David P. Curtis
Paintings and Plein Air Art Instruction

Upcoming Events

Cape Ann Summer Workshops 2018 now available!

Please check the top menu for appropriate page and information


These workshops are designed for students wishing to improve their artistic skills by focusing on the fundamentals of plein air oil painting. Curtis stresses the importance of observing and composing directly from nature, as well as how to interpret light and atmosphere with color, brush and canvas. With more than thirty-five years of experience, Curtis brings to his 25th season of teaching, a wealth of knowledge derived from practical application and an extensive interest in the history of art.

As one who received his formal training in the traditions of the Boston School, Curtis is a strong advocate for the principles of American Impressionism. “Take the philosophy of the Academic School and combine it with the impressionist seeing of the French avant-garde movement,” Curtis says:

and you get the best of both worlds: the high key palette of the Impressionists, who were trying to paint light hitting the object rather than the object itself, and the strong drawing ethic of the Academicians, which stops one’s work from becoming sloppy. There is no effortless way to become a successful outdoor painter. It takes time and practice, on location, to sharpen observational skills and improve painting performance.


Check out the Sight & Insight podcast where David and Connie chat with art historian and writer Judy Curtis about all things Art. This is thinking outside the paintbox at its best!

One reproduces only that which is striking; that is to say, the necessary. Thus, one's recollections and inventions are liberated from the tyranny which nature exerts. ~ Edgar Degas

June 18-22, Sight & Insight ‘Pictorial Quality’ Composition Workshop with Instructors: David P. Curtis and Lorwen ‘Connie’ Nagle.  $500

 Portsmouth, South End, Lorwen C. Nagle, private collection

This workshop addresses the idea of memory painting; a vital component of plein air painting and an aspect of landscape that is rarely taught, because will improve your composition skills! A good painting is based on what you remember, as this will assist you refine your painting. You must make your decisions based on memory or compositional analysis because the pattern of light and shadow changes over two or three hours out of doors.

Whether working direct from Nature or painting from memory, the key principles guide us and serve as stimuli for creating good compositions. Remember, rhythm is used to signify movement shown by lines, tones, and colors. The ordering and/or arrangements of these facets can affect us without having any direct relation with Nature, but pure appeal directly to our feelings. Thus, in painting there is a Pictorial Quality beginning with a reaction or emotional feeling that appeals directly to us, apart from any significance associated with the representation of natural. Each day students will paint one or two works leading to the discipline of completing a small sketch that will be turned into a finished canvas at the end of the workshop. Remember the Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts.

Of all the principles of painting, Composition is the one that plies our mind and senses, especially our imagination, towards thinking - and Art is Thinking. Pictorial Quality is always in the background of painting as the artist proceeds to deepen, tighten and revise his or her composition. If the artist can define the initial pictorial quality - the concept and feeling nature of their painting - then the composition will achieve a ‘bigness.’ Without this vital element, one’s paintings may never succeed in manifesting an aspect of beauty that exudes refinement.

David P Curtis, Looking South, oil on vanvas board, 12 x 16 Looking South by David P. Curtis, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, private collection

July 11-13, Boats And Buildings $300

This is one of the most popular themes in the workshop program. We will paint at 3 different locations around Cape Ann over the 3 days. This workshop is designed to improve drawing skills, as well as the understanding of perspective, and the immediacy of composing and designing on the spot. Early sign up is recommended as this workshop fills quickly.

See the top menu for the 2018 Workshop Schedule and sign up sheet.