Workshop Report: Studio Painter’s Guide to Success with Plein Air & Still Life with Leah Lopez

It was a week of all varieties of weather for Leah Lopez’s indoor/outdoor workshop guiding studio painters through both plein air and still life painting. The week concluded with two beautiful days of painting on Fredrick Church’s historic Olana.

As always, we’ll share a few of the images we captured here on our blog, but encourage you to also check out the full gallery on our Facebook page. You can also scroll back in our Instagram feed to see what we captured during the class.

And of course, our video for the week, found on our YouTube channel!

Still Life to Landscapes with Leah Lopez

The 2015 season of workshops at the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops has begun. The first workshop was a wonderful 5-day workshop taught by Leah Lopez, “Still Life to Landscapes.”

Below is an unfinished painting that was part of a demo presented by Leah on the first day.

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Everyone set up their workspace and got right to work.

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This class really enjoyed the dinner cuisine and showed up early and eager for dinner each night. Charles N., who had come along to while his wife took the workshop, said, “My wife will want to come back for a workshop, but I’ll want to come back for the food. You really should tell people about the wonderful food.”

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One of the starters for this year is a Xiaolong Bao, a Shanghai-style soup dumpling! Yum.

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On one of the next days, Leah challenged the group with 15 minute exercise painting landscape impressions.

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Jayne was seriously intent on her still life painting!

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Below is another of the dishes, Red Cooked Chicken, another Shanghai-style dish. The chicken was so tender and flavorful, and just fell off the bones.

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Here is chef Mark, dishing up a helping of Yongchow Fried Rice with Roasted Pork, Shrimp, Peas, that is then topped with tender slices of skirt steak.

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One of my favorites of this year are the Cha Siu Bao, Pork Buns. They are made fresh in our kitchen the day that they are served. I could make a meal of just these!

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Saturday was check out day, but some of the folks stuck around to enjoy the annual St Patrick’s Day parade that marches right past the front of the inn. It had snowed a couple of inches the night before, but with a little delay in the start time of the parade, by the time it did start most of the new snow had already melted!

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An Interview with Leah Lopez, Award-Winning Artist and Instructor

Leah Lopez’ dynamic, evocative art has been exhibited in many prestigious national shows. She teaches drawing and painting at the New York Academy of Art, and at her Union Square Studio. We are thrilled that Leah will return to the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops to teach a Workshop in oil and acrylic, Still Life to Landscape, March 15 to 21, 2105.

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How long have you been teaching and what got you started teaching? 

I’ve been teaching over 15 years.  I was offered a great teaching position and really enjoyed it.  I continued to teach through the years wherever I went, and discovered that there is always more to share and so many ways to help students develop their own personal artistic goals.  Eventually, it made the most sense to open an atelier style school, in my studio, enabling my to truly share my personal experience and help others to develop their own unique work.  It is an enriching experience for both mentor and student.


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What is your favorite part about teaching?

Seeing another person really let go and begin to create art. 


What would you tell your prospective students are three best reasons for taking a workshop?

The Three-I’s are the best reasons: workshops are an Intensive, Inspiring and Interactive learning experience.

  1. You leave feeling like you’ve been bathed in exactly what was needed to return back to your studio with renewed gusto.
  2. Experience an infusion of inspiration that comes from working side-by-side with a successful, professional artist/ skilled teacher and a group of enthusiastic individuals all aspiring to be the best artists they can be.
  3. Camaraderie and life-long connections are made at workshops.  In a relaxed environment you can interact with others by sharing your love and appreciation of art and learn from their perspectives, as well. 

What are you currently working on in your own art?

I like to work on a variety of things at once, while maintaining a harmonious thread so that what I learn in one piece can help in the development of another.  My painting subjects are still life, landscape, cityscape, and figurative – all often revealing a hint of allegory.  Composition is the thing that always ties them together.  More than subject matter, I’m primarily focused on Composition and the fascinating uses of color, texture, value, and edges.  

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Where is your art currently being exhibited?

Throughout the year I exhibit nationally.  I have gallery representation in Portland, ME, Carmel, Pasadena and Oklahoma City.  I exhibit frequently in New York.  As a member of esteemed organizations like American Women Artists, my artwork travels across the states to new galleries and museums every year.  


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Is your work represented in galleries, and if so, what hints would you give to artists looking for gallery representation?

Yes and a very good topic.  A few hints to get started are

Do your research…

Get organized and be prepared

Plan to make an impression

Follow through professionally and develop a mutually beneficial alliance.

If it turns out that it isn’t a good fit, don’t waste valuable time, find the right fit.


Do you sell your work in any online gallery?

Occasionally, my work is a part of an online auction or exhibition.  The next auction is the Salmagundi Club’s “Spring Auction” at  The auction schedule is:

Friday, March 13, 2015, 8:00 PM

Friday, March 20, 2015, 8:00 PM

Friday, March 27,2015, 8:00 PM


What is your favorite art quote?

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” – Oscar Wilde


Describe your studio.

People say, when they enter my studio, they feel as though they’ve been transported to a distant place and time or an old world master’s studio.  I absolutely love it.  I don’t like to leave at night, and toss around the idea of sleeping over just so I can awake and immediately start painting and catch every minute of the light.  It has a high ceiling and a big wall-to-wall skylight window that faces north, from Union Square toward the Empire State building.  It’s up on the 11th floor so unless I decide to leave I almost forget there is a bustling city outside.  The wooden floors are a dark walnut.  My walls are a warm olive grey and my paintings hanging about.  I have floor-to-ceiling thick black drapes which I use to control the amount and direction of the North-light that washes in, which creates atmosphere that cannot be duplicated artificially, and has long been sought by artists and photographers alike.


Name five of your “can’t” do without tools/products.

Flake white

Old Masters Maroger Medium

Italian Wax Medium

Rosemary & Co. Ivory flats and filbert brushes

Real hog’s hair filbert bristle brushes




Read more of our recent Instructor interviews:


An Interview with Frank Francese, Watercolor Artist

An Interview with David Daniels: Artist in Watercolor + more

An interview with Judy Coates Perez, mixed media textile artist.

Interview with Liz Kenyon, Pastel Painting Instructor

Patti Mollica discusses creating her art, and teaching

An Interview with Kim English, Oil Painter

An Interview with Barbara Nechis, Watercolor Artist

An interview with Hollis Chatelain: Fiber Artist

An Interview with Natalya Aikens: Computer + Stitch = Art Quilt

Ruth Powers: Designing and Sewing for Picture Piecing

Leah Lopez Takes It Outside

Leah Lopez, the extraordinary still life oil painter, decided to take advantage of the inspiring landscapes in the Hudson River / Catskill Mountain Region and took the class outside to discover the similarities between still life and landscapes.

The first outing was to Olana,the historic home of Frederick Church. It was a beautiful day and sun hats were quite the thing to sport!


Back in the studio on another of the 5 days of class, students could choose to work on a still life subject or continue to work on their landscapes.


Meanwhile in the kitchen, Mark was preparing dinner – this night’s menu featured Pesto Rack of Lamb.


Everyone likes to gather before dinner for a glass of wine.


On the final night of dinner on Friday, there were plenty of toasts to a wonderful instructor, a marvelous week, and new found friends!


Paul George

New England artist Paul George, a signature member of the National Watercolor Society and an active member of the New England Watercolor Society just taught a 3-day workshop for us this past weekend.

While the weather report kept suggesting that thunder storms were heading our way, they never showed up, so the class was able to enjoy painting outdoors quite a bit. This shot was taken during one of Paul’s morning demos.


The pool was open and inviting, although it is still a bit brisk! However, with a couple of 90 degree days, it is warming up quickly and several folks jumped in for a swim after class.


It is the time for purple flowers in the forest. Its seems like each month a different wild flower is blooming in the forest.


On the final day of the workshop, the class was learning how to add figures into their landscapes/cityscapes.


Peggy G showed me all of the wonderful paintings she worked on during the class. Nice!


Here this week is Liz Kenyon, teaching pastel still life.

Then coming up in the next several weeks are:

June Workshops

The season is heating up and so are the workshops! In June we have something for everyone – watercolor, oil, pastel, and even painting horses and dogs!

First up is a pastel still life class with Liz Kenyon, but sorry folks, this class is full already! Liz’s favorite subject matter is desserts, but even if you’re not in this class you can still admire the desserts by joining in any of the other workshops!

Following Liz’s class is a great class with Leah Lopez – June 10 – 14. Leah is an award-winning artist, originally from New Mexico, but now residing in New York. She has taught a number of workshops for us and always received rave reviews from her students.

This year she is teaching a 5-day oil painting workshop on Still Life and Landscapes.

These are scenes from her workshop with us in 2011. You can see and read more about this class on our workshops blog.


Next up in the schedule is a 5-day workshop with Tony van HasseltPainting in Nature’s Studio – June 24 – 28.

In this class Tony shares his love and knowledge of painting outdoors at inspiring locations in the Hudson River and Catskill area, such as local farms and small riverside towns.

He starts with a logical approach to painting on location and rendering a watercolor in the traditional manner. Then each day you’ll be exposed to more creative and fun possibilities, adding the charm of vignettes and calligraphy. Indoor sessions explore underpainting techniques as well as an introduction to adding incidental figures to the landscape.


Last up in June is an exciting 3-day class with Ellen Gavin where the subject matter is horses and dogs – June 20 – July 1. Ellen ’s equestrian paintings have been widely exhibited, awarded & collected. Her energetic painting style – is reflected in her teaching philosophy.

In this fast paced workshop, learn to fearlessly explore a fresh approach to oil painting. Emphasis on mixing color, value, composition. Horses, figures and dogs will be the main subjects, stressing movement & expression. You can keep the anatomy and avoid getting ‘too tight’. This is primarily a studio workshop, working from photos, though working from life will be discussed.

“Class has exceeded our expectations! Ellen is a fabulous artist and instructor,” was the typical comment from the students in Ellen’s class with us in 2011.


We have more great classes coming up in July, too:

The pool is open and warming up! Great for a refreshing dip after class or during lunch!


Final Intense Day in Leah Lopez Workshop

Everyone in Leah’s workshop was intensely focused on their painting while in the studio, but they knew how to let it all go and have fun around the dinner table!

There were some very accomplished artists in this workshop and all of them had nothing but praise for Leah Lopez as an instructor. Judy Scanlon said this of Leah, “She more than met my expectations. She was patient, insightful, and explained things clearly. Besides that, she’s a good person!”

This is Judy and the painting she worked on.


This is a painting by Kenneth Brant.


He started another painting on the third day.


Everyone had their own way of arranging their still life. I think Dottie Laughlin’s was the highest!


Jeff Olson and Maureen Ohrtman worked side by side, but each had their own still life set up.


All in all a wonderful workshop and a wonderful bunch of people. Three days seem too short! So we’ve asked Leah to come back in 2013 to teach a 5-day workshop. It will most likely be sometime in June.