Urban Landscape Workshop Postscript

Last week I had the great pleasure of running a workshop on painting the urban landscape in acrylic and mixed media. Held at the Wellington County Museum and Archives, 15 enthusiastic painters turned up in temperatures that soared into the 30s. Fortunately we had the museum's largest space, fully air conditioned with large windows and a stereo system, freshly brewed coffee on the ready, in which to work.

The week's theme was pushing out of our comfort zones. And so we didn't spend all of our time indoors. We spent a part of each morning en plain air sketching, painting, and scoping out scenes with digital cameras. On two occasions we set up in nearby Elora - on sidewalks, along the river, and in industrial ruins - in sight for anyone to see (and point their fingers and laugh, which of course no one did).

 Okay, here I am pointing at something, but it isn't a painter.

Sharon on Mill St., the shade no longer over her. Remember the key to a successful plein air painting is in the shade.

 Halyna searching for material.

Val under spotted cover of a sumach.

In the classroom, we continued to push outside the boundaries by playing with unfamiliar materials and tools, and such head-scratchers as negative space and the differences between value and colour. 

Incorporating collage.

One exercise in loosening up was a version of a brush off. Using a small 5" x 5" canvas, I projected a scene of a tree in snow and gave everyone 30 min. to depict it using anything except a brush under an inch wide and colours that were not the primaries or black and white. The final pieces showed that everyone is ready for the real deal.

The finished works lined up together. 

In the end, it was an intense, full week of creative immersion, exhilarating but also exhausting, more or less my experience of making art all the time. On Friday afternoon, though wiped, it was hard not to feel gratified by the results. Seeing the recognition that something had been learned and hard won was rewarding for me, as the teacher of sorts, as was the chance to get out of my head and articulate, in words, the instincts and feelings I have been pouring into my work.

Here is a selection of finished pieces. Everyone had something to show off, and except for a couple who either slipped out early or were too shy to show their work, I got shots.

Karen Huband. Love the creeping shadow and softness of the grass.
 Karen Huband. Struggled to keep the sky orange, but it was worth the effort.

 Judy French. Fantastic handling of foreground and somehow getting purple and green to work together.

Val Roy. Powerful colours, texture, and suggestiveness. A glorious warmth.
Sharon Wadsworth-Smith. Kudos for tackling this uncommon view of Elora, developing the textures in the walls, and making that figure in the background pop.

Donna Zuccala-Wren. Wonderful consistency and simplicity. Reminiscent of Pepi Sevilla?
Tanya Qureshi. Almost menacing. Gothic. Awesome!

Janice Ferri. Beautiful sense of light and play of cool and warm colours.

Halyna Myers. Breathtakingly ambiguous sky, with tonnes of mood.

Monika Lassner. The car butt. Love the subject matter and colours.

Monika Lassner. Perfect sense of value and just the right warmth. 
Mary Helps. Love the expressive brushstrokes in the sky and the overall warmth.

Nancy VanVeen. Great mood. Big struggle to get the road right, and it paid off.

Sharon Wadsworth-Smith. Nice sense of light and shadows on the ground. And mostly painted on site!

 Val Roy. Another large piece worked on site. Great light and warms, even in the shadows. I love the painterliness of this piece.

Carolyn Sharp. Great sense of movement with subtle colours. Brilliant.
Willow, Lorna, Susan: I'd love to add something from you. Do you have an image of a larger piece you could mail me?


  1. Looks like it was a productive, instructive week! Impressed with the work and the exercises you devised.

  2. Wonderful works. Thanks Ivano for sharing the results and critiques from the workshop. I couldn't make this session. Let me know if you are doing another. Jo Lomas


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