Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ursula O'Farrell workshop, day 1

Acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, 12x16x1.5"

On Sunday I finished a three-day workshop with the marvelous Ursula O'Farrell. She paints loosely, and creates emotion and mystery in her paintings. These are qualities I aspire to, so when her workshop came up I immediately signed up for it.  There were some twenty people in the class, and we were lucky enough to have a model for each half of the room.

On the first day, she explained how she works her palettes. She creates four values of paint: white, half light, half dark, and black. She then mixes a given color into these four values. So, for instance, if you mix in orange, you end up with 1.) a warm pale, 2.) a peach color, 3.) a warm dark, and 4.) a warm near-black. If you mix the same values with blue, you have the same sequence, but cool. She also basecoats her canvases with a rough, splashy layer.

Ursula also believes in using whatever tools or supplies will add interest or excitement to a painting. One is watercolor pencils. First she'll use dark ones, and to get the full pigment she might spray the canvas with water, or use soft gel (if she's painting in acrylics). But she might also use other colors.

So, in this piece, you can see the basecoat in the red at the bottom, the yellows throughout, and the white in a couple of places. You can also see palette I described (oranges and blues), and the watercolor pencil in the hair. I'm not sure this has mystery, or a lot of emotion, but it's interesting and has a lot of energy. I don't normally paint this way -- it's not accurate! -- so this was amazing.


  1. I think this piece is really good and I am not just saying that to make a comment! I'd like to see more stuff like this.

  2. Hi Mark. Thanks for saying that. I haven't done figure work in years, and never in quite this style, so I'm still feeling my way. I'll be posting other paintings from the workshop in the next few days.

    And interesting set of blogs you run!