Things learned and a few abstractions

Abstract 1
Abstract 1

Last week I lived beyond cell phone and internet reach as I  attended a week long workshop taught by watercolorist Ted Nuttall. As I expected, I learned so much (yes, the back of my head blew off a couple times!). Let me share just a few of the most important concepts I took away from this wonderful experience..

1. Slow down. No, I mean s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. I spent a lot of time thinking about my next brush stroke. Where should it go? What color should it be? How would it react with the other colors already on the paper? When I finally acted, it was with intention rather than panicked splashiness.

Abstract 2
Abstract 2

2. Think abstractly. This was probably the single most important concept I tried to internalize. I’ve been unhappy with my work lately, finding it a bit flat, and lacking the broken color and fine edges that make my head ring with internal music. By concentrating on making each small passage its own tiny abstract painting, (that of course, relates to the whole image) I was able to add interest and visual variety to otherwise flat passages.

Abstract 3
Abstract 3

3. Think color. I tend to get stuck in one single color: orangey-red flesh tone. But that’s not what a person looks like. Skin tones are made up of many different hues and chromas. By varying color, saturation, and value, the painting is not only more exciting, but more like life. So I went (a little) crazy with color, using combinations I don’t normally choose.

Abstract 4
Abstract 4

4. Be uncomfortable. I made a decision that every brush stroke I put down would make me uncomfortable. I not only walked a watercolor tight rope, but I bounced a bit on the artistic high wire.  Sometimes my brushstrokes set me teetering and wheeling, but after a bit of nail biting (and whining), I regained my balance and continued  painting. You know what? Those seemingly near disasters turned out to be the best parts of the painting.

My workshop painting is still not quite finished, so I’ll not post it yet, but I’ve cropped a few of the tiny abstract paintings that make up the whole. I find them quite lovely all by themselves.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

Ted Nuttall Workshop poster
Click on this image to find out more about the upcoming Ted Nuttall workshop

I’ve just signed up for a Ted Nuttall Workshop at Kowana Valley Ranch. I haven’t been going to workshops or even taking too many classes lately, as I’ve been trying to develop on my own for a while (I’ve needed some time to synthesize all that I’ve learned from wonderful teachers over the years).

But this class is too tempting to ignore. I’m feeling ready for a bit more coaching,  I attended  one of Ted’s classes about 2 years ago, and it was honestly a game changer for me. My watercolors took a huge leap forward. Just watching Ted paint was an education, and his careful coaching taught me things about painting that I use everyday.

Ted has a unique style; part graphic design, part painterly brush strokes. His sense of color and style is enviable. I know that there is the danger of becoming a clone of your teacher, but I’m not worried about that. I feel that if we paint honestly, then we will ultimately and honestly paint like ourselves. What I want to do is  lean a bit in his stylistic direction, in hopes that I can get a bit closer to making the kind of narrative I see in my head.

If you’re a painter looking to take the next step in your work, I recommend taking one of Ted’s workshops (there are still places left in this one!) Kowana Valley Ranch is fabulously beautiful, set in a valley in the Sierra Nevada Foothills (you could  do some plein air painting in the evenings).  And the hosts, Lynn and Richard Ferry are generous, fun, and happy people. Plus, Lynn is a great cook (and she makes a mean gluten-free pie.)

Hope to see you at this workshop!