Detail - “The Heart of Joy” by Kate Aubrey - Watercolor

I really do. Taking them and giving them. Workshops with good teachers are a sure-fire cure for the creative humdrums.

That means the year has started out beautifully, because I had the opportunity to give a floral workshop in Reno, Nevada -- my old stomping grounds -- during the second weekend of January. It was a wonderful experience.

I don’t know exactly why, but artists are, as a whole, great people. This class was no exception. In fact, it was one of the best workshop groups I’ve had the privilege to teach. I cannot thank them all enough.

One of the joys of teaching is that in some ways I learn as much as my students do. This time I learned never to use industrial spotlights to light floral still lifes, even if that’s all that is available. They burn so hot that they shrivel the flowers within a couple of hours.

What happened next, though, was really exciting. I gave my demo arrangement to the painters whose setup had died, and ran out during lunch to buy some more lilies. The only stargazers they had were white. I bought them.

And painted them as though they were the pink stargazers everyone else was working on. I pointed out what I was looking at on a pink setup, then transferred the pinks and yellows and oranges onto the white lily shape on my paper. As I painted, I used the new white lily for basic value and shape information, melding it all together onto the paper.

As a result, the painting itself started making suggestions that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and I took risks that I normally wouldn’t take in front of students.

Did everything work perfectly? No.

Right there in front of God and everybody, I had to “fix” things that weren’t going to work “on the fly” and think about my painting intuitively, while explaining what I was doing and why. The result was fourteen very excited students with a teacher to match. We all learned a lot.

I love workshops!

“Supper at Carine’s” - Watercolor by Kate Aubrey

After Jeannie McGuire. While I haven’t worked myself up to using a lot of titanium white, the way she started with intense color and deep darks grabbed me by the throat and shook me. Wow, I thought, and plunged into my own painting after her demo.

The first stroke on “The Committee” (three men above right) would never have happened if I hadn’t been so fired up. I wouldn’t have had the nerve. The painting just flew out of my brush, though, and I was so happy with the results that I’m slapping in darks with great abandon.

I’ve made a few mistakes and taken things too far too fast a couple of times, but see how my work has grown. “Supper at Carine’s” earned my first Best in Show!

So try it. Or try something else that fires you up. And remember:  No guts, no glory!




Point of View - Wood Neck Beach - Watercolor by Kate Aubrey

Well, it was a heck of a winter, and now summer is sweeping me away!  Taking the winter months to paint and learn turned out to  be exactly the right thing to do despite requests to teach here on Cape Cod.

I started with Mary Moquin’s Master Class. In it she concentrates on helping artists find their “voice”...that is, how to get the emotion into one’s painting in your own exciting, unique way. It was fabulous, and I will be taking it again next fall or winter. It’s definitely worth the drive!

Then I got really lucky. An artist friend had me look up Jeannie McGuire’s incredible figure work. Well, her name sounded familiar, so I looked on the Web, and she was going to teach a workshop nearby. I leapt on that and got in. She was just what I needed. So many things went “click” for me during the workshop!

It turns out that I do a lot better emotion- and composition-wise when I start out with my darks and my main-emotion colors.

“Huh?” you say. The best I can do is examples. For me, cobalt blue usually means peace. When I was preparing to paint “Over the Rainbow”, I realized that I wanted cobalt blue to flow through it from left to right. “Why?” I asked myself while I was totally relaxed, and the words just popped out. “Cobalt blue is peace. I want peace to flow through it like a river.” When I started painting, I put the blue in before anything else, and the rest followed.

It was quite an experience. Give it a try. If you can’t float in your right brain until the answer comes, try writing about your painting-to-be, what it means, why you want to paint it. Write down anything that comes to mind, even gibberish. Eventually, if you write Everything down, the answer will eventually flow out of your pen.

OK, I’m off to prepare to teach my first two-day workshop for the The Falmouth Artists’ Guild. Go paint!


Detail from “Uncertain” - Watercolor by Kate Aubrey

A couple of years ago, my friend Charlie came back from his first Charles Reid workshop flying high. He told us Reid puts in his darkest dark first, then went from there to build the painting. He was intrigued and excited by the process, and his enthusiasm was catching. Hmm, I thought, I’m going to try that on one of my paintings.

Of course, I didn’t. Life kept moving and classes needed teaching, and intended exploration got put way back behind the mayonnaise. I guess I wasn’t quite ready for it.

Enter Jeannie McGuire. While I haven’t worked myself up to using a lot of titanium white, the way she started with intense color and deep darks grabbed me by the throat and shook me. Wow, I thought, and plunged into my own painting after her demo.

“Uncertain” was one of the pieces I started during that workshop. The very first stroke I put in was that dark viridian/quinacridone rose at the small of the model’s back. After that, the painting just flowed. At the end of the day, it only lacked the strand of hair and finishing wash in the top left corner that brings her shoulder into view.

Since then, I’ve been approaching my paintings this way, and am so excited with the results.

So give it a shot. It’s worth the risk.


Detail - “Prism” by Kate Aubrey - Spiral Moon Series

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I’ve been working hard to take that next big step in my art development. I felt like every painting I finished, no matter what the subject or approach, was just like the last one I had done. I both wanted and needed something more.

I started with Steve Quiller, who told me to draw less on the paper and paint more from my gut, to paint shapes instead of things. Easier said than done, it turned out.  I pushed and sweated and swore.

Eventually, I took Mike Bailey’s “Watercolor - Beyond the Obvious”, which got me turned in the right direction. I finally started thinking in shapes for the first time. What a rush!

Now I am taking a “Master Painters” class from Mary Moquin, an artist here on Cape Cod whose work really speaks to me. The entire class is aimed at helping each artist find their own “voice”, which was exactly what I was looking for. It took some fast talking since she doesn’t work in watercolors, but I’m in.

Two classes later after what feels like years of banging my head against the giant step I’ve been stretching on tiptoe for, I have finally gotten myself over the lip of that next level that seemed so high and out of reach.  I am trying things I never even thought about trying before, and seeing things differently.

“Prism” is an example. I’m almost done with a calla piece that flowed out of my hand and heart so quickly that I still can’t quite believe it. I am excited as I haven’t been in years, so I have to get back into the studio, but I will keep you posted.

Happy painting,

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