Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Just finished a 3-day workshop with Fran Mangino, an Ohio artist who has been accepted and won awards in the Ohio Watercolor Society juried shows and the Cincinnati Art Club Viewpoint juried shows, as well as winning first place in The Arnold Schwartzenegger art venue in Columbus, OH.  

Fran is adamant about stretching and stapling your paper to gatorboard (or a similar surface) before working on your painting.  She said the artist, Paul Jackson, told her if she would do that, her work would rise a level - and she has been doing that ever since.  So in prep for the workshop, we had to have our paper stretched, stapled and ready to go the first day.  I did not soak my paper but wet it on both sides until it was soaking wet, then placed it on the gatorboard and stapled it before it dried very much at all.  My paper still buckled when I worked on it, so I'm not convinced it makes a difference - plus I like tilting and moving and twisting my paper as I'm working on it without the extra weight and stiffness of the gatorboard.  But I did try it :)

The first day, Fran had us trace a drawing she had done of a drummer girl from an Asian event held in Columbus, OH.  She was one of many drummers on stage and the red hair caught Fran's eye.  Unfortunately, a hand holding a drumstick was in the drawing and we all traced it - then discovered it was the hand of the male drummer next to the girl and so looked backwards.  And none of us could erase it before it was painted - so I just left it out of my painting.  

Fran insists that the first thing you do is take a small sketch and decide on your background color.  So we did 3 small versions of the drummer girl (from a 4 x 6 photo) on scrap paper and then tried out 3 difference backgrounds, choosing our favorite before beginning our large (half sheet) painting.

Here is Fran's paper.  She has 4 little versions to choose the background color, then her larger piece (taped off from the studies) is drawn and ready to go.

Fran said to plan our paintings and then paint - and stop being so timid!

Fran put her background in using a large puddle of colors.  She had just taken a workshop with Mary Whyte, and told us Mary uses the same colors in her backgrounds that she uses on her skintones - Raw Sienna, Quinacridone or Permanent Rose, and French Ultramarine Blue.  She picks 2 of those colors and adds a third and makes her background.  This way, you get color harmony in your painting.

Fran's color was a dark green color, not much variety in the colors, but mixed on the palette and then put on the paper.  

The background color was painted all around the drummer girl - so you had to have a large, dark puddle of color mixed up to do this on your own version when it was time for us to go back and paint.  Although there was no variety in the color in the background, that was created by lifting and leaving some white areas untouched around the green.

Then it was time to paint in that red hair.

Mixing several colors (see top photo) of burnt sienna, cadmium red, french ultramarine blue (but not mixing them on the palette), Fran pulled from the burnt sienna first and then put in darks and more color interest with the other 2 colors.  The hair, at this point, had hard edges all around.  Fran talked about softening edges and how you must have soft edges in order to avoid making your subject look like it's pasted on the background.  In this case, her hair had to be softened all around and around her headband to make it look natural.  This was done with an almost dry brush and "smooshing" it around the edges, lifting out some of the color and softening everything.  Fran also said we need to throw away our synthetic brushes and invest in Kolinsky sable brushes.

Then it was time to start on the skintones.  Again, using Mary Whyte's favorite mix, Fran mixed up Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Rose and French Ultramarine and began working on the skin.  Here is where you look closely at your photograph to see the colors, the highlights, the shadows and the small changes in the skin.

Fran walked around the room constantly, picking up brushes, giving orders (at one point, one of the workshoppers asked her how long she'd been in the army! ha ha) and advice on colors and edges, as we all worked on our versions of the drummer girl.
And we eventually got to the place where we could put in the colors in the girl's "white" outfit.

Of course, although the outfit was white, we had to use color to convey that and to get the shadow shapes in the fabric of her tunic and headband.  

We were supposed to be using the a bit of the color we chose for our background, but we all began like Fran did, with blues and violets in the shadows.  Then we had to go back and add in that background color, not matter what color we chose.

Fran has all her lights and medium values in the painting at this point and now it was time to put in the darks - and the eyes.

Fran's finished version of the drummer girl.  You can see where she tied in the green background in the clothing at this point.

Our homework, after the first exhausting day, was to go home and, using your own photograph, draw it on your watercolor paper then wet, stretch, and staple your paper to gatorboard (or a similar support).  So we'd be ready for Day 2 and would be doing our own paintings.

Here is the first day finish - my version of the little drummer girl:

I did not get the skintones finished, I put in the drumstick because it was too darkly drawn to leave out, and I need to darken values in the clothing and drum.  Her eyes are not finished at all.  
But I worked continuously - a long 6 hours standing and painting with homework after!!

There is a lot wrong with this but I never expect to paint something good in a workshop.  A workshop is for experimenting, trying new things you didn't think about before, and for seeing how others handle the same thing. 

For my portrait for the 2nd day, I chose a photograph of an artist blogger, Molly Brose.  I used to follow her blog all the time and she was doing some interesting and beautiful work on yupo with watercolor, graphite and China markers (a waxy pencil).  But she quit posting back in 2009 after having a baby.  Anyway, this photo is not mine so I won't use it for anything but study - but I loved the light on her face so wanted to try to duplicate that.  

When I brought my work in and had my background color chosen, Fran asked me why I wanted to make the background green and didn't want to use that gorgeous red that was in the photo.  I was going to use a green background and make her hair red - but I stuck with the photo colors.

I didn't draw this freehand, but traced the photo, then enlarged it on our printer and traced that onto the half sheet of watercolor paper.  Fran was also not happy that I made it a horizontal, not a vertical (like the photo).  (I thought I was using my artistic license and making changes I wanted to make.)


This is as far as I got the second day.  Background went in first.  Then the dark hair.
I had it on too heavy all around her face, so Fran came around and lifted some areas, talking about making it more painterly and not so hard-edged.  (I hadn't had time to lift and blend around the face so Fran did that, too.)  She walked around and helped everyone individually, commenting, asking for changes to be made or making those changes herself (which was okay, it's just a study).

So this is a painting of a person from a photo I didn't take, didn't get permission to paint her, and Fran helped with the hair.  

Fran pointed out that, in my drawing on the watercolor paper, I'd made her shoulders too narrow.  She asked me to look at her (Fran), measure her head width, then see how wide her shoulders were compared to her head - I did that and saw that I had made Molly's shoulders too narrow.  I widened them but I probably did too much. 

So two days hard work and struggling and on the third day we rest?  NO!!!  We work from a live model!!!

Stay tuned...


Lorraine Brown said...

loved reading about your workshop experience and thanks for sharing all those steps

Debbie Nolan said...

Rhonda - I have a lovely painting of Fran's that was done as a greeting card. She is extremely talented...it had three women featured...like her free style. Like you not sure about the wetting and stretching of the paper. Some artists don't want the sizing gone and therefore don't stretch. I usually let size dictate whether I am stretching or not. Keep posting - find this very interesting...great photos Rhonda.

Celia Blanco said...

You are so generous to share all this information! I learn a lot, almost if I'm there too. Love all the photos!

CrimsonLeaves said...

Sounds like you are getting a lot from this workshop, Rhonda. I like your painting of the redhead and see real promise in it and hope you finish it. Also hope you finish the second piece as I can't wait to see this pretty lady finished either.

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Lorraine and Celia, glad you enjoyed it.

Debbie, I really like her painting of the asian woman that is one of her latest.

Sherry, I think I'll do Molly as a redhead and see where it goes. I will return to the model and try again. It can't get worse! ha ha

http://carolking.wordpress.com said...

What a fascinating workshop. And I did laugh out loud at your co-workshop artist's comment about how long she painted in the army.

Sounds like a lot of hard work but you learned so much.

RH Carpenter said...

Carol, it gives you a hint of her personality and style of teaching that we all were wondering - he was just the only one who spoke up and asked! ha ha