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“Colour and Composition” Margaret Best Workshop in Bermuda, May 2011

By Jesselyn Cyr

When I saw the announcement for Margaret Best’s “Color and Composition” workshop in Bermuda at the end of May I thought, “This is what I really need.” I checked my calendar and made the arrangements right away. I learned happily that Leslie Walker was scheduled to attend as well. This four day workshop took place in the Bermuda Society of the Arts (BSOA) gallery in the City Hall in Bermuda—an excellent central location with good light. The class was just the right size so we could work comfortably. The group’s skills were wide but most of us had good experience. It was a great chance to meet new painting friends.

Introduction and Goals from Margaret Best

Beautiful specimens available for students to paint.

Beautiful specimens available for students to paint.

While we reviewed the goals, the class was inspired by the plant specimens presented from an array of Bermuda plants that had been collected for the workshop. Bermuda is very beautiful and the local plant specimens ranged from plumeria, dates, ginger, passion flowers, agapanthus and more. After we each selected our specimens and while we started drawing, Margaret taught her ambitious subjects “Colour and Composition.” We started by discussing the palette of botanical watercolors that had been selected for the class—primarily transparent colors and most (but not all) of them from M. Graham.

Chroma and Value

The subject of how to test our watercolors for chroma was discussed and we reviewed the difference in chroma with various pigments such as yellows vs. blues. We started the process of color matching and value. Many of us had brought our color tests from previous classes so that we would have a starting place for color matching of our specimens. Then we tested our paper. Most of us used Arches 140# HP. Bermuda’s high humidity meant that our colors dried slower when we applied our watercolors to paper. Leslie and I were used to a faster drying process so we enjoyed time to move our paint.

Composition and Painting

Classroom in Bermuda.

Classroom in Bermuda.

We spent quite a bit of time drawing which was very helpful to understanding the specimens. Then the time came for Composition. Margaret offered a good fast course in various Composition styles while we traced our specimens. Since our class was in the Bermuda gallery we had the advantage of using many of the paintings in the gallery to look at composition techniques. One technique I used was to trace my drawings so that I could organize the right composition for my project.

Bermuda and Goodbye

Soon it was time for the class to end and look at our work. We all worked hard but no one’s goal was to finish, only developing new skills. We had all made excellent progress. Bermuda and this class had offered me a unique relaxed setting and workshop in which to learn. In the beginning I had said, “This is what I really need.”  It was true. Then I headed home to LA with a new level of confidence.

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