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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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)

May 1, 2017

Charles Movalli (American 1945 - 2016) – One of the Last Old School Cape Ann Painters...

A winter scene in Essex (Cape Ann)
Charles Movalli: one of our great outdoor painters from the early to mid-century, mid-Atlantic tribe, who lived and worked along the coast above Boston, MA. (Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Emile Gruppe being but a few other tribal regulars that go back nearly 200 years.)  Movalli, who managed to navigate the vicissitudes of 20th century American Modernism without stumbling off his chosen path, was the last of this tribe. Sadly, Charles passed away recently, leaving thousands of paintings and many inspired students behind. He will be missed.

Watch this video of Charles discuss how to use light and shadow patterns to define a painting composition. Go ahead and watch it several times because there is a lot of information to take in at a high rate. In fact, I am told Movalli would paint with the same intensity and energy we see him using here as he 'splains his ideas to the students behind the camera...

Pay attention! Even though he is gone you (and I) can learn a lot from this guy. 

Here is his website:



Mar 19, 2017

Plein Air Tuscany 2017!...

Improve your Outdoor Painting Skills in Tuscany with Internationally-renowned Instructor, Thomas Jefferson Kitts, this September 9th-16th, 2017

Join me for my 3rd Annual Plein Air Tuscany workshop in the beautiful hills of Chianti outside of Florence!…Eat, Drink, and Live like an Italian as you become a better outdoor painter!

Note: If you register by July 15th you will get the Early Bird Discount!

Here is a short video of this workshop. What we will do, where we will go, and what we will paint. 2014 and 2015 were awesome, and 2017 will be even better!...

Hey Everyone! I can offer the Early Bird Rate for this workshop until July 15th. – At this rate, your workshop instruction and lodgings will range from €2100 to €2900, depending on your choice of  accommodations. There are single and double occupancy rooms available, with and without a private bath. There are also several self-contained apartments on the grounds if you prefer more privacy. Your actual US cost will depend on the international exchange rate at the time you register and the type of accommodation you reserve. Airfare is not included and a €600 deposit will be required to reserve your space.

To receive your comprehensive
FAQ sheet click:
Plein Air Tuscany 2017! 

Paint en plein air in the sun-drenched countryside of Tuscany. Take your outdoor landscapes to the next level. Stay in a remodeled country farmhouse with sweeping vistas over the hilltop town of Certaldo, where you'll be near Florence and San Gimignano, places we will paint. This workshop is open to the beginning-to-intermediate oil painter and Thomas will offer six hours of instruction a day.

We will take numerous trips to vineyards, farms, and ancient hill towns so you will paint the history and culture of Tuscany. And each day will end with the group enjoying the pleasures and comfort of outdoor dining, overlooking the countryside, and sleeping in a comfortable bed at night. Your week will culminate in a private tour in Florence of the Macchiaioli Painters, the little-known plein air painters of Italy, exhibited in the Palazzo Pitti – followed by the rest of the day spent touring or painting in the streets of Florence. You won't need a car for any of these this trips. We will take you everywhere you need to go!

This workshop is a fantastic way to experience the heart and soul of Italy while you concentrate on your outdoor painting skills. It is an opportunity to create new friends and treasured memories of a lifetime!


Jan 6, 2017

Sorolla and his Vision of Spain...

Happy New Year Everyone!

Here is a present from me to you – a five minute sweeping video I produced of the astounding murals hung in the Hispanic Society of America in New York City. This is one of the grand, but lesser known, bodies of work from the great Valencian master painter, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923)

Sorolla was commissioned to paint fourteen monumental canvases by the American railroad-heir Archer Milton Huntington fill a room at the society – only minutes away in uptown Manhattan.  Paintings which were meant to represent all the people of Spain in their various costumes and culture. It was a commission that would demand eight years of his life when he was at the height of his artistic power, and require constant travel throughout Spain in search of models and inspiration for what would eventually be championed as Sorolla's "Vision of Spain."

Nearly 12 to 18 feet tall and over 200 feet in combined length, these canvases were painted in various locations throughout the country between 1912 and 1919. The final canvas, Ayamonte, was finished in July 1919. Sadly, Sorolla died before his murals could be installed in 1926.

If you ever have the chance, visit the Hispanic Society and see these painting in person. They are just minutes north of midtown Manhattan and trust me when I say you will never forget them. 

For more information visit: www.hispanicsociety.org

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