Thursday, March 20, 2014

Workshop Wrap Up - Mainstreet Art Center, Lake Zurich, IL

I enjoyed spending several days last week with a great group of artists in the Chicago area. Mainstreet Art Center in Lake Zurich hosted my 3-day landscape workshop for pastel and oil. Below are my completed demos from the workshop.

Winter Evening Magic Hour, pastel, 12x12

Rising River, oil, 12x9

With the pastel demo, I discussed the importance of the thumbnail "map" for deliberate, planned placement of every element in the landscape. The oil demo was an example of blocking in the painting with just five shapes.

We also did a day of "minimal stroke" exercises, which is always a real eye-opener for students. I demonstrated quick examples in both pastel and oil. With either medium, this exercise causes artists to realize what they need to think about before laying down each stroke. The oil painters especially realized how much paint they actually need to mix up and have on their brush before putting the brush to their canvas.

During the workshop, one resourceful student, Chuck Sisson, came up with a brilliant solution to handling some busy subject matter in his landscape. Thought I'd share. Below is Chuck's painting in progress and a detail of this painting beneath. 

Work in progress by Chuck Sisson.

Detail, resulting from a "carved" pastel stick.

Chuck had initially placed in these fern-like stems in a way that was rendering far too much detail and not accurately depicting the "thicks and thins" of the foliage. Many experienced artists usually try to simplify areas such as this by connecting shapes and pulling out just a few of the fine edges and details. However, Chuck, an experienced artist himself, came up with a different solution: He carved with a razor blade some indentations into the flat edge of a Terry Ludwig pastel to create a simplified pattern that he pressed onto the surface. I thought he made it work beautifully!!

My next workshop will be here in Georgia, at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, located a little more than an hour north of the Atlanta area. This one is also offered to both oil and pastel artists, and will be two intensive days studying how to simplify and interpret the landscape. With affordable hotels nearby and plenty of great restaurants right near the art center, it's a great opportunity for out-of-towners to travel here for a short-term workshop. It's April 28 & 29 (Mon/Tues), 10 - 6, $250. Visit for more information and to register.


  1. Nice work! Somehow your work was on my FB page...glad I took the time to check out your terrific work.
    -another Barbara from NJ

    1. Just now seeing your comment, Barbara. Thank you. Not sure, though, I understand about my work showing up on your FB page. Possibly a FB glitch since we have the same first name? I've seen myself tagged before in other people's posts, but they meant another "Barbara." Nice to hear from you, anyway. :-)