From Concept to Canvas: Workshop Recap

“Last Light on the Preserve”
14″x7.5″ | Oil on paper


Above was my oil demo in my recent “From Concept to Canvas” Workshop at Saratoga Arts. I was joined by 5 talented and hard-working artists; Ellen, Donna, Jane, Patty D, and Pat F — Thank you, ladies for spending the day with me.

The goal of the workshop was to assist my students with creating a piece of art from initial concept, to the finished piece. It was a productive day, and the time flew by as it often does when you’re having fun.

Here’s where we started: I recommend all artists ask themselves these 3 questions before beginning a project:
1. What am I trying to communicate with this piece of art?
2. What medium/size would be best to express that idea?
3. What colors can help me achieve the mood of the piece?

Once we’ve got those ideas down, we are ready to choose an image to paint if one isn’t already in consideration. Next, we need to work out our design and composition. Thumbnails and notans can assist with this. A notan is small sketch in black and white. Its purpose is to show the foundation of the piece, and allows you to clearly see if the composition works, or needs work.

Here’s the source image I chose to work from:
I chose this image because it represented a feeling that I experienced while spending an evening watching my husband and son fish on the Round Lake Preserve. The sunset that evening wasn’t particularly spectacular, but rather soft and still. Obviously, the photo didn’t capture all the color and the mood I experienced, therefore I knew I had to rely on memory and emotion to recreate the mood I wanted to share.

Very often when artists work from a photo reference, they tend to be human photocopy machines. I encourage you to use the photo as a tool, a reminder for composition, and color – not something to replicate pixel for pixel. What’s the use of making a copy of a photo? I love to see your INTERPRETATION of the photo. As you can see also above, some photos do not do the original scene justice. I purposefully work from imperfect photos, and this allows me to be more confident in making my own choices rather than trying to copy a “perfect image”.

I created a couple thumbnails, and a notan to help me distill my design to an interesting composition.

I decided to go with the panoramic view, and cropped out parts I didn’t feel were essential, or add to the overall composition.
Next I made a decision on what color palette I wanted to use for this piece. I chose a limited palette of warm browns, gold, orange, red, and a touch of blue.

This study is definitely something I’d like to explore on a larger canvas.

My students took what they learned, and worked on some pretty fantastic pieces. Here are some photos of my busy students:



To see more images from the day, including the beautiful work created by my wonderful students, please visit my Facebook Page: Takeyce Walter Studio on Facebook.

Happy Painting!

Until next time…