Wave demo by Poppy Balser
I've spent the last two days at a wonderful water color painting workshop with Nova Scotia painter Poppy Balser. I met Poppy a few years at the Castine Plein Air Festival, and have admired her work ever since. Her watercolors are beautiful and she's a great teacher. Our class of 12 got so much out of the workshop. After some value and paint mixing exercises Poppy demoed the above wave, in a mostly value sketch with just a little warmth on one of the rocks. Then we all gave it a try. One thing that Poppy stressed was always starting with a set of thumbnails and a full sized value study. While I may skimp on the first part occasionally (and regret it later), I always do a value underpainting when I paint in oils. Since you can't paint over the value study in water color, you've got to start on a new sheet of paper for the real painting. And Poppy often does both the full size value sketch and the color painting multiple times until she gets the result she wants. This was a good lesson for me, the impatient one.
Poppy demo-ing the wave
My efforts on the wave
After everyone got a chance to work on rocks and spray, Poppy moved on to mist and sparkling water. What a great demo! She demoed both the full size value study and the color version after showing us her thumbnails and explaining her choice for the painting. It was like watching a musician or a dancer, so lyrical and what a result!
Poppy's mist demo
I did several value studies of the mist photo that Poppy provided, and learned a valuable lesson about paint, which Poppy had explained earlier, with some Payne's gray that was an unpleasant greenish color. I won't embarrass the vendor by mentioning the brand. Ignore the name the vendor gives the color! The PXX number on the tube is the only thing that means anything, and even that is subject to different processing parameters that can affect the color, value, and consistency.
My efforts learning how to paint wet into wet, with Poppy's mini-demo at the bottom
And finally, I spent some time painting small versions of a favorite vista trying to understand wet on wet painting over a dry sky. I think I'm getting the hang of it.
If you'd like to study with Poppy and see a beautiful part of Nova Scotia, just a 2 hour boat ride across the Bay of Fundy, check out her next 2 day workshop, which is in June. I couldn't recommend it more.