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Keul – Sundays, Nov 8th – Nov 22nd, 9:30am-12:30pm


In this class, students will learn to develop strong compositions, distill images down to their essentials, and work to create relationships within each painting. There will also be a strong emphasis placed on contrast, whether it be value contrast, chromatic contrast, or contrast between sharp and atmospheric lines. Students will learn how to create more powerful images that take full advantage of all of the tools available to the artist. Other issues that will be addressed include finding a value design in the landscape, reading color, using color value, and the importance of working quickly. This class is for painters of all levels, and equal attention will be paid to each student regardless of their experience.


Students work independently during each session, which will meet at a different “plein air” location to be determined in advance. Locations that have been popular in the past have included the Eno River, the Durham farmers market and old Durham Bulls Ballpark. The instructor will walk around periodically to help each student with their drawing, composition, and color, visiting everyone at least twice per class. Students may work in oils, watercolors, or acrylics.



– Sun hat and sunblock
– Sketchbook (small enough to carry easily for notes and sketches in field)
– Pencils (HB or 2B)
– An art bag or small backpack or caddy for carrying sketching and misc. painting supplies. You’ll want to be able to move around comfortably with your gear. Most paths where we are painting are uneven, so make your caddy is stable if you will be pulling it. Practice your system at home.
– A plein air easel (see easel information below)
– An umbrella that attaches to your easel is handy and gives you more flexibility for where to set up.
– Water bottles (for drinking plus carrying water if working in watercolor)
– Stools and drawing boards, some find useful so that you don’t have to stand the entire time.


If using watercolor:

– Arches or another good brand watercolor block, or watercolor paper minimum size 12”x15”, approximately 15 cut sheets, 140 lb. cold-pressed paper suggested. (You won’t be happy with the poor quality of student grade or Strathmore paper for your plein air paintings)
– 2 pieces of foam core if you aren’t using a block, a little bigger than your watercolor paper, sandwiched around watercolor paper to protect it
– White artist’s masking tape (not blue painter’s tape, which throws off your color)
– Brushes in a protective case (3 or 4 decent rounds and filberts, not too small). Robert Simmons Sceptre series are an affordable choice :http://www.dickblick.com/products/win-sor-and-newton-sceptre-gold-brushes/ or one or two medium to large round Kolinsky sable (size 8-12) can handle both fine lines and larger washes.
– Pencils, erasers, sharpener (I use HB or B pencil for drawing under watercolor)
– Pike’s palette (can buy from Dick Blick company) or similar type, filled with dried watercolors. (Make sure you give your palette at least a few days to dry with the cover off. Let me know if you want to start a new palette, and I’ll email you a suggested color placement)
– Extra tubes of your most used colors (put in a sealed baggy in your pack)
– Water holder You have to figure out where to place your water holder on your particular easel. You can hang it or put in an open French easel drawer. Viewer (good for compositions) like these :http://www.dickblick.com/products/quickomp-artists-drawing-tool/http://www.dickblick.com/products/viewcatcher/
– You don’t need to refill your palette with these colors, but these are what I use and teach with. Brands are Winsor Newton (WN), Schmincke (SCH) and Daniel Smith (DS). No abbreviation after pigment means any brand professional grade paint will do.Most important colors are marked with asterisks.

*cadmium lemon
*cadmium yellow pale cad orange or Pyrol orange (DS)
*cadmium red (light or middle, not deep)
*permanent alizarin crimson permanent rose (WN)
*ultramarine blue (NOT “green shade” or “red shade”)
*cerulean blue (SCH helio cerulean is less opaque than WN)
cobalt blue (expensive but great for skies. I like Schminke cobalt blue light)
*prussian blue or thalo blue or winsor blue
*yellow ochre or raw siena or quinacridone gold (DS)
*hansa yellow medium (DS) (transparent, more permanent than aureolin)
viridian green (don’t buy in WN–too crumbly. Try Sennelier Viridian or Schmincke Pthalo Green or Schmincke Chro-mium Oxide Green Brilliant. )
*burnt siena (or quinacridone siena DS)
burnt umber
naples yellow


If using oil:

– Canvases, or primed masonite or linen panels, or waterco-lor paper primed with gesso, or pieces of primed canvas. I draw borders the size of stretchers (12 x 12, 11x 15, whatever sizes you’d like) to stretch when I get back home, and leave an extra two inches around these pencil borders for stapling. I bring duct tape (Staples clear duct tape works well) to tape canvas to boards. You’ll need one canvas per day if you are only working in oil or acrylic. For linen panels I like Raymar, Sourcetek or Artboards — all have online stores. Dick Blick sells less expensive linen panels that are pretty good quality. Don’t buy cotton panels.
– Selection of oil brushes
– Palette cups
– Paper palette (With a French easel, you can use a Masterson palette with a lid, and insert a paper disposable palette inside.)
– Solvent : Turpentine or gamsol.
– Medium: Mix :
1/3 Cold pressed linseed oil
1/3 Damar/mastic varnish
1/3 Turpenoid (the damar and mastic varnishes should be mixed 2 parts damar to one part mastic)

– Suggested oil or acrylic pigments :(most important colors are starred)
Titanium/Zinc White
*Yellow ochre
*Cadmium yellow pale
*Cadmium lemon or lemon yellow
Cadmium red med or light
*Alizarin crimson
*Ultramarine blue
*Cobalt blue
Cerulean blue or manganese blue
*Prussian blue
*Burnt siena
*Burnt umber
*Oil painters could also bring a small travel palette with water-color or gouache and a watercolor sketchbook or block for exercises. Suggested colors : opaque white, cadmium yellow pale (or any pale yellow), cadmium red pale (or any warm red), alizarin crimson (or any cool red), ultramarine blue, Prussian blue, burnt sienna.



I’d suggest having an easel for outside work in both oils and watercolors.
For watercolors (and oils), you might consider using a “half French” wooden easel :http://www.dickblick.com/products/plein-air-easels-by-jullian
Make sure you get the half-easel, as the full models are heavier. Do not get a cheaper brand of wooden easel, as they break easily if not well-made. If you need to buy a portable easel, I can’t recommend one from personal experience other than the testrite easel I use, but here are some good options :http://www.dickblick.com/products/winsor-and-newton-alumi-num-bristol-easels/
Some people like the Plein Air Pro Advanced easel from Dick Blick or Cheap Joes :https://www.cheapjoes.com/en-plein-air-pro-advanced-se-ries-easels.html

Try out your purchased easel at home before the workshop, to make sure you have a workable system (ie., where do you put your water and palette if you are using a metal easel?)

Another good option is a pochade box for smaller oils, which integrates a paint box, palette, and easel, and is usually on a tripod. http://www.artworkessentials.com/

Another popular pochade company :http://www.judsonsart.com

For questions about materials, email: jameskeul@gmail.com


About the instructor: James Keul is a Durham-based artist who has exhibited widely throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia.  He received a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and studied at the Art Students League of New York.  He has received numerous awards for his plein air landscapes and cityscapes and has ten years of experience teaching plein air painting privately to students of all levels of experience.  Examples of his work can be found on his website at www.jameskeul.com


In-person classes offered during the pandemic are conducted at a low maximum capacity and with social distancing measures in place. Masks must be worn at all times. Students are required to sign a liability waiver before attending in-person classes. Refunds and exchanges are not offered for online or in-person classes offered during the pandemic.

All ArtSchool registrations have a $3 processing fee added upon check-out.

ArtsCenter members receive 15% off of the cost of this course!