For the last two weeks I have been busy conducting a workshop looking at selecting, manipulating and extracting the most from a painting subject. It was a lot of fun, but we worked hard – doing a couple of paintings each day and squeezing in a few critique sessions, where we examined everybodys work and discussed various problems and solutions.

Studio Workshop John Lovett Nov 2011

It is always a pleasure meeting new students and catching up with students from previous workshops. One of our new students for the second week was Carol and her assistant, Kim. What an inspiring lady – taking up watercolor a couple of years ago after a severe car accident ended her career as a lawyer and left her a quadriplegic. Forgetting about her disability, the standard of her paintings is excellent, but to see how she has overcome so many physical hurdles to produce the work she does is just amazing. On top of this, she is determined to keep on improving and works hard to that end.

Thumbnail sketches and simple monochrome collages were used to simplify and rearrange our subjects.

The demonstration paintings below illustrate some of the techniques we explored.

Manipulating a large foreground to lead up to a focal point while not causing a distraction.

Creating depth with hard and soft edges

Flat Ultramarine gouache used to squeeze more vibrancy from the warm, transparent watercolor.

Confining detail and using empty space as an element in the painting.

Practicing the random placement of suggestive abstract marks

Blitz Truck Watercolor


Sometimes an unusual subject will free you up to try new techniques.

Making a strong focal point in what was a flat uniform facade.

Starting loosly with a big brush and no preliminary drawing, then adding detail as the painting progresses.

Experimenting with techniques to break up a symetrical subject.


kalgoorlie map

Gwalia, once the second biggest gold mining town in WA, is now almost deserted. The “Sons of Gwalia” mine closed in 1963 and the population of over 1500 disappeared overnight. The first mine manager, 23 year old Herbert Hoover, brought in cheap Italian labor to help make the mine profitable.  Hoover went on to become the 31st president of the USA. Most of the abandoned cottages built by the workers are still in good condition thanks to the hot, dry climate.


























Gwalia’s State Hotel was the first state owned pub in WA. Built to counter the sly grog trade in the town, it is a stark contrast to the makeshift dwellings of the workers.


The Sons of Gwalia mine has since reopened and, judging by the size of the hole in the ground, must be doing fairly well.



Freo (West Australian for Fremantle) was the old, original settlement in WA, before Perth developed. Miraculously, many of the old buildings remain and have been well preserved.


Not just individual buildings remain in tact, but whole streetscapes have been saved.


In the downtown area there are beautiful examples of renovated Georgian and Victorian architecture .


Great shops and lots of cafes and bars are scattered about the main part of town.


Gothic picnic table lurking outside a Freo church


One of the interesting features of “Freo” is the Little Creatures Brewery. Great beer and food in a fantastic waterfront location.


They even hire out bikes for free to help patrons wobble home