In Remembrance of Charles Reid (1937-2019)

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.

One of my Reid inspired figures…. Mid Century Redhead 12 x 8 Watercolor on paper (sold)

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. 

A portrait progression from the first few stages of a demo by Charles Reid

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.

My attempts at two/three value exercises from Charles Reid’s books with pen and ink
Trying to channel Charles in a nude watercolor….Mid Century Redhead in process

Wonder Woman Judy

Charles and Judy Reid, Los Angeles 2009

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.

Charles and Judy visit during the San Diego Artwalk in 2016

Artist-to-Artist Wisdom

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, pondering on a break, while teaching a watercolor portrait painting workshop in 2009
If I won the lottery, I would buy this painting (Fresh Still Life 18×22), or a small study of it. I feel like that paintbrush in the foreground is a secret homage to Charles. Plus, it’s beautiful.

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.

A monotype with watercolor portrait of Charles painting a demo.

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,

Belinda

P.S. If you’re interested in receiving these posts via email when they’re published, you can sign up here.

P.P.S. Do you have a favorite Charles Reid book? Share the title and what you like about it in the comments.

Click the palette to get your art supplies back in your hands.

Art Quote

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

30 thoughts on “In Remembrance of Charles Reid (1937-2019)”

    1. Hi Marian, No, Charle’s was right handed, but the image is a monotype, so it transfers to the paper from a printmaking plate via contact and pressure while the ink is still wet, and that reverses the image. Just like a woodblock or linocut…. prints will always print a mirror image.

  1. Marian Podlovsky, North Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Charles Reid. I learned about his passing last year when I tried to call him to find out about a next figure painting workshop in 2020. Was too late. I did take a workshop with Charles and it was an unforgettable experience. He will continue being my inspiration. Thanks for the cookie…

    1. Hello Marian, I bump elbows with you in our mutual admiration for Charles, and our very good fortune to have attended his workshops. I think about him all the time. Thanks for your very kind note, and I wish you many happy hours painting, buoyed with all the knowledge he shared with you.

  2. Thank you for your tribute. It was so very special. What else can be said that hasn’t already? We, as people, are always blessed whenever someone touches so many and gives so much. His legacy will be as much about the lives he touched and the inspiration he provided as it will be about his paintings. Blessings to you. Tom Francesconi

    1. Hi Tom, Thanks for this very nice note. I agree with your sensitive observations about his legacy. Each of us will be flasks to carry his ideas, encouragement, methods and generosity forward. He was a great man. And he left us so much of himself in his art and his workshops and his books. Thank you for your note, and brisk painting urges to you. B.

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  4. A beautiful tribute and mono-type of the artist. It is so special to read about your experience meeting him in person! His work will always live on but what sad news!!

    1. Hi Celia, Sad news indeed. I haven’t stopped thinking about him or his family all week. I can’t imagine the hole of his missing presence up close, in his home and studio. Thank you for your kind compliment on the monotype. Condolences on your loss too.

  5. Cathy Olague

    What a lovely way to celebrate what Charles meant to you and how he influenced your growth in- watercolors. Your depiction of him is so beautiful. You are becoming just as loved through your demonstrations for all of us. Raising a glass of wine for a dear friend.

    1. My dear Cathy, Kindness as a gene must run wide and deep in your family. Thank you for such a thoughtful note. I felt it all the way over here, and since it’s morning, and I’m drinking coffee instead of wine, I clink my mug to yours in return. How are you healing up there? ?

  6. What a lovely tribute! He was such an influence, although I never had the opportunity to take a class from him in person. His books were early and important inspiration for me in watercolor as well, and I have watched his DVDs over and over, never tiring of watching how he transitioned paint color on the paper and made everything look so fresh and loose. So very sorry for his loss.

    1. Hi Gail, Thanks for your kind note. I wonder if he realized how much of an influence he was on all of us? His page on Facebook has only been there for 5-6 years, and there are over 30,000 followers. I’m certain he’s loved even bigger than that, after 12 books and a lifetime of teaching face to face. What a loss for all of us. I’ve never seen one of his DVD’s. Maybe I should have a look at the library. I’m sorry for your loss too. ❤︎

  7. Thank you for the beautiful post, B. I’m sorry for your loss of a friend, and for all of us watercolor painters, a special mentor and teacher. His inspiration lives on. Yes I have three of his books and they are open on my art table now. (And if I had the cash I’d buy you that gorgeous stilllife right this minute, sweetie.)

    1. Hi my Groob, Thanks for the note. There is comfort in knowing we all have his books open on our tables, pouring over his lessons in a collective sigh of grief. And thank you for the sentiment on that watercolor of his. I’d do the same for you too, lovie.

  8. Patti Koscheski

    Patti says: He inspired me to paint in watercolor. I took a workshop in Nevada after I saw a demo by him. It changed me from that day.
    I still try to create my own version and never copy for the sake of duplication of another artist.

    1. Hi Patti, He sure did make watercolor painting as a medium look very inviting, and colorful, and fun. Not so pale and washed out as other watercolors. We are lucky to have all of his books to continue the inspiration. Thanks for your visit.

  9. Absolutely loved what he created.. never will attain his abilities… the looseness is evasive..all unique to him.. what a lovely person and fabulous talent… He will be missed. So very sorry for your loss.

    1. Selwyn, I agree – his style is immediately recognizable as his own, and I can usually tell when another artist has been influenced by his work. But he started it all. I’m sorry for your loss too.

  10. Anne Berbling

    Oh, no….I fell in love with Charles Reid in the early 80s with my purchase of the hardback version of the book, “Painting what You Want to See”…I always envied his looseness, and never quite achieved this wonderful quality. Your monoprint is wonderful, Belinda!

    1. Hi Anne, I felt your “Oh No….” all the way over here. And I’m with you on the not-quite-achieved his level of loose. But it’s still a goal. Thanks for your compliment. You’ve known about him longer than I have, so I send condolences to you on the loss. It’s very sad.

  11. Sheila M Eastman

    Thank you for this tribute – I am not a watercolorist, however, I have always admired his work – loose and luscious. And I love your monoprint of him.

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