June 2016

The Family Painting Intensive began as an email enquiry – and we all jumped in! The family:

  • Nancy Rottle, Landscape Architect and professor at the University of Washington
  • Paul Olson, Architect who I worked with years ago in Eugene, Oregon after graduating from architecture school at the University of Oregon
  • Anneka, their grown daughter who I had last seen when she was just a baby.
  • Blake, Anneka’s boyfriend who had never before held a watercolor brush in his hand but all the enthusiasm one could hope for.

I decided to provide each couple with a plastic palette filled with just six fresh paints to do it all. I figured that the limited palette would keep the two inexperienced painters out of serious trouble but provide plenty of learning for everyone.  After all – the paints are composed of pigments, each with a separate personality.

Arranged roughly in a color wheel:

Nickel Azo Yellow (PY 150)  One of my favorites – for its amazing strength and indominatable shooting.  Whenever bored just add in some Nickel Azo and watch…..  A near complement to Ultramarine Blue.

Nickel Azo Yellow

Quinacridone Sienna (PO 49, PR 209)  A manufactured mix of Quin Red and Quin Gold, it is vibrant and strong – and a beautiful complement to Cobalt Blue.

Quinacridone Sienna

Quinacridone Magenta (PR 122)  Rich, strong and beautiful – can even create a glaze when mixed carefully with water.

Quinacridone Magenta

Ultramarine Blue (PB 29)  An old favorite – can create the most gorgeous purples when mixed with Q. Magenta.

Ultramarine Blue

Cobalt Blue (PB 28)  Rich, nearly transparent and great for glazing.

Cobalt Blue

Ultramarine Turquoise (PB 29, PG 7) A convenience mix I love – and will create all the natural greens I need when mixed with Q. Sienna.  And add in a bit of Nickel Azo – and there are all the spring greens!

Ultramarine Turquoise

And we began by jumping in!  I did a demo of our subject – using this brilliant orchid and the six paints and introducing each paint personality by showing how it works in water and how it mixes with other paints.

The results were exhilarating!  Everyone blossomed (Excuse the pun)! And we were off!


Each morning Anita would arrive with her special gallo pinto or another Tico dish we all loved. And each day we took on a new subject with a new demo and/or slide show to explain the concepts of color, color relationships, light (light, shade, shadow and reflected light), glazing, painting water, etc. And we had several opportunities for fast sketches (10 – 20 min.) to help us warm up and loosen up.  Each morning began with a critique of the day before – and were gratified to see the progress and our evolving personal styles. Anita helped by bringing delicious food up and we enjoyed several favorite restaurants in the area.

The family was amazing.  Supporting and encouraging, they all did better than their expectations could hope for.

One day we went to the beach – to my favorite spot near Uvita where we could paint in the shade and cooled by ceiling fans in a lovely Tico bar. Villa Leonor – a treasure with the best fresh seared tuna available. The family spent some quality time body surfing in the 84 degree water while I meandered back through the lowland jungle path next to the reflective freshwater stream.

And I remembered again what I so love about painting Costa Rica.

Back in the Tico bar at Villa Leonor, I found a spot where I could see a distant coconut palm with one frond that drifted over the clusters of coconuts in the afternoon breeze. My mind drifted into the Zone – my right brain, as I painted.

Nancy, Paul, Anneka and Blake returned – wet and exhilarated and then settled down to their own paintings.

Our final day together was spent painting a sloth since we had yet to find one in the trees just below my house.

And the resulting paintings were so expressive – of each artist as well as the sloth!

All of us – Sage, Seurat and Frida as well as Anita look forward to the next opportunity to enjoy a family painting and learning together.