Painting Workshops, Classes with Mitchell Albala

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2016 Classes and Workshops

This summer’s plein Air workshops at Hood Canal and Orcas Island are sold out.

Understanding Simplification and Massing for Landscape Painters

Saturday–Sunday, Oct 1–2, 2016 at Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Is. – SOLD OUT

The Art and Culture of Cuba

Nov 1–6, 2016 with Mitchell Albala and Gage Academy of Art

2017 Classes and Workshops

Beyond Mud – Techniques of Working Wet-into-Wet with Oil

Saturday, January 21, 2017 at Winslow Art Center, Bainbridge Island

Exploring Composition through Shape and Notan

Saturday–Sunday March 25–26, at Pacific Northwest Art School

Building Landscape Harmony with Color Strategies, Limited Palettes and Color Groups

Saturday-Sunday May 6–7, 2017 at Winslow Art Center

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, Color Strategies for Landscape Painters, 2015

Plein air demonstration at Coffelt Farm, August 2015, on Orcas Island.

Plein air demonstration at Coffelt Farm on Orcas Island, August 2015.

Understanding Simplification and Massing for Landscape Painters

2-day workshop at Pacific Northwest Art School, Whidbey Island, Wash.
Saturday–Sunday, Oct 1–2, 2016 | $285 | SOLD OUT
For more information about class content, email Mitchell. To register contact PNWAS.

discovery-sunsetIt’s easy to paint a thousand points of light with a thousand brushstrokes. It’s much more difficult — and infinitely more eloquent — to paint a thousand points of light with only one hundred strokes.”
from Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice

The ability to to simplify — to covert nature’s complexity into fewer and more readable shapes and patterns — is the most important skill for the landscape painter. Painting or drawing a shape is not difficult, but seeing a shape through layers of surface detail and complexity requires a practiced shift in perception — an ability to see the forest and the trees. In this workshop, working from your own photos and those supplied by the instructor, you will do several guided painting and drawing exercises that are designed to encourage your eye and hand toward the broad, simplified shapes thats are the backbone of any landscape composition. This workshop will cover:

  • the first act of simplification — composing with a “limited focus”
  • the four value divisions of landscape
  • the importance of “value zones” for managing detail within a simplified framework
  • how to do thumbnail studies that are truly simplified and explore composition options

Time will also be set aside for a review your own works (optional) as they relate to the workshop topic. You may work with your own photographs or work with those provided by the instructor. Detailed tips for selecting your own reference photos will be provided before the workshop.

Level: This is not a class for first-time painters; however, it is ideally suited for those are interested in landscape and want to learn more about the essential practice of simplification.

The Art and Culture of Cuba
with Mitch Albala and Gage Academy of Art

Nov. 1–6, 2016 through Gage Academy of Art
$4,350 double occupancy/per person | $5,650 single occupancy
Registration Form (PDF) | Itinerary (PDF)
Tour information at Gage Academy

havana-1Travel with Gage instructor Mitchell Albala to this once forbidden island, and experience the rich diversity and stunning artistry of a land steeped in history and conflict. In addition to the luncheons and dinners at Havanna’s finest restaurants, the tour includes many artistic and cultural events:

  • Private musical performance and lecture on Cuban music by Prof. Alberto Faya
  •  Walking tour of Havana Vieja, with a visit to the Escuela de Taller restoration project
  • Taller de Grafica Experimental, a studio and school and that preserves the sophisticated art of printmaking
  • Several artists studio visits
  • Lecture by  Cristina Escobar Domínguez, Cuban TV broadcaster and journalist
  • Visit to Museum of Cuban Art
  • Visit to Callejon de Hamel, with Cuban scholar Elias Aseff, on the Afro-Cubam religion and culture. With ritual dance performance
  • Arts and crafts market
  • Private flamenco dance performance by Compañía Irene Rodríguez
  • Lecture: “Cuba in Transition: The Rule of Law as part of Cuban Reforms”
  • Visit to Instituto Superior de Arte, the premier Cuban school for music, visual arts and performing arts
  • Home visit: collector and art dealer Milagros Borges
  • Aabrica de Arte Cuba,  This former tramway power plant now the most current collaborative art project in Havana


  • One (1) night accommodation in Crowne Plaza Hotel Miami (standard room, October 31st)
  • Five (5) night accommodation at 5 Star Parque Central Hotel Havana (standard room)
  • Daily breakfast in Cuba & Miami
  • Four (4) lunches and Five (5) dinners as described in itinerary (including tips)
  • Air conditioned bus throughout the trip equipped with cold water at all times
  • Admission to all museums and public buildings listed in itinerary
  •  Cuba Cultural Travel Escort and local Cuban tour guide
  • Compliance with U.S. Treasury Department

Not Included

  • Roundtrip airfare to Cuba
  • Airfare to/from Miami
  • Airline baggage fees ($20 per bag, $2.00 per pound over 44 lbs)
  •  Meals other than listed on itinerary or described as on your own
  • Cuban Visa/Tourist Card & Cuban Airport Departure tax
  • Tips for drivers and local guide (recommended amount is 7CUC per person, per day for guide and 5CUC per person per day for driver)
  • Meals other than listed on itinerary
  • Cuban Airport Departure tax (25 CUC = $25 USD
  •  ? Cuban Tourist Card/Visa
  • Health insurance and emergency evacuation coverage (excluding pre-existing conditions) Individual hotel expenses (mini bar, room service, laundry fees, etc.)
  • Trip cancellation insurance


Beyond Mud – Techniques of Working Wet-into-Wet with Oil

1-day workshop at Winslow Art Center on Bainbridge Island, Wash.
January 21, 2017 | 9:30 am – 4:30 pm | $160
For questions about course content, please email Mitchell. To register contact Winslow Art Center.

ascension-mitchell-albalaEvery oil painter, at one time or another, has experienced the frustration of working in oil. We love its buttery consistency and blend-ability, but those are the same qualities that can lead to overworking and “mud.” Keeping yours colors fresh and clear is not something that happens by accident — it’s a practice that involves a series of technical maneuvers that you must learn to apply with every stroke. This workshop covers everything you need to start improving your wet-into-wet practice: the the law of  “thin > thicker > thickest” and layering order, paint consistency, transparency and opacity, touch, and the right kinds of brushes to use. The morning session is devoted to several practice exercises that introduce the techniques. Then, in the the afternoon session, you’ll do a painting of your own choosing, where you’ll practice the wet-into-wet technique under Mitchell’s guidance.

Exploring Composition through Shape and Notan

2-say workshop at  Pacific Northwest Art School
Saturday–Sunday March 25–26, 2017| $285
For more information about class content, email Mitchell. To register contact PNWAS.

notan-markerIf a composition has a soul, then the notan is the doorway to that soul. The gift of notan is the access it gives us to the underlying energies that drive a composition. Learning about notan teaches us to be better composers.

Every composition is fundamentally an arrangement of abstract shapes. To truly “compose” and take command of those shapes, we must first be able to identify them. The notan is a unique type of study that allows us to discover the underlying energies of a composition through the arrangement of dark and light patterns. “Notan” is a Japanese word that means “light-dark harmony.” The notan study uses an extremely limited set of tones — in its most strict form, black and white; and in its more liberal form, black white, and a mid-tone. This flat and and abstract design notation is uniquely suited for expressing a composition in its irreducible shape terms. Working first from masterworks, then photographs, in both painting, drawing collage, and abstract exercises, you’ll learn to “think in notan” and begin to see the underlying structure of your compositions. You’ll learn to make better choices in the formative stages of your work and bring greater order and power to your compositions. Level: Intermediate.

Building Landscape Harmony with Color Strategies, Limited Palettes, and Color Groups

2-day workshop at Winslow Art Center, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Saturday–Sunday May 6–7, 2017 | $295
For questions about course content, please email Mitchell. To register contact Winslow Art Center.

azure-asphalt-way-home-study-3-mitchell-albalaLandscape is an endless source of color inspiration, yet successful landscape painting is only partially about referencing the colors we see in nature. More often than not, a successful depiction of landscape light is based on the implementation of a color strategy or “color plan.” Although we will reference photos in this workshop, we never copy photographic color; instead, we learn to build color harmony by becoming color strategists and inventors.

In a series of guided exercises, this workshop will cover:

  • how spectrum-based relationships like complementary, analogous, and triadic can serve as the foundation of a strategy
  • how limited palettes help direct a strategy and keep color mixtures more unified
  • how landscapes can have greater color unity with the use of “color groups” — two or three basic color families into which all the other colors may be grouped
  • the different ways we approach color en plein air and in the studio
  • the proper way to reference photographs, so as not to become “copyists”

You can work with your own photographs or work with those provided by the instructor. Detailed tips for selecting reference photos for the workshop will be provided before the workshop. Level: This is not a class for first-time painters; however, it is ideally suited for plein air or studio landscape painters who want to expand their color vocabulary.