The Painterly Landscape

This spring has provided me with fantastic opportunities to help artists develop their creative potential in both landscape and portrait workshops from Vermont to Virginia, as well as my home state of Connecticut. We've put together a short video from our last two landscape workshops to give you a glimpse into what a painterly landscape workshop can be like, and share some of the lovely work produced by our workshop participants. 

Check out my list of live workshops below, and come join me at a workshop near you!

Painting Trees in Pastel

Happy spring! The tree blossoms have just decided to bloom this week here in Connecticut, so I must confess to being pretty excited. It's a perfect time to answer a lingering question that many of you have asked me in previous workshops:

"How do you paint trees?"

I thought the most effective way to answer your question would be to actually demonstrate my approach to painting trees in pastel for you. So here's a free video demonstration to help you tackle this exciting subject. As you do, remember this creative tip: suggestion is often more powerful than a literal description when it comes to handling foliage. 

Enjoy the video!

If you found this video helpful, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel! And be sure to post a comment or reply to this email with any other questions you may have. I'll do my best to address them in future videos.

Check out my list of live workshops below, and come join me at a workshop near you!

Charcoal Drawing Step-By-Step

I hope you know just how unique and extraordinary you are as an artist. 

You're different. This is because you don't see things the way others do. Instead of just looking at a field, you see a glorious pattern of light and shadow. Instead of looking upon a face, your artists' eyes observe a beautiful mosaic of color and light that conveys unique expression and likeness. What an amazing gift you have!

Whenever I'm teaching new artists to see in this way, I like to describe the seven "visual habits" that govern our ability to see like artists. I describe all seven of these habits in my book, "Beginning Drawing," if you'd like to find out more. 

I'd love to share a fun one-minute video with you of a step-by-step charcoal portrait. This Cambodian Apsara Dancer was a real joy to create. I used all of the seven visual habits to draw this portrait. 

One of the seven visual tools is called, "units of measurement," and I used this technique to scale the drawing to the paper as well as to establish the basic proportions in correct relationship with each other. In this portrait, the distance from the dancer's chin to her forehead line were used as a unit of measurement to scale the drawing.

Watch the video with your artists' eyes and enjoy!

A Solution to Your Studio Chaos

Admit it... you have a problem, and it's gotten out of control. Your studio has become infested. It's as if these little critters have multiplied overnight, and now you can't seem to get a handle on them. Know what I'm talking about? Your pastels! 

In all seriousness, organizing your pastels can be overwhelming. Developing a simple system to access all those colors, brands and sizes so that you can paint with confidence and focus is not only important, it's critical to your next painting's success. Don't worry, I'm here to help. 

Just sit back, grab a peppermint mocha and watch this video. You'll be organizing your pastels in no time!

Looking for Inspiration?

Workshops are such an inspiring time of collaboration and growth for all involved. I just hosted a portrait workshop sponsored by our friends at UART Premium Sanded Paper. We thought you would enjoy a window into our creative experience, so we made a video to give you a taste of our time together! What a fun and talented group of artists came together to encourage one another in their creative development and learn with me. 

Are you looking for some further inspiration yourself? Don't miss out on upcoming opportunities to grow! View our 2018 workshop schedule here.

P.S. Just listen to what Pam had to say about her workshop experience:

"This class was extremely well planned. There was optimum time for thorough and masterful demonstrations, and yet ample time for individual studio work.  It was a perfect balance.  Alain met each of us at our own level and made us feel comfortable.  I learned so much in just a few days!" -Pam


Pastel Study of a Scottish Loch

I've already been dreaming of the upcoming Scotland Paint Away Workshop in July, 2018. I couldn't help myself, and created a quick pastel video of an inspiring Scottish loch to spread the wonder with you. I hope you enjoy this short demonstration painting. Register now to join me next July and create your own inspiring paintings in Scotland!

The 5 Stages of a Successful Portrait Commission

These 5 steps will help you design a winning collaboration with your next client and grow your portrait business.

You love creating portraits. You’re passionate about people as well as your art, and you want to grow your portrait business. Why? Because getting more commissions and generating income through your art allows you to do what you love- to create- and fulfill your purpose as an artist.

Portrait commissions are a special kind of art; a true collaboration between the artist and the client. When they go well, these two parties work together effectively to bring a beautiful portrait to life. But when they go wrong, the process can be frustrating, stressful, disappointing and draining for both the artist and the client, and the end product is far from your best work.

A Pathway to Success

So, how do you ensure that all your portrait commissions will be destined for success, leading to more and more commissions? One significant way is to develop a simple step-by-step process which yields your best results, then clearly describe the pathway that you and your client will travel together to reach this destination.

Here’s the thing; your client doesn’t come with a third eye or a crystal ball that enables them to intuitively understand how they ought to work with you to achieve the greater outcome. And they aren’t artists, so they have no idea what you need from them in order to create your best work. That is, unless you clearly describe it to them.

Clear Away the Fog of Confusion

Now I know you are much more passionate about creating paintings than describing process. Trust me though, if you will take the time to define a step-by-step portrait process that clearly describes how you and the client can collaborate together to achieve the best result…you will clear away the fog of confusion surrounding the creative process and help your prospective client see what success could look like should they choose to work with you. Keep it simple, no more than six steps, and each step should highlight what you will do for them while describing what you’ll need from them in order to fulfill their wishes for a great portrait.

In the absence of these clear expectations, a client can feel insecure about whether working with you will yield the results they desire. This insecurity may lead them to hire another less talented artist who happens to communicate more clearly than you do. This is tragic, since you would have done such an amazing job!

The 5 Stages of a Successful Portrait Collaboration:

1.     THE INTERVIEW- This is where it all begins. You listen well to the client, finding out what their hopes and dreams for the portrait are, as well as who the subject of this portrait will be. Ask a lot of questions to ensure you understand the client’s wishes. What kind of person is the subject?  Should the mood be formal or informal? Where will the painting hang? Should the setting be inside or out? Discuss size, medium, clothing and background options.  Then, once you are clear on their wishes, explain the portrait collaboration with them in a simple series of steps. Let them know where you will need decisions and feedback from them in order to make this a winning collaboration. This will remove the client’s fear of “offending the artist” as well as provide them with a clear role to play.

Are You A Good Match?

You should also be sure that your artistic style is the right fit for this project based on their wishes. Show them your portfolio and find out which of your pieces are their favorites. Once you have a clear plan, schedule a date for step two…

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2.     THE SITTING & PHOTO SESSION - Another critical step in the development of a successful portrait is gaining the reference material. This can be done from life, photographs, or a combination of both. I often work with children, so getting photo reference is very important. If the opportunity to create a sketch from life emerges, even better. The important thing is to be sure to explain what you’ll need from your portrait subject in order to get great reference. A few thoughts on step two:

Direct the process. Take control! Do you prefer afternoon light? Schedule the session outside during sunset. Do you love that indirect window light? Arrange for this. Will you bring your own lights to their home or host them in your studio? Let them know. How much time will you need with them? They are looking to you to be the visionary artist and take charge at this stage.

Be Transparent: I will often let the client see some of the images on the back of my digital camera as I’m capturing them. This gets the client excited as well as giving you some feedback as to what they are responding to.

On Site Image Review I often bring my portable laptop and download the images on the spot, creating a quick favorites folder on the spot of our top 10-20 images. This is an excellent way to narrow down the selection with the client’s involvement so you know you’re on the right track.

Favorites Folder I then let the client know that I’m going to do a further review and edit, and will supply them with a favorites folder online (using something like Flickr or Shutterfly works great). The idea here is that in the end you ONLY SHOW IMAGES THAT YOU KNOW WILL MAKE GREAT PORTRAITS. I like to provide no more than 10 favorites images, and provide personal comments about the pro’s and con’s of each selection.

The Final Selection Once I share the image folder, I sit back and let the client have time to make a final selection for the primary pose and portrait reference. We sign off on it, and I’m on to step 3!

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3.    IN THE STUDIO- Now that you’ve got great reference and a clear agreement with the client about your pose and style for the portrait, it’s time to have fun painting! I can’t overstate just how significant it is to involve the client in the decision of selecting the pose and reference. This involvement builds excitement and confidence in the direction of the project. They can also begin to imagine what it will look like.

Timeline Let your client know how long you’ll need to develop the portrait in the studio. If you need three months then say, “I’m going to need three months to create a masterpiece for you.” Then deliver it in less time. Don’t say, “I’ll have this for you by next month, and then run late. That’s unacceptable. As an independent portrait artist, your word is your brand. Let your client know that you are going to need them again soon for step 4…

4.     THE FEEDBACK STAGE- Once you develop your portrait to a level you feel confident with, it’s time to involve the client again. Let them see the painting, offer feedback to you, then make your final refinements based on their comments. Build this stage into the standart budget and process for your painting, you’ll be glad you did.

Do you need a final sitting? Have this meeting at the studio or go visit them with a portable setup so you can check to make sure skin tones and eye colors are just right.

Not sure how much to refine? Get your client’s feedback on how they feel about the level of finish at this stage. This can happen by sending them a digital image of the painting, or by having a personal meeting. Invite your client to tell you if they’d prefer more refinement in any passages of the painting. They will feel as if they’ve co-created the portrait with you, which is very gratifying for the collector.


5.     THE UNVEILING- Now that you’ve made your final changes based on the client’s feedback, any confusion as to whether you are on the right track has been cleared away. From the very beginning of this creative process, you have been narrowing in on a masterpiece for your client, and they can feel it, which further excites them to see the finished portrait. Setup a plan for the unveiling—in your studio, at their home, or even at the framing studio. At this final stage of delivery, you get to celebrate together the development of this beautiful piece of art, while at the same time giving the client a positive experience with you—the artist. Positive experiences lead to great testimonials, which lead to more commissions!

Well done. You’ve implemented the 5 stages of a portrait collaboration with your client that will yield great results and grow your portrait business. Keep up the great work!

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Paintings That Tell A Story

Everyone loves a good story. Are your paintings communicating clearly and purposefully with a unique voice that speaks to your viewer? As visual artists, we are storytellers. We have a desire to express ourselves through our work. We do this by communicating with pictures to engage the viewer's imagination. This video will give you four tips to telling a compelling story through your art.

Traveling with Pastels

It's travel season here, with a number of art workshops in different areas throughout the country and abroad. Many of you have asked me what to bring and how to pack for a travel art workshop, especially when going abroad. In this video, I'll show you how to pack your carry-on luggage with all the pastel painting supplies needed for an efficient, portable painting setup. 

Simply click here for the Travel Supply List with a lot of products that I recommend.

Would you like to join me in an upcoming workshop? Are there obstacles to your creative growth that you'd love to overcome in an inspiring and encouraging environment? There are some amazing opportunities just around the corner. We even have a couple of spots left next week in my Capturing Light: California workshop! Check out my workshop schedule, and find a workshop near you. I'd love to encourage your creative development.

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5 Tips To Better Color - Part Two

As promised, the followup video to last week's lesson, "5 Tips To Better Color" is here! I did my color exercise, and I hope you tried one as well. In this video, you'll see the results of my color study and the painting that emerged from this unique color approach. Enjoy! 

So...did you take a crack at a color exercise? Please leave me a comment and let me know. I'd love to find out how you did, and whether you got a color breakthrough!

Want to learn more in an inspiring and encouraging environment? There are some amazing opportunities just around the corner to join me in a workshop, all the way from California to Croatia! Check out my workshop schedule, and find a workshop near you.

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5 Tips To Better Color

Are you wondering how to get better color in your work?

I have been asked by many of you for help with color. I certainly want my paintings to sparkle with fresh color, and I bet you do as well! This new video shares five tips that you can use right now to improve the color in your work!  I'm confident that if you do these five simple things, the brilliance of your paintings will shine through with newfound freshness.  

Once you finish watching this short video, clear a pathway to your easel and start practicing these five tips to better color! Then, look out for part two of this video, as I share the results of my own color exercise with you.

In addition to the video, we've created a worksheet that you can print out and tack up next to your easel. This way you can put these five tips to work for you right away! Click the link below to download the worksheet.

Looking for even more inspiration and creative support? Check out my workshop schedule to find a workshop near you! Now have some fun with color.


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Sow a Habit, Reap a Harvest

 A small sketchbook study done from life during the planning and inspiration stages for a painting called, "The Bride."

 A small sketchbook study done from life during the planning and inspiration stages for a painting called, "The Bride."

Drawing is the foundation of all painting, thus great care should be taken to sow the seeds of good working habits. Doing so is a tremendous investment in your artistic development; you'll reap rewards for the remainder of your artistic journey. I've certainly found this to be true in my own creative development, and I want to encourage you to establish deliberate working habits in your day-to-day and week-to-week drawing routine that foster artistic growth.

In my new book, Beginning Drawing, and the corresponding series of "Learning to Draw with Alain Picard" videos produced with ArtistsNetworkTV, I reveal and expound on the visual, drawing and routine habits that are necessary to communicate effectively with the language of drawing. Visual habits have to do with learning to "see" as artists, while drawing habits deal with how we transcribe what we see through a variety of mark-making techniques. Finally, routine habits embed these repeatable practices into your drawing approach and develop the discipline of regular working habits. The outcome of this disciplined approach is artistic confidence and repeatable success.

While it's important to establish a consistent drawing routine, it's equally important to develop what I call "routine habits" that will serve to encourage your working routine. I want to share some ideas with you from my book, "Beginning Drawing," that will help you develop your own working routine. I believe that if you implement them into your regular work rhythms, then your drawing ability is sure to grow in leaps and bounds, and your creative voice will begin to speak volumes in no time!

For My Love  charcoal and white chalk on buff paper I created this life study of my wife, Mirjam, during a weekly portrait group I attended. On our anniversary in 2005, Mirjam sat for the group that night so we could be together.

For My Love charcoal and white chalk on buff paper I created this life study of my wife, Mirjam, during a weekly portrait group I attended. On our anniversary in 2005, Mirjam sat for the group that night so we could be together.

4 Drawing Habits to Develop

1. Practice, practice, practice! You've got to prioritize the goal of learning to draw. Get out your calendar and schedule regular time to draw. Make it a priority, and build it into your routine, just like exercise or daily meals. Skill develops through consistent practice! Carve out the time to draw regularly every week. Start early rather than late, and try doing one sketch a day--every day--for a month.

2. Draw from life regularly. Drawing from direct observation of nature is one of the very best ways to improve. Carry a sketchbook and a pencil pouch with you so you can sketch anywhere you go.

3. Get feedback & encouragement. Why not connect with other artists in your area? Consider joining a local weekly life-drawing sketch group to develop a consistent habit of working from life. Your connection with other working artists will provide accountability and encouragement in the development of your work.

After Drolling  graphite on Strathmore paper. I created this copy study years ago after the self-portrait done in 1804 by French artist Michel Martin Drolling.

After Drolling graphite on Strathmore paper. I created this copy study years ago after the self-portrait done in 1804 by French artist Michel Martin Drolling.

4. Copy the masters. One of the best ways to learn technique is to study the great drawings and paintings of art history. Choose a drawing that you absolutely love and try to copy it, stroke for stroke, tone for tone. This process of imitation will impart volumes of drawing wisdom to you as you seek to understand how the artist accomplished such a beautiful study.

I hope these four habits will encourage you in your artistic development. For more insight and instruction, pick up my book, "Beginning Drawing." I know it'll help you grow in your drawing ability.

Be inspired ~Alain

Beginning Drawing
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