Thomas W. Schaller Workshop
The Architecture of Light
Oct. 22-25th, 2012

Scope :

A final painting is begun by the artist long before his or her brush ever touches the paper. As artists, we observe the world around us and are constantly often subconsciously forming paintings in our minds. And as artists, I believe it is our job to learn how to see; how to identify what it is that will result in the best possible paintings; paintings that tell the stories we wish to tell.

As an artist, it is “light” that is the constant narrative in my work. So when I am deciding on what it is I wish to paint, I concentrate less on specific objects places or things and more on the strength of a strong abstract value composition of darks and lights.

Schaller Watercolo

In my three, four and five day workshops, painting indoors and out, I demonstrate the fundamentals and crucial importance of identifying strong compositional subjects for the artist. No amount of technical expertise or finesse evident in a final painting can compensate for a composition lacking in strength and clarity of a strong idea and solid value organization. We will try to learn how to see the beautiful and infinite compositions all around us in the most grand and most humble of scenes.

Additionally, a theme of my workshops is the dialogue between the architecture of man and the architecture of nature. We will explore the endlessly compelling compositional possibilities of this topic.


Daily I will complete demos for the class to demonstrate the topics to be covered.

1. By site observation, or by using photographic samples and examples from my own sketch book , I will quickly demonstrate the importance of identifying valid compositional subject matter. And then, by executing quick , impressionistic initial abstract value sketches, I will demonstrate how these are used as the basis for the completion of a strong and satisfying watercolor. We will cover the basics of perspective composition and fundamentals of drawing as the root of a successful final painting

2. Participants will be urged to complete simple black and white pencil sketches of proposed subjects from site or from photographs and to discuss how abstract compositions of the three basic values black/white/grey can be arranged to form the basis of a final painting.

Schaller Italy Watercolo

3. Using these completed compositional/value sketches as “roadmaps”, we will quickly sketch our compositions on watercolor paper.

4. Along with me, participants will be guided through the simple steps of using these completed value sketches to set up and quickly complete successful final watercolor sketches.

5. Daily, after an initial demo, we will explore exercises that highlight the depiction of skies, water, architecture, landscapes and atmospheric conditions.

Each day, exercises will become more comprehensive. On the final day, participants will be asked to develop their own compositions which incorporate all the elements covered in previous days.

6. On the afternoon of the final day, we will have an informal “exhibit” of the work done by participants and I will lead an informal critique and question/answer session about what we have learned in the previous days.

Schaller Prague Watercolor

Materials List:

Please feel free to bring whatever materials or supplies make your painting experience the most comfortable. But as a general rule – and especially if we are able to paint outdoors - keeping materials to a minimum as much as possible will make for a much more enjoyable time.

Sketch Pencil with soft lead – and soft white or kneaded eraser

Sketchbook of any comfortable size

Watercolor Paper: Good quality surface – I recommend Arches or Saunders 140 lb. cold-press or rough surface –a minimum of about 10-12 quarter or half-sheet sizes will be needed. Also, good quality watercolor blocks (Arches for example) are fine.

I will be using primarily half-sheets (15X22 inches) of Saunders140lb rough stretched or taped to a board for my demos, studio, and field painting.

Easel: A tabletop easel to allow for angled painting indoors, and a light work board (plywood, particle board, etc. for example) on which paper may be stapled or taped, and/or a simple outdoor tripod easel for field or studio work

Schaller Seattle Watercolor

Watercolor Palette: any type with which you are most comfortable, but it must allow for at least three good-sized mixing wells.

I use a 12-inch folding metal Holbein plein-air palette for both studio and field work

Pigments: At the very least, 3 high-quality tube colors : a red, a blue, and a yellow. But I suggest the complimentary combinations of Cobalt Blue / Light Red ; Ultramarine Blue / Burnt Siena : Yellow / Violet : Viridian / Alizarin Crimson

I will be using the following palette of pigments by Holbein, Windsor Newton, and Daniel Smith. Cad. Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Burnt Siena, Cad. Red Light, Cad. Orange, Alizarin Crimson, Viridian, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine. (Special colors; Holbein: Naples Yellow, Verditer Blue, Lavender, Mineral Violet, Neutral Tint)

Brushes: I suggest a minimum of 3 brushes – a #4 and #6.squirrel mop or equivalent, and a #8 round.

I will be using a number of mops (Neef numbers 2,4,6,8,10) several rounds; (Escoda Perla Numbers 4,6,8) a large and small flat, and a #4 rigger

Misc:, Masking tape, light-weight water container, water atomizer, small sea sponge, and paper towels are needed.

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