Demo In Progress

Figure Demo, WSO Convention (Part Two)

The Demo:  Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure

Having introduced the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s (WSO) Spring Convention in my previous post, I’d like to talk about the “Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure” watercolor demonstration (demo). Let me say that it was quite a privelege to be asked to participate.  I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with two fine artists from Oregon:  Deborah Marble and Chris Stubbs.

Demo In Progress

First I would like to give you an introduction to the demo concept plus some of the wonderful people who contributed to our success. Then, I would like to present some “lessons learned” about doing a demo.  Finally, I will share with you a brief video clip.  Hopefully by the end, you will be able to get an idea of the set up, the fun, and what a special event it this “Three Artists, Three Approaches, One Figure” was!


Mary Burgess, “Presenter Liaison”, Starts It All.

For this convention Mary Burgess was the “Presenter Liaison”.  That is to say that she was responsible for coordinating the break out sessions and the mini workshop committee.  It was Mary who asked me to participate in one of the art demonstrations.  As you might imagine, it didn’t take me but two seconds to say “YES!”.  Thank you Mary!

Demo: Reference Photo Man With Hat

The Figure Demo Concept.

So, the idea behind the demonstration was to have three artists each do a watercolor painting using the same model or figure. In this way, we would be able to show three different approaches to figure painting.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  I am grateful that Mary contacted us early because there was much in the way of coordination that had to be done.  But, it did come together and we were ready.

Chris Stubbs & Deborah Marble:  Working With Professionals.

Another thing I was grateful for was the professionalism of my fellow artists.  Both Chris Stubbs and Deborah Marble are experienced artists.  Plus, they have given several demonstrations  before.  Chris’s signature style includes lovely, lush skin tones.  Deborah’s particular skills include being fast and focused enough to be a court sketch artist.

For my part, I wanted to make sure I was on my “A” game.

Decisions, Decisions!

Two big decisions we three had to come up with were (1) do we use photo reference or have a model?  And, (2) what photo or model?  We ended up deciding on using a photo because that would give us time to become familiar with the model and prepare a demo pieces in stages, (see above).

WSO Three Figure Demo: Deborah Marble At Work

Del Moore and the Technical Support Team.

Well, let me assure you that having three artists on stage at the same time is not an easy accomplishment. I was so impressed and pleased with the support we received from WSO’s convention committee. As you might imagine, equipment was an issue. The committee’s technical team, headed by Del Moore, put together a set up where we had three cameras, projectors and screens. It was amazing! The audience was able to see each of us at work at the same time.

You might want to notice the set up in the photo at the top of the page and in the video (at the end).  Can you see that we each have a black “frame” on top of the table?  This frame had a light on each side to illuminate our work space plus it had a camera overhead.  The camera fed to projectors set up between us.  The entire set up was effective and un-obstrusive.  As a matter of fact, I thought the black of the work space was particularly nice!

Oh, the speed of this team in setting up and tearing down our demo equipment was impressive.  There wasn’t much time since our assigned room was in use before and after.  Del and his crew worked like seasoned roadies; my hat’s off (or a paint brush salute!).

Nancy Cheeseman, Professional Moderator.

The other thing that Mary did for us was to add a moderator for our session. Fellow WSO artist and professional moderator Nancy Cheeseman stepped up and did the job. And, what a superb job Nancy did indeed! I cannot imagine our session being such a success with out a moderator. She helped keep the audience engaged in what we were doing by asking each of us, in turn, a series of questions. Nancy also took questions from the audience. In the end, I think that the moderator helped us tell our art-making stories.

A Word About The Audience.

What demo could be complete without an audience?  And, we had a wonderful, supportive audience of artists from around the west.  While most attending were members of the Watercolor Society of Oregon, we did have several artists from the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies also present. Thank you all; you made it fun and extra special!

ChrisStubbs Man With Hat

For the Fun of Painting – The Demo!

So, with all this wonderful, professional support staff, what was left for us artists to do? Why, paint and have fun of course! It was a case of showing up with your work and getting our paint on…or going, or flowing!  😉

I think there are a few things that I would like to remember as a sort of “lesson learned” for the next time I do an art demonstration.

Demo: Three Artists

Lessons Learned.

Things that went well:

  • Detail Version. Artist Chris Stubbs brought multiple unfinished paintings, or “works in progress”. One in particular was an enlargement of the figure’s face. Chris is known for painting beautiful, colorful skin tones. By enlarging the face, it was easier for the audience to see how she achieves such wonderful glowing skin.
  • Special Equipment. Fellow artist Deborah Marble showed some improvised tools she uses for line work, for example.  It was not something you would expect to see and I think it added an extra dimension to her work process.  And, her tools were just so cool to see!
  • Different Speeds. The three of us had different styles and processes. Deborah, for example, can paint quickly (note her figure in the photo above).  Chris, though not as fast as Deborah, had almost finished her painting in the allotted 90 minutes.   On the other hand, I build my paintings slowly over time, applying thin layers of paint.  Mine was completed about four weeks after the fact.  We all had something interesting and different to offer our audience.
  • Multiple Versions of Demo Piece.  On a personal note, much like Chris, I brought four versions of my interpretation of the figure. Each version was in a different stage of completion. I found it helpful to have several stages to work on, (see examples above).

Demo: Stermer-Cox Version Man With Hat

Things to consider for next time.

  • Timing!  Because time is limited, I think it would be good to have a definite plan on how long to work on each stage.  And, time it during the demo.  This idea entered my head during the demonstration.  I had the feeling that I’d lingered too long on one stage.  Having to think fast, I quickly ended my painting mid wash in order to move on to the next phase.
  • Where’s The Watch?  I lost track of time altogether!  My small wrist watch is not so good for a quick glance.  Plus, the room was dark and I couldn’t see the wall clock.  Therefore, I suppose it might be a good idea for me to get a bigger watch, clock or timer.  The point I’m making to myself is:  you have to be able to see and keep track of time.
  • Task Per Stage.  For next time, I’d like each “stage” version of the painting to have a particular problem or task to demonstrate.  I had this idea in my head beforehand.  However, I ought to have defined the stages formally, which means on paper.  I am thinking that this would help me explain my process.  Therefore, note to self:  if its on paper, its a plan!

The Video

To sum up my experience, I’d like to say I had a great time.  Maybe I’m just a bit of a clown at heart, because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of showing how I work.  To that end, please enjoy a short video clip of me as I introduce my process.

Now that I’ve introduced the key players, shared lessons learned, and shown a brief video of yours truly in action, I hope you can see what a special, fun event this was.

What’s Next?

I’m still working on the paintings and having a great time with the man with the hat.  The question now is, how creative can I be?

Thank you!


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