Michael Holter
Figurative Watercolor Workshop
Dec 3-5, 2013

Texas artist, Michael Holter will teach a workshop at Artists' Showplace Gallery on how to create stunning figurative watercolors from photographs.

Secure your spot in this workshop with your deposit (non refundable, non transferable) of $75. Call the gallery at 972-233-1223

Balance is due one month prior to the start of the workshop.

Michael Holter works in both watercolor and oil. His work has received numerous awards and recognition and can be found in private and corporate collections in the US and several foreign countries. His current work in two categories: watercolor figurative and oil landscapes (both plein air and studio).

Although he has been painting most of his life, his work experience spans a wide range of creative endeavors, from art teacher and creative director to businessman in fine art and commercial art. Michael has owned and operated two galleries. Michael holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education and an MA in Visual Communication.

Michael is a member of the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society, The Transparent Watercolor Society, The Outdoor Painters Society, the Portrait Society of America, and is a signature member of Southwestern Watercolor Society and The Society of Watercolor Artists.

"I think of my work as impressionistic. I like to represent people or places and allow the painting to evolve from the structure of what is recognizable. The challenge is to balance the care needed to make the representation interesting… and perhaps believable, with the freedom, looseness and painterly quality that makes painting so unique and expressive."

"I have been influenced by artists such as Charles Reid, Richard Schmid, Burt Silverman, Frank Webb, John Singer Sargent, Ted Nuttall and many others. Even though I have an art degree, most of what I put into practice is self-taught through studying the work of these distinguished artists and much painting."

"My wife, Cyndy, and I grew up in on the wide-open plains of North Dakota and arrived in Plano, TX by way of Minnesota (I can paint a snowy winter landscape with the best of ‘em) prior to our east coast years in Virginia. We often travel enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.  Currently, I am working on a series of figurative paintings and a series influenced by a recent trip to Istanbul and the Mediterranean regions of Turkey.”

The Workshop

Many artists have an unnatural aversion to painting people, yet we know there is an attraction to the human form in a painting. Not only does including people in your work add interest and connection to the viewer, it takes the same skills as painting a landscape or still life. The method Michael demonstrates and instructs will take you through the necessary steps to achieve your goals and give you tools to create a well-structured representation while still allowing for the expressive use of color and brushstroke.

Michael’s workshop will include insightful discussion of important aspects of figurative work such as composition and capturing a mood. You will spend time on exercises designed to heighten your techniques. There will be real-time demonstrations as well as high-speed video demos of Michael working in his studio. Students of all levels and interests will enjoy Michael’s personal and up-front style of teaching as well as his inspirational approach to his work. Students will leave prepared and challenged to move on to a new level of confidence in painting portraits in watercolor.

Workshop Supply List

Note: Please read the supply list carefully to assure that you are prepared with the necessary materials for the workshop.


I work on Arches 300# hot press paper for these figurative paintings, although I have painted on cold press and 140#. The 300# is more expensive but very functional. A good substitute is Arches watercolor board — a less expensive solution that will not buckle and comes in both HP and CP.

For some of the exercises, some 140 # will work well – so have some of this as well. I would recommend working ¼ sheet… ½ maximum for this workshop.


My palette includes the following Winsor & Newton and M Graham colors unless noted otherwise:

cadmium red light (Holbein or M Graham)

raw sienna,

cerulean blue,

cobalt teal,

mineral violet (Holbein or M Graham)

alizarin crimson,

ultramarine blue,

hookers green.

quinacridone gold

cadmium orange,

The following are on my palette but I use them less frequently. Don’t buy them if you don’t currently have them.

cadmium yellow,

new gamboge

yellow ochre,

raw sienna,

burnt sienna (prefer the WN),

burnt umber,

cobalt blue,

sap green

I would suggest using tubes instead of dry cakes and that you avoid the student grade paints.


I usually use a John Pike palette and also an inexpensive folding palette on occasion. Any palette will do.


Any kind will do.


I use a lightweight wood drawing board or mdf (medium density fiberboard) to mount my paper on.


I use wide masking tape to tape my paper to the board.

You may use clamps, push pins or any system that suits you.

I have been using tape lately to keep the clean edge that results when it is removed.


I would like you to use rounds for your brushes in the workshop. There are a number of manufacturers of excellent sable brushes on the market. Pure sables are wonderful but if you are on a budget there are good substitutes made with a combination of natural and synthetic hairs. I use a #18 Silver Kolinsky Sable, a Princeton Neptune Quill #6 (synthetic) an Isabey Squirrel Quill #6, and 2 sizes of the Silver Black Velvet #16 and # 8 (synthetic/squirrel – these are great for the price).


I do much of my painting with the paper surface nearly vertical. I will sometimes vary the angle for some affects but an easel is my standard. I often use a French box easel that can be tilted at any angle. While many painters are not accustomed to painting vertically, I would like everyone to try it.


A good absorbent cloth towel or roll of paper towels will work well. 


We will be working from photographs.

  • Do:  
  • Shoot lots of photos of people leading up to the workshop.
  • Shoot in natural light (no flash)
  • Shoot in direct sun and look for interesting shadow patterns on the face and clothing.
  • Pick a photo with lots of good light and dark patterns
  • Look for a way to crop the photo to give you an interesting composition
  • Look for photo with good eyes
  • Print your photo as large as possible (if you can print it the same size as your painting, it will help you evaluate as you go.


  • Do Not:
  • Use a smiley photo with lots of tooth showing…
  • Use a photo taken with a flash
  • Work from a family photo because you always wanted to paint niece Suzy… it can be difficult to separate yourself from what she looks like in reality.
  • Work from an image made on a standard copier.


Bring your camera. We will work briefly on capturing a good image and you may find having your camera available will be a bonus. Any good camera will do. I have even used my iphone to capture an image that has become a successful painting. I use a Nikon Digital SLR.


If you have a laptop computer or tablet you may bring it so you can also have your photo available digitally (great for zooming in to see details).


Any pencil will do. Not too soft, since this is more line drawing than sketching. A kneaded eraser.


We will not use the time in the workshop to complete the drawing for your first painting, so come prepared with at least one ready to go.

Use simple graphite pencil and create your contour drawing with special attention paid to small details — Shadow patterns (use a sharp line along a cast shadow edge), any jewelry or clothing patterns, eyes, lips, glasses…

If you feel comfortable drawing freehand, please do… even if you choose to draw a stylized figure (but you must pay attention to the actual details)

If you would like to transfer the image with a grid method or use a projector feel free. I am more interested in the composition of the image and the actual painting in watercolor than in how skilled you are at drawing. The drawing is the foundation for the painting, so give it attention.

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