An Unusual Workshop Opportunity

“Fragments of an Idea”
watercolor 22 x 30 inches
There are a few opportunities where a fan of water media painting can combine a workshop with the AWS traveling show . . . .that is 40 stellar paintings right from the walls of the Salmagundi club in New York City . . . .The American Watercolor Society mounts its annual show of water media paintings from the best painters in the world at this prestigious location annually in the early spring.   Each year, 40 paintings are selected from that show to travel the USA to various locales.   This year that show will appear in Sebastopol, California!!   So close to Santa Rosa and Petaluma !!
I will be leading a workshop there in Sebastopol concurrent with the AWS traveling show.  If you are driven to really get down to learn how and why paintings do or do not work,   How to judge your own work and how to think when it is time to make compelling marks on canvas or paper, then ThIS is the workshop not to be missed . . . .it will shake you to your toes . . . awaken the muse like never before . . .  . . and have you thinking about paintings in a dimension never before considered.
Here is a link to find out more.

The Workshop Experience

Having just completed giving a very satisfying workshop in the middle of our vast country, some flashes of inspiration came to mind. . . . .How does one choose the workshop they should attend?    What will the instructor teach me?   Am I in it to come home with a painting just like the instructor, or am I there to learn and grow artistically?

I believe that every instructor is there to help anyone advance in their skills, but many have difficulty articulating the essentials to making good art.  
Of course, we cannot always determine what the instructor intends to teach . . . . .and THAT is precisely what my inspiration is about.   To communicate to you, the reader, what is taught in my workshops.   Naturally, as a painter, you are looking for the best possible experience for your money and your time.   So, it is essential that this information is available to you.
What happens in my workshops?   First off, I don’t demonstrate until the last few hours of the last day.   Oh!   You are surprised?   What I do NOT teach, is how to paint like me.   Nor do I teach technique.
Here is what happens . . . . . . .and I will tell you straight:   It isn’t boring in the least.   Moreover, you will find this the most challenging, the most interesting, the most informative workshop you have ever attended.   Here’s why:
Good art is not necessarily about how well you render a subject.   What’s more, good art isn’t always about what subject you paint . . . or what the instructor paints.   Truly GOOD ART comes from within you . . . . . from you intelligently assessing all of the aspects that go into making a piece of art . . . . and making the art from your heart .. . . . not from photographs . . . .at least, not very often.
That said, here is what you will learn in my “Painting Beyond the Obvious” workshop:   How to design a good painting of ANY SUBJECT.    Also, within that design, you will learn exactly how to put mood or emotion into your paintings.   We do that by doing a lot of learning about Line and Edges, Sizes, Proportion, Scale, Directions, Shape and Form, Value, Texture and Color strategies.   That is all in one week!
To sum it up, its all about making a stunning Compositionof any subject . . .  .portraits, landscapes, figures, still life and, yes, even abstracts.
It is the very thing you have been searching for and have not known what questions to ask or how to put your finger on what you need to know to make extraordinary, good art.
And there is a very personal side that is also addressed.   You will be fed with lots of information, yes.   You will also receive the sort of personal guidance and suggestions that you would in a close mentor relationship with the instructor . . . . no matter what your level of skill is.
In the ending hours of the workshop, the class selects an emotional mood they want to see the instructor paint.   Then, as a group, we carefully discuss and choose the aspects of the design and specifically how it should be painted.   The instructor then uses a still life subject and executes the painting.   That preparation for the demo took all week to educate everyone about the aspects and conditions of a sound composition and design and how to set an emotional mood.

When you are trying to determine if a workshop is good for you, don’t you think you should ask about WHAT is being taught rather than what kind of pictures the instructor makes?
“Baran Poppies”
watercolor 15 x 20 inches
What’s a Baran, you ask?   Actually, this “Baran” is the ‘Domaine du Haut Baran‘ in Puy L’ Eveque, France.
My wife and daughter and I just returned from there where I held a painting ‘workshop.’   Actually, it was more of a painting retreat rather than a full on workshop.  This beautiful location is more than any photo or written description could possibly do justice.   It is a 300 year old, limestone French country Inn run by American owners who out do themselves every summer to welcome guests from around the world for art pursuits, cooking, horseback exploration, biking and all sorts of unnique and wonderful passtimes.
Our first trip was in 2012.   We returned this year with 12 wonderful people who were rollicking, laughing, painting and having a wonderful time for ten straight days!   I am so impressed with the hospitality here that I have booked dates two more years in advance:  2014 and 2015 . . . .and am seriously considering booking 2016, too!   Frankly, I don’t think there could be any place more accomodating and more comfortable than this wonderful, relaxing spot.   The food is simply amazing.   And the surrounding countryside has so much to offer, starting with a history that goes back 25,000 years.   Neanderthal man leaving cave art, to medieval battles and citadels, open markets, and native people who will warm anyone’s heart are the order of every day in this region.
Right at the edge of a gravel driveway, where no one would expect to find a painting subject grow these delightful poppies . . . . .I believe they are named “Coquelicot” . . . .and I may be spelling it wrong.   Just sprout out of the edge of the driveway, just like they are in the painting.   And, yes, they are this red!   I could not resist trying to capture them!   
After three weeks there, eating, drinking and absorbing the countryside, as well as trying to paint, I am exhausted and trying to get my body back to this time zone.   But I am not anxious to move my thoughts away from being there.   It is just too sweet, too precious, and too beautiful to want to forget.

On Being an Artist . . . .

In a place called “Kanuga,”  which is in Hendersonville, North Carolina, each year, there is a gathering of artists from virtually ‘everywhere.’   I was honored to be invited as an instructor (one of twelve) there this last week.   You can see what happens there in the photo above.   Some 260 painters come to learn to paint in water-media and to improve their repertoire of skills.

In the first official hour, we were all introducing ourselves.   A very poised lady stood to introduce herself and explained that she liked to paint, liked to spend countless hours at a potter’s wheel and loved making quilts . . . . . . .but “I am not an artist,” she said.

This made me think about how so many of us see ourselves . . . . .and mostly, that is out of some sort of comparison against other aritsts . . .their skills . . . .their abundant sales . . . . . their infamy, or whatever.   I am not sure I will ever understand why people compare themselves to others and frequently opt to elect themselves to the lesser of the comparison.

Some people believe there is an “August body of Important People” who bestow the title of “Artist” on us.   This can be seen by the questions that come from lay persons, such as “Are you in a gallery?”  This really means, “has officialdom qualified you as an artist?”

The Irish have a name for this sort of thinking both from the lay people and the people who pursue excellence in art:   MALARKY !

As an instructor, I have the beautiful pleasure of getting to know hundereds of artists.  Yes, hundreds.   And they all have the same thing in common whether or not they are “accomplished:”   They experience very intense emotion about issues and also experience big emotions at sights they see, such as the beauty of reflections on the surface of water, or the god like sculpture of a distorted tree . . . . or the face of a rocky bluff . . . .or the splash of the sea against centuries old rocks. . . . . . . . . . .or the dapled light inside a shadow.   You know what I am saying here.   Some of us find that we can hardly catch our breath when confronted with such sights.

The fact is that artists are gifted people.   We are gifted to experience deeply felt emotion when we see such things . . . . and there is a deeply seated urge to express our feelings.   That is precisely what makes an artist.   Whether you are highly accomplished from years and years of experience or a stumbling beginner, you and the experienced artist feel exactly the same in your souls.   We call such people kindred spirits.

And so it was at Kanuga this last week.   A gathering of 260 kindred spirits.   In such a gathering an energy emerges from every individual and the group as a whole.   There is a sense of One-ness or a bond, if you will.   Put twenty such people in a room together and the place expands with excited energy.   It is as if we are all experiencing a reunion of people we knew in previous lives.   In fact, it IS a reunion.   We are all connected to this world in the same way.   We have all been given a very special gift.

And if you don’t believe you are gifted . . . .?    Just look at those ‘lay persons’ around us who clearly don’t understand us . . . . .some even roll their eyes at the mention that “He or she is an artist.”   They live in a world of “reality,” or so they say.   They are the ones who lope through the Louvre Museum in an hour to say they have been there, yet cannot relate with the years of frustration and angst that we artists experience to produce even a single work . . . .amateur or otherwise.   Us artists live in a plane of life that is beautiful, exciting, frustrating (from not being able to produce perfection), penalizing and rewarding.   We get excited about something on which to base a painting, dream about it at night, day dream about it, even dismiss ourselves from being present in the other events of life.

Being an artist is not a title.  Some believe it to be foolishness.  It is NOT.   It is, quite honestly, very serious.   It is a way of experiencing life.   It is how we connect to the planet and all who inhabit it.   We get to see the beauty in things as simple and mundane as a coffee cup or as complex as the rythmic movement of underwater vegetation in a current.   We are the ones who not only see, but feel something about what we see and are compelled to express our feelings.   We are Artists.   Those of us who are, are immensely blessed.  I know this because I AM one.

“Blowhard II”
Watercolor 22 x 30 inches
Every now and then, something Pops up that we all have to scurry around for . . . 
I have just been informed by the Sunnyvale Art Gallery (in Sunnyvale, California) that I will be giving a workshop there,  “Painting Beyond the Obvious,”  January 14 through 18, 2013.   Watercolor or acrylic.
Painting demonstrations, Lectures, Exercises, Painting and plenty of interesting and exciting stuff for five full days!   Learn how you can devise incredible paintings with fascinating designs  . . . .how you can adopt a subject as your special learning partner . . . .how to throw away your photos and paint from your heart to get exciting results.   It is all about the stuff that isn’t very obvious to most people.   We will be exposing painting secrets that you will be able to take away to your studio and use for the rest of your painting life.
Call Sue Kim at 408-737-7760 for all the details and how to enroll.   Act fast as it will fill very quickly!

A Painting Trip to Southern France !!!

Domaine Haut Baran
Our Quarters for Ten Glorious Days

Lavendar and Poppies
Location: Southern France
Oh My Goodness !!! I almost forgot to post this great upcoming event here!! I am soooo excited to be taking a group of 15 painters (and non painters) to this great location near Toulouse, France that my head has been in the clouds over it !!!
June 28 to July 8, 2012, we will be smack in the rural countryside of the Perigord region of France, which will be saturated with blooming Lavender fields and blooming sunflower fields! Yikes! The color!! The aromas!! The rolling countryside in this region is simply, to put it mildly, beautiful! And the foods . . . . . !!! OMG !! Can you imagine fresh, warm Croissants with your morning coffee every morning? Can you picture you and your friends at a long dinner table being served the finest French cuisines by your hosts . . . .and . . . . .the laughter and chatter about the day’s adventures? Can you? And what about (perhaps) standing up to your hips in wild flowers painting the fields and and local chateaus? Sound romantic ?
We will also have a studio in which to paint and a fine villa in which to stay (see photo above) while being hosted by a charming couple. The lodgings are tip top quality and quite reflective of the surrounding region’s culture and heritage. There will be side trips during the ten days to ancient villages where you can shop, sight see and snack / dine on the local fare. Wines? Of course! Fromages? Bien Sur!!
My fantastic wife, Diana, and I have taken groups to Europe four times before this. We are most excited to be able to host both painters and non painters at this fabulous place. If you have never met Diana, you are in for a treat! She is lively and full of mischief and fun. She’ll keep us giggling for much of the trip, I promise!
Interested? Know someone who might be interested ? Check more out at Domaine Haut Baran. There are lots of pictures and loads of information there to drink in and arouse your senses. If you are interested in learning more you can email me at I will answer all your questions, including the most important one of price, and be able to put you in touch with our hosts so you can explore the possibilities directly with them.
Looking forward to hearing from you!

A Breakthrough

“Straddling the Mean”
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
This last week was a big week in my class, entitled “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious.” It is a ten week long course with multiple goals: to paint a series of paintings around the same subject, to learn about and apply the elements and principles of design and to get past mental barriers preventing success. The class is lively with lots of lecture and examples presented, while the participants paint two 22″ x 30″ paintings each week and bring them for critique. Each class session features over 40 paintings for the class to see critiqued.
The above painting was a preparation for class to illustrate the design principle of Harmony. It also was used to introduce the idea of the Golden Mean and how it might be applied in composing a painting.
Using M. Graham’s richly pigmented watercolor paints, this painting was developed using the red and blue green complimentary colors . . . . .opposites on the color wheel and showing a possible way of relating the opposing / contrasting colors and values via the small colored lines across the picture plane. On the red side, the blue green, blues, and greens were employed in the little line strips to relate to the other side of the painting where the same colors appeared in the rectangular shape. And, conversely, the strips within that shape were colored in the colors that appear in the big square shape on the left. The objective was to relate the two sides.
George Post, a famous California Regionalist painter from the past taught his classes to “paint relationships.” That is bucket full of words which sailed right over my head the first time I heard them. But now, after many years of painting, I could not agree more! Relating dissimilar things by emphasizing their similarities, or imposing similarities, as I did in the above painting, is what Post meant. It helps bring a unity to the painting and offers the artist seven different avenues to approach imposing some sort of relationship . . . . .through the use of line, size, shape, direction, color, value or texture. As you can see, line and color were used to impose something of a relationship between the contrasting spaces in the above painting.
It was a big lesson for everyone, including me! It took me many years of painting to come to this understanding so I could express it in words and show it visually, too. A breakthrough!

Workshops . . .

“Sonoma Vineyard”
22×30 inches
The painting above is from a series of photos taken while on a visit to Sonoma, California to spend a weekend with a dear friend, Mr. Dick Cole. As you may know, Dick is a fabulous painter and is the President Emeritus of NWS. The reason for my visit last year was that I was taking on the presidency of that same organization. So, being the pals we are, Dick and I, and our wives, during that weekend, sat about drinking the fine wines of the area, sightseeing, dining at a great restaurant and generally shooting the breeze about the directions and my vision for NWS.
I hadn’t accounted for the fact that my workshop schedule might be impacted by taking on the presidency of such an august body as NWS, but it has, indeed. I am disappointed that I must follow a more limited schedule than usual. Because priorities dictated that my NWS 2011 schedule be set first, I could make only a few commitments for workshops. Now that the schedule has been decided, I am fortunate to report that I have but two to three available time slots for 2011.
If you know of an organization that is seeking a lively watercolor workshop instructor to bring design and composition to life for a group of enthusiastic painters, have the organization email me at
I am expecting to be on both coasts of the USA more than once this year, so give me a shout!
Meanwhile, I will be “suffering” (while living the dream) with brush in hand at lush locations, such as Sonoma or California’s central coast to make some excitement come to life on a piece of paper or canvas. Rough life!! 😉
An exciting year is ahead and I plan on being right in the thick of the excitement!

Studio Busy News

“picasso” wet from the rain
No paintings today, folks. Just news.

It may seem as though nothing is happening in my studio, but quite the opposite is in play. It seems as though everything is coming at once.
First news is my entry to AWS was an award winning painting at NWS, but was turned away at AWS. Go figger that! Who knows why? It is always a crap shoot . . .luck has to play a part.
Second news . . . .my workshop season is in full swing! Am off to Reno this week, then to the Carolinas and beyond in the next 30 days. My studio is being used frantically as I prep for classes, exercises and examples for the participants . . . and the mess is stacking up. Any of you painters out there have difficulty keeping things in order in your studio? For me, the busier, the messier.
Third news . . . .I have a new “job.” This job is one full of honor and responsibility to tradition and prestige. I must answer to those who have gone before me as examples and it won’t be easy. However, I am hoping I will be able to bring new wisdom, new energy and lots of expansion to the post. I have been chosen as President of NWS (National Watercolor Society). I officially took office this last month. Busier!
If any of you out there have thoughts about the society or where you’d like to see it go, I would like to hear from you.
Many of you know of the other news . . . we have a new puppy. “Picasso” is his name. And, yes, he is very demanding and steals our attention constantly. (What were we thinking?? :p) ) Even busier!!!

Today’s Demo

“Rocks and Carpets”
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
This was the demo today. It is a fairly complex painting with challenges in linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, compostion, value structure, color and texture.
I attempted to show and discuss the thinking process in developing a decent watercolor painting, the preparation and planning to establish a strong composition to a ‘standing room only’ crowd of around 90 to 100 painters. it was exciting and fun!
As most of my readers know from reading this blog, and seeing the paintings posted here, I try very hard to go out to where other watercolorists visit rarely, if ever. This piece was more of a traditional watercolor painted so the audience would relate with the scene, as well as the structure of the piece. I attempted to show how the elements and principles apply in realism, as well as abstract painting.
If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it . . .and I hope you will comment here. All in all it was a fun afternoon, but I have to admit that it took several hours for me to ‘come down.’ I get nervous about these sort of things, even though I paint a lot.
This demo kicked off my ten week course beginning tomorrow, “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious.” More about it later. Thanks to those who came today. You were a terrific audience!