Monday, October 13, 2008

A+ workshop with Master Charles Reid

Charles Reid watercolor solutionsFirst of all before I happily get carried away, I'd like to recommend Charles Reid's latest book. Click the image to get more information from Amazon. Com. The title is Charles Reid Watercolor Solutions.

This book is easy reading with many illustrations and images to keep the hungry artist interested. You will note that it's very detailed and easy to understand which tells me that Charles was completely hands on with this book; it reads like the way he teaches and talks.

If you have ever attended a workshop and left disappointed so you never took another workshop, you need to sign up for one more just to completely get rid of the bad experience - the workshop to sign up for is one with Charles Reid. He goes all over the country all year long and he also offers workshops in Europe covering a great variety of subjects. Check out his workshop schedule in his website by clicking here - Reid Workshops

I can paint pretty loosely but lately I've gotten a little tighter than I prefer. These next 2 pieces are some of my figurative works I did in 2002 I think and they are 6x8 watercolors.
Erika Nelson figure studies
Watercolor nude figure by Erika NelsonBut for some reason I didn't really understand what it was about my technique I liked; I just knew I enjoyed it and I never really had any plans when I painted them.

Suddenly Charles Reid's name kept coming up in watercolor conversations so I began to take note of him and years ago bought his portrait book. I've also checked out his videos from the library and I began to feel a kindred spirit with him. Funny how things progress, my dear Vicki Lou mentioned early last year that she and her hubby Randy are sponsoring a Charles Reid workshop in town! They have both taken about 4 workshops with him in Europe so apparently they really like his teachings and simply didn't have enough of them and him! Well long story short, with my health issues and finances I simply was resigned not to be able to take advantage of this opportunity. But Vicki, bless her lovely red hair, never gave up. She had me schedule to pose for Charles's workshop -not once, but two days!!!!!!!!! Then some situations came up and suddenly both my friend Shirley and I were able to attend the rest of the workshop WOOHOO!!! I really wasn't sure my stamina could support my passion but Vicki was willing to find out and apparently, the odds were with us so double WOOHOOWOOHOO!

What does a fan do when she finally meets her idol? Of course I soaked in everything. I found out really quick that Charles Reid is a perfect gentleman. I don't think the word "ego" was ever printed in his dictionary. It's rare to meet a successful and famous person who doesnt' carry that around with him. This is an artist who had kolinsky brushes named after him!!!!!!! Check out ArtXpress Charles was PRESENT. Believe me, I spent most of my adult life in California and I've been around big name artists giving demos. Most of them are MIA. Their bodies are in the room but their minds were on other things but the demo and the audience who took the time to attend in hopes they might learn something artistically valuable. He was there for his students from 9-4 daily. In fact, as if it wasn't enough, he thought we had the meeting room aka painting room 24 hours, so he wanted to hang out with any of us who could stick around and paint with him after hours!!!!!!!! I cannot Charles Reidbelieve this artist who is on all day wanted to be around us longer and paint with us LOL! I'm so used to visiting artists just wanting to put in their time and they either just want to disappear or go party somewhere later. Charles is all about art.

What impressed me the most about Charles is how he takes the time to draw. He does the modified blind contour drawing. He doesn't lift the pencil off the paper though he does look at his paper. He takes the time to do many cross-referencing. His line quality is beautiful, by the way. The other impressive thing that impressed me is how he whistles while he works lol He even whistles while he walks! And when he got close to finishing a piece the whistles begin to sound like a battleship game when kids make those bombing sounds LOL! Then he says, "That's about all I can do!" while he paints for about 10 more minutes. But he never overworks his piece! Hi drawing technique has sparked new life into my routine. I really do feel I'm invincible now and I can draw anything. And I have always had strong drawing skills and won top prizes for my charcoals. But this playful yet effective technique truly breathed new life in me! Here's something I drew today.
blind contour drawingWhen I modeled for Charles, I recognized that he usually mentioned what he was about to work on each time. I truly appreciated this so I knew when I had to keep my eyes or my mouth more steady. This was also very helpful as a viewer because it alerted me to what I needed to pay closer attention to and didn't want to miss. Charles was always happy to answer a question no matter what he was doing. And he was happy to show you on paper or talk at length until he knows the student understands; he was very approachable.

This photo of me modeling is by Vicki Ross. I think I already looked tired on the 2nd day but Charles managed to capture me. He ended up painting me in an outdoors scene with blue skies and the sun shining on the clouds! Photo by Vicki Ross He said it's because I seem have a sunny disposition! AWWWWWWWW! And in my previous post I thought I wouldn't be able to afford my double portrait but I did!!!!!!!!!! YAY for me!!! Here it is before he signed it for me
I want to title it "Sunny Disposition" :) Charles signed it "Erika, Rogers AR 10-7-08" and his signature. Portrait Painting Charles Reid He also signed my portrait book "For my wonderful model Erika!" Click on book cover to read more about it this book. On my 2nd day of modeling I went home and painted a portrait keeping in mind Charles's teachings. I think my painting was a good effort but the only thing I see that might be influenced by him were the drippings LOL He said I worked too long on it WAH!

Watercolor female

Charles took us out for plein air painting in Rogers Square. The lesson was value studies. Painting or drawing buildings and having the wonderful natural lighting allows for playful shadows and glowing reflected lights. First we had to paint a view in grey tones with the goal to paint about 6 values. After we accomplished it, we were supposed to paint a full color version. He chose to paint a building with a big archway and some engravings on it. The result of course was beautiful despite a few local news reporters talking to him. There were also some ritzy looking bystanders and I overheard one asking if the painting was for sale. "He's doing a portrait of the city, I want to buy it!" this woman says on her cell phone.

I chose to paint Charles as I mentioned in my previous post. I wanted the opportunity to paint him from life so I did! He liked my painting. I wasn't quite content with it as I thought the colors were subdued. So I went home and painted another more colorful one. But again, I think I over painted.

Plein air painting ReidDay after plein air Charles teaching progression brought us to using our own imagination. He brought black and white photos that each of us had to paint in COLOR! I chose the photo of my top idol John Singer Sargent plein air painting. I think at this point I was finally beginning to get the hang of Reid's technique.

On the last day there was a lovely bouquet in the painting room. It turns out one of the students bought it because she requested for Charles to give a still life floral demo. Charles agreed to it - in addition to his own plans! As a result he painted from beginning to end 2 pieces that day. TWO PIECES! I was dead tired and didn't want to paint that day and he painted TWO PIECES AAAAAHHHHHHHH!

Charles Reid plein air paintingWell here's a shot of all of Charles's paintings during the week minus the still life florals which he painted I think in an hour or so. Otherwise he spent about 3 hours give or take on each painting. Every single painting sold. All of them had more than one buyer interested. In this case his lovely wife Judy did a raffle of for the paintings available to sell (people who were depicted in certain pieces had first dibs). Each interested party drew a piece of paper off Charles's baseball cap and the one who drew a paper with a smiley won!

The pieces he painted for exercises had HAND-WRITTEN TEXT ON THEM! They talked about the purpose of the demo and particular pointers he had!!!!!!!! WoW I wanted every single piece!!!! They also had limited edition prints which was nice as there wasn't enough original piece to go around. But apparently, the students were all very pleased with the workshop and each was willing and eager to buy an original painting.

How my work will evolve because of his workshop's influence will slowly manifest as I keep painting and try to hang on to things I learned and things that got me excited. I hope I'll always remember how modest he is and how this attitude allows people to enjoy art along with him. His apparent passion for his craft was so much fun to witness. He was totally aware of his students and cared about them. He always asked me if I had lunch to eat and if I have a ride ok. His wife Judy visited us daily to make sure all is well and to check if anybody needd anything.

John Singer Sargent by Erika NelsonI am really blessed with great friends. My dear friend Shirley Mullen who happens to be a watercolorist too and volunteered to drive me daily without even expecting that a situation opened so she was able to attend the workshop! My dear Vicki Lou who didn't give up on getting me to the workshop lol And the happy Charles Reid students who were all so nice and so talented - I really felt like we were all there for each other along with Charles, Judy, and hosts Vicki and Randy and the Marriott Residence Inn staff!

Lastly I painted in the drawing I did today. It's smaller than 5x7 which I painted as my birthday card for friend Linda Cassady. Look I have successfully lost some edges! Looks like I have Charles Reid vibes running through my watercolors!

Some pearls from Charles, things most of you already knew but perhaps have forgotten. These were very important for me to hear:
  • Squint so you don't see too much details
  • Spray your palette an hour before painting
  • Cross reference while drawing, vertically, horizontally, diagonally
  • Keep your shapes connected - look for adjacent shapes
  • Keep your pencil on the paper
  • Keep your brush on the paper
  • Combine like values
  • Don't use the point of your brush to make them last longer
  • Don't swish your brush in the water much you waste color this way
  • Shake your brush once after dipping in water so your brush isn't too loaded with water when you dip in the paint
  • For every light area, there is a dark area to support it
  • Don't paint over light areas while they're wet to avoid mud
  • Try to make the first tonal value correct it keeps the painting fresh
  • And finally, if you're Charles Reid, all the rules may go out the window because he goes by his own well seasoned instincts!
This is one long post and I'm not inspired to proof read so please accept my early apologies for some goof ups, hopefully not much HA!
Charles Reid paintingsP.S.
It appears that a Painter's Keys Article by Robert Genn from October 9, 2008 completely supports what I said here
Painter's Keys: The Guru Syndrome


  1. Sounds like you had a great though tiring time Erika! You got some lovely work done too.

  2. Erika, you have been so busy living it up like a star... I am glad you were able to purchase that double portait too! Hope to see you back in DSFDF when you get time.

  3. What a lovely surprise Mark so nice to see you in my blog :) Yes, workshops tend to be very compressed plus I like to apply what I learn as I go which makes me double tired lol Thanks for your kind words dear xx

  4. LOL Alice "living it up like a star" LOL! I do like to make the most of a beautiful opportunity :) I think the double portrait will be my one and only opportunity to purchase an original by Charles Reid and what an amazing piece to purchase!

    I missed DSDF last week- I really wanted to paint The Bean. You did a lovely piece of course congratulations! Thanks for the comment!

  5. I'm happy to hear what a wonderful experience you had!!! I love the watercolor painting you did of him. Is that a pipe in his mouth?
    I am ashamed to admit, but I have never heard of him before. Now I know that he is an awesome artist as well as a wonderful person.

  6. Hi Akiko! Sorry I havne't visited I'm still so tired and life is just moving on no matter how tired I am! Yes, it's a pipe but he only smokes while we we were out plein air painting :) Oh don't be sorry, I'm glad I've added his name to those you know! I think his name will suddenly be mentioned around you and you will become more familiar with his works in books and videos! Thanks so much for visiting :)

  7. Hey Erika,
    Thanks for sharing so much of the workshop with us. You really gave a good synopsis and great inspiration!

  8. Wow...sounds like a lot of fun. I'm so glad you could go and to also buy that double portrait. Thanks for all the info, I learned some things from this post.

  9. Sounds like you got even more out of the workshop than expected.
    Great double portrait Charles Reid painted of you. I just LOVE the white highlights... it's something I always look for... probably because I wonder how some people can do that so well - paint loosely yet leave white details in just the right places.

  10. Well done, sis. I'm very very proud of you. You are an inspiration. Please continue being a wonderful sister and making beautiful art.

  11. Just a note to thank you for your very thorough post on your workshop. I read every word (and didn't find typos!) I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been, the knowledge Charles was able to share with all of you. Lucky folks!!!

  12. Thanks Hillary glad you thought I did. I guess I was also partly posting this to keep it in my memories :)

  13. Hi Deb! You're welcome and thank you for letting me know you learned something. I learned a lot wish you could have been there with me!

  14. Hi baby sister so nice to see you in my blog I love you! xxx

  15. Hi Peggy thank you for the visit and comment! It's always such a gift to meet a person who truly is passionate about his craft not just through words but also through watching him really enjoy it!

  16. Erika, I was out of town for a week and then yesterday my internet was down all day so my comments on your great post are a bit tardy.

    However, in reading about the workshop I share your excitement! There's nothing like a painting workshop with a respected artist to rev your art engine. I'm really, really happy you were able to do the workshop.

    While I was out of town last week, the only art materials I had with me was a sketchbook. I don't sketch that often any more but I found myself doing some modified blind contour drawings. Imagine my surprise when you wrote about Charles doing modified blind contour drawings.

    I have found my MBC drawings to have a primitive, organic look. It looks like my inner child coming out, a true picture of my own personal way of drawing. I was wondering if you could expound a little on why Charles advises to do drawings in that way.

    It's an interesting topic! Does he start all his paintings with a modified blind contour drawing?


  17. Excellent advice and lovely piece! Sounds like the workshop was a real success!!

  18. Hi Caren wow that's a coincidence! I love M-BCD because it adds movement to my drawings. I have been bored with my technique for a while as my paintings have been looking so static which is not at all the kind of art I like. I think the contour drawings are true depiction of the artist's mind works and eyes too. It shows the things our minds takes notes of, don't you think?

    I don't remember what CR said about why he does it. I know he was an illustrator so it's not as if he was trying to keep himself from being sketchy like many fine artists tend to be. However don't you think it keeps your lines cleaner and you tend to commit more to your lines?

  19. Welcome back Theresa! I'm sure you already knew all that I learned! It was a great workshop, the kind students continue to learn from after - like your workshops! We want you back here!!!!!!!!

  20. I'm so glad you had this opportunity. :) I loved reading this Erika. :)

  21. Hello Lori yes I'm so glad it all materialized and I am happily incorporating what I've learned! Thank you!

  22. Erika, I do think the M-BCD help add movement to drawings. I also think my drawings look too static, I see movement and flow in other people's drawings but not mine! It's something I'm constantly working on.

    Sometimes I even go over the top of a previous "sketchy" drawing with the M-BCD method and it really changes the drawing.

  23. Caren try to also vary the line; darker on the outer shapes and light where you might lose the edge(s).

    Oh draw on top of old sketches sounds like fun!

  24. Gosh, China Doll! What a blog! Can you tell I'm still behind????? thanks for all the kudos. Randy and I dearly LUV bringing good artists/teachers here. It is SUCH a joy to see smiles on the faces of the students as they watch the magic appearing right before their eyes.

    lovya babé


Thank you for taking the time to comment ~Erika