Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Workshops with Beverley Wells...experiences to remember

Not sure where to start really.....

At the beginning is best I expect so it is true to say that I have wanted to do a Bev Wells workshop for a good few years now...probably as long as I have known of her existence but as the journey is close to 31/2 hours from "up North"  to those posh sunnier climes of Spalding in Lincolnshire I have never taken the plunge and booked one.

Those who read my blog regularly will know that Bev has been mentoring me for a few months now and the desire to attend a session has been growing stronger until I could no longer resist and I booked to go this last weekend. Bev kindly invited me to attend her Friday class with the "Friday Girls" and I decided to set off at an unearthly hour on the Friday morning to make sure I arrived in time... I wasn't going to miss a single second of the wisdom I knew Bev had to share.

The icing on the cake then unexpectedly came my way when Bev posted on fb that she had a couple of places come available and I had a brainwave... why not ask the lovely Polly Birchall... she of Annie Arkwright fame!! Her response was favourable and after staying overnight with us and bellies full of spag bol ( from dinner the night before) we set off at 6.00am for our adventure to Lincolnshire.

Now, we had a list of materials and instructions which was a completely different experience for us both, we needed Arches Cold pressed paper (I don't use it), home made tracedown (what!! with instructions of how to do it), stretched paper (with staples) and my trusty unstretched rough paper was relegated to the boot for the duration of the workshops!!

We also had slight concerns as to the speed of things, as we are both very fast painters so we both went armed with other images in case we needed other things to paint. How wrong we were... about everything!!

I think I had Bev rather worried before we went...fast painter, never stretches, uses rough paper, and a firm graduate of the "slap it on and see" School of Painting. However she asked me to allow her to entertain me and learn from her.....as she pointed out, I know how to paint my way and of course I do bow to her knowledge and wisdom anyway, so I would have been a fool not to do as she said.

Bev runs a regular class on Fridays where she hates being described as a teacher. However when I looked up one definition of the word teacher...the description (which fits Bev to a tee) is

"teaching is imparting knowledge or skill"

which describes what Bev does in her workshops in bucket loads. They are sessions full of discussion, debate and banter which Polly and I absolutely loved.

The other thing which made a huge impression on me is the professionalism and extent of Bev's preparation. Her workshop piece was framed ready for us all to view and she had drawings, tonal plans a laminated step by step card and her own very precious book of value plans where she has tried out different options and then on the opposite page a full tonal painting in beautiful black watercolour. 

Both the Friday class and the workshop followed a similar format (though there are some who paint alternative subjects in the classes where Bev will advise and help where needed)... in essence everyone discusses the plan for the painting, the planning part for Bev is by far the most important and she has spent the days and weeks before planning her subject, planning the composition and then creating her value plans, her sketch and finally her painting. 

Once the theory behind the plan and then the colour choices have been thoroughly dissected and analysed, Bev starts the painting and the group follow as a step by step. The Friday class was slightly different to the workshop as they could if they wanted create their own value plan (which I did before I went to the class as Bev has e-mailed through the image) whereas in the workshop we all followed Bev's plan.

Bev is very specific about her own colour choices and is exceedingly knowledgeable about colour mixing and understanding the properties of paint. My own method is much less informed (mixing my colour planets) but I do think my colour choices are a strength and so that is one area of my work I am happy to stick with, though my journey with colour continues and I am constantly learning more about which combinations work or don't work.

Though I love painting flowers which was the workshop topic, I was delighted at the subject choice for the Friday class and using my new ipad and pencil set about my own value plan. I have finally learned how to create different tones using the tools and I was really pleased with this digital painting..

 Bev had produced a line drawing for the class to use and again this is very specific as it has been drawn to proportions which create the composition within the specific size of paper. Those who read my blog may remember I did make mention of this in terms of creating my value plan on the ipad and then having to approximate in the scaling up process. I'm sure I will be able to solve this technical problem but I do see the point of creating your drawing the actual size, then doing an accurate transfer onto the paper.

My colour choices were slightly different to Bevs as I do like to inject a bit of self. Bev had liked my value plan which I used as well so although I did adopt Bev's way of painting... very wet in wet which I love anyway, I felt more that the painting was mine, not just a copy of Bev's.

Here is the painting.... not exactly as the tonal as the drawing is slightly different, but the idea is there of following the pattern of darks and lights as I had already prepared in my plan.

The workshop was actually about mark making but initially the painting process was similar to the previous day and Bev has a lovely wet in wet technique which I really must start to use a lot more for my own work. I tend to paint wet on dry for a variety of reasons but each day all who attended had wonderful results although all very different.

Once we were nearing the end of the painting the time had come to do some mark making both with watercolour paper and the end of a computer stylus, very effective and the whole process of working like that reminded me of how good it is to play and experiment....something I should do a lot more of!

I haven't shared the value plan for this as that belongs to Bev and so not appropriate for me to share. I probably won't share many of my plans in the future either.....

In this I have to say that the drawing, composition, colour choices, value plans are all Bev's and while I don't normally do this when I attend workshops there were good reason for all those things as I mentioned earlier and not much point attending to simply do your own thing. The main difference in this and other step by steps is that we were given so much information to use and take away to incorporate into our own work.....this doesn't always happen when you do a step by step but in this workshop we were given many tips and tools to apply to our own work.

As an aside, I would have thought that this workshop was definitely not for beginners and for the best part I would have said that everyone was a pretty experienced painter... with one exception, Jan with whom I have corresponded on fb. When she saw that Bev had places available she also booked to come and as a beginner with not much extra help at all, she did a fabulous painting......more testimony to the exceptional "teaching" and guidance Bev gave us throughout the day.

Bev's mantra is "Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail" and this is not only evident in her planning for her own work but also for these classes and workshops. I have never ever attended a workshop with so much attention to detail, these workshops are meticulously planned and the results of her efforts are there to see in her own paintings and the paintings we all achieved.

In conclusion I cannot recommend this workshop highly enough....Bev is honest, forthright and very generous with her praise where due, but more importantly very generous in her sharing of her wealth of knowledge and that is definitely not always the case!!!


  1. Well written Judith. A perfect description of our experience together at Bev’s inspirational class and workshop. We both paid her the ultimate respect by not speeding through a painting a enjoying every brush stroke. Thank you for asking me to accompany you. A very special arty memory

  2. how wonderful to have such an enlightening experience especially to share with a like minded friend how very lucky you both are - glad you go to experience a new way to add to your repertoire of artistic skills

  3. Dear Judith - your summation of this workshop was so good and informative. I often fail to plan and after seeing your painting it seems like a bit of forethought can certainly benefit the final outcome. So glad you shared your time with Bev and took Polly along as well. Have a super day. Hugs!


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