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Dahlias after Painting Class

Dahlias in Oil

Oil paint on gessoed mat board, 12×7.5″

Sunday was my first plein air oil painting workshop with Elio Camacho and it was fabulous! Elio is not only a wonderful painter, but he’s a fantastic teacher — so energetic, enthusiastic and generous in sharing everything he knows (which is a lot!).

Although Elio covered a huge amount of artistic territory in his conversations with us, what really sunk in for me at this session was the importance of temperature (warm vs cool colors) and value (dark vs light) and how to use those relationships to paint the effects of light in the landscape.

To better understand this concept and practice seeing color temperature, he suggested doing a still life of all yellow objects as homework so I painted these dahlias from my garden (after scrubbing all the nasty aphids and ants off them–ick!). Yellow is a good color to practice with because there are many yellow pigments from cool to warm and dark to light and you can successfully lighten it with white, unlike red which turns pastel pink when white is added.

Since I started this journey to learn oil painting, I’ve read many books, watched a dozen oil painting videos, and received wonderful support from my online painting mentor, Nel. There were so many concepts, “rules”, and techniques that I understood intellectually but in class they came to life! Seeing the process demonstrated and being able to ask questions each step of the way was great.

And even better was having Elio checking on me every 15 minutes or so during the three hours I was painting. He demonstrated what he meant when I didn’t understand; he recommended I quit dabbling– put down a stroke and leave it; he showed me how to hold my brush correctly and at what angle, so I was putting paint down without scraping it off at the same time (hold the tip of the brush and keep it at a low angle to the canvas, not perpendicular as I was doing). So many things just clicked.

The painting I did in class isn’t worth posting, though it had some nice moments along the way. Now that I know how to hold my brush properly and understand the importance of the direction of the brush stroke, and am learning to see color temperature and value better, I’m can’t wait to start my next painting!

17 replies on “Dahlias after Painting Class”

This REALLY came together beautifully! What yellows did you use? Or with what did you mix them to get them light/dark–warm/cool? I’ve got Cadmium yellow medium and Naples Yellow… and they don’t seem to go together very well!
And what DO you do to get a non pink lighter red? I’m thinking maybe yellow. I have a book by Stan Smith and he definitely recommends analogous additions rather than complements for “tints and shades.”
PS: Culver City hardly looks like your mom’s painting anymore, does it!
PPS: I’ve been to speeches and teas like the one you went to. Knitting works, too.


I really really love this painting, Jana. It just glows. I’m actually a bit at a loss for words – I’m having trouble formulating just what I love so much about it! It’s just bursting with energy I guess. I’ll come back to your blog and contemplate it next time we have a cold gray day. You’re really moving along with oils – wonderful work.


Wow – this really gets my attention and I can see temperature is very important (and value, which I am trying to deepen) Just electric!!


I’m a “show me” kinda girl…….. can you show me what the meant when “he showed me how to hold my brush correctly and at what angle, so I was putting paint down without scraping it off at the same time (hold the tip of the brush and keep it at a low angle to the canvas, not perpendicular as I was doing). I don’t get it……… Please help with a photo????.


Painter Woman: the yellows I used were Cad Yellow Light and Cad Yellow Medium,adding variously some Cad orange, and Cad Red and I think a little Burnt Sienna to darken and warm the Cad Yellow Medium; and a yellow ochre, a little blue, and a little Viridian to cool/darken the Cad Yellow Light. I think you’re right that lightening red could be done with a yellow but there aren’t as many choices as there are with darkening it.


He meant that instead of holding the brush at an angle perpendicular to the canvas as I was doing, to go somewhere between 90 degrees and almost laying it down on the canvas. That way you’re laying down a brushstroke with the flat side of the brush rather than scraping it off with the top edge of the brush. This is assuming a flat brush. If it still doesn’t make sense let me know and I’ll send you a photo (but not until after my next class when I’m sure I’m doing it right.)


Teri: It’s really thrilling being a student. I don’t think I’ll ever be at a point when I feel I don’t have more to learn. I sure hope so! That’s the great thing about art — the learning opportunities are endless!

Thanks everyone for all the nice words. I’m so happy for all your comments and questions!!!


Wonderful exercise Jana. It is so nice to hear the excitement in your voice (by reading) that this class will be a win, win for you. Looking forward to seeing what comes out next.


Thanks for sharing your class experience, Jana. I’m going to try holding my brush differently today- what a great tip. Your ‘Yellows’ painting is just stunning!


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