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Charles Reid Workshop, San Antonio

I felt really lucky to be able to get into this workshop to study under the World Renown Watercolorist,

Charles Reid. A lot of good Artists I know have been influenced by his work. I have admired Charles Reid's work for years. I have two of his books and have watched numerous videos that he has made. What attracts me to his work is the looseness in which he paints and the vivid colors in his composition. By looking at his work, you would think he just throws some paint on the paper, and, in fact, he actually does just that. But, it is all very well thought out. He is always thinking of cools and warms (which he mentioned a couple of turn of the century French artists Pierre Bonnard and Edward Vuillard), and lights and darks. I took lots of notes, and I would like to share them with you so let's get started!


The subject today was a still life. As always, Charles started off with a contour drawing of the subject.

Starting with drawing the mushroom, the mushroom then became the point of measurement for drawing the rest of the composition. A couple of points he made while drawing:


1. Fill the entire page with your subject.

2. Draw single contour lines, not multiple lines and always remember to connect the shapes (like shadows

connecting to next object). Don't sketch.

3. If you have a "see through vase" as he did in this still life, draw the stems first not the sillouette.

4. Minimize the flowers, draw shapes instead of details. The white masses of the white flowers have been generealized. In the bouquet, look for the centerpiece.



Cobalt Violet


Cad Red (comment: not a good mixer)

Cad Orange


Cad Lemon or Cad Pale

Raw Sienna or Yellow Ochre

Raw Umber

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Umber

Chrome Oxide, Sap, Viridian


Ultramarine Blue



Charles mentioned 6 values and is keen on local color of the subject. White being the lightest, and black being the darkest. He mentioned to always put dark next to light. He started with a size 8 Kolinsky Sable brush (he didn't seem to be too particular about the paper, but having a good sable brush was well worth the investment). He started painting negatively around the center white flower with a mix of cerulean and yellow ochre making a sap green (he tended to use this combo alot for his greens).


When he went to put in some back ground, with a wet brush and only a hint of color on it, he splattered some tinted water on the paper and swooshed it around using the entire brush pressing down to the ferrule. He used a mix of cerulean and cobalt violet for the background. When he is paintings he is always conscience of losing a edge creating soft and hard edges.

Two of his major mixes are: Cerulean, Y. Ochre, and a little Carmine

And: Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, and Burnt Umber

Close up of the painting. Notice the negative painting around the light flowers placing the darks next to the lights. And, the cools next to the warms. No muddy colors here. Whenever Charles is painting something that is predominately cool, he purposefully mixes in a warm color to warm it up. He almost always mixes on the paper, not on the palette. There in lies the challenge.

Technique: For a darker value, Charles uses lots of pigment on the tip of the brush. For lighter value, he uses less pigment and presses down to get more water out of the brush.

From time to time, Charles will sit back in his chair and squint. He says, "I let the painting tell me what to paint rather than what I see in the still life."

For painting the lemon, he applied Cad yellow pale at the top then darkened with yellow ochre.

The lime was made with Cad yellow pale and cerulean.

Notice the dripped paint on the floor by his shoe. This is what he does. He dips his brush in the water (doesn't swoosh it around), then shakes it out on the floor. He doesn't always cleans his brush between colors. If he gets too much water he will either blot it with a tissue or just let it drip. He never scrubs out with the brush (I wouldn't either if I paid that much for my brushes). He also said, "Never go back in and over paint your painting".

When I watch him paint, he really is a mess, and so are his paintings. But, a very well thought out mess with clean vibrant colors....Amazing!

When we took a break, Charles added fresh paint to his palette. Since he paints mostly like an oil painter, it is important that his paints are moist.

Still Life by Charles Reid- Day 1
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