Sunday, April 7, 2013

Watching Alvaro Castagnet paint upside down and the greatest advice I was ever given on painting

In 2010 I discovered Alvaro Castagnet's paintings. One of the mordern masters of watercolor, he paints in watercolor like no one else. I fell in love with the light and the richness of his paintings when I first discovered him several years ago. On his website, I scrolled down through workshops and lo and behold, he was going to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia! Not exactly next door, but considering he is from Uruguay and teaches all over the world, it was pretty darned close! I tried to sign up but the workshop was full........asked to be put on a wait list and found out a month or so later I had a spot! It took a lot of convincing from my husband to get me to sign on..... (Yes, believe it or not HE had to convince ME!)even though I desperately wanted to go see, mommies are not so good at doing things that take time and $ away from their wee ones. Andrew convinced me that this would be worthwhile in so many ways, so I signed on. Getting a little long winded here...... ;) So, 5 days of painting with a watercolor master! I was so nervous to meet him, and more nervous to paint. In particular, to paint "en plein air" - which means paintings on the spot, usually outdoors. I have been more of a studio painter. I didn't even have an easel as I usually paint on my dining room table. I ended up painting on a board propped in my lap and trying to use an old tripod I had adapted (went out and bought a portable watercolor easel afterwards!). Each day Alvaro painted for us, usually twice each day. He at times needed a helper to steady his easel so I gladly helped out, holding the upper corner of the easel. It meant I got to see him paint mostly upside down! I had a very close up view of how he used his palette, the brush, how much water he used, and instead of concentrating on what he was painting (because I couldn't really grasp it upside down), I got to concentrate on how he painted. It was always rather amazing when I stepped around to the front of the easel at the end and saw it come to life before my eyes. I think there was a time or two I almost cried, it was just so beautiful. Alvaro was also an amazing speaker, so motivating and inspiring. I kept a journal with notes and refer back to them , but the thing that he said that stayed with me is "Your Art is your teacher." I didn't quite get that at the time, but I've "gotten it" as time went on. We have to paint a lot in order to grow as artists, and we have to paint like ourselves and not someone else, paint what we love, and learn from the mistakes, grow and go with the great things that one can paint like anyone else, you have to find your own way and learn from yourself. Your Art is your teacher. That's the greatest advice I was ever given :)