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Croatian road sketch

croatian road practice

sketches March 2013Some of the sketches I did in Antonio Masi’s workshop

I had the pleasure of taking an Antonio Masi workshop at the Salmagundi Club in NYC.   Antonio is a warm, charming man who paints large (40″ x 60″) watercolor paintings of NYC bridges.   He also has a handlebar mustache which he clearly waxes and which I was fixated on.  He’d come over to look at my work and speak with me and all I could think about was “what is that look all about?”  Anyway….

He demonstrated how he paints his bridges, but also spoke of his thinking behind all his paintings.   He does lots of sketches in a small (3″ x 5″) sketchbook with a sharpie marker and a small black gel pen to get the shapes and the composition.  Then he does some larger value studies with three main things in mind:

  1. What is my focus?
  2. What do I want to say?
  3. Paint shapes, think edges.

Antonio told us something Leonardo DaVinci said:  “If a painter doesn’t have a plan, it’s like a sailor without a map or compass.”

Antonio continues doing small paintings until he is ready for his large piece.  At some point he puts his reference photo aside and just works from his studies.  And then he will finally put his studies away and just focus on the painting.  What’s going on in here?  Sometimes Antonio (Tony by the end of the workshop) will only use his studies and put in what he can remember from his time on location.  If he can’t remember it, it obviously didn’t impress him that much, so he doesn’t put it in.

Antonio made sure to impress upon us that our goal was not to slavishly follow a reference photo/study/or even plein air drawing.  It was to really think about what was important to you when you were attracted to the landscape/still-life/portrait.  Tony also stated many times that he is NOT a colorist, but a value painter.  He also has no problem mixing opaque white in with his other watercolors.  (Interestingly, he started out as an oil painter and still mixes his paints with a palette knife.)  He likes the opaque white, he feels it cools the painting down, pushes some areas back and creates atmosphere.

It was a very interesting class and while I didn’t complete any paintings per se, I learned quite a lot.

On another note, remember I told you about Isabella, a young artist who comes to our studio sometimes.  She worked on these trees, which I painted a while ago, based on my reference photo of the cherry blossom trees in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  Here’s hers:

Isabella's cherry blossomsAnd here was mine:


I always look forward to the Cherry Blossoms and check their status here.

Finally, just so you don’t think I’m lying about (laying about? I never understood the difference) eating bon-bons and not doing anything, I started another Galápagos painting of a magnificent (or is it a great) frigate bird and a turtle.  It may be a diptych, or may be two separate paintings.  I don’t know.  I do know I own a scissor.  I can cut that baby right in half if I need to.  I hope I don’t end up cutting it to shreds as I’ve been known to do.

frigate and turtle 4-7-13

Antonio said we shouldn’t throw out our bad paintings.  But keep them, to look back on.

Two last things.  If you’re in NYC:  Some amazing exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum, particularly John Singer Sargent watercolors:  (Did you know he used both transparent and opaque watercolors in his paintings ) And an exhibit by El Anatsui which I absolutely loved.  The American Watercolor Society show is at Salmagundi and my blog friend Frank Eber is in it.

And if you’re in Denver, go see Sense and Sensibility, The Musical.  My sister, the overachiever, is one of the co-producers and it opens this week.  BREAK A LEG, ALICE!  I’m very proud of you.

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