Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A week in Civita - what I learned

What I learned during the workshop in Civita can be summed up in 2 words: a lot!

Pretty vague, I know, but it really is how I feel after this week. Between the heat and what I was learning, some days it felt like my brain was fried. In a good way.

Now to get into details, the two areas I feel I improved on are use of watercolour and my understanding of perspective. Which were the objectives of the whole workshop, so once again: well-done, teacher!

When it comes to watercolour, I always used to wing it, really. On one hand it was more a colouring than painting medium to me, and on another I didn't feel comfortable mixing colours.

Stephanie introduced us to some colours I had never heard of before (alizarin crimson, for example) and how to mix them. We learned how to mix more vibrant greys and also how to paint beautiful light by using initial glazes over our drawings.

My first "aha!"-moment when it comes to light occurred when we sketched in the cave of the Antica Civitas museum. I started with a light glazing, which in this sketch might be too strong in places, and gradually added layers of painting.

This place dates back from Etruscan times
The result is something I have long tried to do and had never quite learned how to achieve. It was a bit laborious, but with practice it gets easier.

In this next picture, for example, I was much more confident with that technique. I think I also slightly improved how I deal with greenery. I'm not quite there yet, but as long as there is improvement, I'm happy.

The arches in Tony's garden were sketched a lot that week
Perspective is the other main subject on which I learned tons. I did have some understanding of perspective before the workshop, but there were still some things that I hadn't quite grasped, in particular the practical applications of some theories.

Stephanie has a gift for explaining this complicated topic in simple terms. For example, I often struggled with how to find the vanishing points and after Stephanie's tips and instructions it seems like the easiest thing to do.

The painting I'm most proud of for the whole week shows how, by combining perspective with a few watercolour tidbits, sketching the inside of a church can be challenging but extremely fun at the same time.

My biggest achievement of the week :D
I might be biased, but I do think I managed to capture something of the spiritual atmosphere of the church.

There was one last element Stephanie tried to teach us, and that was how to do a 180° view. To be honest, I struggled a lot with that and felt a bit discouraged at some point, but then I learned one more valuable thing: to just have fun with my mistakes.

So instead of drowning in self-pity (there was much unhappy moaning, complaining and sighing going on all around, it was quite amusing, really), I decided to turn something that was frustrating me into something I could laugh about and would just be fun.

The church tried to run away from me but failed
As a result I have a funky looking drawing of Piazza S. Donato; not the classic drawing of a quaint Italian town, but my version on how much amusement can be had when you just let yourself have fun with what appears to be a failure at the time.

Civita as seen from the other side of the bridge