Charles Clark Reid (1937-2019)
I was adding a recently completed watercolor to my Facebook page, when I caught this announcement on the Charles Reid Page as it scrolled into my feed:
On Saturday I lost one of the most incredible people I have ever met who also happens to be my father, Charles Clark Reid. August 12,1937-June 1st, 2019 Charles Reid had fans all over the world. We will miss him so much. He will live on through his magnificent work.Sarah Reid
I had to read the post twice to believe it, through sudden blurred vision. You can read his obituary here.
Charles Reid on Facebook
In case you are unfamiliar with Charles’ paintings, his daughter Sarah runs her father’s Facebook Page, and the photo album of her posts (see that here) is a treasure trove of paintings and sketches from Charles’ workshops, sketch books, studio work and private family portraits. The sheer number of sketches, watercolors and oil paintings Sarah has uploaded are astounding. It’s a testimonial to one artist’s dedication and conviction to making art.
Discovery in a Used Book Store
In 1992, I found a book by Charles Reid on watercolor painting in a used book store in Glendale, California. It offered 46 Lessons on watercolor and oil painting, and the cover portrait was a loose and juicy watercolor, but with equal parts deliberate shapes. The watery, bloomed-pigment mixes associated with water media were handled so well, I was intrigued.
The watercolor book was marked down from $18.95 to $9.95. I bought it, went home, brewed a cuppa tea, and fell in love with Charles Reid’s art, work ethic and approach to making art.
Painting Teacher on a Bookshelf
Over the years, my Charles Reid books expanded. I studied his color mixes, practiced (attempted) his beautiful contour figure drawings, swooned over his window still life paintings. I donned a Reid Art-Rebel persona to swap colors, and link disconnected shapes in my work that contradicted my reference material.
That permission to edit for the sake of making the art better than its real life inspiration, while still representing parts of it accurately, finally made sense to me.
I also realized that I could try to mimic his approach, without “copying” his style, and it still informed my work. I saw improvements in my drawing, refinements in my compositions, and a reduction in my bad habit of noodling my paintings to death.
When I get too detailed and fussy, I can almost hear him over my shoulder: “Leave it alone. Pay attention to the big shapes.” As an instructor, he held nothing back, and gave abundant encouragement and carefully crafted directives. Thank you, Charles.
Wonder Woman Judy
I started corresponding with Charles’s sweet wife Judy in Connecticut, hoping to take a workshop if they ever came to California. She surprised me with an invitation to fill a vacant slot in a private workshop in Los Angeles, and I jumped at the chance. It was everything I dreamt it would be, and then some.
Watching him work was a marvel of process hints, and my appreciation for his generosity to share what he clearly worked so hard to attain grew even bigger.
The effortlessness of his drawing, adjustments in pigment to water ratios, his color choices and his direct application of pigment to paper was a live-action testimonial. The man had clearly spent hours and months and years dedicated to painting. He made it look so simple and easy!
Watching him reaffirmed for me that there are no shortcuts to becoming a good painter. His workshop was full of valuable nuggets, and the glue to hold them all together was his work ethic. Paint as often and as much as you can.
Look at your old paintings and choose a few that have many different values, preferably ones that seem cluttered, and try to break them down into just two or three values.
You don’t necessarily have to go with the values you’ve already painted. Perhaps you’ll want to recompose and strengthen them if they’re weak.
We must constantly be aware of what economy of means and simplicity will do for a painting.
Reducing a painting to two or three values will help you establish the “big idea”.
It should also help you to start thinking in terms of simplifying your values into larger shapes.Charles Reid, Painting What You Want to See
Charles & Judy
Charles and Judy are both so kind. And they are so good together. At the end of that Los Angeles workshop, I wanted to scoop them up, and take them home with me. I wished they were my neighbors so I could bring them flowers and dinner. As a couple they are warm, smart, curious, funny, and generous.
Judy stopped to chat with every workshop attendee, and asked questions about family, work, and art-goals. Charles directed and encouraged the students, and never stopped scrutinizing his demo arrangement, and the painting of it in process.
I enjoyed watching him answer questions from workshop attendees over lunch, surreptitiously squinting one eye – mid-sentence – across the room at his demo in process, considering color, shape, design, etc. The man was always thinking about art.
An Artist’s Legacy
We will miss all the beautiful art you would have made next, Charles. We’ll treasure the encouragement in your books, and the articles. There are pages of inspiring testimonies of your practice from sketch books and paintings, and we’ll endeavor to make good work of those lessons you’ve left here for us.
Swagger Out, sweet Charles. Rest in Peace.
Thanks for visiting today, and I’ll see you in the next post,
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P.P.S. Do you have a favorite Charles Reid book? Share the title and what you like about it in the comments.
You must verbalize in line and paint what you are seeing. Your personal vision can be lost if you concentrate too much on technique.
The beauty of a sketchbook is that it is portable and private. You can take it anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about anyone seeing it.
You can focus on the process, rather that the finished product, which in the long run, will get you closer to where you want to be.Charles Reid