Nov 16, 2017

Artistic Arsenals...

This is a long lecture, but still an interesting take on the methods, materials, and tools used painters throughout the ages, largely centering on the Old Masters. 

I've always been interested in the way painters can do so much with so little. So if you have 90 minutes or so to watch this video you will likely learn and few things about your chosen craft.

I, for one, wasn't aware that until the mid-19th century, European painters (and thus American painters by default, as well) only had about twenty five colors at their service, with only eight of them being mineral in content. This means the bulk of the colors they had available to work with were somewhat fugative. 

Compared to all the colorants we have today, it is remarkable what could be accomplished.

Think about that the next time you visit your local art store, or order paint online!


Nov 6, 2017

I am an idiot!...

AAARRRGGG! Really, I am an idiot!...

When I announced this workshop way back in June and I USED THE WRONG DATE!...

Well, specifically, I used the WRONG YEAR in the date....

The correct date for this workshop is
December 4th, - 8th, 2017
But don't wait, registration closes this Friday, Nov. 8th!
Five days of intense instruction. Two in the field and three in the SAS studio.

CLICK HERE for more Information, or to Register...
If you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, or if you are able to travel at a moment's notice, and would like to take a terrific in-depth, five day indoor/outdoor class with me, you still can.

So this winter, when it is cold and wet, you can pack your paints and come down to the Southwest where you can learn how to go from small to BIG with your paintings! This popular five day outdoor/indoor class will focus on how to collect useful information in the field – by painting, sketching, and taking photographs in the field – and then how to use those references to produce larger works in the comfort of your studio. We will start by spending two days in the Tonto Forest. I will then spend one day at the SAS creating a large painting, demonstrating various techniques and answering your questions. Then, you will have two days to complete a large painting yourself in the SAS studio with personal assistance!

And yes, feel free to call me an idiot. Anytime. I won't argue...

Oct 20, 2017

Plein Air Mexico 2018 | San Miguel de Allende...

A Workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
February 19 - 23, 2018

For more info, visit: PLEIN AIR MEXICO | 2018

Yes, I know, this post is just a shameless plug for an upcoming workshop I've organized for this February. But it is such a fantastic workshop. One of my favorites of the year. 

I've put this trip together three years in a row. And enjoyed co-teaching it with my good friends Anne Blair Brown and Frank Gardner every time, who are also excellent painters and instructors themselves. But the real reason, the best reason, you might want to think about signing on for this winter workshop is – well...

San Miguel de Allende itself, actually.

Sure, Anne, Frank, and I have a lot to offer the novice-to-intermediate painter. (Heck, we have ways to challenge the experienced painter as well.) But we are talking about painting and improving your painting in SMA – one of the most beautiful and exotic colonial Hispanic towns in the world.

You walk the streets of San Miguel and it is as if you have stepped back into the 16th century. You look at all the exuberantly colored walls, the ancient work-eaten doors, and the active open squares. You stop to grab a bite when you are hungry and the food is delicious  It is as if someone has crossed the bistros of Paris with the taco carts of US and Mexico. You look into your wallet and you smile because it feels like you've become a gazillionaire – in pesos.

Then you go paint...

There are books and books and books about San Miguel. Photo albums such as "The Doors of San Miguel". Books about living in San Miguel, such as "On Mexican Time". Books about cooking in San Miguel. Books on making art in San Miguel. There are ex-pats from all over the world living there because the weather is perfect, the life is interesting, and everything is all so civilized. This also means there are many books about how to move to, or retire in, San Miguel. And the copies I have picked up in the restaurants and bars are always well-thumbed through.

Then you go paint some more...

The people of San Miguel are kind, thoughtful, and always happy to see you. They answer your questions, forgive you your elemental Spanish, chuckle, and then offer directions or advice in English.

This will be my sixth?... seventh?... trip to SMA. I have lost count because I keep going back. I keep bringing people with me too because I know many of them will start visiting regularly as well. 


Because it is San Miguel.

If you would like to know why the readers of Condé Nast Traveler continually puts San Miguel de Allende on its
20 Best Places to Visit list each year, come paint in SMA with Frank, Ann, and I. You will fall in love too.

For more info, or to register, visit: http://thokitts.wixsite.com/sma2018

Imagine yourself painting outdoors in warm sunshine in the middle of January. Imagine the bright colors, the indescribable food, and lovely nights and lights of SMA. Bring your spouse, a partner, or a friend. It's all good.

But don't wait. This workshop is already half full and last year we had to put 15 people on the waiting list. Some of them have already signed up for this year...


Jun 27, 2017

Info on Sargent's Watercolor Technique...

Sargent Watercolor Show Review


John Singer Sargent Watercolors: Exhibition Report
 We recently visited the Brooklyn Museum to see the show of John Singer Sargent watercolors. It’s close enough to Montreal that I couldn’t really pass it up. Not and still call myself a serious watercolorist. The exhibit ends July 28, so by the time I post this it’s basically over – however, it comes to the MFA in Boston (Oct 13/13 – Jan 20/14), so that’s another chance for Nor’easterners.
Like most artists, I’ve always admired Sargent’s mastery of calligraphic brushwork in oil. I wasn’t as aware of his watercolors before this show. Which I suppose was the point. The curators have brought together a never-before-seen exhibit. 
So, for those that don’t have a chance to get there in person – here’s my report...

I don't often cross-link to another writer's blog, but here is a link to a fascinating post about Sargent's watercolors. The author, Marc Taro Homes, author of The Urban Sketchbook, took some lovely close ups of JSS's watercolors in the Brooklyn Museum, and his observations with regards to Sargent's use of gouache on top of watercolor and other effects are quite illuminating.

So visit his blog page here and learn something new about Sargent's technique...

It looks like I'll be in Boston next October while this show is there so I'll add to Marc's report when I see it.



Jun 22, 2017

Workshop Announcement: Drawing for the Plein Air Painter...

Announcing my Summer 3-Day Workshop...

Sauvie Island, near Portland, Oregon

Cost: $450

Learn to paint with your pencil or charcoal! Become more skilled at composing your paintings before you pick up a brush. When you paint alla prima en plein air you must work quickly and state things in a clear and concise way. This class will focus on how to create a dynamic design using the light and shadow pattern Nature provides. There will be fundamentals, but also advanced concepts as well. So learn how to stitch smaller bits and pieces into larger, more unified masses. Create dynamic compositions by pitting light against dark, and dark against light. Downplay the line work and emphasize the shapes. The things you learn in this three day outdoor class will improve your painting in every way possible, indoors or out.

This workshop will focus on: 

How to simplify the complex values you see

How to exploit the power of positive and negative shapes

How to transform natural light into beautiful rhythmic patterns and punctuated marks

How to find or create pleasing proportions

And much more…

The material list for this workshop is minimal. All you will need are some soft vine charcoal sticks, a few kneadable erasers, a few pencils, a medium-sized drawing pad, a lap board or portable easel. (And of course, a chair if you must sit down.)

My thirty years of painting outdoors has lead me to teaching design and composition in the simplest way possible, by drawing outdoors. Each day I will present ideas and demos and share the decisions I make in real time as I work. You will receive helpful direction and valuable one-on-one critique and a group discussion will be held daily. With this class, it is my goal to help you become more sensitive to the potential of conscious design.

Do not underestimate the power of this workshop to improve your work! I have spent many years teaching students how to paint and this class is specifically designed to share what every outdoor landscape painter should know about value and composition. Sure, you will just be drawing, but what you will learn 0ver these three days will impact your painting for a long, long time. Why? Because the value decisions you make from the first stroke in paint must be solid. And drawing is a faster path to gaining that skill...

Registration is now open. Class size is limited to maintain maximum quality instructor time. To register, email Thomas at:

May 19, 2017

Color and Culture – Culture and Color...

By the time I arrived in art school I was convinced I was severely color blind. Largely because my previous art teachers and peers would talk endlessly about color distinctions I did not seem able to make. They'd say things like "Oh, look at that beautiful 'pinkish-green'", or "Can't you see the red in that (green) tree?" (I tried. Oh, how I tried...) Such discussions always left me feeling inadequate and ill-prepared to make art until my sophomore year in school when it became time to take a semester-long class devoted to only color.

At first I was intimidated but that class was the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, that class was life-changing. It literally opened my eyes. Or more accurately, it opened up my mind because the professor who taught it offered tools I could use to understand what I was looking at. He gave me (and my fellow classmates) a precise language I could use to analyze, comprehend, and parse color.

In his class, I learned there was objective terminology one could use to reduce a color into its fundamental elements (as in Hue/Value/Chroma). I learned that we do not see isolated colors, we see relationships between colors. I also learned there is the color of nature, which is out in the world, and there are optical effects of color that only occur within the eye and brain. I learned about the interaction of color. And color persistence. And so much more. As a result, that professor opened up color to me like a light bulb. My hardware, my eyes, hadn't changed. But my perception had. And all that talk about pinkish-greens, and red-trees began to make sense.

In addition to explaining the simple mechanics of color, that professor delved into the cultural constructs of color – both in how different cultures at different times in history categorized the visible spectrum, and the ever-evolving symbology of color; meaning, what certain colors represented to certain people in different parts of the world. Even the whys and hows of such symbology. (For example, white often represents purity in most parts of the Western World, but in contrast, often represents death in Asia. And red often represents impurity in Western Culture, yet again in contrast, can represent purity on the Asian side. I know, I know, I simplify things greatly, but you get the picture, yes?) And while I learned there is no universal color code that can be applied to all of humanity, there are common color stages most cultures incorporate, and the more nuanced the terminology, the more nuanced the seeing.

So I was pleased to stumble across a short Ted Talk video (below) that neatly summarizes a few of the cross-cultural stages of color I remember from that class. The anthropological aspects of color continues to interest me today even though I have remained mostly a naturalistic painter. While I may not believe color is as quantifiable as the video below will imply, I do accept our individual perception of color is greatly impacted by what we expect to see. Or perhaps, what we have been told to see! But then, as this video shows, there does seem to be a few things about color that develops in a similar manner across different cultures and perhaps that part of our color perception is hard-wired. I dunno.

Color, and the Perception of Color are two of the things I enjoy teaching most in my classes. Largely due to that one day, in that one class, when suddenly I understood color. I just got it and could see so much more. That moment had a profound impact on the rest my life and I will always grateful for that teacher's ability to make someone see what they couldn't see before..


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I am troubleshooting this issue -- TJK)

May 16, 2017

Los Pequeños Dibujos de Sorolla... (The Little Sketches of Sorolla)

Los Pequeños Cuadros... Fernando, a good friend of mine visited the Museo Sorolla in Madrid back in 2014, and while he was there he photographed some of the hundreds of color sketches Sorolla executed to keep his hand busy. (I just found the jpgs Fernando sent to me four years ago.) The little paintings you will find below are now hung behind a large glass case in Sorolla's main working studio and many of them have never appeared in print. Some were clearly experimental explorations, and some of them were preparatory designs for larger work you can recognize. In any case, to spend time with these little goodies is revelatory and worth a trip to the Sorolla Museum alone.

And no, I don't have titles for any of them. In truth, I doubt there were titles since it would be unlikely that Sorolla thought of them as finished work. I remember most of these colorful sketches being thickly painted on cheap brown chip board, and sized quite modestly between 4 x 5 to 8 x 12 inches or so, with a few of them being a bit larger.

Okay, mental note to self: Start doing quick little studies!...


(click images to enlarge)