A Weekend with Still Life Painter, Qiang Huang

I was excited to be able to take a workshop with Qiang Huang. I had been following his blog for a few years now and had admired his loose brushworks and gestural paintings of still life, landscapes and figurative.

Basically self-taught, Qiang, had become successful in selling his works online as well as in galleries. He had taken workshops from David Leffel and Scott Burdick.

So his “secrets” in loose brushstrokes were “revealed” to me in this workshop.

Still life set up

Setting up the still life was so important. There were still life stations set up and we, students had to set up our own still life. Qiang then went around each station and critique our still life, even rearranging to show what worked and what didn’t. This was a gold nugget for me.

Stage 1 – Placement of large shapes.

Before blocking in Qiang applied a little linseed oil to smooth out the surface. Even on his linen canvas. This allows the paint to go on smoothly especially for the background that needs to be transparent.

Stage 2 – Establishing three values – darks, middle and light

Using a mixture of ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide, Qiang painted in the darks and mid values with a soft watercolor brushes. It seemed that he painted mostly with that. His principle with brushes is sable/synthetic brushes for transparency like in shadows and darks. For light, bristles are best for texture and opaqueness.

Stage 3 – Painting in Colors

Now comes the general application of colors. Here Qiang followed his grisalle established in Stage 2 to determined the values of colors for each object. He put in his very darks and his light in order to work the mid values. There is an abstract quality at this stage. He questions the temperature, the opacity and the chroma for the objects in the set up. It was in this stage that I got lost in my own painting.

Stage 4 – Modeling

Here edges are defined. Are they soft or sharp? The objects are looking more like 3-D.

Stage 5 – Consolidation

The final is completing the painting. It’s solidifying the colors into the objects. Or leave some in an abstract form.


Below is my painting in the workshop…actually it’s the second one.

The set up

Qiang rearranged our still life. It was important that it reads from left to right.

Stage 3

I was able to establish the values and add the colors to match up with the values. This was my second attempt.

This was one of the best workshop I had ever attended. Qiang, a former professor, knew exactly how to present his lessons a logical way – broke his painting process in stages.

In addition he presented his lessons in different ways for different learners. Day 1, Qiang did a three hour demo and then we painted in the afternoon. Day 2 though he painted in stages. He did stage 1 and then we went to our stations and did stage 1. All the stages was done this way so that we can see where we have done right or wrong.

Qiang is a regular at Patris’ and hopefully, I can take his workshop next year.