Click for movie of still life setups.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.
  • Want to see what the still life setups look like, click the photo above for a movie.

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:





9 thoughts on “Tips for a successful Ovanes Berberian Workshop

  1. Hi Ed
    Been around here these days – have had a great time reading the posts.
    Interesting to hear what such a workshop is about – the setups are
    so beautiful btw.
    About virtual art academy I can only agree – gives a very good foundation and very affordable too. It has been (and still is) a great help for me studying on my own
    Thanks so much and have a nice trip to Venice.

  2. Carole Abla says:

    Thank you so much for the incredible notes from your workshop. You have produced some beautiful work! I can really see growth from last year’s workshop to this year’s. Good job…. it will be fun to watch Orvanes influences on you new work. I also stumbled upon another artist that has studied under Orvanes…Gregory Packard. Lovely work.

    What “basic warm/cool palette do you use other the ‘basic beginners palette you mentioned (CY Light, Quinacrodine Red Thalo Blue) I think you mentioned it months ago, but I tried to look back in your archives…and the archive links are no longer available.

    You also have mentioned…that you like the brand “Classic Oil”… Why do you like them better…. is it the price, quality, consistency????

    Thanks again for all of your hard work. We all are able to share your experiences. Continued success!

  3. Hey Carole – thanks for the complements! I have a few days off until I start painting for Telluride Plein Air, where I hope to apply more of what I learned. Should be fun!

    A basic palette of colors should include Cad Yellow Light, Cad Yellow Med, Cad Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Mars Black and White.

    As for Classic Artis Oils, the main reason I like them is price. They’re a fraction of the price of Winsor Newton or Gamblin, and to paint like Ovanes, Ken Auster or any other number of artists that use this brand, you can’t worry about the cost. They all use lots of paint. Ovanes’ muds alone in one large painting is probably more paint than a novice would use in a year. Once you get over the cost, and “paint like a millionaire”, you’ll have a lot more fun.

  4. Hi Jens, glad to hear you too hae had a good experience with Virtual Art Academy. The founder, Barry John Raybould, is a unique combination of great teacher AND artist. The two seem to rarely go together.

    Co-incidentally, I will be painting with Barry in Venice this September!

  5. Hey Ed, I don’t have your email address . .so this’ll have to do. I regret (really I do!) that I can’t join you at Buena Vista Park . . .the 13, 14, 15 is the culmination of the plein air event I was just involved with. Gotta be there! Then it is off to France with 18 students for almost three weeks. Am looking forward to meeting you and spending some time visiting and discussing art and the plein air scene. Thanks very much for your comments on my blog today!

  6. Kathy Johnson says:

    Hi Ed, Thank you so much for the time and energy you expend on sharing you experiences with all of us. I was at Ovanes’ workshop the 2nd week in June and when I finished at the end of the day I sure didn’t have the energy to do much except dinner and bedtime! I really do appreciate your efforts. I think it helps to hear someone else’s view on the workshop–you seem to notice some things that passed me by. So, after reading your blog, I feel like I got twice my money’s worth.

    At one point I asked Ovanes how I could improve on seeing all the nuances of colors that he was talking about that I wasn’t quite seeing. He suggested painting still lifes of all blues–different shades and colors; or all whites etc. He pointed to some blue bottles on a shelf that were different shades of blue and said that if I painted those I would learn how to mix the different shades and would also begin to see more of the changes within each color.

    So, I have my assignment for the next year–lots of still lifes with shades of one color!

    Thanks again for all your efforts and sharring.

    Kathy Johnson

  7. Carol Costello says:

    I am consistering taking a workshop with Ovanes. I have been unable to find Classic Oil Paints. Who sells them? Did you mean Classico Oil Paints by Maimeri?
    Carol Costello
    Perry, GA

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