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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thomas Shaller`s Master-Class

Yesterday I saw it on Facebook. It`s so fascinating! I believe any watercolorist would enjoy to see the process, materials, colors, brusher, stages of work. So here is Thomas Shaller for you:

While hiking near assisi, italy, i came upon this beautiful view. the fading umbrian sun behind the towers of the hill town softly illuminated the valley with golden light in the distance below. i had only my sketchbook and cell-phone camera with me ....

My sketchbook is with me always and i do very quick value/composition sketches of anything i may wish to paint - either there on site, or later in the studio. these sketches are essential for me to identify what the real "story" of the painting my be - what should be light, what should dark, what to leave in, and what to leave out.

Often i will add a splash of informative color on my composition sketches and even add written notes to record my impressions if i cannot paint the scene right there on site. these are not intended to be "pretty" drawings - just quick graphic ideas. i will use these sketches later as my "map" for the final painting so that i can quickly recall what it is that first impressed me about the scene.

an expanded and maximum palette of colors used: Holbein, Daniel Smith, Windsor Newton

the brushes i most use; a large "robert wade" 1.5" flat: a smaller 1" squirrel flat: a No.10 and a No.6 "alvaro castagnet" squirrel mop: a smaller, No. 2 Isabey squirrel mop": a No.12 and No. 8 Perla Escoda 1430 round: and a No. 4 rigger for detail work.

A view of my favorite palette - a folding metal holbein. it has enough small wells for any colors needed, and enough larger wells for the mixing of washes. i use one for warm tones, one for cool, one for "brights" (yellows) and one for "darks" (violets) and the largest one for neutrals - where warm and cool tones meet and where most all the washes i use begin.

Ready to begin. i've used a full sheet (22x30 inches) of saunder's watercolor paper; 140lb. rough surface. it is stretched and stapled on a plywood panel and then fitted on the table-top joseph zbukvic adjustable easel.

The final line drawing on the watercolor paper. i love to draw, but it is important to draw as few of the details and specifics as is necessary to tell the tale. allow the brush to fluidly "draw" the rest, or else you risk a final painting that is too tight and proscribed and that does not allow for fortunate "accidents".

The first wash is laid on with the easel at a good angle to allow gravity to assist. it is important to paint quickly but still, i am careful to preserve small areas of pure white, untouched paper - the break in the sky, and the distant thread of water beyond.

In the first wash, it is essential to establish primary values and any important areas of warm and cool tones. i toggle back and forth between cool and warm tones suggesting a warm sunset sky, diffuse cool hills far away , and darker more saturated tones in the foreground.

While the first wash is quite wet, colors, tones, and pure water are dropped and splattered in to add texture and interest.

The completed first wash. it is allowed to become nearly dry - but not entirely. the bottom portion is still fairly wet when i will quickly begin the second wash. but even now, it is possible to see where i am trying to keep the area of highest contract and interest - the back-lit towers of the town; and the bright plains and luminous sky immediately juxtaposed. my "map" - the value/composition sketch - is kept nearby.

The completed second wash - not completely dry.

When the second wash is nearly dry, an atomizer is used to wet the lower portion of the painting to help blur the detail and specificity here and keep the highest level of specificity and contrast above where it is needed.

While still quite wet, tones and water are dropped in to suggest buildings and trees in an impressionistic manner. this also helps make these areas diffuse and allows the focus of the painting - and higher contrast - to remain nearer the towers above.

while still quite wet, tones and water are dropped in to suggest buildings and trees in an impressionistic manner. this also helps make these areas diffuse and allows the focus of the painting - and higher contrast - to remain nearer the towers above.

"the fields of assisi"

thomas w. schaller

22X30 inches

watercolor, june 2011


  1. Great post, thanks to you and Thomas for sharing this.

  2. This is a very inspirational step-by-step, makes you want to grab the brushes right away. I saw it first on Schaller's facebook page, but this post is way easier to follow and see the whole process at a glance. Thank you, Konstantin!

  3. This is just what i needed to see today. have been very frustrated with a landscape I am doing. The photo with the wash 2/3 the way down is incredible. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Very nice!!! Can i ask where did you get the easel from?
    All the Valentin

  6. well done Tom and Konstantin! bravo

  7. Thanks a lot for this inspiring post Tom and Konstantin!

  8. Hey, can I ask where you got that easel? I've been search for one like the Josph Zbukvic easel forever