Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stephen Quiller Workshop – day 2, part II

The last portion of Thursday Steve did a major watercolor demonstration.  Before beginning the painting Stephen provided some background information that was very valuable. In short here are the points:

  • Steve uses Richeson watercolor paper, usually 300 pound rough. The Quiller Gallery website has some interesting information with respect to this paper. You can find more information in Stephen Quiller's books also sold on his website.
  • The watercolor paper was prepared with a sketch made in pencil with very little detail. Stephen does not work from photographs but sketches in a fairly large sketchbook. In the margins he makes notes with respect to the color, time of day, ideas he has for a finished painting, etc. so that he does not lose that information. This is enough for him to paint from but not so much information that he's "painting to a photo". He recommends making thumbnail sketches to pre-determine shapes as well as a quick value study in order to ensure that we are painting a composition that will be pleasing. Good composition trumps good technique.  Sounds VERY familiar.
  • When Stephen works at home he works vertically. When he's wetting the paper before painting he would begin working from the bottom up. This is to avoid having water running down the page multiple times creating troughs in the sizing [gelatin] which would result in streaky applications of paint.
  • He has only one painting going at a time! I found this very surprising -- he works from beginning to end on a single painting almost always.
  • There a few colors in the expanded palette that should always be squeezed fresh when working in watercolor: cerulean blue, manganese violet, viridian green, and naples yellow. These colors do not reconstitute well. 

Then he began to paint!!!  Over the course of the next two hours we were treated to a wonderful show. What fun to watch a master at work -- the rhythm is amazing! He paints in a very mindful, deliberate, responsive way, constantly "listening to the painting" and doing what it tells him to do. After 40 years of wet brushes paintings do talk to you!  Here are a couple of photos of the work as it developed Thursday afternoon.


Background washes – very careful to leave the light on top of the distant hills.  The brush says the form.


The first, loose foreground shapes…


Lifting out some tree trunks – watch the intervals!, watch the shine on the paper!, brush drier than the paper to avoid blossoms!….  Mindful of all these things AND telling us about it as he painted. 


Pure Thalo blue there???  Yep, sure enough it worked.  Developing more tree forms.


Pop some of the trunk area by adding the winter branches and a few snags [do it FAST].  Surround the work with white strips, step back and think it over.  Push on when you know the next step – not before!

Stephen quoted Robert Genn as he concluded and sent us to our painting - “Better to stop 5% too soon than go 1% too far”

Here’s the study I did late Thursday afternoon.  I like it – the feeling of cold and wet is there. 

stormy dayWow – what a great afternoon!  So much fun I would love to do it again.  Enjoy!


  1. Lucky you!!! Thanks so much for your details on the Quiller workshop. It is really inspiring to read....what a fun way to spend a couple of days.

  2. Your paintings turned out beautiful! What an opportunity to take the workshop.

  3. Cynthia, Krista,
    It was an amazing experience. I'm so glad I was able to see him in action. His paintings are artistic eye-candy for sure!