Skip to content

Speed Painting at Vizcaya Gardens Miami

March 28, 2015

15Mar15_Vizcaya (2)

Near the end of our recent Florida cruise we had a free day in South Beach Miami. Not being much of a beach person, I was looking for something paintable, and a quick web search came up with the Vizcaya Museum and Garden. Sounded like a perfect trial run for our upcoming workshop in Italy.  (There are still some spaces available if you’ll be anywhere near Cortona Italy June 8-15).

15Mar15_Vizcaya (1)

Vizcaya is an Italianate mansion with a sprawling formal garden that offers a perfect opportunity for plein air painters. This kind of place, with its planned scenic views, well tended gardens scattered with statuary, its heritage trees shading artful nooks and crannies – you can look in any direction here and find a composition. I suggest arriving early and planning to spend the whole day. You could spend a week here and not run out of subjects.

15Mar15_Vizcaya (3)

One of the things I frequently talk about when discussing travel sketching, is the natural tension between doing a masterpiece, and seeing the world.

When you discover an amazing view, of course you want to set up a huge canvas and paint it all. There are painters that have been known to spend years on a single painting, going back again and again in the right light and weather. (Antonio López García).

Personally – at this stage of my painting life anyway – I prefer being on the move. Seeing the whole place, collecting multiple impressions, instead of investing it all in one image.

Mostly it’s just my personality – that I enjoy working quickly.

But also, I feel that until you can see a finished value study, you can’t really know you made the right call. That you chose the best composition at hand. The sooner you can get something down on paper with a complete representation of the drawing, the colors, and the full value range – only then will you know what you have.15Mar15_Vizcaya (6)

I knew immediately on arriving at Vizcaya that this was a beautiful location with a thousand potential paintings waiting. So right away I set myself a few limits – working small – in this case tracing my Moleskine Cahier placed face down on the sheet, giving me this 5.5×7″ shape with rounded corners. And working fast. Aiming to spend about 30 minutes each.

I’m quite happy with the collection. It was a day well spent. I hope our sketching group in Italy will be interested in giving these miniature watercolors a try. I feel that this kind of rapid iteration teaches you a lot, in a very short time.

15Mar15_Vizcaya (5)

15Mar15_Vizcaya (4)

Original sketches available for purchase
5.5×7″, 140lb cotton rag paper and artist quality watercolor: $225
Please contact marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com for inquiries

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2015 3:16 PM

    I love the fresh look of these quick mini paintings, there is still plenty of detail in there to give the sense of place. I have a couple of questions: when you say quick how quick do you mean? Ten minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? And also do you still use the Tea, Milk, Honey method for these?

    • March 28, 2015 3:29 PM

      Answering my own question here, I see you mentioned 30 minutes per painting.

    • March 28, 2015 3:55 PM

      He Mel – Re: Tea/Milk/Honey – well – sort of?

      It’s a good question – you’re right to notice there is something changing. I still feel T/M/H is the best way for a beginner. Most of us are much better at drawing than at painting. We’ve used pencils for most of our life, but are still gaining skills with the brush and paint. So I still teach T/M/H and recommend that method for sketch booking. It’s how I learned to move from pen drawings to what I’m doing now.

      So, that being said, I think the short answer is I’ve compacted it all into one-ish step. I’ve learned to paint with richer mixes of pigment, and used darker, stronger pigments. (I’ve added perlyne green and am using bloodstone genuine for some dark mixes). But I still think a lot about working Larger-to-Smaller and Wet-to-Dry. I just do it all at once now. I’m starting to develop some new tutorial material to reflect these changes. It’s almost like I might be able to do a sequel to my first book :) (heh).

  2. amats123 permalink
    March 28, 2015 4:34 PM

    Definitely reminds me of J. Singer Sargent! Very alive.

  3. March 28, 2015 5:08 PM


  4. March 28, 2015 8:05 PM

    There is just the right amount of white paper, left in just the right places, to give these paintings sparkle and movement. Thankyou for your inspirations and detailed replies. Sandi (Australia)

  5. March 29, 2015 1:24 AM

    Hi Marc, what size of brushes did you use for these mini paintings? And good point about most of us being much better at drawing than painting. I thought it was just me!

    • March 29, 2015 9:15 AM

      Hey Sylvia – it’s Larger-to-Smaller, just like the painting approach. So #14/#8/#1 is typical. These paintings are only 5×7″. If I was working larger I might start with 1″ – 2″ flat and a big mop.

  6. March 29, 2015 10:58 AM

    Marc you book and your posts and the Craftsy class are teaching me things I use daily. This post is another I will print and save. Good teachers affect students, change them for the better and your discussions move me along. Thanks You!

  7. estung permalink
    March 29, 2015 9:32 PM

    Marc, these are reminiscent of JSS’s works

  8. March 30, 2015 12:37 PM

    Wow. These are lovely. I especially loved the nuanced colors in the water in the 2nd painting. What colors did you use? Really inspiring.

    • March 30, 2015 8:33 PM

      Hey Su – lets see – looks like that was a mix of cerulean and mayan blue – or perhaps ultra blue, interacting with with the foliage reflection (perelyne green, sap green and quin gold) and then some touches of Fuschite Genuine. So in other words, some of everything!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: