Thailand Adventure- A Watercolor weekend workshop
On one of my busy days at the office, I found a short message on my desk, a call from a friend, asking for me to join her to attend a watercolor art workshop by the river in Nakornpratom province, only an hour’s drive from Bangkok. Great, I said to myself! This is exactly what I was looking for- a short getaway and a meaningful break from my work.
Next morning, I packed my stuff including some shorts that were well suited for the sweltering 100-degree temperatures of mid April; no need to bring the painting materials since the teacher will supply us with everything we may need. Our teacher, Pe Seenam, a renowned watercolorist in his 40’s, has skills in shading and many painting techniques.
We met the four other students at an art studio in Bangkok, whereupon we commenced the hour-long journey to the ‘school” in a car provided by the teacher. On the way, we stopped at the ‘Lam Phaya” floating market. I was very excited to see many Thai local products here - fresh and preserved tropical fruits and Thai sweets that we could not find in the Bangkok supermarkets. After enjoying a delicious impromptu breakfast, we continued to our destination by a barge with our teacher. What a fantastic journey!
A moment later, we arrived at our â€˜Natural School’. The facilities were located in a nice, quiet area overlooking the Nakornchaisri River, a wide river with an orchard. There were two wooden houses; one was a big Thai style house with a high basement and wide veranda. Once you enter the house you will be greeted by many beautiful watercolor paintings adorning the wall. The other house is without walls; previously used as the rice mill, it is adjoined to the one storey office protruding to the river. This is a multi-purpose area with long table and benches set up for dining, socializing and painting. For those who felt like a taking a little snooze, there was a handmade hammock made of bamboo’s skin in a nearby shaded area.
Pe Seenam, our softly spoken teacher, led the class of about 6 students, ages ranging from 40-65. Some of his friends also joined as his assistant, entertainer and cook. This is just a sample of the traditional hospitality of Thai people.
Having been away from watercolor for such a long time, I felt so happy to be able to pick up a paintbrush once again. ‘Khru Pe’ (in English, Kru means teacher) first gave us a demonstration on sketching the objects with pencil in three forms - circle, triangle and square; then emphasizing shading technique, he taught us how to observe the light on that objects.
The first thing we did is sketching by pencil, showing the depth and shade by putting weights of color. We learned that a proper painting should have 6-9 levels of shade. The second thing we did in the afternoon is single-colored painting, I painted in blue while â€˜Lek’, my friend painted in black.
Next morning, after breakfast, we practiced tricolor paintings with blue, red and yellow as our colors. I painted a tree on the riverbank; the tree’s leaves were large and thick forming the fountain - like tree. I did not notice that there was another classmate sitting far behind me; she was a very sociable lady in her 50s who was an elementary school teacher. As she was there primarily to enjoy the scenery and ambiance with her friends, she did not pay much attention to the painting but had to do so since everyone did.
On Sunday afternoon we traveled to a nearby location by barge, stopping here and there for nice landscapes and scenic views. I chose to paint a panoramic view of the river, essentially using 6-colors in addition to special colors such as purple, green and orange for ornamentation, not forgetting the contrasting tones of light and heavy.
After few hours on board the barge, and before class adjourned, we had to summarize our performance. Then â€˜Khru Pe’ gathered all the paintings from day one and evaluated the work of each student. He also identified the personality of each painter from his/her work. For example, people who like nature, their favorite color for their paintings is green…etc. etc. etc.
When â€˜Khru Pe’ unveiled my painting of the fountain-like tree, the elementary school teacher rudely shouted ‘That is my tree…why you painted it? It â€˜s mine. I met this tree before you, so it’s mine.” What a joke, I thought to myself! I turned around and looked at her painting, then I returned her a warm smile and I proclaimed to her and the class ’ Our trees are not the same. Look, her tree has only one dimension, no depth, no shade and tone but is strong red and brown in color. Yes, her painting was a tree but another species altogether, totally different from mine. That is the tree
in her own imagination”. After my remarks, everybody laughed including that clumsy lady teacher. Apparently they enjoyed my sense of humor. Anyway I didn’t let ‘that lady” bother me; to me, she just added more color to my weekend.
We had a good view of the river, and the calm and peacefulness of the surroundings brought serenity to our minds, “sort of a don’t worry, be happy sort of feeling”. Not only did I have a relaxing time on this weekend outing but I also was very pleased with my paintings.