Category Archives: Workshops

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.

John Ebersberger Workshop

I’m attending John Ebersberger‘s workshop this week, so been a bit busy.  This is my first attempt embedding a video using my new blog software, so hopefully this will work!  If you don’t see an embedded QuickTime video below, here for the video posted on YouTube.

This is a plein air figure painting start by John, referred to as a “mud head” study by the Henry Hensche school of contemporary impressionism.  I’ll post my own in a few days, along with additional commentary and information.

John Ebersberger Painting Demonstration (YouTube)

Randall Sexton Workshop

I was privileged to study with Randall Sexton at l’Atelier aux Couleurs, the Henche art academy in Petaluma this week.  The school is run by artist friends Carole Gray-Weihman and Al Tofanell, and is hosting a great line-up of teachers this year.  I’m going back to study with John Ebersberger in July and Peggi Kroll-Roberts in September.  It’s great to take workshops locally and aoid the expense of travel.

I had a pretty mixed week.  Did a couple scrapers, and other days just didn’t produce nearly as much as usually do.  The last day, Friday, I did a lot better.
I had fun with this study, really piling on the paint and using lots of direct, decisive brushwork. It’s a simply study, but I’m happy with it.


On Lee’s Ranch, Oil on Linen, 8×10


I spent a lot of time working on this old Ford truck.  Painting cars is a lot like painting portraits: the proportions and drawing have to be just right. Randy thought at one point it was looking more like a Rambler than a Ford, so he pointed out some drawing mistakes that brought the painting back.  I’m happy with this one, because I was able to balance accurate drawing with the loose brushwork I’m striving for.  It can be difficult to strike that balance. I’m also happy with the color harmony here.


Red Ford, Oil on Linen, 9×12


I think I painted this on Weds…it was 90+ degrees in Petaluma.  I had trouble finding something to paint. One of the things I’m working on is learning to simplify.  Painting an entire house is a challenge, so I found a more intimate scene, and kept it simple, focusing on light and value.  Randy called it “Hopper-esque“, a nice complement.


Simply Light & Shadow, Oil on Linen, 10×8


More to come!

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

Camille Przewodek Workshops

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I often study with Camille Przewodek, a fantastic plein air colorist painter from Northern California. I recently chronicled my workshop experience with her in Kauai (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). She’s a great teacher, and has such a unique perspective on color, I can highly recommend her. You’ll learn things about color you just won’t learn in a typical workshop.

There are still spaces remaining in Camille Przewodek’s final 2008 workshops — Sept 15-19 and Sept 29-Oct 3, in Petaluma CA.

Click here for the flyer.

Enjoy! Let me know if you sign up.

Mark Kerckhoff Workshop, Day 3

While the high winds continued today in the desert, the class went on and Mark continued to help us focus on his tonal method. He starts by blocking in a single, middle value for each plane in the landscape (sky, ground, slanted, upright). Here’s a quick video that shows two of my studies today in the drawing stage to the completed study.

I painted as many small studies as possible today, to get feedback from Mark on following his technique. Here’s the first, a study done while hunkering down under the hatchback of my car (damn winds!)

Through the Trees, Oil on Linen, 12×9

I stayed hunkered in the shelter of the windbreak formed by my car for this next study, cliffs in shadow. I tried to keep in simple, again focusing on separation of planes of light.

Desert Cliffs, Oil on Canvas

The winds grew too strong by the afternoon, so we moved to the shelter of a nearby grove of palms. Did two studies here, both from a nice sheltered spot. I’m happy with the brush strokes and overall composition.

Through Palms, Oil on Linen

My spot in the palm grove was relatively sheltered, so I turned right and painted another scene through the palms, this time focusing on the distant hills, which were beautifully lit.

Through Palms #2, Oil on Linen

After completing back-to-back workshops, one with a colorist, the other a tonalist, I have some thoughts on the difference between two. Whereas a colorist (at least as practiced by Camille Przewodek) will start with very high-key, intense underpaintings and then tone it down with local color to finish; tonalists focus on values, often starting with neutral underpaintings, and then gradually brining up the color to finish.
Each technique has it’s uses. My thought right now is the tonalist approach is best for paintings that are more quiet, calm lighting, etc, whereas colorist approaches might be best for full-sun, colorful subjects. This is probably over-simplifying, but I’m going with this theory for now.

What do you think?

Mark Kerckhoff Workshop, Day 2

The “Sausage Fest” continued today (did I mention that all the students are men? I guess Mark’s warning to “watch out for rattlesnakes” scared some people off–not you, Camille! :-).

High winds cut today’s painting day short, but we hung in there as long as we could. Even while sitting in the back of my SUV, I had trouble keeping my easel upright. That’s why plein air painting is tough, man!

I did one complete looser painting that I quickly wiped off and erased from my memory and digital camera. I know I should probably talk about looser paintings too, and why they’re so. Well, this painting’s elements (ground, trees, hills, etc) where not INTEGRATED. They didn’t harmonize. I got to punching up a green here, an orange there, and in the end it looked like a couple different ideas all struggling for attention. That reminds me, I have a blog post coming up on the power of simplification in your design. Watch for that soon.

Back to today. Here’s the first stage, following Mark’s technique of laying in flat, average values for each of the planes of the landscape. I’d also started laying in the darks, so this is stage 1+. The is a very basic, transparent wash in of neutral color–roughly of the eventual local color family.

Next, I started to hone in the color and value of each plane. In this shot, the hills, sky and a bit of the near palms are starting to take shape.

Now my intuition said to stop at this stage, and luckily the winds forced the issue. It’s so easy to overwork a painting and continue explaining beyond the necessary. Know what you want to say, and stick to it. As you can see here, I explained the ground plane a bit more, and this photograph doesn’t shot it, but the nearby palms as well.

Thousand Palms Vista – Oil on Linen – 10×12

I’m really happy with this one!

One more day of class. Check in tomorrow.

Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 6

Like all great workshops, I leave this week realizing how much I don’t know and energized to apply what I’ve learned to reach “the next level”. My goal is a bit lofty, and may not be attainable in one lifetime, but I really want to combine the compositional strength of Andrew Wyeth, with the poetic brushwork/expression of Nicolai Fechin and Segei Bongart, and the color sense of Camille Przewodek of the Henry Henche/Charles W. Hawthorne school.

Like Hawthorne, Camille had us focus on the figure largely in shadow, so we could explore the color of flesh in shadow. The study on the left is full sun, the right overcast light. She didn’t complete these to a level of “finish”.

Here’s my gray study study of a figure almost entirely in shadow:

Figure Study in Shadow (Overcast) – Oil on Linen


Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 5

Another full day today painting! I took off a bit early to soak in the hot tub. Perfect. Tomorrow we paint the figure, which will be a nice change of pace.

Here’s Camille’s first demo start (Wai’oli Hui’ia Church, 1912). The lighting conditions were overcast. You can see how she starts with flat masses of rich color. No modeling at this point. She also knows where she’s headed, eg, the far-right middle spot of Magenta will end up being a clump of trees. She’ll work green into it later, but for now she’s making it a rich red to bring it forward, and due to the fact that overcast days emit a cool light, which means warm shadows.

Here’s the near-finish.

I really like the composition in her second demo. Again, the light conditions where overcast, so a cool light, warm shadows. Remember that everything is relative. She carefully placed color notes in relation to each other, both warm/cool and value.

Here’s the finished study.

As for my work today: the day shifted from cloudy to sunny every few minutes, so I split my canvas in half and worked back-and-forth, sometimes minutes apart! You really can’t paint “the light” if it’s constantly shifting, so if you’re painting in conditions like these, consider splitting your canvas, or bringing two to work on.

The sunny version on the left is just the start, it didn’t stay sunny long enough to finish. I’m happy with the gray day side. I went back-and-forth quite a bit between color spots to get them to harmonize and read (by value). Overcast days are a great time to learn, because you’re not “chasing the light”. Even so, the cloud cover varied quite a bit, so it was definitely a challenge.

Here’s the finish:

Wai oli Hui ia Church (Overcast) – Oil on Linen – 8×6

Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 4

More mixed weather today, sun in the morning, overcast in the afternoon. I have two images by Camille, one for me. I only kept one as I spent the morning doing several starts, wiping off each start as I went.

Here’s her first start in the morning:

Here’s the near finish…she said she’d adjust a few areas, but it’s close and again shows you how she transitions paintings. Note the dark warm shadows in the foreground trees, the high intensity warms in the sky (that she later tones down to read as blue); and feeling of atmosphere she creates.

She then painted this study in the afternoon, with overcast light. See the difference?

And finally, here’s the only painting I finished today, the “Old School” (now shops). I don’t think the light key is as accurate as I’d like, but it reads well, and that roof was a blast to paint!

Old Hanalei School (Kauai) – Oil on Linen – 10×12