Adjusting to online learning this year has been quite the process, but there is definitely some positives that have come from the world going virtual.

One plus is allowing online study with artists from all over the world. For example, my boss, Linda Wehrli, has had many students enroll in art classes and piano lessons from New York, Oregon, and Florida! Longtime students who moved away years ago are now able to resume their art classes and piano lessons at Pastimes. How cool!

Which brings me to another positive of online learning: Zoom Oil Painting Workshops! (Another perk: my boss pays for art workshops when I blog about them. Win-Win!)

I was thrilled to enroll and write about one of my favorite artists, Emilio Villalba‘s Portrait Painting Workshop. He is based in San Francisco, so I’m very thankful for Zoom and Pastimes.

I first discovered Emilio a few years ago at the Los Angeles art gallery group exhibit, Noh/Wave  HEAT/WAVE. I was drawn to his unique paintings and couldn’t be more excited to take his workshop. Below are some of his recent works.

The workshop was held on Sunday, November 1, 2020 from 12 PM – 2 PM (PST). Before the workshop, we were given the following reference photo and a step-by-step guide (phew!).

Emilio began his workshop with a warm introduction, stating how he’s grateful that students from all over the world in different time zones were able to come together and paint.

He then explained that this workshop would be his “meat and potatoes” step-by-step approach for portrait painting using the Zorn Palette.

For those who don’t know, the Zorn Palette is a limited palette based off Swedish old master painter, Anders Zørn. It consists of only 4 colors: Ivory Black, Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Red. It may sound easier to paint with only a few colors, but that’s not always the case! He then showed us his practice demo he did earlier. Inspiring!

Pro Tips:
For brushes, Emilio recommended the following Utrecht filbert brushes for working on gessobord: #4, #6, #8, and #10. For painting on canvas board, he explained that bristle brushes are best, which is more what the impressionist painters used. Another fun tip he revealed is to use watercolor brushes for details, both frayed and pointed.

For Sunday’s workshop, Emilio painted on Ampersand Gessobord. I chose to paint on an 8×10 stretched canvas since I had some on hand.

As for mineral spirits, Emilio only uses Gamsol when cleaning his paint brushes. Less smelly! 🙂

Emilio uses a mix of brands: Winsor & Newton, Old Holland, and Utrecht. Linda and I also recommend Winsor & Newton (Water-soluble) Oil Paints for Pastimes’ Online Oil Painting 401 Course.

After discussing materials and the objective of the 2-hour course, it was time to put paint on the palette and get to work! Emilio arranged the paints on the palette starting from light to dark, or cool to warm. So, titanium white -> yellow ochre -> cad red -> and ivory black. He also reminded to give enough space between each color on the palette.

We followed along with Emilio as he started the drawing process with a circle and drawing in shadow shapes by squinting. He used the term “stencilling” and advised to be patient in the drawing stage. For this process, we used a mix of ivory black and cadmium red. Emilio explained that as of late, he is less concerned with proportions which is why some of his recent paintings seem exaggerated. He said, “Trust your eye!”. Some helpful measuring tips were that usually the distance from the brow line -> nose = the distance from the nose -> bottom of the chin = brow line -> hair line. (Thirds) Neat!

When we began to draw the nose, Emilio discussed core and cast shadows. The form on the nose is the core shadow, which has soft edges, while the cast shadow is formed underneath the nose and consists of hard edges. He then marked the bottom of the ears slightly below the nose.

Now it was time to fill in the shadow shapes by using the original mix of red + black with a bit of yellow. If too light, we added a little black to darken. His “Golden Rule” was that the shadow shapes start off soft and end sharp.

Emilio explained that finding the right tone is like “cooking”, which I know is exactly what Linda tells to her students! (Great minds think alike!)

I learned another new technique here as well: for the shadow shapes, we “scumbled” the paint, which means to lightly scrub over selected areas, encouraging an imperfect glaze. Linda prefers the term “Zhuzh” for this. 🙂

Next, we added in the flesh tones, using white and little yellow. Emilio explained that we were finding the “local color”, which is the general overall tone. For example, if we were to look at an apple, we would naturally choose cadmium red with a small mix of another color. We blocked in the paint here, using a light pressure along the edges to keep them soft. We also used this time to reshape and redraw areas by cutting into parts of the painting. Always check the drawing while painting!

For the upper lip, Emilio advised to always soften the edges. He referenced old master painter, John Singer Sargent. In many of his paintings, there is only a bit of color for the upper lip. Less is more.

For the transitional values, such as the middle of the cheek where it transitions from dark to light, Emilio mixed some yellow ochre and red with the shadow shapes value we created earlier.

To cool down the flesh tone, we added black to create a blue-ish hue. As Emilio stated throughout the workshop, we are “earning” the colors as we go along. You end up seeing more shades and values as you continue painting than you see in the beginning of a painting session. It was fascinating to notice more tones as we continued on!
Another remarkable old master painter mentioned during the workshop was Diego Velazquez. Emilio remarked how he would make beautiful highlights. We then looked for the brightest areas like the forehead, cheekbones, and bridge of the nose and added titanium white with a little yellow ochre for the highlights. Emilio noted that it’s important to start blending and softening the lines and hard edges.

With the two hours coming to an end soon, Emilio gave some last minute tips:
For nostrils, think of “poking holes” in the painting. The only time we used solid black was for the pupils. The green of the eye was created using yellow ochre and black.
Because of the cast shadow from the top eyelid, the upper half of the eye is always darker; the bottom is lighter. Lastly, we quickly added in hair by mixing cad red and black.

Emilio ended the workshop by reminding us that we are looking for form rather than color. We are not looking at cubes, but organic spheres and shapes.

Here are some shots of Emilio’s beautiful work at the end of the workshop. You can really see the texture and brush strokes.

Here are photos of my 2-hour progression and unfinished painting. I will most likely keep working on it. 🙂

Thank you again, Emilio and Pastimes for the lovely workshop! Inspired to take a workshop with Emilio? Good news! He has two more Online Oil Painting Workshops in 2020.

For more info and registration, please visit his website.
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.

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