"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A watercolor artist's vibrant lessons


One of Frank Francese's vibrant watercolors.
Earlier this month, I enjoyed  a four-day watercolor workshop with Frank Francese  http://www.ffrancese.com/ (Click on his website. You'll be astounded.) at the IAO gallery on Sheridan here, courtesy the Oklahoma Art Guild. http://iaogallery.org/wordpress/ 
Frank at work 
Frank, who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado,  is internationally known for his vibrant painting style. I wanted to attend one of his workshops a year ago, but it was out of state and the travel would have been expensive. This one cost a little over $300 and there were only 11 of us enrolled, so it was informal and fun. I'm fascinated by how people create, and am always interested in how writers write, and how painters paint. There's so much to be learned.
He has a unique style. He draws sketches of all kinds of land-, sea- and city-scapes. Then he uses black and gray pens to turn them into value studies.  When he paints, he makes no  pencil marks on the paper, but paints from the value sketches, choosing the colors he wants to use.
The mirror image of Frank painting Paseo
Every way he did two demos, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He painted beneath a mirror, so we could see what he was doing. I sat on the end of the aisle near the front, so I could stand up and take photos from all angles. Then we painted from copies of the same value sketches, and except on two complicated ones, we didn't draw on the appear. He was using full sheets and we used quartersheets. What a challenge. Then we had critiques.
What I appreciate most about his painting is the ample use of the white paper (remember, no white paint in transparent watercolor--if you don't plan for the white, you won't have it). his vivid colors, and uses of shadow and contrast. What I appreciate about his teaching, is that no matter how poor my painting was, he found something good to say about it first, and then made suggestions. 
Alas, the only finished painting shot I got was the mirror image. But Wow!
I get more than just watercolor lessons from such a workshop. I'm always paying attention to how someone teaches. I'm having fun. And I've found over and over again, that lessons from watercolor can also be life lessons.
If you're interested in watching Frank paint, here's a 30 second video of him working on that painting. 







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