Archive for the ‘Workshops/Classes’ Category


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″


Grand Detour Demonstration

April 12, 2013
Grand Detour Demo; Watercolor Canson Langton 12" x 16"

Grand Detour Demo; Watercolor Canson Langton 12″ x 16″

You may recognize the image shown above. It is a watercolor interpretation of an oil painting created last autumn. It started as a way to help my third level students and culminated with a really cool slide presentation compiled by one of my students. If you have Face Book account, you can watch the seven minute video by going to the March 30 post on my Fan Page “Tom Linden Fine Art”.

My third level class has a few students that have been through the class several times and are looking for new ideas to keep the painting fun or just improve their works. It also includes three students that are in this level three class for the first time. Following the first couple exercises, it was clear to me that I needed to do a demonstration about the painting process from start to finish. This would help the newer students understand how to build a painting and help other students alter any bad habits.

I created a line sketch as well as a four value drawing so that the students could see the basic patterns and shapes. I took an afternoon to create a “trial run” painting in my studio. I was using a different paper for the demo and decided to fight it at my studio without the pressure of on-lookers. It also helped the students see what the end product might look like.

I started by showing a photo I had from the scene (the plein air sketch was sold off of the easel, still wet. Yea!). I quickly produced and discussed the line sketch and four value drawing as well as the trial painting. The design was already drawn onto my watercolor paper, but before applying paint, I took time to discuss my plan.

Watercolor demands a certain amount of planning and forethought. I discussed my intended route of paint application. I also discussed the reasons and logics behind my plan. I revealed possible challenges which I might face, how I could avoid them and what I might do if the oops occur during the painting process.

After a few minutes of discussion and questions, it was off to the races. I had less than two hours to pull this painting together. Thank goodness for the two hair dryers and cooperative students that helped hold and place the dryers where and when I needed them. After getting the first stage, or as I call it, outline stage, completed, I took a couple moments for students to look at the work and understand that all of the paint applications performed to this point were all techniques which they were all capable of creating. That they could do it.

Not a bad painting for two hours. More important, the newer students got a feel for how to put a watercolor painting together. They had more confidence that they can do this. The next week for class I had them create the same work on their own paper. Although we had a few mishaps, the lesson went well.

For a better look at the presentation, please check out my Face Book fan page, “Tom Linden Fine Art”.

Grand Detour Line Sketch 5" x 7-1/2"

Grand Detour Line Sketch 5″ x 7-1/2″

Grand Detour Value Sketch 5" x 7-1/2"

Grand Detour Value Sketch 5″ x 7-1/2″

Grand Detour Trial 12" x 16"

Grand Detour Trial 12″ x 16″