Oct 17

Francesco Fontana Workshop

After the convention was over, the real fun of the Francesco Fontana workshop began.

Monday – Value

After getting the room and various logistics set up, our group of 26 settled down to learn. The daily format was a lecture followed by each of us going back to our table to work on our projects, with Fontana roaming the room to give individual attention and advice.

Fontana started us out with value studies. He had each of us bring up a subject we wished to paint, then redistributed the paintings so that we were working on a reference photo with no “meaning” built into it. Our job was to develop a three-value study, then translate that into a painting, starting with the darks first (traditionally, watercolor is built from light to dark; this method is more common with oil and acrylic painters.)

I liked this exercise a lot, but I had two problems. First, I had a cold and was, essentially, miserable and drugged up. Second, the reference photo I was assigned was a building; I hate painting buildings.

Still, I did my best.

Fontana looked them over and said, “Well, they are kind of confused. But I forgive you. You’re sick.”

Tuesday – Composition

On that note, I decided to stay for Tuesday’s lecture, then go home and see if a nice nap would help me be able to paint the rest of the week. It was a good decision.

The topic of the day, composition, got slightly muddled because Fontana also introduced the issue of color theory.

The assignment of the day was to take a reference photo you wanted to work on and change it in some way. Turn it from horizontal to vertical, light to dark, or in some other way get away from strictly copying the reference photo.

Wednesday – Color Theory

I felt better with 10 hours sleep plus a nap and vowed to paint the day away. Today’s topic was all about color, with Fontana saying he had gotten sidetracked yesterday and combining two lessons.

Fontana’s color theory is to select a main color, then select the complement: red/green, orange/blue, yellow/purple. From there, select one other adjacent color (essentially you can select any of the remaining four) to give the painting a temperature (warm vs. cool) focus.

Frankly, this is the concept that I had the most trouble understanding. I’m not sure how it differs from traditional triad theory because, essentially, all colors are available in both. Fontana’s method does have the advantage of accenting one side of the color wheel, so that’s something to consider.

Fontana said, “You’re getting it.”

Thursday – Brush Work

I think this was the day that I liked best, and it was certainly successful with the class at large. Fontana talked a little about brushwork, suggesting the intriguing idea that he things in “planes” to “carve out” the painting. His point was that every brush stroke matters, and he challenged the class to create a painting in 100 strokes or less.

A few of the class members produced really stunning paintings. I was not one of them, but I’m still happy with my results, enough so that I went on to paint a couple of larger paintings along this same theme.

hooves3 hooves4 hooves5

As you can see, I sort of forgot about anything except the two color complement scheme.

At the end of the day, Fontana said, “I love your concept.”

Friday – Wrap up

By Friday, i think I was not the only one feeling the effects of a long week. The lecture was a recap of the weeks topic with a challenge to bring it all together into a single painting that would be critiqued at the end of the day.

I started with this value sketch, trying to simplify the shapes as much as possible and not become attached to particular things.


Then I began, using Fontana’s color theory (red/green with purple) and starting with darks first.


I forgot to challenge myself to 100 brushstrokes, but other than that, I hit the other points.

Fontana said, “I love it.”

I love it too. I’d like to do it again a little bigger. I’d like to push the shapes and bring some more primary color into it instead of concentrating so much on neutrals.

But I do love it.


This is the first time I’ve been able to take a Watercolor Society of Oregon workshop (pesky job…) and five days is a lot, especially fighting a cold and coming off 4 days of convention work. But if I had to start somewhere, this was an awesome one.

More than once I felt a little like this was “painting boot camp.” Fontana kept us focused on the basics of good painting, but each with his own twist so the topic felt fresh and new.

Fontana himself was charming and warm and did his best to give everyone some attention. He commented that this was the best workshop he’d done because it was so nice to work with only more experienced painters (apparently back in Italy he teaches a lot of beginner workshops.)

I have a lot to work on back in my own studio. But a lot of ideas too.

Oct 15

Apparently no one reads minds

So… It’s over. The convention. The workshop. It’s all over.

Or that’s my story as I work my way through a list of final things to do:

  1. Write thank you notes (more…)
  2. Turn in wrap-up articles (more…)
  3. Unpack art supplies
  4. Catch up on blog
  5. Take the dogs for a walk before they call the humane society

So, Thursday I was wowed by the volunteers to hang the show.


Friday was the “half day” of the convention. Mostly it’s about checking people in and a meet-and-greet reception where we gets things going.

I had hoped to offer a jet boat tour with Willamette Jet Boat Tours, but not enough people signed up. Lots of people, however, signed up for a class on historic homes with Jenny Armitage.


This swung us into the “big day” of Saturday with 18 break-out sessions, an artists reception, followed by a banquet. And my camera battery died Friday, so I have not a single photo to show for it.

Here I need to pause again to sing the praises of volunteers. All of my teachers were volunteers and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them showed up on time, well prepared to teach spectacular lessons. Can you imagine anywhere else in life where 18 separate individuals just show up to work? For free? And do a great job?

I’m still blown away.

There were a few glitches:

  • The cleaning crew took away the plastic from a previously prepped room (I panicked)
  • I realized I booked the wrong room for Sunday’s lecture and had to beg Clackamas Community College for another room (CCC is a rock star, by the way)
  • I did not realize that the traveling show crates were ginormous and incapable of behaving in a normal manner (long story)
  • There were reports of people not paying for attended classes (I never figured this out, but it was weird on all fronts)
  • I moved around some classes from one room to another to make people more comfortable, which instead created confusion (mea culpa)
  • The Pioneer Center, which had not been the easiest facility to work with in the months leading up to this event, played the part of the villain in the tale (with the exception of one person, who was a rock star)
  • I was left nearly on my own to clean up the Pioneer Center (thank you J.P. for not abandoning me too, and to R.R. and his wife who only left at my urging because they needed to e someplace else)
  • We left the coffee pot on at the reception (another call to CCC Security)

But body language of the attendees indicated that everyone was having fun, so I did my best to keep my panic under wraps.

Tara’s major meltdown

Things were going well until about 5:30 on Saturday when I started to get phone calls about “the band wants to know how they are getting paid.” I had hired a band, lead by the husband of a friend, for the reception on Saturday. We had signed a contract, he showed up, and people were texting me that the music was great. The only hitch? I had forgotten to tell our Treasurer that there needed to be a check for him.

By this time I had been doing physical labor for 11 hours. I hadn’t slept well in two nights. I had pushed my social side to the max. And, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was coming down with a cold.

So… I had a meltdown. I was crying and hysterical, even after our treasurer stopped what she was doing to sort things out. It was all too much, and I felt horrible (emotionally and physically) and because of it I ended up not attending the banquet (ably supervised by my lovely co-chair, Patty.) So me and my headache went back to the hotel where I went to bed, though I was still too keyed up to sleep well for the third night running.


Sunday things were looking brighter. Sunday is a slower day, with only the business meeting and juror lecture. Two events, one site, with the last event over at 1. I might get home before 5pm?

Indeed, after a normal business meeting and an excellent lecture and demo by juror Francesco Fontana, we were able to clean up, drop off a few remaining things, and head home.


The center painting is by Francesco Fontana. It’s the view from his hotel room of the Abernathy Bridge over the Willamette River at dawn.

Where I collapsed.


I’m proud of my work on this convention, and I think it went well. However, I’m not sure I’d do it again because of my meltdown on Saturday. That was the number one thing I was afraid of happening and in spite of how hard i worked and prepped, I’m really disappointed in myself for not being able to hold it together for the whole event.

Next: The workshop!

Oct 07

Ode to the Volunteer

Today “my” show began.

It started early for me, putting up signs and picking up paintings from the shipping place.

I started to see paintings floating toward the gallery…


But at 10 the fun really started with check in.


Here you see Angela Grainger and Rob Robinson examining a painting to ensure it complies with the image that was submitted to the juror.


Paintings that are different from the image submitted either need emergency reframing or are excluded from the show.


Of the 80 accepted paintings, only 78 made the cut.

WSO members came out when called, doing glamorous jobs like helping people unpack their paintings, checking paintings off lists, and generally helping the process go smoothly.

Super volunteer Mary Elle helping unpack a painting.

Super volunteer Mary Elle helping unpack a painting.

The check-in crew was AWESOME. While I ran around trying to sort out box issues, sign issues, bag issues, and key issues (essentially, just issues) they quietly and efficiently checked in 80 paintings.


Soon Clackamas Community College faculty started coming over to see what was happening.


Then the hanging committee, lead by Dyanne Locati, took over. Dyanne was around throughout the check in process, quietly placing paintings along their designated wall according to “the plan.”

Dyanne - The Boss

Dyanne – The Boss

She may look a little grim here, but I’ve never worked with a more pleasant and organized person. And it wasn’t just her. Her whole crew looked at bunch of paintings on the ground, and with the help of a few bits of paper, hung a STUNNING show.


The crew had to work around bits of plastic, fire alarms, signs, water fountains, and all sort of other things. In the end, then took 80 paintings that looked like this…


And turned them into…

Well, you’ll just have to come down and see, won’t you.

Remember, the artist reception is from 4pm-6pm on Saturday. Everyone is welcome. There will be a band, a flash mob, a little food, and some awards.

What’s not to like?

Sep 27

Dictator fantasies and Pintrest surfing

It occurred to me a few minutes ago as I was surfing Pintrest for “job chart for adults at a convention” that I may have snapped.


After more than two years of planning, “my” convention is just 11 days away.


To recap, more than two years ago I volunteers to be a co-chair of the Watercolor Society of Oregon Fall Convention. At the time I lived in Oregon City and I felt that a convention there would be a neat thing. Once I found an equally foolish person to take care of the “social/food” side of the convention, we were off.


Frankly, I think it’s going to be a great event.

  • We’ve lined up great location and teachers.
  • Clackamas Community College is allowing us to hang the show in their Pauling Gallery.
  • The list of classes is awesome (if I do say so myself.)
  • The juror is internationally known and his workshop filled up within a few weeks of “opening.”
  • I’ve eaten the food of the caterer and I thought it was great.
  • People have volunteered readily.
  • We met our deadlines for publishing.
  • The budget is in the black.

And you are ALL invited to the Artists Reception Saturday, October 8 from 4-6pm at the Pauling Gallery at CCC!

Now, if I can just stay calm…


Here’s the thing. This is the kind of event that brings out my dictator complex.


Now, it is my observation that people don’t like to be bossed around.


Which leads me to my quest to find a “job chart for adults at a convention” on Pintrest.


Can I count on you all for an intervention if it becomes necessary?


Sep 18


Today I got up early to go with the Salem Audubon Society out to Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. I arrived promptly at 7:00. Not a single person was there.

Tturns out the hike is next weekend; they posted the scouting trip a couple days ago and I got mixed up. So I decided to tour the refuge on my own.

I saw a small variety of birds: Red tailed hawk, song sparrow, white crowned sparrow, golden crowned sparrow, savannah sparrow, kestrel, Great Blue heron, great egret, American bittern (a first for me).

Then, as I was rounding a corner, this young fellow appeared in my path.


He stayed just long enough for me to get a couple of good snaps of him, then…

After those highlights, I’ve spent the rest of the day tackling a lot of house chores and errands. Two trips to Goodwill, a trip to the library, bought some pants, cleaned out the closet, rearranged some furniture, fur management, a trip to the Humane Society to deliver some unused cat medicine, tons of emails, a load of laundry, a load of dishes… you get the idea.

I hope tomorrow to run a couple of errands up north (I’m in the last two weeks before the Watercolor Society of Oregon Convention I am chair of and it’s full-blown panic now) and then sit down and do some painting. I didn’t make it into the show, but I’d like to put in a painting for the critique session and I’ll be taking a workshop from the juror, so I should probably know what to do with a brush…

Sep 17

It turns out no one walks on… water

After a week that I feel could be definitive proof that all people are crazy all the time, I decided to take the time after escaping the office Friday to take Key to do a long exploration of Minto-Brown Park (one of the treasures of Salem.)

We saw a good variety of birds.

And Key had a grand ol’ time sniffing along and getting excited every time a squirrel or rabbit came out.


The problem arose when we came to a muddy little pond. As we went by a frog jumped. And Key jumped after him.

Umm… dude, you’re disgusting.


Oh, that’s a problem? I’ll just rub it off here in this delicious, stinky dead grass.

Sep 11

Ocean Adventures

A few months ago, the Salem Audubon Society put a notice in their newsletter that they were going on a “Pelagic Tour” on September 11 through Whale Research EcoExcursions (Carrie Newell.) I called up my mom and asked if she wanted to come, and with her resounding yes ringing in my ears I called to make our reservation. The September 11 trip was already booked up, but they promised they could get us in on a September 10 trip that they had booked for the overflow. So we took our 8am time and marked out calendar.

Mom and I had taken a whale watching tour from Carrie (and notably, her dog Kita) on June 29, 2013.

Kita on our 2013 trip.

Kita on our 2013 trip.

It was a really great trip, but they advised coming back in September when the whale watching was REALLY good.

Today our trip got moved up about a half an hour due to weather conditions (while it was a sunny day, there was a bit of wind which made the waves pretty high.) So we showed up prepared to be wowed again.



First fluke


2nd fluke (waves are high!)


3rd fluke, probably the best picture


2nd picture of the same whale dive


4th fluke


5th fluke, my timing was off (those whales are tricky!)


also 5th fluke, you can see a little whale lice right on the end of the fluke


This was “SF”. No cropping on this photo; SO close!


I don’t know who this was, but even closer than the other one!


While I was a little disappointed in the “birding” part of the tour (the whales made up for it, obviously,) we did get in quite a few. I was hoping for a little bit more time close to shore really looking at some of the species.

Common Murres

Marbled Murrelets

Cormorant (Pelagic & Brandt) (these black birds were everywhere, flying every which way, and utterly defied my photography skills)

oystercatchersBlack Turnstones & Shorebirds


Tufted Puffins (it was only looking through my camera at home that I realized the identity of these birds)

Great Blue Heron (actually two, both flying away)

Brown Pelican (at the same time as the first whale, you can guess what happened)


Western Gull


Stellar Sea Lions

The final “highlight” was traveling out to the “whistle buoy” to observe a trio of Stellar Sea Lions (two females and a young male, according to our guide.) They were very photogenic.

stellar_sleepy stellar1 stellar2 stellar3 stellar4 stellar5


Aug 28

Student Issues

One of the perks of being an adult (there really aren’t too many when you think about it) is the right to go off track when you take a class without anyone scolding you.

This is, obviously, is a mixed blessing. While it can be fun to run off on a tangent, if you are earnestly trying to learn something and a shiny object distracts you, well, your choice is to take the class again or put on your grown-up blinders.

Last week (week 5 of Messy Palette Club), for various reasons, I wasn’t inspired by the topic. At the very least I just didn’t want to. So I got to thinking about how to make my horse paintings more simple (the topic of the Messy Palette Club Summer Session is simplicity) and I started going through photos.

Next thing I know, this photo caught my attention.

secret strategy

The pencil came out… then a peach wash… and tonight I’m contemplating the finishing touches on this.

"Secret Strategy" - 22"x15" - unfinished

“Secret Strategy” – 22″x15″ – unfinished

The jockey’s face needs some more work. And I may add some more highlights to the tack.

But this was so much fun, I started another one tonight. Here’s my reference photo.


And here’s my start.


“Chased by Darkness” – 22’x15″ – start

I’d say something about how I should go off track more often, but really… I don’t think I need more encouragement to do that.

Aug 15

Class: Writing & Illustrating Children’s Books (Week 4-5)

I don’t know where the last few weeks has gone, but Thursday my Writing and illustrating Children’s Books class ended with the remaining students (5 out of more than a dozen) presenting their “mini” books.

I present here my book. I have revised a few things and I still have a few paintings to finish. But I think you’ll get the idea. It’s really amazing how much work can go into crafting twelve sentences.











Aug 15

Class: Messy Palette Club (week 4)

The heat drove me from Salem down to the beach to see my mom. I took my paints with me so I would have an excuse other than heat for this migration (not that I really needed one.)

I drove out a side road next to the Siletz Bay Wildlife Refuge to see if I could find an out of the way place to paint. I found a bridge located on a bridge and set up my shop for a couple of hours.

I did a very poor job with my reference photos, but the assignment was to create a value sketch before painting.

Then I went into my “full” painting.


I would have liked to get the marsh grass a richer, deeper yellow.

Then I turned and look east. I didn’t get any reference photos, but I did two paintings.

siletz east

And this one, which took a leap off the bridge when a car went back and into the weeds below. No rescue was possible (if I wished to live.)

painting in the weeds

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