Wednesday, July 4, 2018

recent workshops and new classes

Check out these photos of my recent watercolor painting workshop in New Jersey! I have a great group of returning students that result in my New Jersey workshops selling out quickly, and I always eagerly look forward to seeing them again. 
 This workshop was a fast paced and focused on learning specific techniques for depicting a variety of skies and atmospheric conditions.
Next week, my summer semester starts in my studio! You can join me on Thursdays if you want to improve your drawing and painting skills.
Plein Air Painters! July 31 is the deadline to apply for Plein Air Brandywine Valley! This prestigious event awards over $10,000 in prize money to artists and boasts over $40,000 in sales. The planning committee has been hard at work to make this the best year ever, so get your application in now, before the deadline passes you up!

posted by Annie Strack @ 1:46 PM   0 Comments

Friday, June 15, 2018

Packing for Plein Air in Europe

If you're going with me to Provence this summer for my plein air painting workshop, you won't have to bring the following items with you because they will be provided for you!

This photo (above) shows some of the items being provided. Each artist will receive a 4x6 spiral bound sketchbook that they can fill with scenes from our trip, as well as studies, thumbnails, and notes. A pencil, eraser, black ink pen and a white ink pen round out the sketching supplies. Each artist will also get a 12x16 block of Cezanne watercolor paper from Hahnemuhle! Each block contains 10 sheets of 140# rough watercolor paper. Disposable accessories such as sand paper, salt, slide mounts (view finders), tape, Magic Eraser, and paper towels are also provided. Folding chairs will be provided by Mathieu, our host in Provence. 

What else should you bring? Well, this photo (above) shows the supplies that I use, which is a good example of what to bring. Top of the photo is my watercolor field easel and plein air umbrella in it's carrying bag. You don't have to bring an easel. Most of the watercolor artists in my plein air workshops paint while sitting in a chair, holding their painting on their lap and setting their supplies on the ground next to them. I prefer to stand while I paint, so I use an easel. The wire shelf in this photo fits on my easel. See an example in this previous blogpost
The red bottle in the lower left is a reusable water bottle. You must pack and carry your own water with you each day. 
My brush roll contains more brushes than I will actually use -- it is the one thing I tend to over pack. You will need an assortment of good rounds up to a size 12 or so, preferably sable or kolinsky, or a really good synthetic equivalent. At least one squirrel mop/quill, size 5, more or less. A 1" flat. If you have other favorites, bring them. 
Water container -- I use collapsible pet bowls. 
An extra block of paper -- this is optional, as Hahnemuhle is generously providing all of my students with a 12x16 block of 140# rough -- but if you want the option of using a different size or surface texture for some of your paintings then I suggest you bring one along. I'm bringing at least one small block of cold pressed, just for variety.

Assorted watercolor paints. I bring a small set of pans when I travel. Please do NOT bring tubes of watercolor paint. If you do not have a set of pans, you can get an inexpensive (or an expensive one, if you prefer -- it's your choice) folding travel palette and fill it with paint from your tubes, and let the paint dry in the palette. Give the paint at least a week to dry before you travel with it. 


You will need masking fluid. You can see in the photo that I transfer mine into a nail polish bottle. This allows me to self-store the brush in the bottle. It's a lot of work to clean out a nail polish bottle, so if you're thinking about it, you want to start that now. Or look at some alternatives available from your art supply stores. Be sure to wrap your masking fluid carefully in case it leaks in transit, and pack it in your checked bag -- do not attempt to carry it on the airplane. 

Also, I didn't include it in the photos, but you will need a hat for shade. It's summer, and you will need it. I also forgot to include a t-square. I will bring mine, of course, because I really just can't live with it. It's just a clear plastic t-square, only 12 inches long. The kind you find in the back-to-school section of the dollar store. I use it to square up my drawings of buildings and architectural features, developing symmetry, keeping my horizons level, and for determining perspective. You will also need a backpack or tote bag to carry your painting supplies each day as we travel to our painting locations. 

As for clothes, I pack light. You will catch me wearing the same thing on several occasions. I will also pack a few large ziplock baggies, to pack up some delicious french cheeses and other gourmet goodies that I might buy in the markets. Because painting and touring is only part of the adventure -- there's eating, drinking, and shopping, too! 

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:12 PM   0 Comments

Monday, June 11, 2018

Review of New Watercolor Paper!

A while back, Hahnemuhle sent me some new 9x12 blocks of watercolor paper to review. This month I tried out the "Expression" paper -- this paper is 140# cold pressed, 100% cotton. The best way to test a new product is to just give a hard workout in the studio, which I did with this paper. 

Hahnemuhle Expression Watercolor Paper

 I started by drawing out my subject and covering it liberally with masking fluid. The paper seems a little soft, making my pencil marks hard to see.

 After the masking fluid dried, I started splashing water and paint on it. I work really wet at this stage, and you can see the paper is buckling a little from the soaking i'm giving it. I splattered paint and water onto the painting several times, to get the random loose effect.

 After the background dried I peeled off the masking fluid. At this point the buckling has reversed itself and the paper has gone back to flat. I also got out a softer pencil and re-drew my subject, as my pencil marks were too light for me to see.

 I re-masked a few small areas to preserve my whites, and began layering my lightest values on the bird. The colors are basically gray, but to vary it up I mixed ivory black, violet, cobalt, and indigo to make my grays more lively and to keep the gray from getting flat and dull.

 As each layer died, I layered the next deeper value. Here I also painted in some shadow below the bird to "ground" him, and I was not thrilled with the background so I used a Magic Eraser to wipe some of it out -- particularly in the top section of the painting.

And, here's my finished painting. Last thing I did was remove the last of the masking fluid and paint in the small details.

Like all the Hahnemuhle papers that I've tried so far, this one performed beautifully. The masking fluid was easy to remove, the paper reverted to flat when it dried, and it took all the abuse that I threw at it. The paints seemed to soak in more and were a little more difficult to lift than the previous paper I tested, but still, they lifted fairly well for a cold pressed paper. I would definitely recommend this paper to other artists and students.

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:42 PM   0 Comments

Monday, May 28, 2018

Open studio!

Last weekend's Open Studio was a huge success, with hundreds of visitors coming through to see the latest paintings from the areas best artists.


Coming up in the weeks ahead, I'll be teaching workshops at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, live event painting on stage at the Wilmington Jazz Festival in Delaware, and judging the Salem County Art Show in New Jersey. Summer classes begin next month in my studio in Kennett Square. Classes are full, but I'm taking names for a waiting list and I may add another class if I get a couple more on the list.

My workshop in Provence this summer still has room for 2 more students! This is a bucket list kind of trip, with breathtaking tours, chef prepared gourmet meals, and luxury accommodations. Everything is included in the price except for airfare. Book now before the rates go up!

posted by Annie Strack @ 9:59 AM   0 Comments

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Come see me during the studio tour!

The annual Chester County Studio Tour is now less than 2 weeks away -- May 19 and 20. There are 5 artists in my studio, a combination of old and new friends: Karen Frattali, Jeanne Bruneau, Sarah Baptist, Catherine Quillman, and me.


On Saturday we will have a special event at our studio from 6-8 pm, with door prizes and a light supper buffet. I hope you will come out and join us for this event.


Also, my studio has partnered with 6 neighboring studios to create a special tour passport. Download and print this passport and fill it out on the tour for a chance to win original artworks from the participating studios!

posted by Annie Strack @ 7:35 AM   0 Comments

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Testing New Watercolor Papers from Hahnemühle!

I recently received a new paper to try out from Hahnemühle USA, the Harmony 140 lb. cold pressed block. The best way I know of to test new paper is to put it through all the paces -- heavy washes, lifting, masking fluid, and other forms of abuse that I inflict upon my paper in the course of creating a painting. Here's a step by step tutorial of my koi painting, and a review of the paper in the process.

The Harmony 140 lb CP watercolor block from Hahnemuehle. 


Here's my drawing of koi with masking fluid protecting parts of the paper. I also outlined the koi with a thin line of masking fluid to allow me to work the background really wet and control the flow of water better. The masking fluid reserves the white of the paper, and the thin outline helps to keep my heavy wet washes from running out of control.

I used a variety of dark colors for the backgound, and a lot of palette mud, too. You can see from the puddles and sheen how wet the paper still is at this point. While the paper was still damp, I splashed a few drops of water onto it to create a few tiny spots of blooms. 

Next I painted my lightest values on the fish, the yellow colors. Notice my background wash is still wet -- I used a lot of water!

Here I added my medium values to the koi, namely the orange and red colors -- cadmiums, vermillion, quinacrodone rose, violet, and a little sepia for the darks. Notice how light the background appears in this photo, compared to the previous photo? That's because it is now dry. I used a lot of water to create the background, and the more water you use, the lighter the watercolor paints will dry. Adding water to watercolor paint is akin to adding white paint to oils or acrylics -- it lightens the colors. 

More dark values are added using ivory black, sepia, indigo, and violet to create form and roundness to the fish. The masking fluid comes off easily, revealing perfectly preserved paper on which I can now paint.  

The koi have a freckled appearance to them, which I added with my darkest colors of ivory black. I scrubbed and lifted some areas that I had previously painted, to show some of the lighter patterns in the fish's colors.  

And finally, this is my finished painting of the koi. 
The Harmony paper from Hahnemuehle responded beautifully, and held up perfectly despite my abusive painting techniques. It naturally buckled under my heavy washes, but then dried flat. I really gave it a workout and didn't expect it to perform as well as it did, and I was pleasantly surprised that the paper far exceeded all of my expectations. The texture is quite nice, slightly toothy. The paper is surface sized and the amount of sizing appears to be quite generous, giving that the amount of water that I used and the lifting techniques all worked quite well. The color is soft white -- not overly bright, but no hint of any yellow or cream color. 

This paper is new, and is currently available at Art Materials Online. It will be available at other retailers soon. 
Keep up with all of Hahnemuehle latest products by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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posted by Annie Strack @ 3:47 PM   1 Comments

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Plein Air Painting Workshop, May 7

There are only 2 spaces left in my plein air painting workshop at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. All of my workshops have sold out for the next several months, so this is your last chance to get in a workshop this spring!

Students will learn how to break through the confusion of choosing a plein air painting subject, and learn how to plan a landscape composition by eliminating distractions and focusing on their subjects. They will learn how to capture light and shadow in their paintings, and how t o see the landscape in simplified shapes of color and values. They will learn how to mix colors with limited palette, and depict a variety of perspective techniques to create depth and dimension in paintings. We will cover how to sketch quick values studies, and add buildings, architectural elements and gestural figures to the landscape to create drama and interest in paintings. A variety of techniques will be demonstrated, and students will receive lots of hands on individual instruction and critique.

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:27 PM   0 Comments

Monday, April 9, 2018

How to make a quick and easy shelf for a watercolor easel!

Many watercolor artists paint flat -- using a table to paint upon rather than an easel. I prefer to use an easel, and I like a watercolor easel because it allows me to tip the painting flat when I'm laying in a wash, and tip it vertically for other techniques. The drawback to these easels is that there isn't anywhere to place a palette and other supplies-- so a table is still needed.

I came up with a new idea for an attachable easel shelf, that's simple and easy to make. And really inexpensive!

This is a wire closet shelf. It is 12 inches deep, and I cut it to 16 inches wide. I choose that size because it is the same size as a 12x16 block of watercolor paper, so it will be easy to pack it with my blocks when I'm traveling. 


It is simply hung on the bracket screws on the easel's legs. The bracket screws are made to hold the canvas shelf (aka stabilizer shelf). My easel has two pairs of these brackets, and I hung my new shelf on the lower pair. My canvas shelf is right above it, on the other pair. 

This photo shows how the shelf rests on the easel. I added a larger washer behind each of the screws to help hold it more securely, but it really didn't need it. The two parallel horizontal bars of the shelf are what is holding it flat against the legs, and keeping the surface of the shelf level. The vertical connectors between the horizontal bars are spaced 12 inches apart -- the perfect width for bracing against the screws.

Want to learn more? Watch this short video for the full details on how to make and attach this shelf! Not sure how to attach it with only one pair of bracket screws? Watch the video to see how it can be secured with a bungee, instead. 



And here's another wire shelf. I found a small stack of these at the Habitat re-store, already cut to 16 inches wide and ready to hang. Best of all, they were priced at a buck a piece. Absolutely perfect.


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posted by Annie Strack @ 8:39 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, March 31, 2018

new workshops and classes!

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where I taught an advanced watercolor painting workshop. My students finished 3 paintings in this workshop, which was hosted and organized by my friend Helen Beacham.



Helen is an extraordinary artist, and after my workshop we spent a day playing with alcohol inks in her studio. I enjoyed trying out this fun new medium, and will add it to class line up soon! 


Some of my students holding up some of the paintings we finished in my workshop.


 Helen also took me out to see all the sights and sounds of the low country, and we toured Charleston, the nearby plantations, the marshes, and the waterfront. I had a blast, and I'm looking forward to going back again next year to teach another workshop!


posted by Annie Strack @ 1:58 PM   0 Comments

Sunday, March 11, 2018

When is it time to move beyond beginner level?

Something I tell my students all the time! 
Don't be afraid to use up your art supplies. When you've completely gone through your first set of paints and brushes, you will have practiced painting enough to move on to more advanced work. If you're not using up your supplies, then you're just not painting enough. You will never graduate from the level of Beginner if you never use up your materials.  

Sometimes my students are frustrated that they haven't attained artistic genius after one workshop, or after taking one semester of instruction. I have to remind them, that if they are still using the first set of student grade materials that they've ever bought, then they are still students. Use up those paints! When you've painted so much that you need to replenish all your paints at least once, you can move on to intermediate. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 4:05 PM   0 Comments

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