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:





6 thoughts on “Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Day 3

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