Contemporary Impressionism

Mitchell Albala


The Contemporary Impressionist Landscape:
An Exploration of the Impressionist’s Most Enduring Lesson
Mitchell Albala

In many ways, Impressionism still defines the way contemporary landscape painters approach color. The Impressionists filled their paintings with brilliant color and created an entirely new coloristic metaphor for depicting natural light. In this workshop, you will learn the key to working with this “color-priority” system: that in order for the purer colors to serve as a stand-in for the luminosity of natural light, darker tonalities are rejected in favor of lighter-value colors. Strong value contrasts are replaced by color contrasts. Impressionists worked from life, but in this workshop, we will work from photographs, in the more controlled environment of the studio, where you will be able to absorb lessons at a comfortable pace. To place the Impressionist color-priority system in context, we begin with an exploration of the “value-priority” systems that preceded Impressionism, such as the Dutch Landscapists and the Hudson River painters. Then, through a series of exercises and paintings, you will learn how this enduring lesson of Impressionism — balancing value and color chromaticity — can bring greater luminosity to your landscape paintings.

Media: Oil, acrylic or pastel

Level: This workshop is not suitable for first-time painters (those who have never painted or mixed color at all); however, it is ideally suited for plein air or studio painters who want to deepen their understanding of composition.

Mitchell Albala

Mitchell Albala

Landscape painter, instructor, and author Mitchell Albala

Mitchell Albala’s semi-abstract and atmospheric landscape have been exhibited nationally and in Seattle at Lisa Harris Gallery. His book, “Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice” (Watson Guptill/Random House, 2009) with over 40,000 copies in print, is the best selling landscape painting book in the nation. Mitchell is also a dedicated workshop instructor at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, Pacific NW Art School, Dakota Art, and Daniel Smith Artist’s Materials. He led painting adventures in Italy in 2015 and 2018, and will be headed to France in 2020 with Winslow Art Center. He has lectured on Impressionism and landscape painting at the Seattle Art Museum and written for International Artist and Artists & Illustrators magazines. In 2016 Mitchell’s work was profiled in the French arts magazine, Practique des Arts. His popular painting blog was awarded the #12 spot on’s Top 75 Painting Blogs.

The Contemporary Impressionist Landscape


Questions about supplies? Email instructor Mitchell Albala:
Instructor’s web site:
You may paint in oil, acrylic or pastel in this workshop.
ACRYLIC and PASTEL painters: see section at end specifically for you.
Please note the supplies listed in green. These particular recommendations will
make it easier for you, and allow me to better assist you when I come around to help
We will be working from photographs. I have a collection of landscape photos, but I encourage
you to bring your own (usage subject to my approval). For tips on selecting photos, visit this
page at my website:
For oil painters … hog bristle brushes are best.
For acrylic painters … soft bristled synthetic brushes are preferred.
Do not bring old, stiff, encrusted brushes as this will make paint handling very difficult.
I find filbert-shaped brushes to be the most versatile. However, if you like flats and are
accustomed to working with them, that’s fine. Brushes in sizes #2 – #8 is a good range of
sizes. Since the sizing systems used by different manufacturers vary, here are the brush sizes
in inches. (This is the width at the ferrule, not the length of the bristles.)
1 (one) larger #10–#12 bright or short filbert (⅞” to 1”) or similarly shaped/sized brush
1 (one) #2 filbert (approx. 1/4″ wide)
1 (one) #6 filbert (approx. 1/2″ wide)
2 (two) #8 filberts (approx. 5/16 ” wide)
Additional brushes of these same sizes will allow you to assign different colors to different
I recommend a palette consisting of a cool and warm variety of each primary, plus a few
neutrals, and white. You can preview this palette, with complete explanations for each color, at
my website:
• Titanium White only (not zinc or flake)
• Ultramarine Blue
• A “warm” blue is essential, but Phthalo Blue is so intense that it overpowers any mixture.
Instead, I recommend any one of these:
Daniel Smith Artists Materials Mediterranean Blue (available in oil only)
Sennelier’s Azure Blue (available in oil only)
Manganese Blue Hue (available in oil or acrylic)
Cerulean Blue (available in oil or acrylic)
• Alizarin Crimson
• instead of Cadmium Red: Cadmium Orange or Cadmium Orange “Hue” (available
in oil or acrylic) or Gamblin’s Permanent Orange (in oil only)
• Cadmium Yellow Medium or Hansa Yellow Medium
• Lemon Yellow or Nickel Titanate Yellow – I prefer Nickel Titanate over regular lemon
yellow because it’s “coolness” is more distinct. See this blog post about the advantages of
nickel titanate:
• Naples Yellow
• Chrome Oxide Green
• Burnt Umber
• Yellow Ochre
OPTIONAL COLORS – not absolutely necessary, but helpful
• Dioxazine Purple – or – Carbazole Violet
• Viridian Green
We may do up to four paintings, but bring a few extra surfaces to be safe. We will also be doing
some exercise, so you will need surfaces for that, as well. Stretched canvas is too fancy for the
exercise-oriented paintings we will be doing. All our exercises and paintings will be done on
relatively small surfaces — 8″ x 10″ or 9″ x 12″ maximum.
Do not color or tone the surfaces before coming to class.
Option A – You can use canvas panels; they are inexpensive and portable. Note that some
brands are very poor quality. The surface is not absorbent enough, or too absorbent. For this
reason, play it safe with Fredrix or Dick Blick brands.
Another portable, inexpensive painting
surface I recommend is:
Option B – Pre-primed, unstretched
canvas. Fredrix brand: “Medium Texture
Real Artist’s Canvas Canvas Pad” in 9″ x
12” size. You can easily find this at Dick
Blick, Daniel Smith, or Artist’s &
Craftsman. Many so-called “canvas pads”
are not made from canvas, but texturized
plastic or paper. Do not get this type. They
are unusable. The benefit of pre-primed unstretched canvas this is that you can use whole
sheets, or cut the sheets to a desired size and tape them to a “backboard” (cardboard panel).
This is a very lightweight and portable approach. If using this approach, you will also need:
Small scissor and small ruler, for cutting out the canvas pieces.
“Backboard” – Used to tape canvas pieces onto. An 11″ x 14″ canvas panel is ideal for this,
or a plasticized foam-core board. (A wood masonite panel is too heavy.)
Palette – No smaller than 9″ x 12″. Your preferred palette is fine, as long as it is
smooth and not encrusted with old dried paint. Disposable paper palettes are
fine. Do not use gray, but white. Bring small bulldog clips to hold the edges down.
Acrylic painters: see notes at end about the Sta-wet palette.
Masking tape, at least 3/4″ wide (no blue tape)
Palette knife, metal, essential for mixing! Do not use
the long flat-bladed type that’s like a regular knife, but a
spade-head type, as shown here. About a 2″ blade.
Disposable Vinyl or Latex Gloves. Can be found in
most pharmacies or hardware stores. Test fit for size
before you buy! Reusable and good for other workshops,
Painting Medium- for oil painters, small tube of Daniel
Smith’s Painting Medium for Oil and Alkyds — or — small bottle of
Liquin. For acrylic painters, small bottle of matte medium.
Palette Cup for oil painters – 2″ – 3″ metal or plastic jar cap is fine for
this. The plastic or metal types with the narrow screw cap lids are not
good; the mouth is too small.
Plastic container for water (for acrylic painters)
Solvent, pint sized. Gamsol by Gamblin. (Available in class for those who
are traveling by air.)
Small container/jar for brush cleaning. Approx. 8 oz. with a screw top lid.
Sketch book, small – 5″ x 7″ or 8″ x 10″
Pencils – essential soft 2B and/or 6B
“L” shaped cropping tool – essential – shown at right.
Make your own from cardboard. Easiest: cut a 9″ x 12″
matte diagonally in half. No bigger than 9″ x 12”.
Small plastic bottle for transporting solvent, 8 oz., with
the flip down spout. Tip: It’s easier to pour the solvent into
this small-mouthed bottle with a tiny plastic 2″ or 3″
funnel. Important! Transfer the solvent to the plastic bottle
before you come to class.
Tracing paper – 9″ x 12″ pad. Be sure it is very
translucent; some varieties are very milky and opaque. Be
sure you can see through it easily.
Paper Towels
Rags – T-shirt type cotton cloth is best. Please, cut into small 8 x 8″, 6 x 6″ pieces before you
come to class.
Sta-Wet Palette – In this workshop, acrylic painters MUST use a Sta-wet palette. You can use
either one large palette, which will hold your colors and serve as a mixing area … OR … use two
small palettes, one to hold your colors and one for mixing. Note: if the sponge liner is too moist,
the paper wicks up too much water, and the colors become too soft and runny, and then
becomes impossible to create opaque mixtures.
To slow down drying time (which seems to be necessary for all acrylic painters)
• Retarding medium – will slow drying time down.
• Golden’s Open Acrylics – You don’t need to buy a whole set, but at least the colors that
you will use most: White, Alizarin, Ultramarine Blue, Hansa/Cadmium Yellow, and any
other color your may want to spring for.
Small fine mist Spray Atomizer – essential
Matte Medium (to use as a painting medium)
continued …
I recommend sanded papers that allow you to rework/reapply pastel.
Bring the set of pastels you usually work with. Pastel artists often travel with sets that are an
edited version of the full set they use indoors. This is fine, as long as the set has this:
• a good range of values
• an adequate range of warm and cool neutral colors
• a range 7 to 10 neutral grays; e.g., black to white
Pastel sets that are overpopulated with very saturated colors are not as effective

Cancellation Policy

Registration Information:
Each student must register individually.  Students may pay in full or choose the payment-plan option during registration. The payment plan requires a non-refundable $125 deposit with the balance due 30 days before the first day of the workshop. There are no refunds after the 30-day final payments have been made.  Students may enroll online or by calling the Sedona Arts Center’s Administrative Offices in the Art Barn toll-free at 888-954-4442 or locally at 928-282-3809.  Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express are accepted or student may pay with cash or check by registering in person during office hours at the Art Barn (M-F, 9-5).

Cancellation Policy:
The $125 deposit is non-refundable; the balance is due 30 days before the first day of the workshop.  If paying in full upon registration, $125 of the total tuition fee is non-refundable.  The Sedona Arts Center is not responsible for providing make-up sessions or issuing refunds, credits, or transfers for courses missed as a result of illness, emergencies, or other events beyond our control.  There are absolutely no refunds after the 30 day cut-off date for any reason, unless the Sedona Arts Center has to cancel the workshop, then all fees paid will be refunded in full.

You are probably the best workshop instructor I have ever had. Terrific handouts, example boards, demos, exercises. You are a gifted and generous teacher and I hope to attend a class with you again. – Lisa Richter, Building Landscape Harmony, 2017

Thank you again for the marvelous time painting on Orcas Island. You really have a well organized method and knack for conveying the information well. I also appreciate the manner in which you are supportive of the members of the group while at the same time challenging all of us while engaged in our efforts. Well done! — Scott Clark

I learned so much in your class and loved your teaching approach. You have a great way of letting each individual know what to work on next and where they need to improve, while keeping the class as a whole moving along. I so appreciated your organization, multitude of examples, great analogies, sense of humor, your deep knowledge, and obvious love of painting. – Miriam Works

I can’t thank you enough for being such a willing, inspiring, and erudite instructor. I really appreciate that you don’t create a mystique and elusive evasion to creating art. It’s refreshing and engaging! This weekend’s workshop was great! – Heather Cromwell

I feel like I was waiting for this particular workshop my entire painting life. The great thing about your teaching is that you don’t just think to yourself, “I know how to do this, so why don’t I go ahead and teach it,” as most other artists do. Instead, you think, “What are the steps I take to accomplish this and how do I best communicate it to students so they can put these techniques to work?” Well done! – Jackie Bellows