Santa Barbara Painting Workshops | Kathleen Elsey
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Explore the coastal town of Santa Barbara, California.
Kathleen Elsey, Santa Barbara artist, demonstrates how she makes a plein air painting in a field of colorful flowers near Santa Barbara, California. Kathleen is a California fauvist and offers painting workshops, plein air and studio painting, for acrylic, oil and pastel painters across the United States. The above scene is from a flower farm in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California.
In this workshop you will practice seeing and cultivating your visual sensitivity. You will learn to paint fearlessly using pure color and bold brushwork. And most of all, you will be expressive with paint on canvas while making a mighty and memorable painting.
There are art stores in all workshop locations so no worries if you forget anything on your supply list. For the Santa Barbara painting workshop, we have Art Essentials (805) 965-5456). Taos painting workshop has Artisan (505 751-0802). The Sonoma painting workshop has Fine Line Art Supplies (707 935-3199).
Below are the acrylic painting supplies I suggest:
• Portable easel: I really like the ease of use of the tall version of the Soltec easel, and like the Julian full box, both available at Dick Blick (1-800 828-4548). If you are joining me for studio painting, you are welcome to paint on the tables rather than an easel.
• For each day bring one small panel, canvas or boards (12 x 12 or 11 x 14 or smaller) for a quick study and two larger panels, canvases or canvas boards for a longer study (12 x 16, 16 x 20, 18 x 24 or bigger). I paint on Masterpiece and Winsor Newton stretched canvas or linen. While traveling, you might consider canvas boards since they pack together so efficiently. Another compact and inexpensive support is a pad of real canvas sheets. The 16 x 20 size would be a good size for our workshop especially if you are traveling. I paint on one piece of canvas, tear it off, then begin the next painting while the first canvas sheet dries. Or bring sheets of canvas or linen that you cut to the size on which you wish to paint. At some point, if you want to frame your work, these canvas sheets will need to be stretched or mounted to a rigid support. Click on the image of me painting at the Grand Canyon to see a video about mounting canvas to hard board. These are especially effective when painting with acrylic paint which dries fast. I like to add additional gesso to my canvases with Golden gesso or Nova Color gesso. This additional high quality gesso has lots of marble dust which makes the paint really grab the canvas. If you’ve ever had a problem with your acrylic paint feeling too slippery on the canvas, try a coat of high quality gesso on top of the manufacturer’s gesso.• Palette: My newest favorite for travel is the Mijello Atelier Airtight, peel off palette. It is very compact, easy to open and easy to hold in my hand while I paint. It only has a 5” x 9” mixing area so I use the palette’s lid as an additional palette to mix my colors. When using fast drying acrylics en plein air, I use the largest Masterson sta-wet palette (12 1/2” x 16 1/2”). I like this palette because it seals up tight after a painting session, and the paint stays moist for weeks.
Kathleen Elsey's Masterson palette after a few days painting Kathleen Elsey painting after 45 minutes, searching for shapes, colors to transfer to the canvas Kathleen Elsey painting workshop - finished the painting in my studio
• Brushes for acrylic: 3 or 4 ”brights” (short stiff bristles) size about 1" across, 3/4", 1/2", 1/4" depending on canvas sizes. I would use the 3 larger sizes above if I were painting an 18 x 24 canvas. If you choose bigger canvases, get the big brushes. If you chose 16 x 20 canvases or smaller, you could use the smaller 3 brushes above. Buy good brushes or you’ll regret it. My favorite for acrylic is from Jerry's Artarama and is called "Silver Bristlon." I bought four brights- #12, 8, 6 and 4. I also like for acrylic Isabey Isacryl 6562 synthetic bristles (#4, 6, 10). See photo to right. These brushes have performed well for me and have lasted a long time. My hometown art store doesn't carry them anymore, so they are getting harder to find. I clean my brushes fanatically so they last a long time. The “brights” give my paintings somewhat of a palette knife effect. Brights make short, crisp strokes and place color and paint well. I prefer to buy my brushes from my local art store rather than online so that I can feel the brush, check the ”spring” in the bristles, see the color of the bristles and choose the width of brushes that I need. In fact I buy almost all of my supplies from Art Essentials, my local art store. Great staff. Great supply!
• Sketch book, pencil, cotton rag (like an old t-shirt), water bucket or container
• Paints: I love Winsor Newton’s new Artists’ Acrylics in 2 oz. tubes. They are buttery, dry a bit slower than other acrylics and they have so much pigment in them that they dry the same color as they look when wet! What you see while painting is what you get when dry! I also like Golden for it’s viscosity, quality and brilliant colors. Liquitex is also very fine quality and has some beautiful colors not available in other brands. If you can afford it, pass on the student grade brands of paint and buy what the professionals use.
Acrylic Paints -- Beginners and minimalists need seven colors. I use Winsor Newton acrylics with a couple of Golden acrylics.
• Titanium white
• Lemon Yellow
• Cad Yellow Medium or Azo Yellow Medium
• Cad Red Deep or Alizarin Crimson Hue
• Cadmium Red Medium or Permanent Rose
• Ultramarine Blue
• Cobalt or Cerulean Blue Deep
• If you can’t resist a few more colors, add Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Teal. Iif the sky is the limit, go for Dioxazine Purple, Green Gold, Jenkins Green, and Red Oxide.
Oil Paints -- I suggest a basic palette of seven colors. I use Winsor Newton unless otherwise specified.
• Titanium White large tubeOptional supplies to bring:
• Gamlin Cadmium Yellow Light or Winsor Cadmium Lemon
• Cadmium Yellow Deep
• French Ultramarine
• Cobalt Blue or Cerulean Blue
• Alizarin Crimson
• Gamlin Cadmium Red Light
• Walnut Oil not the cooking type. I like this medium. It is acceptable to most lungs.
• Two more of my favorites are Yellow Ochre Pale and Gamlin Radiant Turquoise. And if the sky is the limit, try Permanent Magenta, Venetian Red, Violet (Dioxazine), Viridian and Raw Umber Light.
• Golden retarder in bottle to slow down the fast drying acrylic paints especially for plein air (optional)
• If using Golden “open” (slow drying) acrylics, be sure to get a bottle of “open” thinner.
• A paint tarp to put under your easel if you are extremely “drippy” when you paint in studio workshops.
• Get started painting
• Have a reason for painting
• Think creatively
• See shapes, colors and value
• Be expressive
• Loosen up
• Paint thick and bold
• Make a bright painting
• Make interesting brushwork
• Create an exciting composition
• Simplify complicated compositions
• Solve problems in your paintings
• Stop trying to be perfect
• Use your eyes and not your brain
• Critique your work
“I've taken four of your painting workshops and plan to do more. I LOVE your workshops and the way you paint. You inspire me!” Jennifer from Santa Barbara after attending Kathleen Elsey painting workshop in Santa Barbara
Kathleen Elsey plein air painting workshop Taos, New Mexico. Select photo above to see Kathleen's finished painting of the Rio Grande River. See more Elsey paintings from New Mexico on the Old & Sold paintings page.
Rebecca from Canada says about Kathleen Elsey Painting Workshops: "I searched California painting workshops and found plein air and studio painting workshops in California with Kathleen Elsey. Her website was full of color and painting ideas so I joined. That first day that I walked into the Santa Barbara painting studio and the sunlit room was bursting with fresh flowers, cakes and beautiful set ups to paint. I am an advanced painter and learned so much. Trying to get Kathleen Elsey to do some mentoring.
“I am understanding more about the process now after watching you paint aloud. Your spirit and attitude toward painting is contagious. I caught some of it. Thank you so much for your constructive comments. You made me feel like an artist and made me want to keep my sketchbook and camera at hand.”
Shawn Carlsbad, California, after attending the Kathleen Elsey Santa Barbara painting workshop
“Kathleen.....Your workshop was a wonderful experience, especially the demonstrations and your generous sharing of so much information about painting AND marketing.. All of this was really appreciated by ME, a novice painter”
Susan from San Clemente, California
“I am a beginning (very beginning) painter who stumbled upon your website today. There is not one painting in your art that fails to fascinate or call for further study. You and Charles Sovek are an inspiration to anyone who enjoys art and color. Thanks for your website and your inspiring art.” Ted from Georgia
Elaine from Sausalito, California says:
“I participated in a show in Sausalito and included three paintings I made in your Sonoma workshop a shot in the arm for me. Your gentle guidance in painting and marketing helped me make a leap in a direction I doubt I would’ve tried on my own. Those remain the brightest of my paintings, and 2 of them sold at my show. Many of my paintings show evidence of your “colorist” influence and that’s a wonderful thing to receive from you. I love the flexibility I now feel to work in either acrylics or oils.”
“Thanks for the wonderful three-day Kathleen Elsey Workshop. I am taking a break today, but keep staring at my paintings and thinking of things to do to make them better. You are a wonderful teacher and it is always such a treat to spend the time with you and our fellow painters. We all learn so much not only from you but from one another in the creative environment that you provide for us.” Susan Whisenand from Santa Barbara, after attending the Santa Barbara painting workshop
“I cannot tell you how many times I have reflected on this past weekend with such warm and positive thoughts about our (Kathleen Elsey) painting workshop. Your inspiration and instruction was superb. I feel like I really made so much progress in just 2 days! Thank you so much for such a wonderful experience.”
Marcia from New York
“Thanks for your encouraging words at the Cuyahoga Valley workshop. I have never made such a big painting before and I surprised myself. You have given me the courage to try some small studies on location and work later in larger format in oils. Thanks for being such a patient and gracious teacher.” Cindy
“As for the rougher stuff, aesthetically speaking, Kathleen Elsey’s painting exerts a bold, almost post-Fauvist-meets-funk touch in her work. “Sunlit Room,” for one, flirts with burly Van Gogh effects, with a vivified palette and brusque brushwork. It’s the mightiest and most memorable piece in the room, says this unavoidably subjective observer.”
Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara News Press Correspondent
“Elsey paintings are marked by rich colors and dramatic brush strokes that recall both Impressionist and Fauvist traditions”
Daedalus Howell, San Francisco Chronicle Journalist
“Thanks, Kathleen, for your April plein air painting workshop. What a wonderful experience I learned so much, and I’m committed to painting with color at least a little every week. Your paintings, of course, are a great inspiration, and your coaching/teaching style was so instructive and encouraging. Thanks for making my life more colorful.” Marsha Conners
“Thank you Kathleen Elsey for an amazing painting workshop! Your choice of locations and your fabulous demonstrations will keep me coming back for more. The beauty and magic of Taos lingers on! Count me in for next year.” Mary from Wisconsin
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