Fun with Friends

Three years ago Stephie Butler from England and Joanna Lodewijks-Pijlman from the Netherlands came to visit for a week and for Stephie to teach a two-day portrait workshop. We had a such a marvelous time that it seemed afterwards as if it had been a dream, and I wished they would come back. Well, they did! Last week they both came for another visit (nine wonderful days this time) and another portrait workshop. We had the best time exploring the Hudson Valley, painting together, experimenting with art mediums and styles, eating good food, and just hanging out together.

Other than the two days of the workshop, we spent some time at home most days and some time visiting someplace pretty. On Monday Joanna demo’d painting loose, colorful backgrounds and flower painting in the morning, then we went to the Vanderbilt to see and sketch the river views.

My flower painting following Joanna’s demo
Stephie and me sketching the Vanderbilt view
Joanna with her sketch
Me sketching

On Tuesday we worked on various paintings from Monday and then, since the weather was perfect, we grilled steaks for lunch and ate on the deck, then walked and sketched on the Walkway Over the Hudson.

Lunch on the deck


Wednesday I did a demo of Chickadees in the morning, after which we had lunch at The Matchbox Cafe in Rhinebeck (they have the best burgers!) and then wandered around Rhinebeck (of course stopping in the Rhinebeck Art Store), then went to Olana, the home of Frederic Edwin Church of the Hudson River School of Art, where we enjoyed the river views and the sunset.

Colorful Chickadee demo painting
Olana river view

Thursday we visited Topfield Equestrian Center, where there are beautiful, friendly horses in a picturesque landscape. We had a wonderful time sketching and photographing the horses, after which we headed to Beacon for lunch at Homespun Foods, which we wanted to go to since we had enjoyed it three years ago. It was just as delicious this time, and we very much enjoyed the peaceful outdoor courtyard surrounded by flowers.

Topfield Equestrian Center

Topfield Equestrian Center horse sketches- ballpoint pen
Friends and flowers at Homespun Foods
Homespun Foods in Beacon courtyard
Delicious Greek salad at Homespun Foods!

Friday and Saturday were Stephie’s watercolor portraits workshop– an excellent workshop! Stephie is an outstanding and inspiring teacher from whom I have learned so much and gained much enthusiasm for painting portraits. My mother and sister and one of my brothers were also at the workshop, which made it extra special for me.

Stephie demonstrating and explaining (my mother, my sister, and my brother are on the right)
Stephie demonstrating painting a girl from Namibia the 2nd day of the workshop
Stephies portrait
Stephie’s portrait from her demo the first day of the workshop
Me painting a homeless woman from Brazil
My portrait from the 2nd day of the workshop (Many thanks to Gunnar Salvarsson for the use of his reference photo)
My portrait from the 1st day of the workshop– (Many thanks to Steve Evans for the use of his reference photo)

To me it is really interesting to see how we each use the same general approach, and yet maintain our own style. As a good instructor, Stephie always encourages her students to develop their own style, while incorporating her  approach and techniques.

Joannas portrait day 1
Joanna’s portrait day 1 of the workshop
Joannas portrait
Joanna’s portrait from the 2nd day of the workshop

Sunday we were ready for a break, so after I got back from church we stayed home and played with charcoal. I hadn’t used charcoal in a very long time, but Stephie and Joanna had done some charcoal drawing together a few weeks ago, which inspired me to give it a try. That is one of the great things about spending time with other artists; I picked up many tips and new skills, and also was inspired to try out new mediums, approaches, and subjects.

Joanna’s charcoal of a landscape from her town in the Netherlands
Joanna’s charcoal drawing of a wolf
Stephie drawing a lion in charcoal
Stephie’s lion in charcoal
My charcoal portrait of a man we met in Alaska (75 year old man with incredible house truck)

Sunday evening Stephie and Joanna treated Stephen and me to dinner at Shadows on the Hudson, where we finally got to see the beginnings of fall color on the far side of the river. By the time we were finished eating it was dark, and the Mid-Hudson Bridge was lit with beautiful blue lights- a wonderful finale to a great week. I am already looking forward to Stephie and Joanna’s next visit!

Lian Zhen Workshop

I spent days this past week at a wonderful workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck– Lian Zhen’s East Meets West Chinese Painting and Watercolor workshop. I learned a lot, had a great time, and came away very much encouraged about my art and motivated to move forward with it.

Monday we learned about Chinese spontaneous style painting and we painted sunflowers, using Chinese colors and ink on raw Shuan paper, which is very thin and about as absorbent as paper towels.

Sunflowers- Chinese painting colors and ink on rice paper

The second day we learned how to do Chinese detail style painting. We painted an angel fish with a complex background, using Chinese colors and ink. I still have more to do on the background of this painting. This is on mature Shuan paper– rice paper that’s been treated with alum to be less absorbent. It is very thin and a little sparkly on the side we used.

Angel fish- Chinese colors and ink on rice paper

On Wednesday we painted a rooster, using watercolors on cold pressed watercolor paper. That felt like coming home to me after painting on the rice paper, even though some of the painting technique was a little new to me. We only used three colors for this: Antwerp Blue, Pyrrol Red, and Hansa Yellow Light.

Rooster and chicks- watercolor

On Wednesday afternoon Lian demonstrated how to mount rice paper paintings on 90# watercolor paper so that they can be matted and framed. I’m looking forward to trying that soon.

Thursday and Friday we worked on a large, complex watercolor using a pouring and splattering approach– very new for me. The subject was also new to me– a sailboat complete with lots of rigging, as well as a complicated dock in the background. It took me quite a while just to figure out what was what in the photo. I still need to do finishing touches on my painting, but I am fairly happy with how it’s coming along. At any rate, it is a learning piece, and I am very happy with all that I have learned in the process of doing it.

Boat WIP 070716
After masking light areas and splattering paint on Thursday
WIP 070816
Boat painting work in progress

On Thursday I finished the masking stage of the boat painting a little while before lunch, so I decided to try painting Rowan on watercolor paper but using Chinese paints. I used a photo I had on my cell phone and tried to paint quickly, as we had done for the rooster. I didn’t end up staying as loose as I was intending, but I am happy with how it turned out.

Rowan- Chinese paints on watercolor paper

On Thursday evening there was an exhibition by many of the many workshops happening at Omega. We all hung our paintings on the wall, and four of us did demos for the audience. Two painted a sunflower painting and two of us painted a rooster on rice paper using Chinese paints and ink. We painted it in under ten minutes, while Lian explained what we were doing and then conducted a fake auction, pretending to auction off the rooster. It went for $1,000!

Rooster demo 070716

I don’t always paint barefoot– we had to take our shoes off in that room!

It was altogether a challenging and inspiring workshop, and I’m looking forward to putting the skills I acquired into practice, both in paintings of the sort we did in workshop, as well as incorporating some of these techniques into other work I do.