AnneLawsonArt Artists My art work

A workshop and a nest

Way back in May I did a workshop at Bendigo Art Gallery with Mark Dober.

Bendigo is a regional Victorian town, with a very good gallery. I had only been up there for special exhibitions, so I was pleased to have time to wander. I thought I had taken more photos, however, this one shows how spacious and pleasing the rooms are.


Mark is a landscape artist who works en plein air. He uses a mix of watercolour and oil pastel, and is soon to have an exhibition of his work created in the You Yangs at the Geelong Art Gallery. [The You Yangs are mountains between Melbourne and Geelong, that rise up from the flat volcanic plains around them.] He says of the work he is exhibiting:

This body of new work made at the You Yangs consists of 6 multi-sheet watercolours. Four of these are 112 x 380 cm. These were made at Fawcett’s Gully, around the back of the You Yangs, accessible by the unsealed circuit road.

His exhibition is running from 12th to 16th October. It will be alongside an exhibition by Fred Williams, one of Australia’s foremost landscape artists.

So, you can imagine my interest in his workshop to learn to work with watercolour and oil pastels!

We set up in one of the galleries, and had the choice of two paintings to work with ~ a Fred Williams:

Fred Williams: The Yarra at Kew 11 (1972)

or a traditional watercolour by Ernest Waterlow’s ‘Gathering fuel, Cornish Coast’, c.1887. You can see the painting in the photo below.


My first step was to loosely draw in the figures and landscape features. Then I had to lay in large watercolour washes over the main features. I think this was the most difficult thing for me. I am not a confident colour mixer, and often don’t mix enough paint to cover the area which is a problem when working on such large areas. Even with enough paint I have trouble manipulating the paint over large areas. It dries before I can work into it. Washes in botanic art work are little things, the size of a leaf or a petal, not vast areas of sky or beach!

I tried to suppress my panic, to just let it flow. After all, it was purely for my pleasure. Embrace the wonky!


Then there was the fun part of going over the (dried) wash with oil pastel.

Some areas worked, some didn’t. I think I put too much oil pastel on some areas, and didn’t have time to get to others. Of course, I thought I would finish it off at home……

My drawing strengths are tone and fabrics, so I was very happy with the work I did on the woman’s dress.


And a closer look….


It was quite a complex painting to work on over a day, but I enjoyed the challenge and it has given me a new way of working.



27 replies on “A workshop and a nest”

What a wonderful opportunity – I do love a workshop. The dress looks amazing to me with all the nuances of shade and folds in the fabric. Will you show us the finished painting eventually?
I’ve read through the post twice now but can’t see the’ nest’ of the title – did you mean to write more or is it a test to make sure we are concentrating? 😉 Or have I just missed a reference?


Congratulations on being such a close reader! You are a much better reader than I am proof reader, because I have just realised i skipped the nest part ~ whoops! When I wrote the title I was going to add how I used the idea to do some work on the nest Kate sent me, but then I decided I would write about it in the next post…..and forgot all about the title.
I am not sure I will finish the work, but I will take a full photo of where I got to.


I was going to ask the same question but see that Tialys got there before me! I love where you’re going with your watercolour/oil pastel work. Like you, I always had trouble getting colour washes smooth on large areas in watercolour classes at college – until I started using huge Japanese calligraphy brushes to lay them down. Great start to the work, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished result. I do have another question: what is that huge painting at the end of the gallery, that looks as if it’s a huge pile of clouds? I’d love to see a close up of that, but your pictures aren’t clickable so I can’t zoom in…


Yes, I have a wry and slightly embarrassed smile on my face about the nest. And it is your sunbird nest too. I will write it up on the weekend.
I need big brushes (although we used Mark’s equipment at the workshop). My tiny #1 and #00 brushes that I use for the fine botanic work just don’t do it!
Isn’t the painting at the end stunning? From memory it’s a painting of flowers, hydrangeas? I will do some research for you.


I love looking behind the scenes too, art or anything really. I get the Australian Ballet’s newsletter and it is full of fascinating peeks into how they create the tutus or the recovery sessions of the dancers. I am not sure that I will finish the painting. I think there are too many areas that I am not satisfied with. However, I will certainly use the technique.


lol Sticky beak! I’m like you; I love seeing that behind the scenes stuff. I’m disappointed you won’t finish that painting but I guess it is just a copy. What will you use the technique on? The melaleucas?


Sticky beaks unite! I am looking forward to Open House Melbourne for that reason 😃 I have dabbled a little with the melaleucas, and think it may create interesting effects. However I have been distracting myself with other things at the moment. Surprising, eh!


A great beginning Anne- love the work on the fabric. It’s a difficult one to choose- but so is Fred’;s. I like to do a similar activity with my 8 year old grandson- choose a Master, and spend a day working on a rendition. .


It was tricky, Francesca, and I think I would have better off selecting a section of it. (Ah, hindsight!) My partner’s 2 granddaughters came with us, and spent some time in the gallery. They loved it, especially the creative area that is dedicated to children. It’s a great idea to take your grandson, even if he just sits for a little while with a sketchbook. Kids and art ~ what a great mix.


I remember when I got into painting with anything, my then mentor sent up all this stuff about painting, it seemed like it was the backwards of dyeing/mixing of colours, which I was pretty okay about (done it for years) but she had said just try something out – so I mailed her down a trial and she came back with “you’ve no problems, the greens are wonderful, now try mixing green without a solid green” – I immediately said “but I didn’t have any green to start with, I just mixed it up like I would if I was dyeing but in the reverse kind of way”! I think I passed some test…because no more comments were made about whether I could mix colours…

however, I’ve had some interesting effects happen here and there, once she said if you use charcoal as outlines then you can erase it as you go along – it will blend in with whatever you are doing. So I set up a kind of many triangle/square things with my charcoal – a nice thick black charcoal and away I went… the next morning when I went to erase some of it I DISCOVERED that I had inadvertently picked up a very dark crayon – I then decided to accentuate the whole painting and make the crayon really be part of it!!!


Colour mixing is a great skill to have, and dyeing would be a good way to learn to do it. You must have been chuffed when your mentor realised that you could mix colours. 😊 Doesn’t your heart sink when you realise you have used the wrong thing? It was good that you could turn it into something deliberate.

Liked by 1 person

This is so interesting! What a great opportunity to work with guidance this way. When I saw the 2 artworks you could choose from I was *sure* you’d pick the first one–I guess I don’t know you very well at all. I’d love to see the full work, as far as you got with it–and I’d love to see it finished!


You were right, I would have done the other painting. It wasn’t until I got settled that I realised we could do another. I could have changed, but it would have meant moving seats. Too lazy!
It was really good to get the guidance, and watching how Mark works was instructive. I am not sure I will finish it ~ more laziness?! Maybe I will continue to work on the parts I am happy with.


Anne, I love the way you constantly challenge yourself. This looks like an amazing workshop in such a beautiful place. Did you mind working in an open area like that? It looks like you were very close to other painters. I love the details of the dress. I’ve always loved design, fashion and costumes, so if I had your skill, that is what I would have worked on. I’m intrigued, too, that you might not finish the piece. I guess is it more about learning the techniques then having a finished piece on your hands.


I didn’t mind working in the open. I am a confident artist, and even if something is working quite how I wanted it to, I am confident about other aspects. So while I wasn’t happy with the watercolour washes and some of the oil pastel work (which is why I probably won’t finish this piece) i was happy with my drawing, and knew where I could work well (on the fabric).
The fact that we were working there made people stop and look more closely at the painting we were using. It may have been one that they would have walked past without taking much notice. I love seeing artists responding to art works. I went to the Van Gogh exhibition the other day and was intrigued to see a chap sketching one of the works.

Liked by 1 person

I wasn’t thinking so much about your confidence but about the distraction of so much activity around you. I have two friends that paint Plein Aire and they were mentioning the number of times people stop and ask what they’re doing or take their photo. It’s interesting.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several museums and galleries in Paris, Barcelona, New York and San Francisco, and of course recently Washington, DC. Our world is full of amazing art. You are so gifted and talented.


A gallery is almost the perfect place to have a workshop! It helps us to understand that galleries are living places, not just paintings on walls. I am glad that you liked seeing the process, but I doubt that I will finish the piece. There is too much that I am not really happy with. But who knows?!

Liked by 1 person

Nothing like a good natter, so let's have a chat!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.