Jan Hart Watercolor Videos – From the Jungle

“Jan, do you have a watercolor video?”  It is a question I’ve been asked repeatedly for a long time.

My reply has been ‘perhaps some day’. There just never seemed to be an opportunity while I lived in the US, and the possibilities seemed even more remote once I moved to Costa Rica in 2008. I was not only farther away from potential video filming resources in the US, I settled in a more technologically remote area of the southern zone of Costa Rica – 3+ hours south of San Jose over the “Mountain of Death”. I put the idea out of my mind.

Then, miraculously, an adventurous budding videographer moved to the Tinamaste Ridge near my home. And I knew him. I had met him through an artist friend here after my own website had come near to being lost through my local webhost’s demise. Kahlil rescued and rebuilt my site using a platform I could mostly manage. And now he was less than an hour away.

When he brought up the subject of a video, I listened.

Why a video? Very simple. It might be the best way to share the information and knowledge I’ve acquired over the decades. And now, approaching 75, I’m realizing it is likely now or never. While I continue my Intensives in my remote home and studio and I am still hoping to do another workshop in the US, a video could be a good stand in.

I wanted a video recording of doing a single painting – start to finish – that would include everything I think about, talk about and respond to in paint – just as if I was doing an Intensive demo with my students. I thought it could be an accessible way to share with those who cannot come to Costa Rica.

We agreed on a price for four videos.

My job was to design the project. I decided the main painting project would be in three parts:

Part 1 – Before the Painting Begins:      

I start with a photo. Sharron and I discuss it all – format, color relationships, values and composition, paint choices – all of the thinking and planning before the painting begins.


Part 2 – Painting to ‘Adolescence’

From the sketch onto watercolor paper through the entire process of painting, ‘leaf by leaf’ using various watercolor techniques such as wet into wet, dry washes, the ‘dancing stroke’, and others to ‘Adolescence’. What is Adolescence?  It is that time when all of a sudden you just stop. There is paint  covering most of the paper and often the early excitement suddenly screeches to a halt in a sense of disappointment. This is adolescence and where most paintings actually get thrown out because the painter just doesn’t know what to do next. It is a perfect time to pause and take a good look – before finishing.

Part 3 – Finishing the Painting.

Part 3 begins with a critique of the ‘Adolescents’  and starts out by noting what is already working in the painting. Then, back in the studio we go through the finishing process including several judgment decisions and techniques that include: Selective glazing, Adjacency values. Use of the rigger. Fixing or concealing mistakes. Tucking. Value transitions. Path of Light and/or Path of Dark. And if Sharron asks it, it gets answered. We finish up with a final critique. And the answer to ‘When is it finished?’. Usually 10 minutes before I stop.  I was actually pretty surprised to get a pretty good painting out of this!

It would be set up like an Intensive – me painting a demo with a student next to me painting simultaneously as we discussed our way through the process. My friend and former student, Sharron accepted my invitation. She would be the stand in for an audience. There would be no script and no attempt to hide errors or misjudgments. Just like in an Intensive.

In the days leading up to the filming, we decided to add a 4th video featuring a plein aire (outside on site) subject. Sharron and I would paint my favorite mango tree in a manner that I am currently enjoying – fast and loose. I called it Painting a One Hour Watercolor Sketch with a Beer. It mostly involved a quick painting with whatever paints were available and a subject in sight. The beer added both a timing and relaxation element. When the beer is finished, so is the painting!  (For more on this, http://janhart.com/the-one-hour-watercolor-sketch-with-a-beer/)

The filming happened in March at my place, Casa de Corazon – at the edge of the jungle overlooking San Isidro de El General. We figured that the weather would likely cooperate since we were still in summer or the Dry Season. Frank’s house, Casa Tranquila would operate as a studio during the days and provide a place for Kahlil and his assistant, Eva to sleep during the nights.

To say that the three days were grueling would be an understatement. Kahlil and Eva had their hands full with all the uncertainties of filming on site and making due with whatever was available. Improvisation became their creative edge as one video camera needed to be hung from above while another focused on the ‘actors’ and an iphone used for another view…..   Sound checks and more checks. On the spot editing amidst a dizzying array of tripods and lights and batteries and flash memory cards and wire. And what shall we do with about the occasional barking dog named Frida? And the neighbor’s motorcycle? Remember. It all had to be gracefully included since re-doing any part of the painting could NOT be done.

Meanwhile, I focused on all the things I normally did during a painting demo –doing and thinking – all while speaking clearly and answering pertinent questions and comments from Sharron and trying NOT to think about the ubiquitous recording devices. The reality was that there would be no chance for a second ‘take’ to make it better. It was all to be filmed and recorded as the paint went down. The mental and emotional pressure I felt was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Kahlil and Eva had to be completely immersed and focused on technicalities. And I have nothing but ecstatic praise for my student and friend, Sharron – whose thoughtful and pertinent questions and comments kept me calm.

(for a 360 degree view of our video/recording studio aka Frank’s house – click on this link and move it around:


And Sharron even surprised herself with some good painting and her first ‘fast and loose’ one hour watercolor sketch!

After quite a long rest following the filming part, the editing seemed like it would be much easier. It turns out that editing in the jungle may be as fraught with difficulties as the filming – mostly due to internet speeds and variable frame rates. Fortunately, Kahlil had done preliminary editing on the fly as the filming was going on – flipping back and forth from camera to camera…


The set of four Videos are now ready to be pre-final-editing released separately or as a set of four. An introductory price of $11 each or all four for $35.00 will get you the un-cut, complete dialog and video segments of the entire process. Each video is about an hour long total and all available now through my website. After PayPal sends me a notice and your email address, I will send the zipped links to the files you purchased. You just unzip and then you can click through the video segments to watch and hear the entire process with nothing left out.

Currently, we are in the final editing process – knitting all the segments together, adding in titles, still shots, music and credits, etc. Stay tuned – and I’ll let you know when the final set is ready!

Meanwhile, these four un-cut, un-retouched videos will make it feel like you are sitting right here with me – in the jungle and painting!  And if you buy now,  I’ll for sure give you a discounted price for the final versions!

Take a look at the Online Store on my website here

And the most amazing part of all of this? I actually got a painting I mostly love out of it!

  1. Great article. The painting is beautiful . I know how tired you were during and after this project but you did it. Love Linda

    • Thank you, Linda – and yes, you do know how tired I was both ‘during’ and ‘after’. Sometimes we don’t really know such things until a few weeks have passed and we find ourselves once again refreshed! I loved being able to share with you while you were here. 🙂

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