I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Friday 28 August 2015

Landscape Fundamentals Workshop - What I learned

Just finished four days conducting a workshop Fundamentals for Landscape Painters at the Gibsons Art Center in Gibsons B.C. Designed for what I call "serious beginner' and intermediate painters wanting a refresher in the fundamental principles of building strong landscape paintings. I take learning the fundamental principles seriously : colour, values, shape and form, perspective, observation, composition and self critique .  Creativity follows. Students are sent a set of notes for reading in advance of the class - making sure we all on a "level playing field" in our theoretical knowledge.

I start each day reviewing the essential elements of each the sections. We normally follow that with a series of exercises related to the section - colour mixing, mixing values, controlling saturation etc. Then I demo and students spend the rest of the day working on their own pieces under supervision. Of course we also cover equipment, supplies, and the other basics and discuss practical questions. I have followed this format for several  4 or 5 day workshops and things have gone reasonably well and I have received positive feedback.

I planned the same format for this workshop. It was a mixed group; from a very experienced painter ( but new to acylics) to a nice mix of experience with lots of energy and enthusiasm. The challenge helping 15 people working on different subjects and with different painting goals takes a lot of time - which one does not have most days. So  at the end of day one I decided to change my format. For the next two days my demo was conducted as a " paint - with - me" format. We discussed the reference together, created value plans together with pencil and pad and worked set by step together through the painting. And as I paint " indirectly" with acrylics  it enabled the students to try each step along with me; stroke, glaze, scumble etc. . We took the paintings into the normal state of chaos then worked through and out of it together. The response was very encouraging - the results surprised me.  With every one  following me step by step and from the same reference we had 15 unique and quite wonderful pieces. I was delighted and I think many of the group were as well - I think they even surprised themselves at what they accomplished. So the group wanted to repeat the process the next day, this time building on a black gesso support. And again the results surprised me, and interesting, once again,  they each had a unique style which was similar to the day before - their own artistic personalities showing through. I think the two most satisfying workshop days for me in a long time.

The final day students painted on their own with supervision. The timidity, even fear, that was evident day one with many was gone.  Happy instructor.

I plan to build other workshops on that " follow me" approach.

Quick Demos used

Just some examples - notice the wonderful unique results

I also learned I have to be clearer and stronger about equipment in my supply list. Some in the class were working with only small brushes and had little variety - mostly brights 1/2  inch or less. It really limits them and the kind of marks they can make and the work that results.

" It creeps in with insidious ease when using a too-small or same-size brush throughout, and when over-rendering, over-detailing, over-focusing or hanging onto things."  Sara Genn

The palettes were the other issue. My recommendation was Stay Wet Palette for holding paint and  glass for mixing.  Many worked on disposable palette paper. I am OK that but it needs to be used as indicated - disposable. Some used the same piece over and over. Even on glass if its not clean and fresh paint is mixed over dried paint, the lower dried paint with be re-activated and affect the colour and bring dried chunks into the new mix. Learning to mix well on a clean surface is critical. Trying to make transparent glazes from a palette that has opaque paint on it is impossible. Squeezing out small dobs of paint as needed instead of having a full palette squeezed out and ready to mix from. Equipment is critical - bring the right stuff or its almost not worth showing up - its just that important.

Next workshops, each three days,  Coast Collective, Victoria, in February and in Pemberton in March.


  1. Hi Brian. I very much enjoy your work and the advice that you so generously provide in your blog. Thankyou.
    One small point, the Coast Collective workshop is scheduled for 2 days, not 3.
    I, for one, would welcome the extension if at all possible. An increase in fee, of course.

    Ed Owsianski, Victoria

  2. Yes thanks I got confused. Much prefer doing a three day or but there it is. Its going to be a three day in Pemberton in April


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