Watts Atelier

October 4, 2012

I just got back from an 8-day long workshop at Watts Atelier in California.  It was a tremendous experience and the level of instruction there really exceeded my expectations.  I really want to be able to attend the school, but unfortunately that doesn’t look possible for a while…


Anyways, the workshop essentially was a mixture of the main classes taught at the school.  There were two 3-hour classes per day, and another 3 hours of uninstructed life drawing in the evening.  Each class typically began with a demo by an instructor for about 25 minutes, and then we would draw/paint for the rest of it while the instructor walked around critiquing and helping out (they would draw on either our drawings or on tracing paper on top to demonstrate where we were going wrong).  Some of the classes were just 3 hour painting demos.  I found that this method of teaching was very effective, and very humbling to see artists of such a high caliber knock out drawings and paintings without breaking a sweat. Stupidly I didn’t bring a camera to the workshop so don’t have any photos of their demos!


Head Drawing with Lucas Graciano:

Here we have a cast drawing I did (Lucas did the finished eye to show me how I need to design my shapes more clearly as I was putting them very ambiguously before).  Below are some practices of the Reilly head rhythms…we used some pretty bad reference photos, apparently because it is a skill in itself to work from bad reference, especially for illustrators.  The last two images are a head from life that I did, and the tracing overlay Lucas did for me.  I’m not very happy with how my drawing turned out (I was still getting used to the charcoal pencils).  Again, Lucas was showing how to more clearly state the shapes of things.







Head Lay-ins with Stan Prokopenko:

These are some 20 minute head lay-ins from life.  The goal is to get a solid construction and to use the Reilly rhythms.  It’s a very solid approach in which everything is linked and placed symmetrically. Stan did a tiny bit of drawing a couple of these, but mostly they were my own.





Quick Sketch with Erik Gist:

This class was really tough for me, and really useful.  I can’t remember which of these are from this class and which are from the open life drawing sessions at night…anyways, they are about 3-5 minutes each.



Life Drawing with Jeff Watts:

For some reason we had this class before the lay-in class, so all I got done in it was a lay-in.  First image is mine and the second is the tracing overlay Jeff did for me.  As always I am told I need to work on my shape design more.  Here I was told that my halftone shapes were not good at all, which was really mindblowing as I had not even thought that halftones had shapes that needed to be designed! It makes sense really, but everyone always talks about shadow shapes and nothing else.  Core shadows, reflected light, halftones and highlights all have shapes which need to be designed!



Figure lay-ins with Stan Prokopenko:


A super useful class! The goal is to do lots of starts to drawings and not waste time with rendering–get the structure and proportions right first! Stan did a little bit of cleaning up of line and shape on one or two of these…






Master Copying with Ben Young:

This class was pretty cool, and much harder than you’d think.  We did a study of a cover by Leyendecker.  I was having a bit of trouble achieving subtlety in the rendering, so Ben worked on it for a bit (which is why it looks so good).  He’s very good at achieving very subtle work, and does so by lots of layering and working back and forth between drawing, light smudging and lightly erasing with a kneaded eraser.



Uninstructed Evening Life Drawing:

These poses ranged from about 2 to 2.5 hours.  One or two of them had a couple minutes of work on them by an instructor just to get an extra element of subtlety in them.  They mostly just used their fingers to smudge a key area or two to downplay it.










Master Copy in Oils with Jeff Watts:

I did a study after Mian Situ, and used the Zorn palette (Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre, Titanium White and Ivory Black).  It was very tough and there are some drawing issues in it, but I think it turned out okay.  I was struggling with my brushes a lot as I have only bristle brushes, so Jeff let me use a few of his sables to get some detail work in like the eye.



Still Life with Jeff Watts:

This one turned out horrible (and isn’t finished)! I’m still posting it though as a record of where I am so I can look back and laugh.



Gesture Portrait with Jeff Watts:

I think these were 40 minute poses.  One was done using only Burnt Umber, and a rag/turps to lift out highlights.  The other had the shadows painted thinly with Burnt Umber and the lights painted in opaque white.






That about covers what I did, other than a landscape I painted, but it was still wet so I couldn’t bring it home.  Overall I learned a ton and realized a bunch of weaknesses in my work.  I’m going to have to study a lot harder now and a lot more focused/structured!