Sometimes Demos Work Really Well…

September 5, 2012

Above 7.5 x 11 inch white sheet of Richeson recycled watercolor paper and gouache demo painting of a plum in my Color Theory workshop travel journal.

When you teach you have to demo. Happily I enjoy demonstrating techniques and concepts. I like to show people through my enthusiasm of a medium, why they should consider using it or how they can consider approaching it. I like providing options.

Because I pretty much have to talk the entire time the demonstration lasts the results are often oddly interesting (i.e., "well I see what you mean but that's kind of ugly").

On this day, with very few minutes of the 4-day workshop remaining one of my students asked me about using paint to capture a plum—to get those shadow colors, to get some dimension, to use complementary colors. 

I grabbed a piece of paper and the gouache palette which was sitting on my table, positioned the plum on a white napkin, painted the outline of the plum with some diluted blue paint from the palette, laid in the full shape with a midtone wash, went back in with a darker mix around the shadow areas adding and mixing paint on the paper, restated the darkest dark at the plum "stem" area (because the paper was now dry enough). Then I diluted the paint on my brush by adding a touch of water and swooshing the brush tip on my palette, to mix. I quickly touched in a shadow to the wet edge of the plum base. And I stopped. About 2 minutes. 

Of course when I was holding it up the wash was still wet so it ran—but I love that drip too.

It's just burnt sienna (you can see a bit peeking through in the top right) and Indanthrone blue (you can see a bit peeking through in the top left) mixed on the paper. (The light was pretty flat in the room so there wasn't a great highlight, but if there had been I could have added a bit of white in, or painted around a highlight area.)

Is it a great painting of a plum? Nope. But it is a fun painting of a plum, and it isn't fussed over (sometimes I talk so much in my demos that certain bits get over developed because I'm trying to get one point across).

And the students were happy, seeing the possibilities. 

Maybe you don't have to demo today, maybe you aren't explaining how to blend paint and water, maybe all you have is a piece of fruit you're staring at today.

Well take a moment to really stare at it, think about how you can balance using two complementary colors to capture that piece of fruit. Let your eye go over that fruit and see the shape. Then draw and paint as fast as you can, without fussing. Restrain yourself if you feel the urge to fuss. Really break down your process into a few simple steps and strokes. All of this, including observation should take only a few minutes.

Then set your piece aside, go out and go for a walk. Think about what you did, how you would do things differently. Ask questions about your process.

The next time you have to paint anything that rushes by you quickly you'll be better able to notice important points. But you'll also be able to slow down (but not doddle, because that might lead to fussing) and paint with a purpose.

Don't get hung up on the results. Enjoy the process and focus on that purpose. It's like mixing sprint training into your distance work—when you need that little bit of kick you can call on it. 

    • jacki long
    • September 5, 2012

    Loved this post. Thanks!

    • sarah
    • September 6, 2012

    I think it is a great painting of a plum, it is captured so quickly that it is bare bones, the essence of plum. Your expertise in teh medium is clear. And of course all yoru students will be convinced that it is THAT easy. They are in for a surprise. it takes lots of experience to knock off something that good. I love the drip too.

    • Catherine Hubbard
    • September 6, 2012

    This is great – the silky texture and bloom are captured without overworking. I wish I could have watched. Any chance of posting occasional videos?

  1. Reply

    Thanks Sarah for your kind words. I think I did convince them that it is fun, and if you can convince someone that something is fun I think they’ll follow through. I’m glad you like the drip. It makes me smile to look at it because I remember holding the thing up. They were a great group of students.

  2. Reply

    Catherine, I have been hoping to do all sorts of drawing and sketching demos. So often I draw something and think damn, I wish I’d had this on camera so people could understand this point I want to make. Dick has tried to shoot demos with me but we don’t always have the same vision so there is a little bit of argumentation (?) that goes on. I’ve recently purchased a new camera and haven’t tried it out yet. I am hoping to have something set up so it will be easy to demo, especially if I start doing some on-line classes.

    Even at the Fair this year I was thinking how fun it would have been to have a couple videos of me sketching. Mainly because I wanted to see them to check my memory on stuff!

    So it is definitely something I want to do but I have to technically work it out.

    • Catherine Hubbard
    • September 7, 2012

    Roz, may your plans for posting videos and even recording classes meet minimal hassles and maximal pleasant surprises. I’m really looking forward to their fruition!

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