Saturday, October 8, 2011

Art Workshops Fairbanks

It was the opportunity to teach workshops in Fairbanks that got the whole concept of this Alaska adventure underway. Spike’s 5-day watercolor workshop for the Fairbanks Watercolor Society came together first, thanks to the efforts of Betsy Bear. Betsy then put Sue in touch with Corlis Taylor, another Fairbanks artist, who gathered together a group for a 2-day book arts workshop. Our stay in Fairbanks focused on a full week of teaching, Spike’s workshop Monday through Friday, Sue’s on Saturday and Sunday.

Spike’s Workshop                                       

The plan for Spike’s workshop was to do a few demonstrations and some instruction indoors for a day or two, then spend time outside painting on location, weather permitting. Being September, weather was unpredictable but autumn colors were gorgeous and sunny days would be pleasantly warm.

Workshop participants experienced a no-nonsense approach to painting with individual and group instruction. Four key points were covered: simple guidelines to a better composition - laying down a foundation quickly and confidently - simplifying shapes and understanding what you see - understanding the balance of warm and cool colors.

For information about future workshops, visit Spike's workshop page.

A demonstration mirror lets everyone watch Spike as he paints.

First demonstration painting (15x22”) – a scene of the Copper River
based on a photo we took along the Alaska Highway.
After Spike’s demo, workshop participants attempted to paint the same scene.

Everyone takes a look at Spike’s mobile studio set-up.

A beautiful day painting outdoors at the Georgeson Botanical Garden in Fairbanks.

Gael sketches under a tree.

Spike helps “Jeanne from Mars.”

Spike advises Betsy.

Workshop information overload, “I can’t take in anymore!”

Later Nelda was happily painting.

Sherry hard at work.

Tom works on a masterpiece.

Spike and Helen discuss composition.

Tony, interrupted in his concentration.

Gathering for another demo.

Demo painting- Last Light, Wrangell-St.Elias (12''x16''.)

Thursday night we all brought food for a potluck feast. The workshop facility at St. Raphael Catholic Church was ideal with plenty of space, large widows for good light and a big kitchen.

An evening of good food and great conversation.

Drawing done by Spike during the outdoor session to demonstrate how important a composition sketch is so back in the studio the artist can complete a painting without photographic reference using only the sketch and one’s memory for color.

Last demonstration painting, Autumn Farm (12x16”) painted from the above drawing without reference to a photo. (now in the collection of Barbara Schuhmann)

A nice card from the appreciative group (accompanied by a gift of delicious smoked salmon and a bag of North Pole coffee beans.) We love these friendly Alaskans.

We had a wonderful time with the Fairbanks Watercolor Society gang. This was one of the nicest groups of people Spike has ever worked with. It was a great teaching experience for him.

(Some of the photos above are courtesy of Betsy Bear & Gael Murakami.)

Sue’s Workshop                                            

Sue’s workshop was titled The Spontaneous Book. The creation of this book begins with a full sheet of watercolor paper which is painted on both sides – spontaneously. It is then cut into pages which are sewn together. Binder’s board covers are attached with glue. The book is then ready to be developed into a unique work of art. The great thing about this approach is that you are no longer faced with a book full of blank pages. By the time you have gone through the painting and assembly process your pages have color and texture and your brain is fired-up with inspiration.

It was thanks to Corlis Taylor’s organizing efforts
and use of her studio space that made Sue’s workshop possible.

With only two days to make our books the class worked quickly on the step-by-step process of painting, cutting, sewing pages and gluing on the cover boards. Once books were assembled everyone unleashed their own creative visions to work on covers and inside pages.

Much progress was made on these Spontaneous Books in the short time we had. It is hoped inspiration will continue as each artist works on their books, inside and out.

Left to right - Peggy, Sue, Janet, Timona, Linda, Corlis, DaLonna, Me.

Everyone had fun and did a great job. Sue left the group with paper and boards for each one to make another book. She looks forward to seeing the results if anyone wants to send a photo or two.


  1. it was definitely a lot of fun!

  2. Fabulous essay - beautiful works! Happy trails - jacqui

  3. It's fun looking back at the great time we had. You made everything look so effortless UNTIL WE TRIED and then it was such a major learning curve for most of us. Thanks for sharing, hope your trip home was full of Alaska wonder! Chris

  4. Spike and Sue,
    I enjoyed meeting you both and learned a lot from the workshop. Thank you for sharing your talent.
    Cherie Kelly

  5. Wow Spike,
    You sure have stretched out since the boulder days Spike, So glad I looked you up on google and reconnected Amigo..look forward to seeing you again.. If you get down my way in Tucson this winter bring the Airstream and hang out on the ranch with my crew and the wolves..we are about 40 miles west of Tucson in the Sierrita mountains..Febuary firstish is the huge World class Tucson Gem and Mineral show.. dealers from everywhere on earth and things you see nowhere else...James Dastrup

  6. What a busy week for you two. I especially enjoyed the color in your "Last Light Wrangel" painting Spike. I really like the Spontaneous book idea Sue. What a great way to get past the formidable blank page when one first starts a project!
    Looks like lively, fun workshop participants.... and they cook!