Jeffrey Watts is the founder of the Watts Atelier near San Diego, California, which he runs with the help of his wife Krista. I gave three digital presentations to a sold-out house there last Friday, and then did a 25-minute portrait sketch demo using water-soluble colored pencils.
The atelier is a large room in a professional building, lined with skeletons, drawing casts, copies of Sargent and Fechin, and figure and landscape paintings by Watts and other instructors.
Watts started the atelier in 1992 when he was just 22 years old, and now has about 250 students with a faculty of 10 instructors. His approach combines rigorously accurate drawing with a painterly handling that he describes as “controlled chaos.” He brings to his art the same the discipline that he learned earlier in his life when he was training to be a professional cyclist.
According to a September, 2006 article in American Artist, his students begin with a thorough experience of drawing, then progress to a grisaille palette, and then to a limited “Zorn” palette of titanium white, ivory black, cadmium red light, and yellow ochre before graduating to a full palette.
In this video sample, he shows his own approach to painting a “gesture portrait,” and explains some of his suggested palettes.