Usk Chicago 2017 Part 3: Painting Trees with Shari Blaukopf

Besides teaching, every instructor at the Symposium gets to take one workshop. Always a hard choice with so many inspiring instructors and one open spot in your schedule. I’ve always wanted to take a workshop with Shari Blaukopf and this was the very first year my schedule actually allowed for it. So my first full day at the Symposium started with the workshop Trees in the City.

We warmed up by drawing a few trees at Grant Park in line, really looking at their shape and how their branches wove in and out of the foliage, how the foliage clumped into one large mass or several smaller ones. 

Each of us got a Winsor & Newton Field Box and we refilled the halfpans with artist grade watercolors that we used during the workshop. Then we discussed mixing greens. Of particular interest to me was getting beautiful color mixes for foliage with Phthalo Green.

After that, we relooked at the trees around us and painted them as big shapes in watercolors, noting the silhouette and color changes within the shape and painting it all wet-in-wet. When I’ve painted trees before, I’m always tempted to pull out my pen to add in line for the branches, but using a rigger brush like we did in this exercise might be reason for me to put that pen away sometimes.

Composition came next. We looked at examples of Shari’s work where she uses trees in many different ways: sometimes as the star of the sketch, and sometimes to offset more stark lines in the city. We discussed framing and cropping, placement and repetition and did a couple of quick thumbnails before using one of them to do a more finished sketch.


I chose to work with the sketch on the left, and miraculously the fellow on the bench stayed put while I got my ink-sketch done.

At this point in the sketch, Shari walked by and said she thought the piece was done. Which is a good thing, because I might have been tempted to keep going and add linework on that tree on the right, losing my focal point of the guy on the bench.

And that’s something I have to keep working on: learning when to stop!

Coming up tomorrow: my workshop at The Bean and a downloadable pdf of my workshop handout.

Post #1 from Chicago is here.
Post #2 is here.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in chicago, Summer, teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Usk Chicago 2017 Part 3: Painting Trees with Shari Blaukopf

  1. Kirk says:

    “Guy on the Bench” is a great memory of Chicago. Sounds like it was a great workshop!


  2. Angie Bumgarner says:

    I have trouble stopping, too. UGH.


  3. Karen says:

    Great work!


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