Friday, August 3, 2012

Tea, Milk and Honey

I've long been an admirer of Mark Taro Holmes' watercolors, so the first workshop I took was his, Tea, Milk and Honey Watercolor Workshop. The fifteen or so students hiked to the Ruins de San Francisco. The first order of business was to find a shady spot from which to paint the ruins. We couldn't go inside the structure since it was unsafe. We all sat on some stone steps across the street from the building. Marc wanted us to all follow along as he went through the steps, doing a study of a stone window on the ruins. I admired his set up which consisted of a camera tripod on which he mounted a flat board and an arm which held his large palette.

Rather than follow along, I watched intently as he mixed colors and applied washes. The first step, pour the tea, consisted of light washes of local color. That first step had to dry before the second step, a touch of milk, which involved only adding semi-opaque paint to the shadow shapes. The third pass, sweeten with honey, involved thick gel-like paint added to emphasize contact shadows. A woman walked past the ruins with a basket of bananas balanced on her head and a mule pulled a wagon laden with a whole family. As we all worked, a lively basketball game began on the court behind us. Sometimes the ball would go out of bounds, bouncing into an artist who would then toss it back.

I lost interest in the ruins and turned around to sketch the animated game. There was plenty of arguing, all in Spanish of course. Players became aware that I was sketching them and they stopped on occasion to see my progress. One little boy obviously wanted to be in the sketch and I pointed to the player shooting the basketball. It was a little white lie, but it made him happy. A little girl would pick up my brush or pencil anytime I dropped it. She was very attentive.

After we were all done, we assembled on the steps for a group photo. The workshop forced me away from using line to define shapes. For me a light bulb turned on as the sketch became more about painting.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

1 comment:

Mary Ann de Stefano said...

I loved this post and sketch. It's so meaningful that children are attracted to you while you're working, yes?

I also loved the little thumbnail sketch you included here. Just beautiful.