Friday, August 8, 2014

A Year of Workshops

This has been quite a year for workshops. Since last September I have been fortunate to teach workshops in Canada, Italy, Seattle, Point Reyes National Seashore, Mendocino, Dallas, Fargo, and Santa Clara. I even did a presentation at Oklahoma State University in February. Here's a brief recap of each one, with commentary by the organizers and artists.







Whistler - September 16-21, 2013
The first workshop of the series was in Whistler, British Columbia, sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Artists and organized superbly by the indefatigable Susie Cipolla.

There were four instructors and four groups of painters, rotating so that the students had a different instructor each day. The painting locations also rotated. A dynamic arrangement that kept everything fresh. 



I was the only watercolor instructor. Most students were oil painters. But we were usually able to find a common language.


Doing demonstrations each morning has become standard practice in all of my workshops. Above are the four I did in Whistler. I usually try to find a theme each day. Because my students changed each day, and were for the most part not watercolorists, I kept the messages pretty basic: composition, values, focal point, etc.

"Michael taught at the 2013 Federation Of Canadian Artists Plein Air Workshop in Whistler, B.C. and proved to be our most popular instructor.  He received rave reviews from the participants for his knowledgable, patient and caring approach. He excelled at giving individuals valuable one on one feedback. It was a joy to have Michael as one of our four accomplished artist instructors".  Susie Cipolla, Event Chair


Tuscany - September 30-October 4, 2013
Three days after my return from Canada, Jill and I flew off to Italy for a one week workshop in Poppi, a hill town in eastern Tuscany. Organized by Pamela Rhodes of Artroads, we had a stellar group of 12 artists. 


Like Whistler, this was a plein air workshop. Perche non? The countryside was beautiful, and our workshop location, the Borgo Corsignano, was quite picturesque.

Each day began with a demonstration, with the rest of the day spent painting, eating, and enjoying the area. We ended the day with a review of the day's work, sipping some local wine. What was truly memorable about this group of painters was the amazing progress they made over the week. I take little credit. They worked quite hard (and I think had fun). By Friday I had little to say at the final review.


"The Tuscany watercolor workshop with Michael Reardon was a real breakthrough in my painting.  Not only did I learn how to use various color palettes in my painting, but I learned how watercolor is unique from all other artistic mediums in its ability to portray depth and reflected light.  Michael is also great at knowing everyone's strengths as an artist and helping them achieve their individual goals." Geddes Ulinskas, workshop participant


Seattle - October 21-25, 2013
Ten days after returning from Italy, I flew to Seattle to lead a 5-day workshop for the Northwest Watercolor Society. Unlike the first two workshops, this one was indoors (my first ever inside) due to the 45 degree highs outdoors. The workshop was full, with 21 artists participating. 

All workshops require a lot of coordination. Shirley Jordan, Marcia Giant, Molly Murrah, amongst others, did a remarkable job. I was also pleased and humbled to have a good friend and terrific artist, Bill Hook, participating in the workshop.

I was also asked to be the juror for the NWWS Waterworks exhibit. Jurying is always a daunting task. Jolene Sanborn and Che Milagros Lopez provided much needed assistance in this task.


One of the chief differences between plein air and indoor workshops is that it's necessary to use photos, already completed paintings, or sketches as reference material. I chose to use other paintings I had already done for my demonstrations. 
One of the things I learned from this experience was that in many ways it's easier to convey painting concepts in an indoor workshop than painting outdoors. Most of what I teach is applicable to any kind of painting: composition, values, focal point, etc. The advantage of indoors is that there are no other distractions, unlike plein air with weather, traffic, noise, and other difficulties. This isn't to say that plein air workshops are not worthwhile, but I came around to see the advantage of being inside.
I only have three demos to show here. The others were purchased after the workshop.


"I took Michael's workshop when he was a juror and workshop instructor for Northwest Watercolor Society in Seattle. Michael was a great teacher - very engaging and very attentive with each student - and he painted wonderful demos each morning. He has simplified his instruction process so that no one is left out, whether an absolute beginner or an advanced student. I thoroughly enjoyed studying with Michael, as did everyone lucky enough to have been in his workshop."  Molly Murrah, Past President, NWWS


Dallas - April 8-10, 2014
Fast forward to April 2014 for the Southwest Watercolor Society workshop and demonstration, ably organized and facilitated by Pam Wilson. There were over 20 workshop participants and close to a hundred for the Tuesday night demonstration.


This workshop stands out in my memory for the energy and dedication of all the artists, not to mention their Texas sense of humor. The days flew by. Once again I only have one of my demonstrations to show here. The others reside in Texas now.



"Michael  provided an outstanding workshop!  His teaching plan was well organized; he was approachable and respectful of the students; and all of us left feeling that we could immediately take advantage of what he had taught us.  A totally enjoyable and worthwhile use of our time!" Pam Wilson, Workshop Chair, SWS


Point Reyes National Seashore - April 26, 2014
This is the second year I have led a workshop for the Point Reyes National Seashore Association. This year it was held at the Morgan Horse Ranch behind the Visitor Center. Unlike last year at Pierce Point Ranch, where the facilities are limited, The horse ranch provided rest rooms and a small room for a respite from the elements.
David Seyms and Jennifer Spangler who organize the workshops for the PRNSA, did a remarkable job.

This workshop was a return to my plein air roots. For this type of workshop I usually limit the numbers to 16, the attendance for this workshop. Because so much of my teaching style entails individual attention, limiting the number allows me to spend a fair amount time with each student. And, because the students are spread out, it limits my walking around. I can get quite a workout during outdoor workshops.
I didn't get any photos of the painters in action. But here is my one demo.



"Michael’s watercolor classes are in high demand from our members. The combination of teaching style, demos and individual attention to each participant is unmatched by any other watercolorist. His architectural eye brings a new dimension and a fresh perspective to some of the historical buildings onsite in Point Reyes National Seashore." David Seyms, Point Reyes Field Institute Director


Mendocino - May 3-4, 2014
This was also my second workshop sponsored by the venerable Mendocino Art Center. Spring in Mendocino is spectacular. The workshop was filled with 16 artists. As with many of my workshops we concentrated on the basics of painting plein air, but with a strong emphasis on painting green.
Once again I failed to get photos of the painters in action. But a good friend and participant, Karen Fiene, recorded one of my demos. This is a private home behind the art center.



I usually discourage students from taking photos during the demonstration. It gets distracting sometimes. But I'm glad Karen recorded this one so you can see a bit of how it's done.




"If you want to treat yourself to something really special, take one of Michael Reardon’s watercolor workshops. You will find a convivial atmosphere where students at all levels feel comfortable and supported in their explorations. Michael’s plein air demonstrations are inspirational and his nurturing teaching style stimulates new interpretations of painting and the use of color. Although internationally acclaimed, Michael is accessible and very down to earth, he enjoys sharing his passion for watercolor which is evident in the enthusiasm of his students." Karen Fiene, workshop participant

"Michael's classes at Mendocino Art Center are filled with enthusiasm, gorgeous scenery and fabulous painting.  As one student said ' Michael is a great instructor with knowledge and lots of patience.  He takes the time to show you where your strength is as well as faults and is so pleasant about it.'" Karen Bowers, Education Director, Mendocino Arts Center

Fargo - June 16-20, 2014
The Red River Watercolor Society hosted my next 5-day workshop. Many people made this possible but Donna Chalimonczyk and Dave Olson were instrumental in making it go without a hitch.

I was also asked to juror their annual show. Jurying is always difficult, but it was particularly hard with the high caliber of the entries.

I didn't get too many action photos. My IPad was hacked and not even usable as a camera. The problem was finally solved on the final day, so here are a couple of photos I managed to get at the end.




Since this was an indoor workshop, my demos were from photos that I'd been intending to paint for awhile. As my students know, I don't paint directly from photos, but from sketches I do based on the photos. So here they are.



"Painting with Michael – hmmm – how good can it get! Not only was he super-prepared and kept the pace of the workshop spot on, he was able to spend time with each and every student. His positive comments and prodding certainly kept my painting efforts on track. I have been painting several pieces since and am encouraged to continue especially using the wet-into-wet mixing of color."  Donna Chalimonczyk, workshop participant


Santa Clara - July 25-27, 2014
The series of workshops concluded with a plein air workshop hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. It was a full workshop, with 20 artists. This is more than I usually teach outdoors and I did get my exercise walking around, but it all worked out. The temperatures were also in the 90's, not the best for watercolor, yet everyone endured and produced some beautiful work.




As normal, organizing this workshop was a challenge. Bridget Geiger, Sylvia Waddell, and Peter Taber kept everything running smoothly.  Bridget went beyond the call of duty by keeping everyone cool with popsicles at the end of the day.

Here are two of the three demos. One of them was purchased before I could record it.




"Michael offered me a new way of painting. A technique I can bring into the field, simple points I can remember for those moments when I want to pull my hair out, and a way of seeing that allows for me to bring a quality of my own to my painting." Linda Kammer, workshop participant


"During his demonstration, Michael clearly explains his techniques of laying down an underpainting wash, mixing colors on the paper, layering color for dark values and establishing a focal area with a bit of pure white.  But, the demo is much more than observing his techniques.  It is pure joy for anyone who is a fan of his distinctive style to hear him describe each step while he creates a beautifully designed painting.

Starting with his demonstration, Michael establishes a comfortable & friendly environment that encourages questions and puts everyone at ease.

His one-on-one instruction begins with evaluating and tweaking your thumbnail value sketch before you paint. Michael’s understanding of design elevates your sketch to give you a good road map for your painting. While you are painting, he strikes that fine balance between letting you resolve issues independently and suggesting how to develop your painting. 

I find critiques a most valuable part of any workshop and Michael’s critiques are thoughtful, substantive and delivered in a most gracious manner.  He starts the critique session by inviting you to evaluate your own painting before he comments on what works and what you can do to make your painting better.  A true testimony to his teaching skill is that by the final day of a three day workshop, everyone in our workshop improved." Bonnie Joy Sedlak, workshop participant



"We recently held our first Plein Air workshop and were very lucky to have had Michael Reardon as the instructor.  The workshop was a great success, the participants all commented on how much they learned and how amazing Michael was as a teacher.  I had the pleasure of viewing their critiques each day and I was extremely impressed with the paintings created during the workshop. 
 I would not hesitate for a second to invite Michael back to present another workshop for our organization. It was a very eye opening and inspirational experience for all involved.  Thank you Michael!" Bridget Geiger, SCVWS Workshop Leader



When I started to teach 6 years ago, I did so because many people had asked me to do it. I never thought I would be a teacher. But I've found teaching workshops extremely rewarding. 
I am also quite grateful that all of these great organizations asked me to lead these workshops.  I figure that I've taught almost 200 artists during the past year. I hope they feel they have benefited from my insights about watercolor. I'm particularly grateful to all of the great artists I've had the opportunity to teach.
Teaching has also been personally beneficial. I've learned about communication and ways to convey painting concepts. So much so that North Light Books has agreed to publish a watercolor instructional book, which will come out in February 2016. Much of the content of the book is directly due to teaching artists during workshops.
There are no more workshops scheduled until next spring, partly due to writing time and largely due to the desire to paint more. A new series will begin next year. 

2 comments:

  1. Great update Michael! Your classes look awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Karen. Glad you enjoyed it...

    ReplyDelete