Charles Emerson is a longtime, beloved Gage artist and instructor. Embracing color as the foundation of his work, Emerson’s abstract paintings are luminous to behold and resplendent with colors that tangle the mind in their nuance. Emerson received his Master of Fine Arts from Yale University studying under Josef Albers, whose work paved the way for some of the most influential art education programs of the twentieth century. Albers’ philosophies shine through Emerson’s early work and certainly reflect his teaching style. Emerson has since separated his talents from that of his former mentor, and is today considered a Northwest Master.

As an instructor, Emerson has developed a considerable following. When you attend one of his classes at Gage, it is easy to see why. He is approachable, thoughtful, and his rapport with his students is inspired by a passionate love for teaching and an earnest advocacy for art, specifically the art of those under his instruction. Striking a balance between practice and instruction is a dilemma for many artist-instructors. Not so with Emerson. Prodigious as ever, his work feeds his instruction, and the shared passion with his students follows a feedback loop into his practice. And, his diligence is infectious – his students develop an incredible sense of color and studio discipline – hence his regularly sold out courses.

We are excited to present our first in a series of studio concentrations and we are confident that there is no one more appropriate to helm one of the two inaugural studio concentrations than our dear friend Charles Emerson.

Color Painting Mastery – Process, Sources, Inspirations, and Secrets

An intensive two-week immersion into the ways and means of various master coloristic painters, pairing artists with their periods to more clearly reveal their methods, materials, and ideas in art making. All great art is relevant to its time, place, and influences: by juxtaposing two artists within their period we more easily see and appreciate the innovations, skills, and crucial differences that create artists rather than painters.

Color will feature as a crucial element, and the how and why the artists present their unique vision is a main consideration as are the times in which they lived and the prevailing ideas and aesthetics. We will practice each artist’s particular method with their distinct goals as part of our understanding in oil (preferred) or acrylic.

We will learn by doing with a new example each day on a single surface divided in two of the same chosen subject. A daily lecture and demonstration will be given to present and clarify that day’s particular goals. It is important to be prepared for the day’s lesson in advance with your painting surface and materials. This can easily be accomplished with the information supplied in advance.

Charles Emerson is a Pacific Northwest painter who creates richly hued abstract paintings that describe ethereal and atmospheric spaces. Embracing color as the foundation of his work, Emerson builds his compositions by applying layers of subtly varied tones that shift with light. His paintings contain terrestrial forms, celestial shapes, and painterly marks, each depicting an emotive microcosm with every varying palette. His paintings are reflections on personal experiences and an engagement with the concept that “nothing ever stays the same.” Emerson uses painting both as a visual diary– recording places, significant moments, and interpersonal interactions–as well as a part of a spiritual search where one can transcend the here and now. Charles Emerson, originally from Los Angeles, received his Master of Fine Arts from Yale University and his Bachelor of Fine Arts from University of Southern California. He was the recipient of the Fulbright Grant, and he completed his fellowship in Venice, Italy in 1961. Emerson has shown nationally and internationally, including exhibitions in Venice, Italy and Los Angeles, CA. He was the artist-in-residence at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego) in La Jolla, CA, and at Reed College in Portland, OR. Emerson has resided in the Northwest for more than 30 years, and he teaches color theory and painting at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, WA.
Day One: El Greco and Byzantine Art; expressive color and gentle meaningful abstraction.
Day Two: Giorgione and Piero della Francesca; Venetian and Florentine approaches to Renaissance Painting
Day Three: Chardin and Morandi; the still life
Day Four: Turner and Bonnard; the coloristic landscape
Day Five: Gaugin and Van Gogh; expressive paint application
Day Six: Matisse and Picasso; Cubism and a new reality
Day Seven: Egon Schiele and Alice Neel; emotional figural abstraction
Day Eight: Hans Hofmann and Josef Albers; reading and understanding the new Color
Day Nine: Jacob Lawrence and Henri Rousseau; direct from the soul
Day Ten: Richard Diebenkorn – a trajectory to the sublime
9:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
Class dates – 12/4-12/15
Studio time -12/4-12/17
Includes guest lecture and full studio access
Gage Capitol Hill
*Studio time included in price
Dear Student;

Thank you for taking this intensive workshop, there is a lot to learn and much to do. You will notice there is a class fee for additional materials, much easier for me to buy and supply to you, such as raw canvas where you must buy a yard with a width over 50 inches for a much smaller size used in class. I also supply color copy handouts to refer to when dealing with particular artists so that i can show you, on a permanent basis, what I am talking about rather than a fleeting color slide or heavy art books to carry about. Specially ordered oils not readily available in store, and other things such as marble dust sold only in bulk. I will list daily what you are responsible for while taking care of other items. All items are necessary for our work. Should you have any questions, you may contact me at my email address at the bottom of this list.

COLORS – BOTH acrylic and oil. These are basic color, a few can be mixed. For convenience and frequency of use, as well as mixing. MOST ANY COLR CAN BE MIXED WITH THESE:

This list applies to both acrylic and oil paints. Ask an informed clerk, such as is found at Artist and Cratsman Art Supplies, should you have trouble deciphering many different names.

  • WHITE – Titanium, as it is the most opaque
  • BLACK – Ivory ,as it is the most neutral
  • BURNT UMBER – a cool dark brown
  • BURNT SIENNA – A warm brown
  • YELLOW OCHRE – a great mixing color
  • LEMON YELLOW – a green-ish cool yellow
  • CADMIUM YELLOW – an orange-ish yellow
  • ORANGE – a true, intense and bright orange
  • RED – Cadmium red medium or any brilliant true red
  • ALIZARIN CRIMSON – a cold blue-ish red, transparent
  • DIOXAZINE PURPLE – intense, excellent for mixing color
  • ULTRAMARINE BLUE – warm, rich blue
  • THALO (pthalocyanine) BLUE – extra brilliant and intense
  • COBALT BLUE – slightly cooler, very versatile, excellent for mixing
  • THALO (pthalocyanine) GREEN – best if just green, but if only available with another hue, bluish
  • VIRIDIAN GREEN – excellent mixer and slightly off green
  • PERMANENT GREEN LIGHT – very convenient
  • LEMON YELLOW – slightly green
  • CADMIUM YELLOW – slightly orange – both of these necessary for mixing
  • QUINACRIDONE CORAL OR the most brilliant pink you can find. Slightly orange – do not purchase ROSE or slightly purple

ANY and ALL colors you may already have, or other favorites

BRUSHES: Any and all, a wide variety that should include a medium size, soft hair brush for glazing. and VERY STIFF BRISTLE BRUSHES. Those sold very cheaply for children’s art projects are the best. They are available as a round, chisel and fan brush. At about a dollar and a half, buy all three types. Also purchase two VERY CHEAP hardware store very stiff bristle brushes; one 1”, and one 1 1/2” brush. These are key brushes for several painting techniques.

THE USUAL MATERIALS: palette, paper or rags containers for liquids, palette knives, cheap QTips, etc. necessary for class. Small jars or containers with good lids will be useful for saving mixed colors as well. Plastic or glass containers for prescription pills or medicines are usually relatively air proof as well.

PAINTING SURFACES: you may use CANVAS (not canvas textured paper ) PADS securely taped to a hard surface unless other wise noted. Regular tan color tape only.
You may choose stretched canvas, but these are unfinished exercise/studies for the most part. Canvas board or canvas pads are fine. They may be painted over and used again.

The above is a general, basic list you should have everyday. Here are the specific day’s additional requirements;

MONDAY DEC.4: Bring a single sheet of either Arches ($15) or Fabriano ($13) 300# COLD PRESS watercolor paper, 22” X 30”, prepared with a DRY surface of Venetian Red or a similar warm brown-red color, medium shade. It should cover the entire surface and be put on as smoothly and evenly as possible. Minor variations are fine as this is an underpainting. We will develop the surface over the two weeks to include Venetian glazing techniques for glowing colors and resonant shadows. Think El Greco moving into Titian ( his instructor ) with Giorgione opulence and atmosphere..

You will have many ways and choices in developing this work. You may copy a handout of an El Greco portrait ( three handouts – complete work and two details, head and hand ) OR bring and develop a landscape as seen through a window ( Caspar David Friedrich style, your idea ) OR a simple still life set on a surface ( Chardin style. your idea). Either may be a copy in order to learn glazing techniques.

OIL PAINTERS: I will supply fast drying white and black alkyd paints for the beginning. Please bring Gamblin’s NEO MEGILP painting medium or Gamblin painting medium, as they have less fumes. You may wish an additional dryer, but this must be applied outside the classroom if the fumes are strong.

ACRYLIC PAINTERS: Please bring an ACRYLIC PAINTING MEDIUM and a RETARDER to slow down the drying time.Your regular paints will work fine, so you will receive a small refund as I do not have to supply this underpainting paint.

BE CERTAIN TO BE PREPARED TO START YOUR PAINTING WITH A DEFINITE PLAN THE FIRST DAY. Either my El Greco handout or an alternative choice. We will continue to develop this over the two weeks and no doubt straying from your original vision in favor of learning new techniques and ideas. It will be a painting in flux – not a finished product.

Also please bring a medium pencil and ten sheets of very transparent tracing paper. Colored pencils if you have them, not necessary for the exercise but useful. 9” X 12” or larger.

TUESDAY DEC. 5: Giorgione and Piero Della Francesca – All the above and a small prepared surface approximately 12” X 18” for painting. Elmers glue OR acrylic painting medium.
One HARD, smooth surface, such as masonite, thick cardboard, elephant board for gluing raw canvas, minimum size 12”X12” but larger is fine. I will supply the canvas and demonstrate how to glue the surface.

WEDNESDAY DEC. 6: Chardin and Morandi – One prepared painting surface painted yellow ocher, DRY, approx 10” X12” or larger. AND the raw canvas glued surface. All paints.

THURSDAY DEC. 7: Turner and Bonnard – One DRY pale yellow surface , and one white as purchased surface. Each canvas should be at least 12 inches in both dimensions.

FRIDAY DEC. 8: Van Gogh and Gaugin. Two plain canvases, at least 12 inches in both dimensions. ACRYLIC PAINTERS- You will need a thickener for the Van Gogh, You can either purchase a GEL for this, or use a cornstarch paste. Google for a very simple and cheaper process. I will supply marble dust ( classic use ) and to see what happens with acrylic paints.


Picasso and Matisse Two surfaces prepared for painting, white. At least 12 inches in all dimensions. One stick of black conte crayon.

TUESDAY DEC 12: Egon Schiele and Alice Neal Two surfaces prepared for painting, white, at least 12 inches in all dimensions. One stick of conte crayon or compressed charcoal.

WEDNESDAY DEC 13: Hans Hofmann and Josef Albers One SQUARE painting, at least twelve inches painted BRIGHT RED. One surface painted LEMON YELLOW, at least 12 inches in both dimensions. These must be DRY, completely covering the surface as evenly as possible.

THURSDAY DEC 14: Jacob Lawrence and Henri Rousseau. Two prepared white surfaces at least 12 inches in both dimensions.

FRIDAY DEC 15: Richard Diebenkorn. His early, thick paint manipulation in the morning. Acrylic painters bring your thickener. Several surfaces approx. 12X12″ for various technique exploration, and one plain white surface 12” X 18” or larger in a similar shape rectangle. This will be a study of his last series, Ocean Park, with translucent, transparent and opaque surfaces accentuated with various line treatments.