Category Archives: Masters

Ovanes Berberian Workshop Demo

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.

Ovanes Berberian Demo

Copyright Ovanes Berberian

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





Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Day 3

Ovanes-Berberian-Workshop-June-20-2006-SetupIn 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, 10×8
Ovanes 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 at Ovanes Berberian Workshop, June 2006

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:




Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Day 2

Ovanes-Berberian-Workshop-June-19-2006-SetupToday 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.

Here’s the painting above, repainted as per Ovanes’ suggestions:

I then painted this study, thinking more about large abstract shapes, pushing color and a good abstract design:

Tonight, 9PM-1AM he’ll be demonstrating a large still life painting in his studio. I probably won’t write about it tonight, so check back for my notes tomorrow.

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





Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Day 1

Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Rigby ID

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.

Today’s paintings:

Carriage, Dappled Light

Snake River
Snake River

Ovanes had some wonderful still life setups. Click this link the Quicktime video. Enjoy! Click the PLAY > button.

Ovanes Berberian Still Life Setups Video


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!

Just as I blogged daily from my workshop with Gay Faulkenberry, and as I did in last year’s Ovanes workshop, I intend to blog daily–showing my progress, studies, and any tips I learn from Ovanes.  Last year’s workshop was amazing, and I’m excited to go back, having made progress since then.  Please check in next week, starting June 18th, and take a “virtual workshop” with me.

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.

Telluride Plein Air will be a bit stressful…it’s my first year there, and it’s among the most prestigeous plein air shows in the country.  I also don’t have much time, basically 3 and a half days to paint 8-10 paintings for the show!  Luckily, I’ll have just come off a week long workshop, so I should be warmed up and ready.  Again, I’ll blog daily from there, just as I did at last year’s San Luis Obispol Plein Air show. I’ll ask my community of readers here to help me decide again which paintings to put in the show.  You’ve been great at helping pick the winners!

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

Andrew Wyeth & Composition

Yesterday, I visited the “California Impressions” exhibit at our beautiful new de Young museum in San Francisco. The exhibit had some nice work, but not the most impressive I’ve seen of this genre. I came away with a new appreciation for William Keith (1838-1911), although their collection of “Society of Six” works was a bit disappointing. I’ve seen better examples of their work at Butterfield auctions. Oh well. Don’t get me wrong, still worth seeing.Although not part of this show, I was struck by a volume I found called “Andrew Wyeth, Memory & Magic“. I’ve been thinking a lot about composition/design, and although I find going back to examples by Edgar Payne and the like are useful for a classic perspective, I’m hungry for more contemporary ideas. I definitely found that in this Wyeth book. Wow. Although I’d rather paint like Seldon Gile than Wyeth (I’m not after detail), his compositions took my breath away.Here are some examples.

Andrew Wyeth – Sea Boots

Andrew Wyeth – River Cove
Andrew Wyeth, Dil Huey Farm, 1941, tempera on panel, 22x48
Andrew Wyeth, Dil Huey Farm, 1941, tempera on panel, 22×48″, private collection
End of Olsons, Andrew Wyeth, Tempera on Panel, 1969, 18
End of Olsons, Andrew Wyeth, Tempera on Panel, 1969, 18″ x 19″

In the end, I’d also planned on painting in Golden Gate Park after the exhibit, but it was too windy and cold. I also somehow didn’t feel up for. No matter! This weekend, I’m taking Gracie to a painting trip in Carmel (while Mike is away on his Aspen ski trip). I found a “cottage” in Pacific Grove. Weatherman says sunny, so we’ll see. Hopefully some nice work of the 17 Mile Drive to post in the next couple of days.

Charles Movalli – An artist’s artist

I was browsing through my favorite artists (see right side bar) and came across this painting by Charles Movalli. Wow! This is how I want to paint, with abandon: free brush work, inventive color, you can see the excitement in this piece. Movalli studied with Emille Gruppe, who I’m currently reading. I found an out-of-print edition of his book on painting on Amazon, and am devouring it now.

I find now that when I paint most of my work with my glasses down, I get the big shapes and colors more accurately. I do still need to loosen up! A margarita works occassionally :-0 Other than that, what do you do to relax when you paint? Do you think you should?

2007 Ovanes Berberian Workshop Schedule

I know there are many fans of Ovanes Berberian that visit my blog. I’ve just heard from Ray Morrison that his workshop schedule for 2007 is now available. If you’re interested, sign up now as these classes fill up quickly. They are in June at his studio in Idaho.

Click here for the Registration Form.

I’m signed up for the week of June 18.

Here’s a study I did at his workshop in 2006.

“Joaquin Sorolla” Biography

I have just received a new book well worth checking out, “Joaquin Sorolla” by Blanca Pons-Sorolla. The book is filled with astonishing images. I’ve of course seen his work in museums before and have heard many artists I admire (including Barry John Raybold (Virtual Art Academy) and Ted Georschner) rave about his work.

JARDÍN DE LA CASA SOROLLA, 1920 by Joaquin Sorolla

It’s incredible that an artist of this level isn’t as well known as, say, John Singer Sargent. Don’t you think?

I found many images fascinating, but unfortunately many are in private collections, so I can’t find Internet images of them. One example is “El Cabo de San Antonio. Javea, 1896” on page 101 of the book. The image reads like a striking photograph and yet when you look closer you see how “painterly” he was. That to me as an ideal I’m striving for: two paintings in one. From a distance, a striking image of reality (more so than can be accomplished with the limitations of photography, in terms of accurate values, color, etc) and another up close, one of fluid brush strokes, marbled color combinations, etc.

These are paintings that truly inspire me.

To see more, visit the Sorolla Museum web site (Madrid).