Last week's workshop allowed very little painting time. Each day, Uruguay artist, Alvaro Castagnet, painted two demos while we watched, all the while wishing we would be able to paint with as much exuberance and liveliness as he did.

My first painting here shows a gondola repair shop that we passed by last year in Venice. It's just a little bluer on my screen than it should be, and although my photo is way darker than the painting, I like the way it turned out overall.

The second painting posted here started off really good, but the composition didn't hold together. I'll recycle the paper by gesso-ing over the surface someday and then eventually create a new painting on the gesso-ed paper. There's a good chance, though, that I'll also redo this same subject soon, developing a better composition before picking up the brush again.

That's one problem with workshops. It takes me some time to hatch a painting, and though I put thought into this composition, I was too locked into what the photograph showed. It's a do-over for sure.

Gondola Painting - "REPAIRS NEEDED" Transparent Watercolor on 140#R Arches 22 x 15"



Watercolor PURISTS would never ever use Chinese White watercolor paint in their paintings. Not ever. However, in Alvaro's workshop, we were encouraged to paint beautiful paintings, to not be conformed to 'rules' that would prevent us from succeeding.

This morning, I twisted the cap off my big tube of Chinese White and went to work on the painting I'd posted yesterday. Several juicy glazes of white, plus a bit more red and cerulean, resulted in a somewhat better painting. The previous one (see yesterday's post) was oppressively dark. Now this one is a little foggy and a bit mysterious.

Will the Watercolor Police arrest me for using white? Now where's my tube of Lamp Black?




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"