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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Painting Wisdom from Jill Carver

6x8" Oil - field study
The scene I was painting. 

I just got back from a fantastic 5 day plein air workshop in Texas with Jill Carver.

I have taken workshops with  some super fabulous painters, but I was especially blown away by this experience. Jill is one of the hardest working, generous, fun, HUGELY knowledgable painters I have studied with - I can't recommend her enough!

In addition to what she brings as a teacher, she created an intensive retreat setting by having us all stay at a ranch together for 5 days (with no other guests). This created an intimacy and depth of shared experience that made for rich conversation and connections that fired up our passion and learning.

Jill and I are very much aligned in our teaching styles - what I loved most about the workshop was that we did many, MANY exercises that built on each other, and were never striving for a finished painting. It was the perfect container to stretch as an artist!

Key Steps to Designing Your Painting

Here's what Jill suggests as the best way to set yourself up for success. Walk through these planning steps, in order, before you start the actual painting:

  1. What is your idea/motif?
  2. What is your focal point?
  3. What are 4-5 key big shapes?
  4. Create a notan (black and white) to define what is in light and what is in shadow
  5. Decide darkest dark and lightest light - and the value spread they cover
  6. See if you can keep the painting to no more than 5 values, and decide how many of those will describe the light, and how many will describe the shadow
  7. Stick to your plan!


She also brings a philosophical perspective to the act of creating paintings (hello soul sister!) - here are some of the greatest gems she shared with us:

As a learner - you aren't going to hear the answers until you have the questions in your mind.

We go outside to be a student of nature, to learn how to see, and to gather ideas.

Don't go outdoors to 'claim' a painting, go out to have an interaction and a conversation with nature, and to receive what it has to share with you.

You're not painting a 'scene', you're painting a singular idea. You're making a personal statement.

If you're not frustrated, you don't care about what you're doing. (Amen)

Don't think of yourself as a journalist, you are a poet.

My Final Studio Workshop

I am lit up from the learning and have all kinds of great new ideas to bring to my students! 

On that note, I have just decided to let go of my Canmore studio (will share more about that soul searching decision in a future post) and will be teaching my LAST local workshop this weekend - April 10-12th. 

There are still a couple of spots left - here are the details if you're interested in coming.

The Bandera gang


  1. Thank you for sharing the steps to designing a painting and the gems you learned - they're all wonderful!

  2. How wonderful to attend such a great workshop. Thank you for sharing what you have learned.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience and Jill's philosophy. I can't to read about your next adventure!

  4. I have subscribed to all kinds of mailing lists which fill up my in box and i don't read. Except for yours. I look forward to seeing them whenever they arrive because there is always something there like a wee gem of precious jewel. Thank you Liz for being so generous with sharing your art journey. Your paintings are absolutely stunning too by the way. :)

  5. Great post, Liz. Thought-provoking. I especially liked the comment on frustration and caring. Very reassuring.

  6. Thank you for always doing a recap of what you learn in a workshop, very inspiring to see we all go through the same. I'll try and be more content with my "frustration", it is hopefully leading me to a better place

  7. Wishing you all the best on the next move in your art journey, Liz. I treasure the time I spent at your Portrait Workshop in Canmore. Really enjoy your blog and your beautiful work!

  8. Wishing you the best on your next move in your art journey, Liz. I treasure the time I spent at your Portrait Workshop in Canmore in 2013. Thanks for sharing your knowledge from workshops and for your beautiful paintings.