Whisson Seas

Colley Whisson Workshop at Binder’s Art School

This last weekend was a very busy one.

I attended a Colley Whisson workshop at Binder’s Art School in Buckhead. A sign that the economy is making a rebound was the fact that sixteen slots were filled for the three days as opposed to last year when Colley had only enough to fill one two day session. I met Colley two years ago while attending his Summer 2011 workshop. At the time I was just introduced to his work by Charley Parker’s Lines & Colors blog and a few of his YouTube videos  I was surprised to find out that he was teaching the next week in Atlanta so I signed up for what must have been the last slot and enjoyed the class. The first time around I was very enthusiastic and took quite a few notes and photos (see here) This time I was more reserved and able to paint more confidently.


After the first workshop, I  spent a few days driving Colley around Atlanta on business. Last year we hosted him for a few days before and after his workshop but did not attend, we even did a day of painting at Mountain Park. This year I decided to take the workshop again and see If it would give me a bit of a  boost.

Having come to know him quite well I offered him a place to stay whenever he needed and he took me up on the offer staying with us from Thursday thru last Monday morning. If you are not familiar with his work take the time to look at some of it on his site and the web. His dad and uncle are very prominent Australian artists and along with being a great impressionist painter Colley has written several books about it and has a slew of DVDs available. He also happens to be a very genuine nice guy, his old-world family values and quick smile make him instantly likable. Whisson is very generous with his time and advice — I can’t think of anyone that has had more effect on my work. I tried to pay extra attention to him this week. Advice from a true professional painter is hard to come by and I maximized my investment by spending as much time as I could with him. One evening we sat and looked at my whole year’s output  —a tough thing to do with such a fine artist but tough love is what one needs to grow,

Colley’s teaching process is like copying an old master in quick time. He provides everyone with three photos of his paintings and takes you through his process as you copy them. He demos the rough-in then takes a break while you do yours. He then does another session adjusting the values and adding in lights. The final session is devoted to his signature detailing and dramatic light effects. He does very little true plein air but like most painters, he develops a dark rough then works his lights over them. Whisson uses a fast-drying medium called Archival Oils Lean—it sets up very fast and allows nice pure lights to be brushed on without much problem.  Although Colley is most recognized for his dramatic light and color effects the core of his success comes from value control and composition. That’s a gross simplification but I think I was able to understand that much better this time around.


I was fortunate to be able to hang on to his demos and below are the three days’ work in order. The first a 9 x12’s and the second two both 12 x 18’s. His to the left and mine to the right—of course, we worked much longer on our versions. I was able to do quite accurate rough-ins but when it comes to the value control and the way he applied his lights, it was hard to keep up with him. Colley painted much less on my work than any of the other classmates—mostly because I would not let him. The interior is perhaps the one exception to this. He was quick to brush in the light off the window before I could, grabbing all the fun—but also with much more finesse. I wince with the thought of some people taking the work home and hanging it up saying “See what I did at the workshop this weekend” — they are going to pay some time in purgatory. A lot of people take workshops for the entertainment factor —my opinion is they should workshop less and paint more. It’s expensive and a trial to take time from work and family. In the end, you must get something out equal to the expenditure. This week I came away with the knowledge that I must concentrate on composition first—don’t try to do too much and include more than is needed. Secondly, practice value control thru the painting of small still lifes as often as I can—both of these suggestions coming right from Colley himself.  So far I’m off to a good start.

Colley Whisson Seas
Colley Whisson Seas

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