The other day I had the grand pleasure of meeting, painting, and grabbing a beer with Joseph Zbukvic. Zbukvic is here in the Bay Area for the week conducting a workshop provided by the folks from the California Watercolor Association. By lack of funds, I was unable to join the workshop (however, it was also booked in minutes), but I was offered an exclusive invitation by my friend David to come spend some time before he goes back to Australia.
We grabbed lunch in Alameda and headed over to SF to paint. We visited the Presidio and painted the homes that once housed U.S. soldiers. Then again across the street from the hotel he stayed at. I don't have any pictures from our day except the group photo mainly because we were there to paint, have fun, and enjoy the experience. Afterwards, grabbed a beer and listened to his stories, advice, and exchanged glances of our sketchbooks.
The day before our time in SF, I also attended his demo at the Shadelands Center in Walnut Creek, which was open to the public. I was reunited with other watercolor artists I haven't seen in a while and also met new folks, one who has a business making palettes. Anyway, I do have pictures from the night of the demo.
The reference was from one of his own paintings of jockey's and horses at the track. His painting philosophy is to tell a story with your work. If there is no story, then it's just a pretty picture. The story in this painting is about the bright early morning as the sun rises on the track where the jockey's and the race horses are in training, running trials. It's a simple thing that artists overlook sometimes. It gives you a further purpose in making something.
Z didn't talk much about his process. He didn't have to. Everyone who attended just wanted to see him paint. Instead, he described his experience visiting the Bay Area and went on about the importance of value and color temperature.
The most he worked on was the background at the left corner because he was the most unhappy about it during the process. If it wasn't there or not done right, then the painting would be off. It was a connector that lead to the main focus, the horses/jockey's. So, it was imperative to get that right or else the painting won't be as interesting.
He mentioned how important it is to capture the essence of a subject. If you don't get it, it'll fall apart or you'll overwork it and the painting will get lost. The simple comparison he made was to picture a portrait with poorly drawn eyes. You'll know right away when something as obvious as off looking eyes. Every subject and the overall painting has eyes. There's no further reasoning to make something look like something other than making it look like it (for you life artists, that might drive you nuts, yes yes there's always further reasoning to something). However, capture the essence and everything else will follow its lead.
This was the finished work. I think the demo was about an hour. It's something like 16x20? I recommend to anyone to attend or take workshops from successful artists at least once. It's just like going to a gallery or museum, but better. It'll push you to try a new approach to your work and see things from a different angle. Hell, it may even give you an off experience that can push you to be better than that artist, reassuring your own skills and philosophies. Either way it can help. As artists we all have our own methods and the best thing we can offer to each other is our vision.
I want to plug Zbukvic's website here.
Also my good friend David Savellano here.
Time to get back to serious work!