August 28, 2018

Zhaoming Wu Workshop

It's been an age since I've last blogged. I've been trying to stay busy painting and so haven't had much time to write about what's been going on with my painting life. But I've done a few workshop reviews here so I think for people looking to experience a workshop with Zhaoming Wu this review may be of help. I try to do my homework when selecting a workshop to attend and it's really helpful when I can find information on a particular instructor in order to make a more informed decision. People are putting down their hard-earned money after all.

At this point I have a pretty short list of workshop instructors who I feel are simpatico with either my particular aesthetic sensibilities, or who have aspects of which I feel I would like to incorporate into my work. Zhaoming for me was right there in the top three I'd say.

I suppose there may be some terrible workshop instructors out there, but I've been fortunate in that all of the ones that I've attended thus far have been really great, this one being no exception. This was a three day workshop in rural Lowell, Michigan at the Franciscan Life Process Center. An interesting and beautiful place that seems to be growing into a workshop destination for the Midwest. The Center, as the name implies is run by an order of Franciscan nuns who work and live there. They sponsor and offer many other services which you can find on their website for peoples general well-being, but at some point the sisters felt that they wanted to support artists and the arts in general and so have begun putting together quite a list of some really outstanding visual artists to come there to teach. They have rooms there where you can stay, some of which have private baths, some where you share a bath. The rooms are simple and inexpensive but comfortable. You don't have to stay on the grounds and you can go to a nearby hotel if you so choose, but staying at the center really simplifies things as well as keeping costs down.

To continue, as I said, the workshop was three days. The first day. consisted of Zhaoming demonstrating his approach to painting a higher-key subject and after a break for lunch we would then try his approach in the afternoon. There were two models set up so it wasn't hard to find a decent painting spot, which can be a bit of an issue with some workshops. I personally felt like I struggled a bit that first day, but that will happen when you attend a workshop and are trying new things. One thing I might suggest to a prospective attendee would be to get some kind of easel light to help illuminate your work. Because Zhaoming"s work is generally very dramatically lit and higher contrast, the workshop lights have to be turned off in order to maintain the light contrast on the model. But that would make it hard to see what you were mixing on your palette at times. During breaks or lunch, when the lights would come up you could see how you badly you might be assessing things light-wise.

Zhaoming is from China, and he does retain a pretty heavy Chinese accent. Because of this there were some there that might have had a little trouble understanding him, but I'm pretty good at getting past thick accents so it wasn't a problem for me. I still think he would get his points across to most people fairly clearly. When it was our turn to paint, Zhaoming would come around and give us some things to look for and other things to avoid. One thing that was a good reminder for me is that Zhaoming would emphasize making a painting "look good" which translates to not being a slave to either your reference or the subject before you. Also doing or adding things for the sake of the design and not just because you want to add everything there. He has a kind of method that includes a number of logical steps. I won't include them here. You've got to pay for those yourself ;-). The steps are not etched in stone. They are helpful guidelines to help keep you on track to a more successful painting.

The last day was us painting the full day. He came around frequently and was very helpful in identifying problems you might be having. I think by the last day I was starting to get it a little more. One interesting thing about Zhaoming's way of painting is his choice of tools. He uses some pretty wide brushes to paint some fairly delicate areas. He also uses the fan brush quite a lot. But he doesn't use it to blend, the way a lot of artists do. He uses it to paint with, to lay down paint, and he also uses it on its edge to create thin lines. It's all really a sight to behold.

In closing, this is not a difficult workshop to recommend. Zhaoming was kind, polite, and open regarding sharing information of his methods. He doesn't get out to my neck of the woods much, or at all I think. So when I first heard the FLPC was hosting him I immediately signed up. I think you should too. But remember, attending workshops is all about attitude readjustment and learning. There were several accomplished artists there who I follow on social media. They all recognized Zhaoming's work and potential to contribute to their own styles and they all left their egos at home. This is, I think, our responsibility towards contributing to a successful workshop.

Zhaoming Wu Demo - Day 1

Demo 1 Detail

Zhaoming Wu Demo - Day 2

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