Here’s one of Camille’s demos. The first image is her “start”. She starts with intense colors that represent the light, being careful to keep all color and values accurate not to the local color, but in terms of relativity
Camille Przwodek Demo “Start”
Here’s the finish. She’s worked in local color on top of the start underpainting:
Camille Przwodek Demo “Finish”
I did two studies of the same composition, to try and differentiate the varying light keys: one in the morning, the other later in the day. Here’s the morning painting.
The first day of Camille’s class, we followed her “Color Boot Camp”, which involves painting colored blocks in natural sunlight, after the technique she learned from Henry Henche.
These exercises allow you to clearly see color relationships. Each block is painted a different color (in light and shade), as well as two different colored table cloth. This technique is similar to the “color separation” technique I’ve written about before here. When you think about it, none of the colors in these studies should repeat, after all, they’re all separate colors. The same is true in nature, it’s extremely rare to see two things that are not the same the same color–especially when you introduce distance, space and air. Have trouble simplifying outdoors? I know I do. This simplies things greatly, so you can really focus and study on color.
We experienced mixed sun and shade during the day, so as the sun came and went, she moved between the overcast day study (above) and the full sun study (below).
A palette knife is used to you’re forced to not get too detailed, keep the colors clean and solid. You keep working each relationship paint over paint, constantly adjustmenting, keeping the light and shadow planes very clearly separated.
This is a great exercise to judge color and value relationships that is transferable to the field. Tomorrow, we’re going to in effect paint a “block”, but this time a building in a park.
Here’s another study, this featuring a rounded object:
I did paint a seascape after class, but it’s too dark to photograph (I like to photograph in natural light, in the shade). I’ll post tomorrow. ‘Til then!
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).
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.
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.
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:
Follow artist blogger Elio Camacho is offering workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area. The workshops are 5 hours a day, one day per week (either Saturday or Sunday), spread out over 8 weeks. I think this is smart. Spreading out the days like this allows you to work on advice he’ll give before the next week. From his site:
Morning Tuition is $350.00 for 8 weeks 9 am to 2:00 (5 Hours) pm each Saturday or Sunday. Each class will start with a demonstration, followed by individual instruction at each student’s easel.
Evening Tuition is $250.00 for 8 weeks from (2:00-3:00 critique the previous weeks evening works) we will paint from 3:00pm till just after sunset. This class is great for students wanting to learn to mix paint quickly and catch the fleeing light. During this class I will set up with students and paint the landscape alongside them. Students are encouraged to paint but can also sit back and watch as I handle the challenge of painting the rapidly changing light. This class will NOT be as hands on morning sessions.
Today wasn’t terribly productive as I’m starting to wear out. I did one scraper because I started too early in the morning and the light chnaged too quickly to finish. At least I got two stages done. Probably could have finished it the next day, but I rarely do that (short attention span 🙂 Click here to see stage one, and here to see stage two of this unfinished, scraped study.
I’m much happier with my second effort, which Ovanes helped with towards the end. Here’s part of the initial blockin. I kept the colors in the approximate value range and kept the color “articulate”…that is, not muddy, easily read as a green, red or a certain mixture…At this stage I did some warm/cool variation for each object, but generally kept that towards the end.
Here’s the painting at the next stage, some block-in color, and I’m starting to add some warm/cool color combinations. As you can see, I removed the green tin on the right (see original drawing above) as I felt it distracted from the composition and I wanted to keep things simple. Ovanes will often stress constantly, create warm/cool variations of color to create a nice vibration for the eye. He said this is the main thing he learned from master Serge Bongart.
This is the finished study. Ovanes really liked the colors in the top middle ( red flower and the colors behind it). He advised that I simplify the background (which I did) as well as the lower left red flower. I’m happy with the sense of light in this painting, in particular the far right flowers and the warm/cool colors in the vase in shadow. I may add some bits of light to some of the flowers, as I like the sharp bit of light on the far right yellow flower.
Although I wasn’t able to photograph works in the demo last night (see yesterday’s post), I did find this set of photos showing an outdoor demonstration (this was on the workshop signup form that Ray Morrison sent me).
In this demo, you can see the undertone color and the block-in, although it looks like he approached this painting a little differently than last night. He appears to have brought more objects to completion here.
Hope this helps.
Copyright Ovanes Berberian
Update: To get on the email list to attend a Ovanes Berberian workshop, contact Ray Morrison:
In today’s post I have my notes from last nights demo, as well as paintings for the day.
As was the case last year, his studio painting demonstration was unbelievable. He finished 90% of the painting in a little over two hours. I didn’t see him make a single drawing or painting mistake. You can see the incredible value of experience and practice. Here are my notes from the night:
His canvas was roughly 4’x5′, toned a light value 3 gray with gesso mixed with blue/black gray acrylic paint. Smooth linen, sanded I imagine between coats.
He began by marking the edges of the canvas with objects on the boarder of the still life, with precise horizontal and versicle indicators, sometimes and diagonal.
He drew the entire still life in a thinned down burnt sienna. There were so many objects, his draftsmanship was spot on.
He then layed in his darks, starting with some fairly chromatic greens, then going to violets. His layin colors were all the same value, just varying hue and temperature. Lots of warm/cool variations at this stage. I noticed too that 90% of his background darks were layed in with verticle strokes, probably due to the fact that in a gallery environment with light overhead, verticle strokes reflect the least amount of light, horizontal the most.
I didn’t see him use a drop of thinner or medium. I spoke to his assistant, Vickie Reese, at the break and she confirmed that he adds oil to some colors to keep them all the right consistency, about that of mayonnaise. Some Classic Artist Oils are a bit heavy out of the tube (eg, Cobalt, Hansa Yellow Orange), so you need to add Linseed Oil to get them the same consistency as Ultramarine Blue, for example. I imagine that’s why he doesn’t need to use thinner or medium at this stage, as the paint as enough oil in it to move smoothly across the canvas and yet retain it’s tinting strength.
During this initial lay-in, lots of blending between strokes, no hard edges, and most are so soft they blend together.
During the lay-in, he used one brush, only once or twice cleaning in turps.
When he rose the values up, he stayed in the midtones range, where the pigment has it’s most power (since there’s no white in it to both cool it and dull it). I was amazed how close he kept his values in the early stages, really for 80% of the painting–nothing above a midtone.
His color during the initial lay-in was not raw, out of the tube, yet it was articulate. You new the color, it didn’t stray off into too gray/chalky. I think the lesson here is to try painting the first 80% of your painting with no white whatsoever. You’d be surprised how vibrant the painting will stay.
The shadow side of most objects where blended right into the background (ie, “lost edges”).
Although he worked all over the canvas, he generally completed one object at a time, laying in both the shadow side and a midtone for what would be the light side. Later, he’ll lay in these lights right over the midtone paint, which is applied lightly with brush fully loaded (so you don’t scrape into the under midtone paint. Even when applying lights, he did lots of blending back into the midtone and darks. Only occasionally would he highlight something and leave a hard edge. He’d so this with objects like the ridges of rose petals, for example.
He didn’t end up putting the finishing touches in the painting, but said he rather wanted to think about it and finish it later than night or the next day.
Now, for today’s efforts. I decided to really focus on the initial lay-in and try to avoid painting details too early. This is REALLY difficult for me. I have a relatively short attention span and like to complete one thing before moving on to another. I think I did okay, but have Ovanes’ critique below on a couple of the paintings.
I tried not to bring this to completion, but probably painted more than I should have. I just can’t help adding those juicy highlights! Ovanes felt the background lights were too light, and the table top a bit too chalky (too much white). He thought the vase and flowers worked well.
Ovanes Workshop Still Life 2, Oil on Linen, 10×8Ovanes suggested some value corrections (shown in this final study). He generally thought the values were correct, and made some color suggestions. As like the first one, he felt the background ground in sun was too light a value. I liked it so left as is.
I did this quick study and a couple of others (all scraped) before calling it quits. My neighbor painting today was “PK”, who it turns out found out about the workshop through this blog. She’s shown below standing in front of an initial layin–notice, no white! She was a lot of fun. Turns out, she play Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” at Disneyland in 1960. Can’t you just picture her? She had some funny anequdotes about Walt Disney, himself, since he auditioned her for the part. Sounds like it was a great job, part of history really.
PK and I ended the day photographing the sunset…the skys are so incredible here…or is it that we just don’t notice our own skys at home, when we’re rushing from point a to point b? Happy Painting!
Update: To get on the email list to attend a Ovanes Berberian workshop, contact Ray Morrison:
Today was definitely a day for learning. Do you ever go to workshops with a competitive nature? I have to admit I sometimes do. I want to paint well. I don’t want to make mistakes in front of others. These two competing goals: learning and painting a great piece, just don’t mix. I need to learn to put myself out there more. Ovanes definetly pushed me in that direction today.
He saw the two paintings the below, and the first words out of his mouth were, “don’t paint to sell”. He had me pegged! He pointed out that I’d started painting the detail too soon (guilty, as charged) and that the dark brown background wasn’t working. I needed to paint some of the sun-lit greens behind the still life. To be honest, I can’t think of anything positive he said about either painting in it’s first incarnation–which is fine…I need to welcome constructive criticism and not expect praise of any kind. I payed attention, and painted over it to get to the third painting below.
Great day! I’m glad I attended again this year, as already in the first day I heard some much needed clarification on his technique. Here are today’s key take-aways:
Brush Cleaning. A brush cleaning tip: wash your brush in solvent, then work in Walnut Oil and leave in over night. Supposed to keep the brush well nourished. I’m trying this today. I’d love to stop cleaning my brushes every night with soap and water (after solvent, of course).
Limited Palette. He emphasized a basic palette for beginners, although with a surprising triad of colors: Thalo Blue; Quinacrodone Red; and Cad Yellow Light. The first two are pretty powerful colors, so this surprised me. He emphasized the need for cool versions of colors in a basic landscape palette, since outdoors you get a lot of reflected blues from the sky.
Using Grays. He mixes a basic gray of Black and White, to tone down most colors. If you have a pile of warm and cool muds, these can also be used to tone down the intensite of warm and cool colors, respectively.
Mix Adjacent Colors. No matter your palette, to avoid muds, mix only colors adjacent on the color wheel.
Start Flat. Emphasized starting with flat shapes. No painting of petals allowed! Just focus on accurate values and color temperatures. 90% of your painting time should be on values and shapes, leave the detail to the last 10% of time.
Toning Canvas. This was a point of confusion last year, and I think he cleared it up, some. He alternatively follows two different techniques:
Value 3 Gray. This is a fairly light gray tone, that he mixes with Thalo Blue and Black. He said he tones with a combination of Damar Varnish and Gum Turpentine Spirits. Very light wash, runny. Leave to dry 30 minutes before painting (at least in the dry, hot Idaho sun). He recommends this for beginners, as toning the canvas in this way will help you see values better (eg, lights will show up well, as opposed to a full white canvas.). He also uses this gray himself on landscape works (less so still life paintings), so I don’t think this is just for beginners.
Full Color Wash. I’ve written about this before, after my first workshop. You use unmixed, out-of-the-tube colors to lay down your first layer. Go bright, as you’ll leave these bright areas as lights later, as the painting progresses. This is very much light starting a painting as a watercolor, and then going back and painting darks as you would an oil painting.
Misc Wash Tips: Likes to wash white flowers with Burnt Umber–makes for a good vibration against the cool whites. Pay attention to the values of your washes, try and keep in line with the painting (although much of the wash will be covered with color of the correct value). In general, warm washes are best outdoors because they’ll vibrate nicely with the general cool cast of outdoor light/shadows.
Painting Medium. The proper mixture is: 1/8 Linseed Oil, and remaining 7/8th 50% Gum Turpentine and Damar Varnish. He said “add a bit more Turpentine”, so I guess it’s an approximation.
Paint Lots of Small Studies. As he recommended last year, it’s best to paint lots of smaller works in a day than to focus on a single large one, especially since the light changes so quickly outdoors.
I am leaving Sunday on a 3 week trip that will start with attending a workshop with Ovanes Berberian, proceed to New York where I will be presenting at the Forrester Research Finance Forum, and end in Colorado for Telluride Plein Air 2007. It’s going to be a very busy trip, and I am definitely relying on FedEx Ground to get my art supplies from point A to point B on time!
The New York visit will be brief (2 days). I am speaking on a panel with Wesabe founder and CEO Jason Knight. I’m a big fan of Wesabe–basically, a “Quicken for Web 2.0”. It’s a very cool tool, check it out.