Archive for the ‘Classes and Workshops’ Category


Standing Along Grange Hall

October 16, 2018

Standing Along Grange Hall – Oil on Canvas – 11″ x 14″

Using sketches and plein air studies from last summer, I worked this painting as a demonstration for my workshop students. Although, to begin, I had a loose pastel sketch on the canvas, I applied my oil paint swiftly. I worked to place general colors throughout the entire canvas. Within twenty minutes, I had enough paint in place that the students could see where I was going with this painting.

I allowed the students to start their works. While the students were painting, I moved around the classroom to guide their progress and took occasional breaks to add more strokes of paint to my work. By the end of the afternoon, my painting was basically finished, save for a few tweaks completed at my studio.



February 28, 2018

Reflections – Oil on Canvas Panel – 8″ x 6″

Started for my oil students. Always fun to play with reflections off of this metal bowl. Fun to watch the students tackle this. They learn a lot about reflections, refractions, colors, and shadows. Sometimes I get into trouble because I forget to clean this bowl and return it to our kitchen cabinets (do not interfere with the wife’s cooking routine).

Used this same set up for my advanced watercolor group. Fun and interesting to see the differences based upon the choice of medium.



January 6, 2018

Henhouse – Watercolor on Arches 140# CP – 12″ x 16″

Preparing ideas for an upcoming workshop on watercolors, I utilized a plein air painting from Cedarburg Wisconsin as a basis for this watercolor. Having already worked out the challenges of this design in the oil painting, this watercolor moved effortlessly. Very happy with the brightness of the light off the front of this structure.


Autumn Willow and Pear Study

January 1, 2018

Autumn Willow – Oil on Canvas Panel – 8″ x 6″

Two more small oil paintings started as a resource for my Oil students. The willow tree is from a reference photo. The willow is at the entrance to Midway Village in Rockford. The pears were started to help my students understand methods for tackling folds in cloth. Both paintings were quickly requested by galleries for display (and sale – hopefully).

Pear Study – Oil on Canvas Panel – 6″ x 8″

Happy New Year. Hoping that you all enjoy a prosperous and happy 2018. Thank you for following my posts.


Sunflower Study, Pitcher and Pears, and Candles

May 9, 2017

Sunflower Study November 19 – Oil on Oil Primed Canvas Panel – 8″ x 6″

These are three of the paintings I created as demonstrations for my Saturday Oil painting class. We are all working from the same set up. I work on my paintings for a few, approximately fifteen, minutes, then take a break to move around and assist students with their works. As they take a break from their work to check out my progress, some interesting conversations and lessons get quick discussion. My students seem to thrive on appreciation of the differences in our approaches.

Pitcher and Pears December 3 – Oil on Oil Primed Canvas Panel – 8″ x 6″

Candles for Christmas 2016 – Oil on Oil Primed Canvas Panel – 8″ x 6″



Anatomy to a Still Life

March 15, 2016
Anatomy to a Still Life - Oil on Canvas Panel - 18" x 24"

Anatomy to a Still Life – Oil on Canvas Panel – 18″ x 24″

To help my students understand a process to create their oil / acrylic paintings, I created this work. It helps to illustrate (1) Thumbnail drawings as means to explore and test design options (2) Size and Angle relationships of the components (3) Basic drawing concepts (4) Breaking down the items to basic shapes (5)Roughing in to start the painting (6) A finished version of the composition (7) Colors utilized to create the work.

Toughest part, actually getting my students to create any thumbnail drawings. A bit frustrating to go through all of this, imploring students to work out their ideas in thumbnail drawings. Later, moving around to help students resolve problems with their works. First thing I request? “Show me your thumbnail sketches.” When they admit to not having spent any time on thumbnails, I ask for their sketchbook or paper and begin to work thumbnail drawings for them, helping to illustrate ideas for how they could have prevented their current predicament and options for possible solutions.


Plain Fun with Plein Air: Summer 2013 Workshop

May 7, 2013

Workshop           August 7, 8 & 9, 2013            8:00am – noon

 Plain Fun with Plein Air

Sponsored by Rock Valley College. Class # ART 815 NC

Join us for three days of fun-in-the-sun as we explore ideas, concepts and strategies for enjoying plein air painting. The workshop will focus on helping you to understand how to locate and focus on a subject, how to quickly establish your design, and how to evaluate, amend and finish your works on location. Each day, an objective will be explained, and demonstrated. Students will have time to work on their designs. Students will receive one-on-one assistance and group instruction. Work in your medium of choice – watercolor, oils, pastels, etc. The focus will be on learning new ideas and concepts as well as learning how to be safe, meet new friends, have fun and perhaps, create a masterpiece. It is suggested that you plan to work on small supports (paper, canvas, panel, etc., nothing larger than 11 x 15). Please contact the instructor ( prior to the workshop for information concerning recommended supplies in addition to your painting equipment.

This workshop will be held in the outdoor gardens at the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford (1354 N. 2nd Street). Please contact me if you need directions to this workshop and/or suggestions for area hotels.

To find out more about the workshop or to register, please contact Rock Valley Community College (815) 921-3900.

Photographs courtesy of Bob Logsdon Photography


Sunflowers – Lesson

April 23, 2013

SunflowersWorking with my Still Life students, I decided to give insight to my method  and incite their creativity.

I forwarded the reference photo posted above. Not a great photo, but a fair reference. Most students tend to reproduce the photograph…exactly as the photo. That means they do the design exactly as seen in the photo. That means they do the colors exactly as seen in the photo. That means that they do everything exactly as the photo. Yawn!

Rather than allow them to follow their normal routine, I allowed them to see how a reference photo can be cropped to create a more stimulating design. In addition to the photo, I forwarded a design sketch. They were free to work their own design, but this should help them move towards a more dynamic presentation.

Sunflowers - Line Sketch 5" x 7-1/2"

Sunflowers – Line Sketch 7-1/2″ x 5″

Allowing them to choose their own direction with paint application, I presented two possible options. The first choice keeps the color selection closer to the real flowers, though the application is created to keep the colors loose, free and fun. The first or outline stage still allows watercolor to be watercolor.  The second option plays upon the splash lessons where we work to apply bright colors near our focal point regardless of their presence in the actual objects. We try to apply colors of appropriate values to the subject not necessarily the same colors as the reference. In other words, we play and entertain the viewer with a fresh and sometimes unexpected presentation.

As with most of my demonstrations for the students, I apply the first, or outline stage to my paper and only indicate where the refining and defining applications may lead me. I do not wish to complete the painting. I aim to let them express themselves in their work. I do not desire to have them create clone paintings.

A couple students selected one method for their painting. One student was ambitious and created one watercolor of each method and then, before class ended, did the unexpected. The student took a piece of watercolor paper and without the aid of a drawing, applied colors in a splash method. Her goal is to apply a drawing after the paper dries. In part she will impose the design but in part, will allow the first, lively application to guide her watercolor. I can not wait to see how this student completes the challenge.

Sunflowers - Traditional Approach; Watercolor 12" x 8"

Sunflowers – Traditional Technique; Watercolor 12″ x 8″

Sunflowers - Splash Technique; Watercolor 12" x 8"

Sunflowers – Splash Technique; Watercolor 12″ x 8″


Flower Bouquet Close Up

April 15, 2013

Flowers2013Building upon the lesson taught a couple nights earlier, I decided that it might be fun to play with my third sketch, a close up of the bouquet of flowers. To keep my design from getting stiff, I decided to play with my splash technique.

My students are first introduced to the splash technique in my level 1 class as a way to play with watercolor. It involves several disciplines – altering the value or intensity of  the hues, gentle mixing of colors, running of colors, splatters and blossoms. In level two, we use this idea as a way to reinvigorate and allow watercolor to be watercolor (that is keep students from trying to fully control watercolor). These exercises start non-objectively and mandate that the student have an imaginative eye to “see the possibilities”.

By level three courses, we work with having a design already in place and have the students remove the white from their works. This is the case for the bouquet. I began with a loose design drawn onto my paper. I started painting by applying color near, at and around my center of interest and worked out from there. Lighter and brighter where needed. Hint at darker spots to start the negative areas. Let colors run together. Throw in water drops and splatters to break up any boring swatches of color. Let it dry and work the design to my vision from there. Let the parent colors, or the colors applied at the beginning, guide your color selections from there. Vary the dark colors in the negative spaces to keep it interesting. Do not insist on any colors for any of your objects (i.e. white items do not need to be white to read right). Stop painting before you make it too tight. Allow it to stay fun for your viewer too.

Flower Bouquet Design Sketches; 8-1/2" x 11"

Flower Bouquet Design Sketches; 8-1/2″ x 11″

Flowers - Splash Technique Step 1; Watercolor 8" x 12"

Flowers – Splash Technique Step 1; Watercolor 8″ x 12″

Flowers Splash Technique Step 2; 8" x 12"

Flowers – Splash Technique Step 2; Watercolor 8″ x 12″


Flower Bouquet

April 13, 2013
Flower Bouquet Start; Watercolor 5" x 7-1/2"

Flower Bouquet Start; Watercolor 7-1/2″ x 5″

Working with my Still Life students, I decided to go a little further with my lesson.

I have been attempting to convey the importance of small thumbnail sketches to help determine the best possible design to paint. These small thumbnails also help uncover shortfalls or challenges. Best to find out before getting halfway into a watercolor painting.

I have asked the students to arrive at class, set their gear to the side, grab a seat and make at least three thumbnail sketches (moving their chairs as necessary). I was not getting the results which I had hoped for. To help them, I have started to make a series of drawings prior to class so that they could observe the possibilities which I see, as well as the problems which I encounter in designing my drawings.

This particular evening, I brought in a bouquet of flowers which my wife had received from her sister-in-law (thanks Sherri). I made three sketches (shown below). I discussed any principles which I worked into the designs. We also discussed a couple possible pitfalls which I encountered. We discussed possible strategies for executing each of the designs for the best possible painting.

To further assist my students, I also did the quick first stage, or as I call it, outline stage, of the bouquet (shown above). This was done to give them an idea to help start their paintings.

Flower Bouquet Design Sketches; 8-1/2" x 11"

Flower Bouquet Design Sketches; 8-1/2″ x 11″