drawing with color

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Art Classes, drawing, pastels, Peaks Island | 1 comment


Peaks Island’s TEIA club house, above, is a daily view upon walks with the dog. It’s a well-loved setting for sailing, tennis, weddings, and cultural events.

I was honored to lead a workshop, Drawing With Color, last week. We gathered on the porch for a discussion of the color wheel, examples of the relativity of color, color contrasts and associative properties. I shared my favorite books about Monet, Connie Hayes, Wolf Kahn, Fairfield Porter, Matisse, and Alex Katz, all masters of color. I laid out a selection of pastel varieties and papers of various textures, asking them to create a drawing with a simplified color scheme of limited palette, such as two warms and one cool.


Limiting color and simplifying is challenge enough. The vistas from the porch are wide, and some had difficulty even deciding where to begin. I always start with determining a horizon line, either low or high, depending upon my focus of either land or sky. Mavourneen’s drawing, below, featured the shapes of the shore, centered on the intense greens of the sea grass.


After a short break, I assembled a still life of fruit and flowers, with an emphasis on creating strong color relationships between the foreground and background. Thank heaven for ocean breezes.


Deb created a bold composition with confident strokes on red sandpaper.


Our three hours flew by, as did some paper that blew about in the shore winds. Get this: I assigned HOMEWORK. Students had to create a palette of 10 favorite colors, and name them. Of course, it was discretionary. It is, after all, summer! The exercise is meant to bring awareness to our individual color temperaments, intuitive choices we make around the colors we wear, consume, and live in.

When gathered on the porch again the next day, everyone shared their color palettes in a revealing discussion of the power color brings to our lives. Several times, I pointed out that students were wearing their colors, literally.


I invited students to move off the porch to find new views, and shared the narrow trail in the rosebushes that leads to “secret beach.” On a hot day, shade was a must!


Carol brought this gnarly tree alive with her energetic marks of color.


We gathered on the porch again to see our results, with the consensus being: let’s keep drawing! Everyone was reaching a comfort level and momentum with their discoveries.

But a storm was rumbling over the Diamond Islands.


Carol quickly moved inside, saying “I respect Mother Nature.”


She drew from the window, not missing a beat. A sudden downpour broke up the class, sending folks pedaling away on their bicycles, drawings in their bags. I didn’t get to share closing remarks, so here they are: You have all the right impulses to make art. A creative well lies within us all, waiting to be tapped. Keep drawing!

Thanks to the TEIA, for the opportunity to share my methods and materials and my bottomless encouragement to eager artists to stick with it. Too often people assume artists are specially gifted, but honestly? We’re just devoted to making. The more one makes, the more one learns.

The gray clouds of doubt may come and go, but keep the color coming!


One Comment

  1. Jamie, thank you for introducing to us to the joys of painting with pastel sticks. Awesome summary of the 2 day class through snapshots with a spot- on narration of our progress.

    I loved your approach to making even the beginners feel special about their paintings. I hope you do another class. I’ll be there!

    Than you.


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