Monday, August 2, 2010

Photo of the Day and Cheap Joe's Workshop

Today's photo was actually taken at my sister's house some time ago, but it is one I'd like to try a watercolor sketch from, so I thought it was appropriate to share it with you.

I am still "high" from the Cheap Joe's Watercolor Workshop in Holland, MI, and can't wait to attempt a small work to share with you. The class could not have been better. There were 25 of us, two to a long work table with lots of space to work comfortably in. There were chairs set up in between the tables facing the instructors table with a tilted mirror above it so that everyone could see clearly what he was doing.

What an interesting mix of people - all women (except Joe); there were several professional watercolorists present and they were happy to share their work and suggestions in a friendly, helpful way. I was so concerned that I wouldn't fit in; after all, it was not only my first watercolor try, but my first ever art workshop!

I must say the label "Cheap" doesn't apply to Joe, just to his inexpensive prices on his art supplies. He and his lovely wife Linda had gifts for us every day! And he was so generous with his time and so patient. He told the most wonderful stories. The best one that almost brought tears to my eyes was the story of Vincent Van Gogh as told by his brother, Theo,  through the use of the letters that Vincent sent to him nearly every day. Joe would get so into the story that he would become Theo and refer to Vincent as "my brother". It was spellbinding!

On to the particulars of my experience - the first day I was a little mouse, fearful and timid and very nearly tearful. My first attempt at a value study was a huge boost for me, but my first watercolor from my value study was awful (worse than awful - horrendously pitiful!). And to make matters worse, my left ankle was horribly swollen and quite painful. But my dear sister-in-law had some Benadryl for me and each night before I went to sleep I would take some and ice my ankle and each morning it was a little better.

The second day flew by and I was still intimidated, but had given my inner critic the boot. I was determined to "do" some watercolor. All these people made it look so easy! I did a couple of value studies using one color; one in yellows (not a great choice) and one in greens (better). Although I don't love them, they are so much better than yesterday's work that I was cheered a bit.

The third day I worked on organizing a large palette with a lid and it looked so pretty I was loathe to get it dirty. But I finally mixed up some color and played. I didn't end up with any beautiful art to show you, but  I had fun.

And the gifts! You won't believe what we were given:

I will try to list what is in this picture starting from the back and going from left to right:

A water bucket with a removable divided insert for water. I can't believe I took the picture with the Cheap Joe's label in the back. Oops!
A water color journal.
A watercolor paper cutter.
Wildflower seeds.
A lovely "goof proof" blank greeting card sampler.
A towel.
A sponge to which you just add water.
An American Journey artists' watercolor stick in Bumblebee Yellow.
A spatter screen.
A value finder.
A selection of sketching pencils and two pens.
A pencil sharpener.
The one thing that is not pictured is a water accepting acetate sheet that you can put over your painting to preview what you are thinking of doing to change what you already have done before having to commit to it.

Also, if you have the opportunity to stay in Holland, I can't recommend City Flats Hotel enough. It is a very luxurious, European flavored, eco friendly hotel in which every room is different. Ours was spectacularly comfortable. 

By the time you read this, we are on the road again. We are going to spend 5 days at the brother-in-law's condo in Sugar Loaf in the Leelanau Peninsula with our two kids and their three girls. It is sure to be a good time. But when it is over, I just want to be a homebody for awhile.

I love going, but nothing compares to coming home when the adventure is done.



  1. I think your value studies are wonderful! so glad you had a good experience. Look forward to seeing what you do next.

  2. Wow Vicki! Sounds like the workshop was a great success. I so understand the feelings at the beginning of the workshop and the not knowing if you are going to fit in, or pull the group down. I have found that never is the problem! Everyone I have ever met at a workshop is there for the same reason I am--that is to learn and grow from where ever they are at that moment. Workshops are AWESOME!! Have a great visit with the family and take care of your self.

  3. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. There is a big art something coming up on Pasadena in October that my wife is excited about, especially the workshops. Strangely, I hadn't thought about attending them myself. You've given me food for though :)

  4. Wow - great gifts and a great opportunity to work with and talk with Joe himself!! and I really like your value studies, the yellow one is my Fav!! Travel safe.

  5. Results are showing all over Vicki, and that workshop really is something!

  6. I'm so happy you had a great time and learned many things! Your value studies are very good - especially the yellow one. And, what a haul of goodies you got. All in all, it seems like it was worth the $$. Hope your leg is all better by now and that you're having a wonderful time up north. hugs, nancy

  7. Sounds like this was an awesome course! It is great when you get a good instructor and have fun as well!

  8. Very nice experience for you at your first workshop...that's always a good'll have a good time playing when you get home, especially with the haul of nice gifts! We weren't so lucky at the workshop I went to.

    Have a good time up north. I love to go too, but coming home is the best.

  9. I like both the green and the yellow. In fact I am doing some in acrylic of fruit to hang in my kitchen. When done I'll have a green pic with a pear, a red pic with apples, a purple pic with plums and a blue pic with blueberries. So hang on to these and enjoy them as they came out nice enough to make a grouping of them.

    Have a good time visiting.

  10. A spatter screen sounds fun, would it be the wire mesh thing with a handle?
    I like your little one colour studies, it looks as if you had an interesting time.

  11. Sounds like a fun workshop. Your value studies are great! Joe Miller lives in my town. He used to go to all the schools here and put on a performance about Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. Sounds like you were treated to a bit of that show. How wonderful!

  12. I like the new look for your blog! Simpler, more streamlined. I'm glad you had fun with your watercolor workshop, looks like you learned a lot! I've never experimented much with watercolor, one of these days I'll get there!

  13. I'm so glad you had fun! I think your value sketches are very good and I'm drooling over your goody bag stuff! Did you see what they got at the Urban Sketchers Symposium? Christmastime!

  14. The class sounds like so much fun!And your monochromatic landscapes are just lovely!

  15. I'm proud of you for sticking through it and battling (and winning!) your inner critic. I expect I'll be quaking in my shoes too in a few weeks, attending my first-ever workshop too. Hearing about the experiences through your eyes gives comfort. Glad you had a wonderful time, hope your leg is better, and enjoy your trip!