Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 1 - Dreama Tolle Perry's workshop

Day 1, My version of Dreama's demo.  12x12, oil on RayMar
It is always fun to see how 20 people interpret the same photo

If you haven't seen Dreama Tolle Perry's work it is a wonderful mix of glorious color and brushstrokes.  In addition to her art, Dreama is also a writer and story teller, a combination of talents I found make her a natural when it comes to teaching.

Our first day in Dreama's workshop was great.  Our name tags included an art affirmation.  We introduced ourselves and read the affirmation saying why the affirmation was true about our art. Dreama started the class reminding us to remember why we want to paint and to be careful not to get into a self defeating mind set which is easy to do if you start questioning and negatively self critiquing your art work.  Art is a journey you do because you love the creative process.  I still find myself in awe when a painting comes together.  It was also interesting to hear, just like you and me, not all of her paintings are successful and some actually get discarded.  I call my misses learning experiences.  She reminded us that just because we have successful paintings that almost paint themselves that isn't always true.  Every canvas is a blank white expanse waiting for you lay on paint.   

Dreama reminded us not to forget that workshops should not be about having a successful painting at the end of the day, but about the experience and what you can learn. Our painting style, like our handwriting is unique to us and learning new techniques will not change that, just like DNA.  Day one everyone is given the same picture to paint.  To help her students (and I needed lots of help) learn her way of painting, Dreama breaks up her teaching in segments which allows you to go back to your canvas and try to apply her techniques.  This is a technique that really works for me.  I've found if an instructor is using a technique new to me once they've completed their painting I sometimes have trouble remembering some of the essential points. And I admit I don't sit still well for long periods of time. 

Dreama's focus for the workshop is color and brushstrokes.  She paints with a fairly limited palette, mostly transparent colors, which she has changed and refined over the years as she finds colors or brands she believes work better with her style.  She starts with a white untoned canvas and lays in shapes and values with only transparent colors using a mix of 1/2 solvent (she is now using a non-toxic solvent) and 1/2 linseed oil.  The transparents will cover the entire canvas.  If the final layer will be a light color then the transparent color is laid on thinner in those areas.   

I must say the first layer is very contrary to the way I paint because there is little drawing going on and for the most part seems very dark.  But as almost every instructor will tell you the values of lights and darks are so very important and this first step is where you need to make sure your darks are DARK.  I think most of us have struggled with getting wonderful lights into our paintings.  I struggle with highlights and whites.  I keep reading that if you want something to look light don't add white, you need a darker dark next to the light.   Also rarely does white by itslef look right and she said that's because white by itself is cool so doesn't feel right if it something that is in the sun.  For a warm white add a touch of Indian yellow or orange but for a cool white add a touch of cad lemon yellow. 

Once the first layer is on, your medium is capped and Dreama does not use any solvent to clean her brush as she goes.  Boy, not swishing my brush clean every few minutes was the hardest part of the exercise!  She noted something I never thought about... every time you swish that brush to clean it in your solvent you contaminate your brush therefore potentially dulling the next color you pick up on your brush.  Who knew!?!

You need good absorbent paper towels (Viva or Blue Shop towels are both good).  Inexpensive ones just don't work.  Dreama "cleans" the paint off her brush pretty much after every stroke or two by starting at the ferrule (metal part of brush that holds the bristles to the handle) and gently pulling straight down to the end of the bristles in her paper towel (you will use a lot of paper towels).  That also helps keep the shape and a good edge to your brush.  Most of us have the bad habit of wiping a brush back and forth across our paper towel which can damage the end of the bristles and really doesn't remove the paint.  

While I knew transparent paint gives you wonderfully brilliant color,  I did not know that unlike opaque colors which can go "muddy" pretty fast if you aren't careful,  no matter how much mingling you do with transparent paint they will not get muddy.  So that first layer can be mingled with no problem.  It is only when you add the opaques you have to be careful. 

The first day was informative and fun.  I saw a few familiar faces from past workshops and made new friends.  Even though the workshop was near my home I went out to dinner with a number of the artists each night.  Since we're either listening or painting during the workshop, its the only time to get to know everyone. 


  1. Lovely painting and very interesting post! Sounds like you are learning a lot and having a good time.

  2. I have enjoyed your post , since I live in another country and is impossible for me to attend any workshop. Sincerely admire Dreama's art and look for advices and chronicles about her technique.
    I have only a question: Which brand of oils does she recomend for her workshops? I use Windsor but I think these are very thick...
    Your work is pretty in colors an shapes, I admire it
    regards, Liliana