Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I took a great workshop with Jean Uhl Spicer

Hi Folks,

I just got back from a great four-day watercolor workshop in flower painting with Jean Uhl Spicer. Jean is a wonderful artist from Philadelphia who has been working professionally as a artist all her life, and recently published a book with North Light called "Bright and Beautiful Flowers in Watercolor".

The workshop took place at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, Maryland, and was sponsored by the Baltimore Watercolor Society. Jean was the juror for the BWS' 2010 Mid-Atlantic Watercolor Exhibition this year. The show starts Saturday, April 17, at Strathmore Hall in Rockville and is an absolute must-see!

Each day in the workshop we took a different approach to painting the incredible fresh flowers she brought in. Below I am going to show you some examples of the paintings she did, and the paintings I did, and try to explain her technique a little bit.

Below is a picture I took of Jean demonstrating, and also some examples of Jean's paintings from the workshop.

Below are some of the paintings I did in the workshop (the last one is not finished yet), and then I will describe Jean's approach and palette of colors:

To me, Jean's flower paintings are characterized by an incredibly vibrant, cheerful look in which the flowers have a lot of personality and look almost cute and perky. She really simplifies and stylizes what she sees so that the main subjects of the painting are really color, shape and value. You appreciate the beauty of her paintings, not only for their depiction of flowers, but for the way the gorgeous colors flow and the interesting shapes interlock.

One key to her success with color is the palette of colors she uses. For yellows, she uses aureolin, Hansa yellow, and quinacridone gold. For reds, quinacridone red, cadmium scarlet, permanent magenta, and brown madder. And for blues she uses cobalt blue, French ultramarine, cerulean blue, and Antwerp, and occasionally Payne's gray. She doesn't have any greens or purples on her palette, but creates them with beautiful mixtures of the above colors.

Another key is the fact that she always squeezes out fresh paint. Her manner of application is very wet and juicy with lots of rich color. She encourages colors to blend together on the paper from one flower to another, creating interesting watercolory effects. Later she glazes with still bright, but darker colors in order to pull out details and negative shapes. These are just some of the ideas she conveyed in the workshop.

Other students in the workshop did excellent work and everybody had a great time. Jean Spicer is an extremely nice person and very capable teacher. Check out her website at

I hope you enjoyed this posting, and please let me know your thoughts.


  1. Glad to hear the workshop went well!
    Chris Dodd, President, BWS

  2. This post is really about the great article you were given on another blog. Beautiful pictures and a very complimentary write up. * Well deserved) BRAVO.

  3. Hi Chris-- Yes, I am very glad I took that workshop. Jean gave us some good ideas for creating paintings that are fresh and fun to do. --Sue

    And Hi Roberta-- Thanks for the feedback. You are referring to the write-up about ARThouse by Janet Belich at Janet is another BWS member and she and I are going to be co-chairman for workshops thru the BWS during the next three years. She is a great person and I love her blog--check it out! --Sue

  4. I too had a wonderful time in Jean's workshop. She is a great teacher and I learned a lot. She demonstrated a variety of ways to approach painting flowers. I have already added several of her keys colors to my palette.
    Thank you Susan for helping to spread the news. Lois Wolford

  5. Great synopsis of the workshop! Juicy color, thoughtful composition and restraint on all those details were the keys to exciting paintings. And we had fun.

  6. I enjoyed my two days at the workshop and I ESPECIALLY enjoyed getting to see some of the faces that went with names that I've seen before.
    Thanks to the folks of BWS for their excellent organizational skills, the coffee, food and the workshop. And to Jean - I had fun! Learned some things, too.
    Happy painting!
    Catherine Hillis

  7. Hi Catherine-- Your painting in the Mid-Atlantic show looks fabulous! My students love it--the technique and the subject (It's called "The Manicure" and has a sense of humor--you've got to see it!). It was nice meeting you at the workshop and I hope to see you at the Mid-Atlantic reception (Sunday, May 2 from 1-3pm--all are invited!). --Sue