Painting with Patty
Reflections from Patricia Watwood’s “Composing a Narrative Portrait” workshop held on August 16-20, 2021, at Gateway Academy of Classical Art.
When I heard, Patricia Watwood was coming to St. Louis, I had to sign-up. I follow her on Instagram and have long admired her allegorical narratives and classical painting style. Here are some take-aways from her five-day workshop that focused on storytelling, composition, values, and lastly color. Her mantra, value does the work and color gets the credit.
With that in mind, the first day we created a value study called a Notan on a small piece of paper. The Notan is a map of the underlying value structure of your painting. It reduces your painting down to darks, lights, and mid-tones to create a map for your painting. My Notan is pictured below.
Day two, we learned how to make a composition/color study to determine if our composition and colors work on a small scale. Patty shared some of her narrative artwork and Edgar Degas artwork to help us understand composition. Degas used movement, diagonals, and cropping to make inventive compositions in his paintings. Value and composition studies are the building blocks of your painting and help you save time and frustration by allowing you to work out any composition problems and color disharmonies. This is the time to the problem-solving before you start your painting. Value and Composition Study below.
Day three, we began on our larger painting. First by drawing the basic structure and objects with vine charcoal, then painting over the outline. Next, we blocked in the underpainting based on the Notan’s values of darks and lights. For me, this was the most challenging day - the ugly painting day. Guess which is the ugly day painting below.
Day four is the fun day, when colors begin to shine. To make a beautiful painting, it is all about the layers. Don’t be afraid to add lots of paint and be bold in your mark making.
Day five, your painting begins to come to life. It makes all the prep work worthwhile.
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