Painting with Ken Karlic

I spent an afternoon in the studio of  #grittywatercolors artist Ken Karlic in Bel Air, MD recently to add some painterly energy to my work. I quickly realized that my wet on wet technique was fine for my quick sketching, but that taking my work to the next level would involve some unlearning and relearning about the behavior of water and paint and its engagement with brush and paper. I’d say the afternoon was equal parts humbling and energizing.
In the studio of Ken Karlic I can thank my good friend, fellow architect, and supreme watercolorist Moh’d Bileisi for the encouragement to forgoe a generic workshop that will inevitably pit me against various levels of watercolor enthusiasts, and rather go straight to a focussed tutorial time with an accomplished artist. When I first saw Ken’s work in a Plein Air magazine article last year, and his “gritty” watercolor approach, I knew I had found a compatible colleague to learn from.

Our time together took the following form: visiting a little bit about our backgrounds and interests, some understanding of my developmental goals, a review/critique of my current work, some application exercises and a couple test paintings in the 30 min range each. We spent about four hours together in total and added a quick drink and bowl of soup at a local Irish pub to our time together. Bel Air is a suitable alternative to the French Riviera for artists to gather to talk about their work. Ken was breaking from hanging a fantastic show in his gallery of 100 plein air works of various artists from around the region. We used that show to initiate our discussion.

The take aways from my critique time with Ken were: solid architectural draughtsmanship to work with, a reasonable palatte of color with a need for a couple more, and a good sense of composition. My areas for improvement were: improving consistency in my balance of paint and water, controlling the overwatering and pigment drop that I am used to in wet on wet technique and transition more to painterly application and control, allowing shape and form to bleed into one another and lead to better and more complex shape making and modeling, varying the impacts of water forms used for erasure and affect, including more variety of shape, line and point impacts in my work, and better abstraction of the scene itself for more personalization and storytelling.

In a few short hours, Ken was able to really get into my struggles and successes and gave me some great advice to carry forward with the development of my craft. Super excited about that! Thanks for spending your afternoon with me Ken!


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