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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thomas Schaller Workshop

Pier Light, watercolor on paper, 18x12

I nearly missed the opportunity to attend Thomas Schaller's workshop in Denver last week, as this was a very busy time at work. But thanks to my wife's encouragement and support I worked alternative times and made it to the classes, and it was well worth the trouble. Schaller's talent and intelligence are inspiring and it is easy to see why he has become a star in the watercolor world.

Tom emphasized in his demos and instruction the need to go beyond mere beauty and to look for the Art in the subject. For him, that means to look for and capture the light in the scene, and to use design to add a time dimension to the "story" he seeks to tell. I imagine this explains his interest in bridges, rivers, streets and roads, all of which convey a visual and psychological expectation of movement through the pictorial space.

From this initial concept and a tonal value sketch, he builds his painting with very wet washes, using bright color and bold brushstrokes to maintain a look of spontaneity and freshness. He is careful to connect elements throughout the image, and to "listen" to the painting to avoid overworking. His approach is both simple and sophisticated, and at the same time advanced in vision and traditional in technique.

Tom took on some challenging material for his demos, and showed his ability to problem solve. He was brave to take the entire class to paint en plein air on the second day in very warm weather, but everyone enjoyed the experience.

The pieces I did during the workshop turned out well, immediate and spontaneous, fueled no doubt by Tom's reminders to all of us to simplify, to stay in the moment, to remember to breathe to avoid tightness. This was exactly the advice I needed at this point, so this was both fun and beneficial.

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