A Workshop at Casa de Los Artistas, Robert Masla Studios South 

“I loved the Casa Experience. Lovely and exquisite environment and sights! Lots to paint in plein air. Tony’s energy for teaching stands out in my mind along with his wit, charm and insight into improving my painting! -This is quality instruction in an authentic and colorful location with gracious and articulate hosts and staff. Awesome! (how can you make any money with such lavish dinners-!), So appreciated. One big dinner would have been fine.” – S. M., Seattle


Tony van Hasselt, Market Days, watercolor on paper

If you have ever had the privilege of taking a workshop with Tony van Hasselt you are aware of the great energy and joy – the passion – he brings to painting in plein air, as he calls it, “natures studio without walls”, and sharing that passion with others. You also know that Tony shares a whole lot more than his passion and just plein air painting. He shares many years of painting and teaching experience, and that has translated into some very concrete methods he has created to help you improve your painting skills regardless of what media you use or whether you work in plein air or the studio. Another unique aspect of this workshop is that Tony shows his methods for creating an “Artists Sketchbook Journal”. Being one of the originators of international travel painting workshops, (Tony created his travel paint learn business, Painting Holidays in 1963, which he later sold to American Artist Magazine), Tony has literally dozens of such sketchbook journals from his adventures around the globe and opens up his methods to participants.


Tony van Hasselt, sketchbook journal, view from the zocalo, at the Mt. town of El Tuito.

Through daily demonstrations both in the studio and in plein air, Tony teaches principles as well as techniques and methods to create strong paintings. Tony also shares his unique insight in offering suggestions to artists for their work back in the studio by painting on a sheet of acetate laid on top of their paintings. Artist can then photograph the suggestions and apply them later to their work if they desire.

You can see a couple of new video examples of Tony sharing his painting wisdom by clicking this link and scrolling down. The first is Tony putting to practice the axiom he likes to quote from Ben Franklin – “Failing to prepare – is preparing to fail”. The video takes place on the first morning of the workshop where Tony is doing a tonal value sketch on the beach in front of the Casa. In this short 6+ minute demo, (though much of the dialogue is drowned out by the sound of the surf and gulls, etc. I type in his instruction so you don’t miss it), Tony emphasizes the point of establishing your values, the energy and composition of your painting in a small thumbnail. – I also like the fact that it gives you a real feel of painting on the beach in Boca, one of my favorite pastimes!

Tony van Hasselt, El Tuito, watercolor on paper – click on the image above and scroll down for videos

The second video takes place in the Casa studio. After a day of painting at one of the many exotic locations, (the beach in front of the Casa or at Colomitos Cove, The Botanical Gardens, the square in the Mt. town of El Tuito…), Tony takes the work of participants that would like his insightful feedback, places a sheet of acetate over it and paints his suggestions on the acetate.

Though he primarily works in watercolor, the principles he teaches are applicable regardless of the media you choose to work in. 8 of these principles Tony has created into a visual system, a check list of reminders an artist can use in evaluating the progress of their work. Here is what it says about these “Building Blocks of Painting” on Tony’s website;

“Since artists think and learn visually, van Hasselt designed a visual reminder system which eliminates the need to remember hundreds of do’s and don’ts. It is based on age old design principles handed down by our forefathers in art. This system serves to visually remind you what to do and think about during the painting process. Used as a checklist, it helps you to analyze just what is wrong in uncompleted work.  Since there are no “rules” in art, these guidelines are based on the experience passed down by generations of masters in every painting medium and style.

So what are these Building Blocks of Painting and what do they look like… 

… In each of his workshops Tony goes over these Building Blocks, one at a time and demonstrates how they are used in painting.

They are:









But, as Tony points out, artists are visual people, so he created a visual symbol system, (he gives out small pocket cards for artists to carry, and sometimes posters for their studios). It looks like this:


On his website Tony goes on to explain each of the diagrams and how to apply them in detail. For example, the first symbol on the top left, TONALITY – The most important Building Block, he begins with the following:

“The symbol suggests grouping a subject’s tonal values into three major ones. The light, medium and dark tonal range covers all colors. In addition there is the accent of the white quadrant and the accent of the very dark colors suggested by the border.”

He goes on to explain how to see values and “hear – see- them as visual chords” and arranging them in your composition. You can read all about his Building Blocks and so much more by visiting his website: www.TonyVanHasselt.com on the left hand column you can click on The Building Blocks – Happy Painting!



“An incredible experience in learning the art of painting! Would not have missed this! John MacDonald is a superb teacher and dedicated artist.” – Steve and Judy Puthuff, Calif. participants in John MacDonalds 2016 workshop at the Casa

Johns Studio

Visit John MacDonalds’ Studio, click here

When I was putting this blog together I received an email from John, (very synchronistic), with a link to a video on Eric Rhoads Facebook, (among other things, Eric is the publisher,  of Plein Air Magazine), where he had posted a video interview with John at his studio, (located about an hour from me in Williamstown, MA.). Click the image of Johns studio above or to the left to be taken to the video.
If you have ever studied with John, you have had both the privilege of watching him paint as well benefit from his thorough explanation of his process, keen eye and supportive words. If you haven’t, you should take advantage of the opportunity to accelerate your growth as a painter before he takes a break from teaching in 2018. Now is the time to garner the wealth of information, insight and inspiration he shares. (you can read more about the actual workshop at the Casa here). 

When I tell you John is dedicated to painting and teaching and shares a wealth of information, I am very serious. His newsletters are filled with advice on painting and he literally gives each student that comes to the Casa workshop a booklet filled with his teaching. I would like to share with you here just a snippet from one of these. 


Stream Golds

John MacDonald, “Stream Golds”, oil

Painting Water • Part I: Rivers and Streams

Water comes in an endless variety of forms: lakes, ponds, placid steams, muddy rivers, mountain cascades, and the ever-changing ocean. Throw in a variety of weather conditions, differences in water quality, and the changing light, and the complexity found in the appearance of water can quickly become overwhelming. Because of the breadth of the topic and the limitations on my time, I’m going to address it over the next several newsletters. In this issue, we’ll look at some basic rules of painting all types of water and then dive deeply (sorry, couldn’t resist) into the specifics of streams and rivers, their appearance, forms, and how we can begin to translate their complexity into paint.

Rule #1: Don’t paint water, paint shapes. The only way to be able to see and skillfully paint the complex madness of water is to see it as a group of interlocking shapes, each with a specific value, color, and edge. Shapes! Shapes! Shapes! You are NOT painting water but SHAPES. If you can acquire this skill–to see a stream as simply a variety of 2-dimensional shapes and then carefully translate those into paint on your canvas– lo and behold, you’ll step back and discover that you’ve created a 3-dimensional illusion of water. It’s magic and it begins with seeing and then painting shapes. (By the way, this rule applies not only to painting water but for painting anything: cityscapes, a still-life, the figure, etc. It’s a must-have skill!)

Rule #2: You can’t paint what you can’t see. In theory,… –  if you can see and paint shapes then you can stop here and ignore the rest of this newsletter. It’s not absolutely necessary to know what you’re looking at when trying to paint water–it’s all just shapes. Well, that’s the theory. In practice, because we can’t paint shapes that we can’t see, it’s helpful to know what to look for. Let’s break down the shapes. . .

The visual anatomy of steams and rivers

A stream or river typically has three essential visual components:
1. Bottom / Deep Water
2. Reflections (sky and objects)
3. Surface items (Objects, ripples, or rapids)

Untitled 4

1. The bottom into deep water.

If the water in a stream or river is shallow and clear, the bottom is nearly always visible, especially near the edges of the banks. As the water deepens, the bottom and its details will fade from view. The color will shift towards the blue in clear water or a deeper brown ochre in muddy water. The value will also shift, usually becoming slightly darker. As the water deepens and the bottom disappears we begin to see the reflections in the water.

Direction of Light

Untitled 3

In the photo above, with the sun behind us and with less value contrast between sky, ground, and water, the transition from bottom/deep water to reflections is gradual. The details visible on the bottom of the stream slowly fade into the deeper color of the water which then gives way to the reflec- tions. Notice that the entire stream is in a narrow value range (squint at the photo) with color shifts becoming more important than shifts in value. The entire stream is almost middle value.

In the photo below we look into the sun with a light sky and very dark, silhouetted trees. Notice how the bottom is only visible in the dark reflections of the trees. The reflected sky is so light that it washes out any view of the bottom. Within the dark reflections, the bottom details fade and darken as they move back into the darkest areas of the reflections (#3).

Untitled 3

Bottom details

Because the eye exaggerates contrasts, we often paint the details visible in the stream bottom with too much value and color contrast and with edges too hard. Details should subtle. Keep the values and colors close and the edges soft!

Deep Water

In those cases where the bank drops off so steeply that no bottom is visible, only the color of the deep water is visible, usually a dark brown or blue depending on water quality. This can be the darkest area in the stream. As the eye moves away from the bank the reflections become more evident.
©JOHNMACDONALD 2016  To download the full article, (there is a bit more) and others, as well as sign up for Johns newsletter visit his website:

Loose does not Equal Unstructured
– Abstract Acrylic Painting & Collage Workshop with Bob Burridge
“This Workshop was wonderful – 11 out of 10. The Group was great, our hosts were lovely and welcoming, the place is beautiful. This was the best of many, many workshops I’ve attended. Bob’s communication, inspiration, knowledge and mastery were excellent!”
– B.K., Bethesda, MD

Bob Burridge making the rounds to each artist at his last workshop at the Casa  

If you have taken a workshop with Bob Burridge before than he needs no introduction. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to experience his unique teaching style and garner the wealth of information, insight and inspiration he shares, (you can read more about the actual workshop at the Casa here).

A dedicated painter, Bob has an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm for painting and the creative process. He shares his wit and wisdom in a generous and contagious manner.

Bob Burridge shares a wealth of information through his lectures, demos and practical information and  suggestions.

“Free Range #14“, acrylic, Robert Burridge

Though Bob is known famously for his for his loose abstracted paintings and his unique ability to help painters loosen up and be more expressive through his workshops and mentoring programs, that doesn’t mean he is not organized or highly disciplined. On the contrary, both in his workshop presentation and his daily painting regimen he is thoroughly organized and structured. It is through this structure that one is liberated to be loose and still achieve your desired results.

Some of the structure and discipline Bob has developed in his creative process comes through in his teaching process and schedule. One of these ways his dedication to sharing his enthusiasm for the painting process manifests is in his “Weekly Bob Blast” These are short videos that he publishes through his newsletter and on his website every Monday, (he has archived on his website some 80+ of them). If you haven’t seen any of these we are sharing that link above.

We can get a greater appreciation and insight into Bob’s creative genius and discipline when we look a little bit at his past achievements ….

…. Bob graduated from the University of the Arts (formerly Philadelphia College of Art) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Design and a minor in Fine Art Painting. As a designer, he had the opportunity to create and invent new products for Litton Industries (the first production electronic cash register and bar code scanner for retail and food stores), Becton- Dickinson (medical, surgical and biomechanical devices) and as the Principal Designer for Westinghouse Electronic Corporation, he produced product designs for 15 Divisions, receiving the Grand Industrial Design Award of the Year in 1976 for a Power Circuit Breaker, an Uninterruptible Power System, an Advanced Nuclear Control room consoles and Industrial Control switches.

And finally, as an independent design consultant living in Santa Barbara, California, he invented new wheelchairs for the severely disabled, designed the first digital sound editing consoles for a Hollywood sound studio to edit the blockbuster movie, “StarsWars” and created the electronic circuit breaker featured in the movie “Jurassic Park.”

Roberts’ other product designs include a kitchen line for Corning Glass, a hands-free automatic soap dispenser and hand dryer for public rest rooms, surgically implanted body parts, custom wheelchairs for Cerebral Palsied children, brain surgical drills as well as a few whimsical products like tubular fabric lights, desk accessories and Teva Sandals, to name a few. During this time he held the honored position as Consultant to the President’s Committee for the Handicapped, Adjunct Professor of Design at Cooper Union Art College, NewYork, the Visiting Critic Advisor for photography at Harvard University and finally, CEO and Design Principal of his own advertising and design agency, which was rated as Fortune’s Top, Fastest Growing Companies in 1984. He was elected into the Human Factors Society and the International Council of Color Consultants. Robert holds 23 design, mechanical and chemical patents. During all this time, however, at night and on weekends, he turned into another person… a painter. Eventually his ever longing passion to invent new paintings consumed him.

In 1985, he turned his passion into his second career. Robert retired from industrial design and became a full time, contemporary fine art painter, moved to California’s Central Coast and prepared to paint for the rest of his life. Today, besides painting, he is an invited juror for international art shows, college and national painting workshop instructor, and teaches a fine art mentor program in central France. Selected as the honorary President of the International Society of Acrylic Painters, he holds a signature member position with them and with the Philadelphia Watercolor Society.

Roberts’ original paintings can be seen in six international galleries, on Starbucks Coffee mugs, Pearl Vodka bottles, eight tapestries and on fine art edition prints in upscale retail stores and cruise ships. Roberts’ work has received lifetime honors, including The Franklin Mint Award and the Philadelphia Water color Society’s prestigious Crest Medal Award for achievement in the arts previously awarded to Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargent and Georgia O’Keeffe.

It is said “your heart doesn’t know how old you are.” For Bob, it’s true. Painting everyday in his small studio overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he feels like a kid again playing with color, design, paint and canvas, which reminds him of the saying, “It’s never too late to be what you should have always been.” Follow your bliss!

Robert teaches a variety of painting workshops to professional and emerging painters throughout the United States, Mexico and France. His workshops have historically changed artists’ lives forever. Daily, he receives letters and emails from artists who have attended his classes and whose careers have taken off in new and productive directions.  Robert Burridge has written and published two artist books: Loosen Up Studio Workbook and Art Marketing: The Business of Selling Your Art. Plus he has produced and starred in numerous teaching videos and DVDs. His wife, career manager and best friend, Kate, co-produced all of the above. He is also a contributing writer for Art Calendar magazine and has written features for various magazines, periodicals and newsletters.

ArtWorkshopVacations.com, Casa de los Artistas, Inc. Robert Masla Studios South is excited to welcome Bob Burridge back to the Casa, January 21 -28, 2017Bob is A Blast!

 Whales seen during the boat trip at Bob’s last workshop at the Casa

“Draw Like A Painter – Draw Like Crazy”  – Retreat in Paradise with Casa Co-Founder/Director Robert Masla

Robert Masla, Seiji Ozawa, ball point pen gesture drawing in sketchbook

“Drawing is the basis of art. A bad painter cannot draw. But one who draws well can always paint”. – Arshile Gorky


Bob Masla conducting a demo at the falls of Chicos Paradise near the Casa. 

Any great painter will tell you one of the best ways to improve your painting, aside from paint, paint, paint, is to draw. Drawing teaches you how to see and how to think visually, and how to paint! But how many artists take the time to draw? Drawing and painting is about taking shapes, lines, values, edges, etc. and putting them together into a cohesive whole that yields the artists desired effect. Similar in some ways to a jigsaw puzzle or a map, and at the same time a mirror, the artist needs to articulate all the various elements to work together to create something that is a cohesive whole and simultaneously actually far more than just the sum of its parts. It is infused with their vision, their energy.

Whether you haven’t drawn since you where a child or you are a professional painter – this fast moving fun workshop will have you drawing like crazy and learning as you play!

Join me for this studio and on location experience where you will be introduced to my unique and award wining teaching style. You will be encouraged to push the edges of your creative expression and discover new techniques and methods for mark making, rendering and confronting the “blank canvas”.

Robert Masla, Listening to the Mark, 16″ x 20″, charcoal, graphite and graphite wash on 150lb. Fabriano paper

Rembrandt, Girl Sleeping, brush with wash and white body color, (in the hair). Dutch, circa 1654. Could easily be a Sumi-e brush painting from eastern master.

 Piet Mondrian, Chrysanthemum, drawing, (conte, charcoal?), on paper, Dutch, circa 1908. Although known, along with Kandinsky, as one of the founders of Pure Abstraction and ultimately Non-Objective Painting, & most famous for his austere “grids” of color, Mondrian drew flowers through out his life. See an interesting article that appeared in the New York Times in 1991 coinciding with an exhibition of his flowers.

Piet Mondrian, Tree II, drawing, (conte, charcoal?), on paper, Dutch, circa 1912.

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 3 (Trees), oil on canvas, Dutch, circa 1912.

“There is only 1 Rule in Drawing and Painting and the Creation of Art 

and that is –  

There are No Rules in Drawing and Painting and the Creation of Art.
There are No Limits on the Creative Spirit or the Methods She Chooses to Express Herself”

This is the first thing I tell participants in all of my workshops. There are no rules, there are however, methods, techniques, processes, formulas, helpful hints, that when applied, (or not), will yield somewhat predictable results, (we will explore a variety of these further through the course of this workshop). Each artist takes from these and uses, or not, these “methods”, experimenting, synthesizing there own vision, manifesting their own unique signature, (we will look at more of these as well). Like thumbprints, no two are exactly alike.  Which brings me to my second rule of No Rules, and that is….

There is Only One Right Way to Make Art

That Right Way is the Way You Choose to Express Your Vision

It Is All About the Intention of the Artist

Which brings us to the 3rd and final rule of No Rules, and that is…

There are No Mistakes
I’ll say it Again – There are No Mistakes in Drawing, Painting, the Making of Art.

There are Only Opportunities For Change and Growth

Again, it is all about the individual artists intention, wether the artist is working abstractly/ non-objectivley or they are working representationally, (what some people like to call realism, I prefer the more accurate description, naturalistic observational re-presentation). The issue is wether the work fulfills the artists intention or not. Right or Wrong is really not a part of the creative process, it is very linear and analytical while creativity is wholistic. It has its place in the self critique of the work, (often confused internally with the internal dialogue of “criticism”), – “mistakes” don’t really exist in the creative process, only aspects that don’t serve the intention and are a sign of a part being incongruous with the whole, (or not, depending on your intention) and thus creating opportunities for change and growth. The creative process, as I see it, is one of exploration, play, experimentation, a search to manifest the artists intention, (only the artist can decide what that is). It either does so, or it needs to be altered, changed, modified in some way, so that it works to manifest their intention. Again, there are methods, techniques, formulas, etc. that this workshop is designed to explore – the craft of drawing and painting (i.e knowing the potential and limitations of a given media, establishing values, or methods of mixing colors to achieve a desired result, etc. etc.), these will expedite or simplify the more “accurate” arrival at the artists intention. The more of these the individual artist masters, is like having more colors on your palette – so to speak, so you are not limited by your technical ability. There is more for you to choose from when the creative muse strikes.

Artist often change direction in the course of creating, it is part of the process, the exploration, the “becoming Whole” that makes the whole thing so exciting. It’s what I call listening to the paint or in drawing, listening to the mark. Sometimes we are just more present than other times, but the practice itself of drawing and painting is really about being present and observing, with all of our senses.

There are many examples of this change of mind, changing of direction, the exploration, in both old and contemporary master drawings and paintings. They are referred to as Petimenti or little repentances, (from Italian, pentimento, singular), sometimes they are only visible through X-ray or infrared reflectography. When they are left visible in the work for us to see it is actually quite fascinating as it gives insight into the mind and thought process of the artist. – Don’t get it “right” the first time, not a mistake – explore, experiment, it is an opportunity for change and growth.

Rembrandt after da Vincis' Last Supper72dpi

In this detail of a drawing by Rembrandt of Da Vinci’s Last Supper there are many examples of pedimenti, where Rembrandt “changed his mind”. Particularly around the figure of Christ, his head(s) and hand(s).
Stay tuned for further installments for Draw Like A Painter – Draw Like Crazy, and join me at one of the Workshop Locations.

Meanwhile, there is an exhibition, (which I hope to see), all about this idea of the evolving creative process, changing direction and questioning when is a work “finished”:

Unfinished – Thoughts Left Visible
is currently on exhibit in New York till September 4 at the new
Met Breuer



plein-air-self-portrait-233x300 Jim McVicker, Plein Air Self Portrait – 18″x14″, oil on canvas, 2015. First Place, Plein Air Magazine Salon Competition  $15,000 award plus cover story in the September 2015 issue

“I think that’s what the artist does, we (artists), can take something out there that I think for most people is just a jumble of visual assault, that they aren’t able to zero in on the beauty of it.” -from Jim McVicker: A Way of Seeing

photographed by Joseph Wilhelm, http://www.meridianfineart.net/

photographed by Joseph Wilhelm, http://www.meridianfineart.net/                                            Jim McVicker, Morning Light North Coast, oil on linen – 36″ x 60″

I had seen Jims’ work in puplications and had been impressed, and as I had mentioned in an earlier newsletter, I first met Jim when I was participating in the 10th Annual Sedona Plein Air Festival and Jim was the judge. He did a presentation of his life and work, and quite honestly, I was blown away. Not just by the quality of the work, which is magnificent, but by the quality of the artist. Jims’ passion and dedication exudes from his work and is matched by his humility and gentle nature. These are qualities I look for in an instructor. Jim McVicker’s reputation for painting what he sees, capturing light, and personal interpretation precede him. As an instructor, he is a natural: he is thorough, encouraging, and thoughtful. He spends copious amounts of quality time demonstrating techniques live on the canvas, within a variety of settings. As we travel to different exotic locations in and around the Casa, Jim will visit and coache each participant on-site sharing techniques and valuable feedback geared toward each painters needs and preferences.

rail crossing 12x16 Jim McVicker, Rail Crossing, oil on panel – 12″ x 16″

“I want the landscape itself, or still life, or the person I am painting to dictate the direction the painting is going to go. I want to, (I know it’s impossible but), I want to approach it as open as I can, so I’m not coming there with preconceived ideas about how I’m going to paint something. I want what I’m looking at to…kinda talk to me, which it does…” -from Jim McVicker: A Way of Seeing

Jim will paint a small demo the first morning to show his process for starting a landscape: “How I work over the entire canvas in order to develop the painting as a unified whole, working on land, trees, water and sky so the painting grows with a cohesive feeling and not as separate parts. I block in the painting so the whole canvas is covered and feels right within the first half hour, and then move on to develop the painting. I’ll work with the drawing of the landscape, with shapes, values, and color. I will describe my process, how I see and simplify what I see, with a focus on design and values which will give your work a completeness throughout the process.”

cresent city rocks, 12x16,oil on linen panelCresent City Rocks, 12×16, oil on linen panel

Join Jim as we paint on the beach in front of the Casa – (or in the open air Casa studio), with the fishing boats, exotic birds, waves, river, village and mountains all around us. Experience the gorgeous rock formations of the Mexican Pacific coast as we take a boat trip, (with opportunity of seeing whales, dolphin, tortoise and mantas) and then onto sketch and picnic at a beautiful beach. Spend the day painting incredible flora and vistas as we make the hacienda at the award winning Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens our studio where they serve us a delicious lunch. Step back in time as we spend the day painting in and around the zocalo of the quaint  mountain town of El Tuito, stopping only to have a sumptuous lunch in the patio garden of a hacienda style restaurant off the town square. We are excited to host Jim at the Casa in January, to watch him work first hand and to get to know him better. Experience all this and more when you join Jim McVicker for Plein Air Painting in Paradise at Casa de los Artistas.

Tom Explains key points in painting in plein air
Tom Lynch talks about composition in a plein air watercolor in front of the Casa
Tom Lynch brings his unique artistic vision, technical expertise and professionalism, along with his warm, friendly and fun loving personality to makes this a special Casa Experience. This unique workshop is designed to give you a rich cultural tour as well as the opportunity to spend timeless moments creating art work as we develop priceless memories together in the uncommon atmosphere of Casa de los Artistas. In this unique workshop, Tom shares techniques for both painting watercolor in the field – “plein air” as well as the studio.
Tom'sDemo ValueChange4 depth-layers 
Tom demos different value changes to create depth


Tom Lynch shares his unique techniques and years of painting experience in his warm and personal teaching style. The result is a wealth of information presented to the participants along with practical time for each artist to paint under Tom’s tutelage. There will be time spent in the Casa’s magnificent open air studio with sweeping views of the ocean, river and quaint village of Boca de Tomatlan, as well as time spent painting on location in plein air. Tom will provide a daily painting demonstration with detailed explanations of all the “hows” and “whys” followed by individual assistance for each student daily.Tom'sDemo PAINT WITHOUT a PENCIL SKETCH

Tom shares an exercise in painting without a pencil sketch and shares various elements that make for a successful painting – i.e. Learn to simplify, have your brush make a mark that is the symbol of an object – so it “seems like the object”, not “looks like” the specific object, think before you paint, which brush/technique, etc. is best for your particular objective, vary the marks you make when there are elements of repetition … and so much more…

Tom shares a slideshow from his last Casa Workshop Experience
– But that’s not all
, make sure you bring your camera, journal and sketchbook, as there will be numerous cultural excursions as well. And, during this special week, on January 12 is the annual celebration of… The Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadeloupe! This is a rare opportunity to witness and participate in a very authentic rural Mexican Fiesta – not on any tourist routes! We will visit the Mt. town of El Tuito, this is the home town of our chef Ruby and her assistants and our grounds keeper Faustino, who commute 40 minutes by bus each day to Boca. A quaint Ranchero town, we will be having lunch and tequila tasting at a hacienda restaurant right off the Zocalo, do some sketching and photography as the town is transformed and we join in the evening Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. There is a Parade down the main street of town by many of the surrounding villages culminating with performances, mariachis, and fiesta in the Zocalo and fireworks at the church!

Mariachis-in-Tuito-parade-Fiesta-Virg-de-GuadalupeMariachis during the parade in El Tuito.

The week is filled with many special cultural excursions and highlights. We will spend the day as Tom demos his techniques for painting incredible flora and vistas as we make the hacienda at the award winning Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens our studio and paint and photograph the day away and where we will also be served a delicious lunch. On another day we will experience the gorgeous rock formations of the Mexican Pacific coast as we take a boat trip, (with opportunity of seeing whales, dolphin, tortoise and mantas) and then onto sketch and picnic at a beautiful beach.

DolphinPod3Dolphin pod outside the Boca Bay

A special treat will be the opportunity for cooking class with the wonderful Casa chef Ruby. Learn how to prepare authentic and delicious Mexican cuisine; from a variety of salsa’s, to main entrees and deserts. Then enjoy the results with new friends in a relaxed and fun environment.

Ruby teaching a cooking class

Ruby teaching a cooking class at the Casa

Join Tom and Linda Lynch, Bob and Monica for a unique week of Watercolor Secrets Revealed and Creativity, Culture, Cuisine – January 7 -14, 2017.


A Special Bed Awaits You…

a special bed awaits you 72dpi

“It is very hard to think of anything that could improve the Casa Experience. Even when a participant chooses to depart from the program, the acceptance and willingness of our hosts to accommodate was wonderful. Don’t change a thing… On a scale of 1 to 10, an eleven would be too low! All was outstanding and wonderful.” – Ed Pulik, Washington, DC

At workshops I teach, both at the Casa and in the States, participant have requested I write down some of the simple pointers and reminders about drawing that I’ve shared with them. I have found that these very simple things have been useful for both the beginning artist (as they are good foundations) and the experienced professional (as they frequently jump right into painting and often don’t take the time to draw as an end in itself). I have been told over and again that they find it both a refreshing reminder and a useful process. So in this essay I would like to share with you a few of the basic reminders as well as an exercise that has become a part of my workshop “Draw Like a Painter”, (being offered this November at The Art of The Carolinas).

To begin with, each one of us has a unique signature. Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. Our unique mark and line is very personal, and can be an expression of our consciousness of the moment, we need to simply “get out of our own way”. Often times when people approach drawing, particularly if it has been a long time, like one Casa participant, Stu, 82 at the time, who had “never drawn before” (at least not since he was in high school, over 65 years ago!)

… or they are not in the habit of drawing and are not “well practiced in the process”, it can sometimes be intimidating (sadly I have seen this in young children and teens as well, who’s creativity has not been nourished). In fact, I have often witnessed a cathartic experience occur during the drawing process. This happens as the voices of the “critical self” emerge and the artist works with freeing themselves from these voices.

Signature Energy 1
Masla, Signature Drawing, charcoal on paper

In this respect, drawing, whether it be naturalistic (trying to produce something that we have observed in nature, to capture its likeness or essence) or if it is eidetic (internal, from our memory, thoughts, feelings, emotions, imagination or visualization), if it is approached as a process of awareness and self discovery, it is a meditation. A very simple place to begin, both in meditation and the meditational practice of drawing, that we often forget or overlook, is with the breath. Our breath unites the external world with the internal. If we focus our attention to our breath, it is often revealing of our inner state of mind and body and can also be used as a tool to alter those states. Through controlled breath we can either excite, calm or energize the mind and body. And we have all experienced how both emotional and physical states have effected our breath. Many practices, from yoga and pranayama to running, calligraphy or Tai-chi, consciously incorporate the breath into their practice. In this first exercise I am going to suggest how you may do so with drawing.

We take the element of air, bring it within our bodies and convert it into energy for our bodies and minds. We do a similar thing with our eyes as we “digest light” through our vision. As the eyes take in the particles and wavelengths they are converted to “energy” that travels the optic nerve into our brains for processing into images and memory. When we exhale, we expel the energy of breath in a different form to be nourishment for other creatures. So what of the energy we have internalized with sight? Sometimes we expel it in the productions that stem from our visions, on occasion it is in the creation of another energy, that of art, (hopefully nourishing for some other creatures as well).

I often refer to the creation of artwork as the creation of an “energy field”. This “energy field” effects those who come in contact with it and it in turn can thus effect its environment. The intention of the artist will often impact the effect of the energy field. We are taking that which has ultimately been internalized, and giving it an external shape and form, the resulting whole becoming more than it’s separate parts, (this may not hold true for photorealism, a subject that would be too lengthy to address here). In drawing, this energy field is created by the play of marks and shapes, the abstract structure, design and compositional elements, the modulation of line, thick to thin, the pulsation created by the patterns of dark to light, hard and soft edges, etc. Ultimately they all bear the signature of the artist – the internal energy, flowing from the heart and brain – out of the hand – to the paper or canvas. This unique individual mark that is the expression of the artist, can never be “wrong”. It is their signature, what we call “style”. I feel it is very important to relate, particularly to young students, who are flooded with images and judgements in a media crazed culture, that style is very different from what is imposed on us – which is fashion. Drawing, which on some level is an expression of an internal state of being, is an expression of style, or, it is the process, one of discovery, in which we uncover the self. Peeling away the layers of “fashion” & “critical voice” to reveal the intuitive clear voice of the creative self. This voice, which stems from awareness, is not clouded with our usual internal dialogue, but is witness in creation: with joy and awe and playfulness.

Exercise in Uncovering the Creative Mark:

To begin this exercise, gather your materials together on a work table. I suggest a table rather than an easel, so all your drawing tools can be spread out around your work, easily accessible. Also, if you feel moved to, you can get up and walk around your drawing, stand and use your whole arm and body to draw with, not just your wrist.

Suggested Materials: a large piece of drawing paper and various tools for drawing and mark making. i.e. various kinds of charcoal, soft and hard, vine and compressed, white chalk or pastel, a variety of drawing pencils (5 or 6) from a 8b (soft) to HB (medium) to a 4H (hard), perhaps an ebony pencil and a layout pencil, a kneadable eraser (great for lifting out and drawing with) and the standard “pink pearl eraser, a tortillion or stomp (rolled paper or cloth used for blending and smudging, and any other materials you think would add to the variety and creativity of your mark making.

Remember, you can’t do this wrong, there are no rules, at least very few, and you can bend and break those if you really want to. I have to tell you that people often “stop short” with this exercise, often not pushing it (and themselves) as far as they could go. There are many reasons as to why this happens, which I might address at another time, but this is the advantage of having an instructor/facilitator there with you as a guide, to gently nudge you onward, to probe with questions and suggestions, to alter your perspective, etc.

Start by sitting comfortably by your table, close your eyes and breath. Take a few deep cleansing breaths, hold them for a few seconds and then let them go fully. As you inhale, feel the life energy enter your body and expand to all parts, from your lungs outward, become aware of the various sensations in your body, Not judging them, just noting them… there is tingling in my feet, tension in my neck, etc. As you exhale, feel your body and mind expand as your breath flows back into the world. Let go of all your tension and the chatter of the judgmental mind… oh this is stupid, I’m wasting my time….this isn’t drawing, I can’t draw…what’s for supper. Just observe, sit back in your awareness, relax and follow your breath. Do this for a few minutes, follow your breath, observe your feelings, whatever they are, where ever you are at in the moment – that’s ok, just observe. Maybe you are feeling anxious, or sleepy, … angered from a thought of an event that occurred this morning…. no judgement, just witness your mind and body and breath.

After doing this for several minutes (5 – 10) there will be some dominant theme(s) in your awareness. Perhaps it will be simply the sensation of tranquility from giving yourself the license to just breath and observe, perhaps not. Maybe something else. No judgement. But here is the only rule for this exercise – as you pick up the materials to begin drawing “Where you are at and what you are feeling in the moment”, remember this – try not to create any “pictures” or “symbols” of your feelings (i.e. no birds, no happy faces,🙂 , etc.) – rather allow the pure quality of your line and mark making express your feelings.

Become aware of the quality of your line, the pressure of your drawing material against the surface of the paper. The modulation of that line and mark and its compositional direction. Allow your feelings to flow from your heart, through your arm, hand and fingers, through the pencil or charcoal, onto the drawing surface. No symbols or “recognizable images” – just the pure quality of your line and mark expressing your feelings. Experiment and explore with what your tools can do, push them and yourself a little bit further. If you get lost, overwhelmed, or stuck – in your thoughts, just close your eyes and follow your breath again. Continue drawing.

Allow the drawing to inform you of what it needs, drawing out of you more feeling. Is it capturing your emotion, what if you darkened this, or took the eraser and dragged it over here, pulling up a bit of this line or shape. This is not a time to be listening to the “critical mind”, though it may be talking very loudly, breath and slip into “visual thinking”. How does this mark react to this line, to this shape… I feel the need to enhance the contrast of tonal values here and sharpen the edge there.

Remember, whenever drawing or painting (not really a rule, but always a good idea), if you are not standing up already, take a few steps back and look at the work afresh, as a whole, then draw some more, (a good time to stretch a little as well). Think your done? Perhaps, perhaps not. Turn the page upside down (or walk around the table), get a fresh perspective. What can you do to that drawing to add to the dynamic quality of the emotion it conveys. Continue to draw your heart out!

Next month we will explore this process a bit further and see how we can apply these principles to observational drawing, what I like to call Naturalistic Drawing. Meanwhile, remember to breath.

Listening to the Mark72dpi
Masla, Listening to the Mark, charcoal and graphite wash on Fabriano paper