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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Advanced Skills workshop

"Evening Greens"
Oil on Linen 6x8"
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This is a demo from an Advanced Skills workshop I just taught in Vancouver. This exercise is from the last segment of the workshop, where we focused on different exercises to stretch ourselves when working from photos.

The goal of this one was to put paint on as thickly as possible right from the start, trying to match the color and value fairly accurately, and getting the entire canvas covered quickly. Every time I demo this exercise I have SO much fun, I wonder why I don’t paint with tons of paint all the time. The students were game and really jumped in with the thick paint, doing some beautiful little pieces. If you want to try this one, use stiff brushes so you can really scoop the thick paint off of your palette, and then apply it with a light touch.

On the first day of the workshop we did speed painting from a model (maximum 20 minutes a painting and most getting wiped when the buzzer went). The purpose of this exercise was to learn how to zero in on what is essential quickly, with no time to get caught up in detail.

On day 2 and 3, the students worked on setting up simple still life arrangements and trying to nail the colour and value of their subject as closely as possible, with a lot of focus on the right questions to ask themselves to error correct along the way. At the heart of these questions is the idea that they must be able to be answered in paint. If some part of the painting was off, they asked themselves, “Is it...”:
  • too warm?
  • too cool? 
  • too light?
  • too dark? 
  • too red/blue/yellow?
  • too gray?
  • too pure?
In doing exercises that develop your ability to measure and draw well,  and see and mix color and value accurately, you gain the freedom to paint as expressively as you like, with skill. Because your expression is coming from a foundation of truth, your paintings will breathe with life and authenticity. 


  1. This painting is incredible! Fast paintings are just so fresh, I love them best. For those of us who want to try this at home, can you talk about mixing thick paint when painting fast? Do you still mix on the palette, do you mix a little first, test the value on the painting, and then mix more, (seems like that would take too long...), or just mix gobs and gobs, and have lots left over if you aren't that great at getting it right on the first try? I'd love to paint thick, but doing that makes it take a LOT longer when I try it.

  2. Hi Bobbi - I just mix gobs and gobs, and then try to get it all on to the canvas. If there's lots left over, mix it into a big pile of gray and use it on your next painting.

    Set a timer to speed yourself up. One of my students timed me and the above 6x8" demo took 15 minutes.

  3. Love the painting and the advice on painting fast!

  4. Hi Liz! What a loose a fresh painting...loving the gobs of paint. What a pleasure reading about your adventures and so many tips you offer, how very generous of you. i am sure your plein air workshops are magnificent! happy painting

  5. I love how all the values are close, yet the chroma brings each area into perspective.super

  6. Attention artists: Liz's workshop was super helpful. If you want to learn a lot, stretch your skills, and have fun, I highly recommend that you take a workshop with Liz!

  7. Such a great fresh approach. So little done, so much said. Lucky students that they have a wonderful teacher.

  8. Thank you, Liz! I am going to try the thicker paint, with a fast painting. You do these so well! Your tips are very helpful!

  9. Liz, this piece is beautiful! The colors are powerful.