Some of the greatest things we learned in the class were from the Old Masters: techniques, knowledge, compositions, and small bits of their history.
We did composition studies from their work by doing small thumbnail-size versions in watercolor. The point was to see the overall design of their pieces while trying to master the handling of watercolor. We had to make decisions fast and get past the fear of doing it poorly. We usually did 3 to 4 studies a day from a specific artist and had 10 minutes for each one. These are about half the size of a playing card.
Half of the 6 assignments we had to do was to copy a master of our choosing, just like in Drawing From the Masters class. I didn't know any watercolor painters at all, but of course Marshall recommended a few. I ended up discovering Winslow Homer's work and chose him as a "watercolor touchstone."
In my first attempt (bottom of page), I didn't have any clue on how to get the values and colors close to the original. So I took it into class the next day and Marshall did a demo for me (top of page) and showed that I needed an underpainting first to harmonize it. He used a raw sienna ( a sort of yellow/brown color) for the underpainting... and it made a big difference.
So I redid it with an underpainting, but I still didn't get the values that well. I did have fun with the technique though, using sandpaper to scratch and create texture (as Homer did).
Another copy... still had trouble with the values. Homer was a master of values!
For the second semester of watercolor (yeah, I know, "sacrificed" my saturday again)... I went ahead and continued to study Winslow Homer's work because there was still way more to learn from him. 3 mediocre studies was not going to cut it!
Instead of doing cropped versions of his pieces, I decided to copy the whole thing so that I can see the overall composition better. I did some comp studies first and figured out my color palette in order to prepare myself to do the whole piece.
This is one of the results...