The Watercolor Society of Indiana sponsors several workshops a year, and last week Alvaro Castagnet taught for five days in Indianapolis. There were 24 of us taking the workshop, and although most of the time was spent indoors, Friday morning we sipped our Starbucks while watching Alvaro paint en plein aire on Monument Circle.

Painting two demos a day, Alvaro helped us see how to create paintings using one large shape, some medium shapes, and many, many small shapes. He wielded his squirrel and sable brushes with what seemed to be careless strokes, yet each stroke was so full of his exuberance. His brush strokes speak of his intense excitement about painting, and that was one of his main messages for the week.

We were supposed to paint along with him, and I was able to do that on the first painting but had to go my own way after that. His first paint-along (small pix below is my copy of his original) was of a Venetian sunset with gondolas and began with a luscious, fluid wash, followed by swatches of medium and dark valued shapes.

His second painting was a European scene with awnings and people, so I chose a photo as close to his as I had - Venetian street with kids on bikes, from last years' trip to Venice - to work from. Once the rough sketch was done, the photo was tucked away to help me avoid painting all the 'stuff' in my photo. One of his favorite sayings is, "Do not let what you are looking at dictate your painting." EXCELLENT advice for any painter!

Much as I tried to make my washes glorious, they have that 'workshop, I-tried-too-hard' look. And overall, the painting is much darker than I wanted.

Keeping that brushstroke excitement in the picture is very challenging. In fact, it's my new challenge for the rest of this year. More of my workshop attempts at painting will be posted soon.

Top painting - "VENICE ON BIKES" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 15 x 22"

Smaller painting - "Copy of Alvaro's Gondola Demo" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 15 x 22"


Christiane Kingsley said...

Sandy, these are wonderful! I can't wait to see how this workshop influences your work over the next little while.

Ginny Stiles said...

You know, Sandy, you are SO good already that I sort of question why you are in this workshop. But it is good to be challenged and inspired and I know I like to have at least one workshop a year to keep me invested in hard work!!! The washes are amazing and I am wondering about the haze...if that is achieved by lifting with tissue? The deep purples are lovely...does he suggest a favorite combination for that? Well, some day when you have time to tell more. I love seeing this kind of work from you. That and your yupo are some of my favorites...oh and batik too!!!

RHCarpenter said...

These both look wonderful and love the blossoms and softening in the background that pushes it back - and they both have such a feeling of light though the majority of the paintings are dark - very cool.

Deb L├ęger said...

Oh I am soooooo envious! Alvaro is one of my favourite watercolourists! I wish he'd come to Ottawa or Montreal. Beautiful paintings, Sandy!

Txon said...

Thank you for your writting. I will go next week to a workshop with Castagnet and it is very interesting your experience.