I'm taking a watercolor workshop this weekend with the awesome Keiko Tanabe, and it's in Westminster, which is somewhere inland a bit from Long Beach. I'm a little vague on the exact locale because when you are driving from Van Nuys to Westminster on a weekday, you don't just jump on the 405 (like I plan on doing for Saturday's and Sunday's sessions), you have to plot out the route that will take the least amount of time in traffic, regardless of the mileage. My route this morning involved six freeways, and it took me just about two hours. Tomorrow it will take an hour and 10, maybe. That's the reality of driving in L.A.
But, it's all worth it to study with Keiko. What a mastery she has of light, water, tone, and pigment! What a pleasure it is to watch her work! One of my co-workshoppers compared her method to that of a hummingbird--she moves swiftly, her brush jumps between wells of color, grabbing and mixing just the right ones to get what she wants, and she flits back and forth across the page, letting her attention move organically as it sees the next thing and the next and the next…
It's also a bit intimidating, for that very reason. This is a person who has been painting for little more than a decade, which is exactly how long I have been painting--but this is a person who paints every single day of the year. And she doesn't mess around--she teaches, from what I can see, about 45 out of 52 weeks a year, and paints two demo paintings per day at each of those workshops! (in addition to painting for herself--i.e., for shows and clients--during her "down time"). She travels all over the world--Europe, Japan, Mexico, China--which sounds amazing until you realize that she sometimes teaches a week-long workshop, gets on a plane, spends that day getting from one place to another, and teaches for another week starting the next. I don't know how she does it. The jet lag would kill me.
So today, she painted one painting between 9:30 and 10:30, and then we attempted to imitate it until lunch; then she painted a second painting, which we were also supposed to accomplish today. I spent the afternoon finishing the morning painting, as did three quarters of the class, so now we have homework--to draw the second painting in preparation--because tomorrow we will have two new demos! Wow. So much for my DVR!
Here is a photo of her painting from which we worked:
And here is my pale imitation:
Here is the photo from which we are working for painting #2:
And here is her value sketch and her demo painting:
I came to a realization today as I watched Keiko work and listened to the questions, comments, and issues of the others around me: I can still learn a lot from anyone with whom I study; but ultimately it's not about watching what they do and imitating it, or using the exact color mixes and brands of brushes and paper (and parenthetically, I'm so tired of those who go to workshops and ask incessantly, "Now, what did you mix there?" Knowing what color she used won't make you able to paint like her!). It's about practice. Practice, practice, practice. At some point, you find your style, and you go with it, and then you practice it until you are the best you can be at whatever style that is.
I'm not ready to give up studying with others yet, but the realization here is that unless I am willing to commit to painting on a regular, consistent, repetitive basis, I'm never going to have the mastery I so admire in people like Keiko!
I'm off to make my drawing…