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My training as a painter focused on the medium of oil painting. Abstract Expressionism was in vogue when I began my formal studies. This left me sort of adrift because I had a difficult time relating to non-representational painting. I wanted subject matter not just colors shapes and textures.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid thirties that I became acquainted with watercolors.
One of the professors in Arizona State University‘s School of Architecture was Robert Oliver. Among his duties he taught watercolor painting every other year. His course was designed for architecture students. It was not published in the course catalog; it was publicized by word of mouth. His goal was to teach students in the School of Architecture to be expressive and to move them away from tight controlled renderings often associated with architectural drawings.
Shirley, my first wife, was studying architectural interior design and learned about the course. She asked me if I would like to take the course with her and I said , “Sure”.
It was one of the better decisions I have made.
Oliver, as he was called, was a terrific instructor and he conducted his classes by first demonstrating whatever technique he was introducing. After having shown us how to do a particular technique he would have all of us do it and then, at the end of the class, our efforts would be displayed and critiqued. This had us actively involved and gave us immediate feed back.
The style of painting he taught was loose and expressive, drawing from the regional California watercolor artists like Rex Brandt, Robert Wood, Phil Dike, Emil Kosa, Jr and Millard Sheets. If you are not familiar with these artists you should google them. You will like their work.
The first lesson we learned was about the use of paint. Many people when they approach watercolor will squeeze out little dabs of paint onto their palette, not wanting to be wasteful. Their paintings often come out weak and timid.
Oliver instructed us to have a Robert Wood palette which is a rectangle bordered by 24 large wells and in the middle of which are two mixing areas. He also gave us a list of colors to use. He had us squeeze an entire tube of paint into each of the 24 wells. We were horrified. How wasteful! But it was not. The paint does not go bad and the resulting paintings are usually stronger and more vibrant because of the concentration of the paint.
This class opened up the world of watercolor to me. I work in many mediums but watercolor has been one of my favorites.
As I look through my work, the watercolors sort of chronicle my nomadic life. When I first started painting them, I lived in Arizona and that became the subject of much of my painting.
Later we moved to California and that became the focus of the work.
And eventually we landed in Florida.
Much of the Florida work has been pulled together in a book, Impressions of Florida which I have published through Blurb. You can check it out below. It would make a unique gift.
More to come