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.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Jeff Watts 6 Day Intensive Painting Workshop

This was the second Intensive Painting Workshop I have taken with Jeff.  The last was two years ago  which was a refresher for my six  month at Watts I completed in 2007.  I have taken portrait workshops  from others – both impressionistic and highly rendered.  I return to Jeff because he is the most giving instructor I have met, an excellent teacher who gives his all to help his students. His workshops are generally small giving him time for lots of personal attention. While I am hoping to strengthen my portrait work my main intent is to refresh and fine tune my skills of observation and brush handling. 

Jeff designed a progressive learning program over the six days. Classes began at 10 AM and went to 5:30.  Models were available without instruction from 7 to 10 five of the evenings – making it a great value and learning opportunity.

Day 1 – Burnt Umber pick out – photo and model
Burnt umber pick out is used by many portrait and figurative painters as a grisaille – a value under painting.  Jeff did a three hour demo from a photo.  We followed with using a live model. Great exercise building form from simple values.

burnt umber pickout - using rags, brushes and Q tips
Dark values added

My pickout attempt done live - and Jeff added facial contour lines when finished

Day 2 – Burnt Umber and White – male and female photos in the morning and from life in the afternoon. White was added to the burnt umber – to do a positive value painting .

Jeff demonstrates the Riley method for drawing in the subject

Sketch developing from live model 

A value study Jeff did from life using pthalo blue, black and white
 Day 3 – Head and Figure 40 Minute Gestures – live 
Jeff is a master at gesture paintings – both figure and portrait. His two DVDs are excellent to follow. It is a great exercise in putting down correct spots of colour – then coming back, correcting and working with the edges. We spent most of the day creating gesture portrait and figurative from life.

Day 4 – 3 Hour Figure – live with Jeff demoing in the AM and our turn in the afternoon.

Jeff sketches the model using the  Riley method of rythmes

Jeff is constantly stopping to cover small details of brush handling etc

Live demo near finish

Day 5-  Painting Features and Anatomy  
Features are hard.  It is important to understand the anatomy of the eye, lips, nose and ear and how to simplify them creating the impression needed. We followed photos and examples from other artists. This is something I could easily spend days doing.

My work with examples of facial features - a great day of learning

Day 6 – Master Study – photo
Each student got to pick a photo of a work of a recent or old Master.  The intent is to try to copy brush work, colours etc as best possible. It is a great way of learning and Jeff recommends it as part of a routine skills development program.  I can remember it as being one of the most useful classes I took at Watts years back – and have never followed through with its use – but should

Robert Watts. Jeff’s dad is an accomplished architectural illustrator and an excellent plein air instructor. He believes in spending time with plein air students in the studio working out problems, developing plans, etc before being defeated by the big world . I dropped in on a couple of his classes and was reminded just how much I benefited from his classes in the past. 

Robert Watts having plein air students working through issues in the studio


  1. Thank you for this great synopsis of Jeffrey Watts workshop!! I have his first gesture DVD and want to get the second. I also will go to his atelier for one of his workshops at some point. Thank you for the in depth look! And…. Go to your room is a point well noted!!!

  2. If you get to his workshop say Hi for me. Cheers.


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