 3-value system.
  • A well organized network of light or dark shapes lead the eye.
  • There is shape harmony, ie, the shapes vary, but they belong together (eg, see the white snow shapes in “Wolf Moon”)
  • The value/shape that is most connected holds the design.  This can be either the light or the dark.
  • The leading value (dark or light) is the one detailed or broken down.
  • Very little/no modeling.
  • Patterns are each unique, yet create a pattern with variation and a rythym that leads the eye.
  • Best used to represent bold, stark statements.  In addition to the Wyeth painting on the right, other examples included Motherwell‘s bold black & white brush paintings)

I painted a Dark by Pattern painting below.

Light & Shadow

This visual approach is characterized by:

  • Painting design based on a clear division of light and shadow shapes.E
  • Either the light or shadow “tells the story” of the painting and is detailed out (color, value, texture), while the other remains relatively flat.
  • Local value and local color applied to shapes.
  • Begin by blocking in light and shadow shapes in a medium, average tone.
  • Highlights should be consistent across the painting. Accents (darkest shadows) used to help define the figure in the early stages of painting.
  • Shadows unified color and value-wise, to hold the painting together.

I painted two Light & Shadow figure paintings below.

General Notes

  • Drawing.  Good drawing isn’t precision, it’s about spatial relationships; uniqueness in shape, line and edge quality.  The first thing to go wrong with a painting is the drawing.
  • Paint. Kevin started with thin paint, but without much/any thinner.  After a solid block-in, he removes excess paint with a painting knife or towel (to avoid the underpainting mixing with the top and creating mud. He created nice big piles of paint for the large shapes, that you can then bend in various color directions (warm, cool, gray, etc..see the video).   Don’t overmix color, keep some variations to make the paint more interesting.  To get a highlight on a shape, mix the base shape color, then touch one side of the brush on the highlight paint and lay a flat stroke that mixes both colors on the canvas.
  • Focal Point. He’s often start with the focal point of the painting, get the detail and key relationships working, then work outward.  Focal point can be created by gradation of shape, eg, more detail in the focal point, less as you move out from the focal point.
  • Figure. One reason to keep the initial drawing of a figure broad and flat shapes, is the model will typically set into a more comfortable pose after their first break.  Painting a comfortable model shows in the painting.

My Workshop Studies

Dark by Pattern Study

Paint Tubes & Liquin Bottle (Dark by Pattern study)

Light & Shadow



Reference Links

Painting with Camille Przewodek

Camille Przewodek teaches a regular Monday class at her studio in Petaluma. She’s one of my favorite teachers (her new series of marsh paintings are incredible), and she has a nice group of regular students.

We started by Camille offering a crtique to see what everyone had accomplished since she’d seen them last. I happened to have a couple of paintings in the trunk, so had something to show (Land’s End, Fall in Golden Gate Park). She thinks my brushwork has come a long way, and likes the expressive strokes, as well as my drawing and composition skills. She felt I needed to work on depth (which I agree with).

I’m studying with Camille in Hawaii in February–and can’t wait! I know I’ll learn a lot, and be inspired by the locations we’ll paint. I can highly recommend Camille for any level student (click for her workshop information).

As we often do, we painted still life studies outdoors, some students painted color blocks (a great exercise) while others painted a traditional still life. I set up a couple of plastic lemons, a green bowl and a cream pitcher. Here it is.

Tips for a successful Ovanes Berberian Workshop

Click for movie of still life setups.Having been now to two Ovanes Berberian workshops, and realizing that lots of readers plan to attend as well (some this week), I thought I’d provide some suggestions for a successful workshop:

  • Most days, Ovanes doesn’t get out to look at his student’s work until 2-3pm. I tended to paint quick color studies in the morning, and take a long lunch break (with nap!). When I returned to paint larger studies around 2PM, he was there to help. Leave your early morning work by your easel so he can see those as well.
  • Although the materials list you’ll get says to take very large canvas, I don’t recommend it. First, you’re painting still life studies under trees and the light is shifting all the time. It’s much better to paint lots of smaller starts and show them to Ovanes. If you want to paint larger, setup outside the apple orchard: if you’re facing Ovanes’ house, this is the area to the far left, near the parking area. This area has a lot less light variation and will give you the time to paint large.
  • Due to the shifting light, I suggest you paint everything in shadow/mid-tone, and then add your lights in the last 10% of the painting. This works well for flowers, but less so for the table top and background, which you may need to scrape and repaint at the end to avoid chalky or muddy colors.
  • Apparently, Damar Varnish was left off the materials list. Remember, if you want to tone your canvas like Ovanes, bring Phthalo Blue, Black, Linseed Oil (1/8) and remaining 50% Damar Varnish, and Gum Spirits Turpentine (don’t use an odorless substitute in your medium).
  • Again, I would take lots of 8×10 – 9×12 to paint quick color and block-in studies, and a few larger (12×16 to 16×20) to paint a few finished pieces.
  • The suggested materials lists a LOT of color. You really don’t need them all, and if you’re not familiar with them, will likely not have success. I suggest you bring one warm, one cool for each color hue. If you’re really a beginner, suggest bringing Cad Yellow Light, Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Red, Black and White. He’ll describe this basic starting palette in the Monday morning lecture.
  • Ovanes’ assistant Vickie Reese offers a tour of her nearby studio on Thurs. While her studio is great, this is actually a great time to get Ovanes’ time. He’s shy, so typically when everyone piles into their cars for this tour, he’ll come out when there are only a few dedicated folks left. I got lots of quality time with him then.
  • When Ovanes does come out, follow him around and listen and watch him paint on other students canvas. Sure, you want him to critique your own work, but it’s just as valuable to witness his work with others.
  • Bring several paintings (3-4) to the Friday afternoon (5PM) critique. He spends a lot of time on these, and the information is really valuable. You’ll probably get more time in this critique with Ovanes than you will during the week outside. Also realize that Ovanes will be much more critical of the better painters, and will offer less praise. He tends to want to really push the better painters forward, and offer lots of praise to novices so as to not discourage them.
  • For the Tuesday and Thursday night demos–be prepared for a late night (12-1am). The demos are really amazing. John tapes each one and makes them available in DVD format by the end of the week.
  • Want to see what the still life setups look like, click the photo above for a movie.

Have you attended an Ovanes Berberian workshop? Please chime in with your own tips using the comments feature. Want to prepare for your workshop in advance? My sponsor, Virtual Art Academy is run by Barry John Raybould, who also studied with Ovanes. His online, self-study courses are great. Click here to learn more.

Update: To get on the email list to attend a Ovanes Berberian workshop, contact Ray Morrison:





Still Life at The Miller’s

I stayed the Memorial Day weekend at Lake Alta, a favorite get-away, owned by friends Sam and Phil.  We’ve been going to the lake now, perhaps twice a year, for the past 17 years, so I’ve painted it many, many times.  That weekend, I went in search of other material, particularly because the light that weekend was quite silver, as there where layers of clouds that prevented full, warm light.  I was surprised to see it silver, even in the morning.

Light aside, our friend Rick made dinner the night before and cut some flowers from the garden for the table.  Made a good still life, so I set up my easel outside and placed the vase on a red bench.  The funny thing is, this same red was used to paint their horse stable, so you’ll see in my next post how the paintings sort of work together.

Still Life at The Miller’s – Oil on Linen – 10×8

Gay Faulkenberry Workshop: Day 4

We painted still life setups outside today. Beautiful day, a little too warm in fact. I got bored painting still life, so painted two other artists. One painting of a yellow chair was just okay, so I wiped it.

This is my first still life of the morning, a quick small “warm-up” study.


Green Vase – Oil on Linen – 6×8 – $100 AVAILABLE
After painting another still life (yellow chair), and feeling bored, I wiped it and painted this of local (Tempe) artist/student, Gina. I’m pretty happy with this one.


Gina – Oil on Linen – 6×8 – SOLD
This was painting was done of Sue.


Sue – 12×9 – Oil on Linen

Gay Faulkenberry Workshop: Day 2

Gay painted the demo below, then we spent the day painting small studies (about 30 minutes each).

Gay started with the basic drawing:


Started with darks, and as usualy takes each object to relative completion.


More objects:






The finished study:

This one is mine, I painted a section of the same still life set up.

Another of my 4 studies today. I’m happy with the watermelon color, but had problems with the drawing of the brass pot behind…It meets the slice of melon in an awkward way.

A blah study for me. Nothing reallying happening. I struggled with the cup.

My last study of the day. I’m happy with the color harmony here. Exhausing day!

Gay Faulkenberry Workshop: Day 1

I’m not going to write a lot of thoughts tonight about this day and workshop as I would like to absorb more lessons and “boil it down” effectively. For now, I hope these picutres are helpful.

Gay began be demonstrating her palette:


Here’s her demo at the drawing stage. She began with a light violet wash.


Gay started with larger dark areas, then went from object to object, completing both light and shade planes, keeping things flat at this point.

She kept her values in a relatively close range, mid-value at this point, but again worked every object close to completion.


Notice the texture she’s building, even at this early stage. Really interesting brush strokes and direction.

Here’s the final demo.

Here’s my study for the day. As I compare my work to hers, clearly I don’t have enough sophisticated grays. I need to work on this. She did like my color and brushwork, but felt I took the painting too far, eg, I had it more abstract before this, and then wrapped the apples in dark strokes to better define them. Should have left them as is. How many artists does it take to finish a painting? One to paint, another to tell them when to stop. 🙂


Red Reflections – Oil on Linen – 8×10 – SOLD

Ovanes-like still life

I painted this small, 8×10 still life study Wed. night.  I only had a short time to paint, and since my goal is to paint every day, thought I’d better paint something.  Anything.  It was too late to go out, so I picked some flowers from our garden, found a vase, table cloth, and set up a still life in my “studio” (garage!).

I started with Ovanes’ method of washes.  I probably should have left the background wash alone (it was a very deep red), but I found the flowers were not “popping” as I’d like.  The background needed a color shift from warm to cool, and also from pure, raw color to a gray to give the flowers a stage to shine as the star attraction.  You’ll need to click the image below to see full-screen to see some of what I’m talking about.  It was fun pouring on the paint!  It’s paintings like these that I’m glad in paint in oil.
I’m delivering this today to Viewpoints Gallery for my July show there.


Green Vase – Oil on Canvas – 8×10