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

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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.

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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!

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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:

Tonality

Alternation

Silhouette

Balance

Dominance

Gradation

Depth

Focus

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:

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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!