Review: KD Allegri Watercolor Class

  Kathy Delumpa Allegri - fine art painter and muralist
44 N. Main Street, Gresham, Oregon

I'm fortunate.  Not too far from where I live, there's a lovely little wine shop where the talented Kathy Delumpa Allegri teaches watercolor painting and drawing classes.  I've taken one of her Plein Air painting classes and was curious to know what her 8-week classes were like.  I suspect that many of you might be curious as well, so I offered to review one of her classes so I could share with you.

Kathy's classes are held in the Allegri Wine Shop and Gallery.  It isn't a large shop, but the layout for the tables is chosen carefully, leaving plenty of room for people to move without bumping into anything, and out of the way of customers who come in for wine.

The class I attended was the first of an 8-week course, and was designed to get her six students (who were all repeat attendees) loosened up, and remembering what they had learned before.  However, as someone unfamiliar with her style, I found what she was doing easy to follow, and I think a new student would easily be able to keep up.  There was a lively conversation going on before the class, but once started, everyone focused on their work.  It was easy to see this was a friendly class, but the students were there to learn.

Each student was asked to bring a 22 x 30 sheet of watercolor paper (Kathy uses Fabriano Artistico 140 lb.). Masking tape was used to section the sheet into quarters.  Each quarter was used for a different lesson, and the lessons for the day were: Dancing Brush, Point-of-Color, Push & Lift, and Lifting Color

Kathy started the class with a discussion of the color wheel; how the seasons affect the colors you might choose for your palette, and how some knowledge of plants and seasonal changes might help. Since we are moving into fall, the emphasis was on Autumn colors.

Dancing Brush: Kathy had the students come up to the front where she demonstrated the technique, a rhythmic stipple movement that she used to create the leaves in a forest.  She then had the students practice without paint on the brush, trying different grips.  Then they all tried their hand at creating leaves.  Kathy walked among the students, chatting, answering questions, and offering tips and techniques that would be helpful to each student.  After a while, she repeated this cycle, having the students come to the front, watch how to paint the tree trunks and then sit down to paint their own.  Lastly, she showed them how to paint the forest floor.

This cycle of standing up to watch a demonstration, brief practice and then painting was the staple of her lessons.  I felt it was a really good mix.  It encouraged the students to get up and stretch for a few moments throughout the class, yet gave them plenty of time to work on the lesson.  Having all the lessons on the same sheet allowed students to easily go back and work on a previous lesson if they wished to, while the work remained in sight as a guide for subsequent lessons.

Point-of-Color: In this lesson, Kathy demonstrated over-lapping rock shapes and introduced the idea of mixing complimentary colors for glazes and shading. Her explanations kept things simple, focusing on how to apply brush strokes, hold the brush, and lay down the paint.  The students were encouraged to answer without being put on the spot to do so.

Push & Lift: Kathy demonstrated a technique for making graduated washes using a 1" brush, showing how colors can easily be mingled and blended for sunsets, fields and mountains without using small brushes. The focus of this exercise was brush-work.  While a lot of information and various techniques are discussed during the class, there is a strong emphasis on brush strokes and how to make the brush do much of your work for you.

Lifting Color: A switch was made from landscape to still-life.  This is a time in any class where students are beginning to tire, and the change of subject matter helped the students stay awake and interested. Kathy brought out several fruits and set them up as models.  Her demonstration re-iterated some of the information on complementary colors and then explored the lifting, or removal of color for highlights and lightening of color.

The class ran from 09:30 to 12:30.  It covered quite a bit of subject matter, and a surprising number of techniques were shown.  The students had plenty of time to explore each technique and they'll have a good reference to use for later classes.

My schedule doesn't allow me to take an 8-week course at the moment, but I hope I can take one of Kathy's classes in the future.  While, I know much of what she was showing, her class structure is one where students don't need to be at the same point on knowledge.  Her class is individualized enough that each student can work at their own level, whether practicing what they know, or learning something totally new.

Her next class will have the students working on Wine Grape Leaves in Autumn Colors and cover the techniques of drawing, layering color, 'dropping in', wet-in-wet color washes, and negative painting.  Future classes will cover transparent washes/ optical color mixing-layering color glazes, color harmony and contrasts.

Kathy has upcoming classes in Drawing and in Painting Portraits and Autumn Vineyards.  If you live in the Gresham, Oregon area and are interested, visit her website, or her Facebook page for more information.