Never having been to a workshop before, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be a great learning experience but had no idea just how great it would be!
Tom Jones is a fabulous nature landscape artist who represents and is representative of some of the finest producers of art supplies in the art world – Arches paper, Rembrandt paints, and Jerrys Artarama. So when I heard he was coming to our local Jerry’s to put on this workshop, of course, I signed up and put down the names of my fellow C.A.N.* girls. The only one who was unable to join us was Barbara, but since we’ve got miles to go to catch up to her caliber of painting, we figured it was only right.
Tom was a great and inspiring teacher. He had a gentle, matter of fact style that didn’t pull punches but showed me (on more than one occasion) how to fix some major goofs in my work. The painting he chose to have us do was challenging and really pushed us out of our comfort zones, but I watched with relief and joy as Lynne, Lucilla and Margot moved from frustration to anxiety to pleasure at learning the new process. Safe to say we all got a lot out of it. My painting (I brought it home and doctored it up slightly after all the gaffs), is above.
We also got to meet Tom’s lovely wife Bonnie, a strong watercolor artist herself, and she showed us some batik paintings she has done recently that are beyond exquisite. We are hoping to encourage either Jerry’s or our Centennial Arts Center to enlist her to teach a batik class in the future. And of course, we want Tom back. Again and again.
I learned so much in the class I came home, spent and exhausted but dying to try more. But I’m willing to share a few of my strongest impressions here: Arches 300# paper kicks a$$ when it comes to durability, workability, presentation quality, etc. You know when you are working on it that it is just.well.golden! And at $10 and change, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be for a full sheet since you can split it into smaller sheets. Lush.
Several lessons I got from the workshop:
- Tom taught us to lighten the palette. By that I mean don’t use a huge number of different colors, but few and mix between them to maintain unity in the painting.
- When laying in a stand of trees, you want to do just that — lay in the color in a freeform block and don’t worry about trunks and branches until you’ve got the basic shape. Then go in and lay in a few here and there.
- Let the watercolors do the job, don’t you do it by brushing. Just shape it, smooth it, etc. within 15 seconds if you can.
- The detail work, which means the difference between a good and great painting, is accomplished in the last 15 minutes of any painting, no matter if you work on it for 30 minutes, five days, two years, whatever. It is absolutely that last 15 minutes that makes the painting.
- Use tissue instead of paper towels to blot and blend and smooth areas out, and if you need to go back to white paper, a stiff toothbrush and tissue and water are your best friends.
- If you, like me, go way overboard with the paint and need to take off even more, a spray bottle with a strong stream is your even better friend. Spray and let the water and paint run off the paper and start over.
There were loads more things to learn and I filled a couple of pages of notes, but you’ll just have to take a class yourself!
I loved the rockwork! It is much like painting large flower petals. Lay color at one edge, use a clean (water only) brush and sweep that color across the remainder of the area to be covered, ensuring one edge has strong definition. Tom noted that I had too many rocks and it made the painting look too busy. He suggested I merge a couple here and there into larger boulders and I may well do that later, but honestly, I’m kinda proud of the rockwork, I kept them as they were this time to show my hubby and show off on my blog.
On the waterfall, I am ashamed to say I cheated. It was a mess to begin with but he used a new product offered at Jerry’s called “Aqua Cover” that did a great job on leveling off the water, creating a better spill area below and such. But with 20 students and limited time, he could only do so much, and I wanted to wow my husband when he got home later last night so, after resting when I got home, I got out my (dare I say it) acrylic white paint to complete the fix. I rationalize that now I can effectively call it a mixed media work and honestly, it looks pretty good, I think. The Aqua Cover is a great, amazing product though and would have done the job but I didn’t purchase it and figured the acrylic application was next best thing. So sue me for cheating!
Final note on the painting: Tom’s painting did not include, but I did, a tree stump sticking through the edge of the waterfall and another area where water spills over a giant rock. I am kinda proud of that improvisation and the overall work, even if the rocks are too busy. I will be making a few minor changes to this work sometime when I get a chance, and thankfully, because of the great paper, I can. But I wanted to get the near-finished painting up here with the workshop review while it was all fresh in my mind.
Tom, if you ever grace my blog with a visit to read this, know that I got a tremendous out of you workshop and really appreciate your painting style, teaching style and the generous, genuine and decent person you appear to be. Keep up the great work and hopefully, we Nashvillians’ll catch another of your workshops before too long. Bonnie, we’ll be working on yours too, OK?