We were supposed to paint ouitside this morning, but it rained so Ovanes took us into his studio for a slide show. We then painted all afternoon at a small lake part of the Snake River.

The slide show was great. In addition to showing us other masters the he admires (Sergi Bongard, J.Sorolla, etc), he actually showed us his earlier work, much of which he felt embarrassed about. This would be akin to Robert DeNiro showing the public video of his school play. This takes guts.

I noticed–and he pointed out–quite a few changes in his evolution. First, his latest work has much looser brush strokes. Somewhat softer/blened, but overall more sophisticated and confident. Second, his early work was overly literal, not as interpretave as it is now. He paid more attention then to local color, rather than varying color to reach a higher artistic interpretation/objective. Last, his color harmonies were less sophisticated. He pays much more attention now to the vibrations created by warm/cool color variations. Of course, even back then he could have painted any of us under the table!

After the slideshow, I stuck around to view the art for sale in his studio. I was on a mission, with Mike’s okay to buy.

Luckily, he came back into the studio just as I was narrowing down my choices. Without telling him which I was interested in, I asked him to point out some favorites. Thankfully, I’d chosen 3 of the 4 he named (out of 20+) in the room, so I felt my taste was on target. It was wonderful to hear him talk about each piece, and what he saw in them.

In the end it came down to two:one, a reflective early evening light painting of Tuscany; or a light-filled, vibrant painting done in hawaii. Thinking about Mike and my collection, I realized that most are of the quiet, somber variety, so I went for the happy painting. It’s truly an “artist’s painting”, since it’s unfinished, suggestive, makes you think. I love it, and hope Mike will too. I’ll ask Ovanes tonight if I can post it online.

I then spent the afternoon painting the nearby river. Finished two 8X10’s, one of which is shown to the left (“Idaho Sky”).
We have a demo tonight, so will likeky be watching Ovanes paint until midnight again. This is the life!

9 thoughts on “Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Day 4

  1. Barbara Fracchia says:

    Hi Ed,

    I have yet to get to Half Moon Bay and nearby vacinity to paint with your group. I just read your experiences with the great Ovanes.
    I also took a five day workshop with him about 6 or 7 years ago. He must have changed greatly because i found it a big waste of money and time. He would arrive briefly in the morning for 45 minutes or less and then disappear until the class was almost over. He was insulting to most of the students. I was fortunate because he ignored me only to say hello. I guess I should have been greatful about that. A few students were moved to tears because of his boorish behavior. I understand a few years ago he was sued because of this attitude and he put his workshops on hold.
    He must have changed greatly by reading your experiences with him. I wish you all the luck with “O”. Never more, quote the raven.
    Barbara Fracchia

  2. Barbara,

    Sorry to hear about your experience with Ovanes. I’d heard the same stories, so I was a bit nervous, but he was very accomodating. I’d say it’s worth studying with him again.

    -Ed Terpening

  3. It’s always fun to observe–from a distance– the impressions of students after studying with professional artists. In my experience professional artists, as versus teachers who haven’t made a name for themselves in terms of their actual performance, make for a wild educational ride. My guess is that they made it to the top shelf of their profession by being somewhat eccentric. What they like they like..at the moment. What they don’t like, they don’t like…at the moment. Then they change a few moments later. And if you’re near them while they are on a high, they are delightful to be around–and give good, encouraging, provocative lessons. But when they are on a low, perhaps because of a bad painting that morning, or a sugar low after a night of alcoholic carousing, or their latest wife/husband left them, or they’re just sick and tired of being around students and need alone time, they can blow you away, murdering your ego with a few choice words.

    I attended one workshop with Ovanes many years ago and liked him personally. But I too saw that aside from his demos, I didn’t learn unless I became proactive and taught myself by learning from others, photographing the setups, painting two complete paintings daily, copying his prints, etc. By about day 3 I was on a roll and taking in lots of info because my own artistic coordination, facilitated by doing 2-3 paintings daily, was in gear again, and there were many students to compare and learn from. I later just attended his evening demos for $20 and all the wine and munchies one could eat. They were good. I learned the most by observing him “doing” art, rather than any talking he did.

    Later when conducting my own workshops, I put a big emphasis on demos, which I do at least twice daily and one or two evenings, depending on the duration of the workshop. Artists are visual. They want to see and then deduce what the process is. If they go home with someone elses words in their head, they will fail. But if they go home having deduced for themselves the methodology of the “pro” they can then replicate it and add it to their “bag of tricks.” So for me, when I teach I teach students to teach themselves.

    I have come to think the students mostly want words from the artist’s mouth only when they have trouble with their own deduction. They want to know the process and replicate it. Most is readily understandable by simply watching the instructor do a painting from beginning to end. Too many instructors don’t do that. They instead paint a few dabs here or there or pontificate and tell jokes, and the students lose the big picture, going home confused. The instructor senses their discontent, loses his already fragile self esteem and feels compelled to drink…swearing he won’t teach again. (of course it’s all the student’s fault ­čśë )

    Good luck. One of my favorite memories of Ovanes workshops was his idyllic summer days and evenings with artists of all calibre, critters, flowers everywhere, and a certain amount of apres vous revelry. Usually he was extremely respectful and kind. The opposite was true, I heard, about his mentor, S. Bongard.

    If a student sets a clear goal to learn one or two things, and sets out to make that learning happen, even at the expense of pissing off the instructor vis a vis their persistence, they will succeed. The professional artist-instructor who can deliver a perfect lesson has yet to be discovered. Sure, we learn in spite of them oftentimes. But without them, we feel so alone in the insecure world of the artist. Just being near a “great one” is sometimes worth the money.

    Again re Ovanes, I found that if you’re serious, work hard, and are kind hearted rather than fawning, he seems to be attracted to you, and will do his best to encourage you. I don’t think he likes groupies. His sense of color is exquisite. Copy his stuff to learn his technique and philosophy of color and you’ll grow rapidly.

    PS If anyone is interested in a workshop and willing to organize it, let me know. I’m planning to offer workshops in Vilnius Lithuania, Moscow Russia, LiJiang China and Saigon Vietnam in the next year. The Saigon one will be in the winter which is lovely there. The others are in the summertime.

    G Holland


    You’ll find more of my stuff on http://www.swirlsofcolor.com

  4. Hi Ed, I loved your description of the Ovanes workshop. I tried a while back to find where he was teaching to no avail. Could you tell me how to find out where he teaches next….though I would prefer to do it at his studio as you did. Thanks and keep up the good work!


  5. Hi Sara, I’ll email the guy responsible for scheduling the workshop, and with his permission, post his email address here so anyone else can contact him directly. I’m traveling right now and don’t have his email address with me.

    I checked out your site, wonderful work!┬á It looks to me like you’ve already studied with Ovanes as I can see influence.

  6. Hi Ed,
    I’m so glad I found your blog. I have been looking for more information about Ovanes, and was not having much luck. I thought maybe he was a figment of my imagination.
    I too, would like to take a workshop from him. So, if you have any information about how I can discover when he will have another, I would appreciate the info.


    Kathy Johnson

  7. Hi Ed,

    Thanks for all the wonderful stuff in ur site. Great!!

    On ur painting the Idaho Sky, where is the light coming from? The sky is blue, wasn’t the sun shining? No trace of light on your greens.


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