Monday, December 19, 2011

A Winter Demo with A Modern Oil Painting Master

Quang Ho Still Life Demo in progress (detail)
I rarely post a painting that's not mine but this is worth the exception. For months I’ve been looking forward to acclaimed Denver painter Quang Ho’s six hour long still life oil painting demo this past Saturday. I hate to gush but it was truly amazing. Honestly, I’m still exhausted just from observing and absorbing. (I want to quickly note that the room was lit for painting. I didn't want to use the flash so my photos really don't do his painting justice.)
Quang begins with a "loose" washy block in of shapes
After Quang introduced the session by explaining his light and shadow approach (you can learn more about this in his Nuts and Bolts DVD), he arranged a lovely still life that included red tulips, orange persimmons, a big green glass bottle, and some light greenish white lilies. He emphasized that he's looking for variety and color flow. Watching him arrange the objects was truly a treat. 
Quang's Still Life Setup

Quang started with orange/lilly area and moved on to adjacent shapes.
  Briefly, for those of you interested in Quang’s painting materials:
  • Support: Square-ish (around 30x 34?) double primed linen mounted on gator board so he can trim this easily if he needs to. Looked like a wonderful surface to paint on.
  • Brushes: Both bristle (mostly filberts and egberts—long tongue like filberts) and softer mongoose brushes. He mentioned the British Rosemary brand. He cleans his brushes with Turpenoid Natural.
  • Palette: Relatively large glass palette (with around 20 colors). He uses a variety of brands and noted he likes LeFranc white (something I will try). Medium: Odorless Turpenoid.
  • He’s right handed and stands when he paints (stepping back a lot) and keeps the palette on a table in front (not to the side) of his easel as you can see below. Note this is a "classroom" easel.
Quang's Palette--lots of color!
I couldn’t begin to touch on the depth of knowledge a master painter like Quang has but I wanted to share a few random notes I made during the demo that struck a chord.   
Getting to the final stages...Quang painted the table fabric last.
  1. He learns more about painting from philosophy and science books than he does from art books.  
  2. Be sure to consider the macro: What is the big picture—the  main story you are telling? What is the light doing?
  3. On the flip side you need to be conscious of the micro: Even in a large painting each brushstroke matters. There are no repeats in nature.
  4. Every piece is an important part to the whole. Carefully record unique and specific shapes.
  5. Take your time. Don't rush. Mix a new color for every brush stroke.
  6. Don’t be as concerned about having a single focal point as you are about how the eye travels through the painting.  
  7. Start with the area that you think you do the most correct and work off of that.
  8. Painting is a series of decisions so it’s important not to freeze—Make a decision!
  9. Focusing on value before color helps you color mix.
  10. When painting light and shadow approach classify your shapes into light OR shadow shapes. It's one or the other. 
  11. Note light and dark (a value range) is NOT the same—for example you might have a relatively light shadow.  
  12. As the object turns from the light and shadow the color intensity is at its greatest.
  13. Be very mindful recording the shape where the light and shadow meet.
  14. There’s no negative space—everything counts.
  15. Where can you merge your edges? Search and destroy...
  16. Start with your blueprint and don’t get lost in the detail.
  17. There’s no “mud” just bad shapes.
  18. Light is an organism that moves as one.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the highlights from the demo. I also want to thank Quang for sharing his knowledge. One day, many years from now, I'll be telling my students about this demo. It's was like watching a magician who explains everything he's doing but in the end it's still magical.


  1. Thanks for sharing. It looks like it was an amazing opportunity. Such a large painting for a demo- that surprises me.

  2. Your welcome Dawn! I was also very impressed with how much of the painting he finished given that he not only chatted up front but also graciously answered many questions throughout. His focus was phenomenal.