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Color Theory and Portraiture Through the Mudhead Tradition with Aaron Thompson

July 15 @ 9:00 am 3:00 pm

Monday-Wednesday, July 15-17

Monday session: 9am-3pm | Tuesday and Wednesday session: 9am-1pm

3 sessions | $350 for members, $380 for non-members

This two-part workshop begins in the PAAM painting studio with a crash course (or refresher!) in color theory.

After honing our skills, we will begin working from a model, venturing outside on the third day to practice Charles Hawthorne’s color spot technique. 

Day 1: Emphasis will be on capturing the immediate impact of light on basic forms using simple clear shapes, to better understand color’s attributes. With a single set of complementary colors, students will develop a more complex understanding of color space by focusing on value, temperature, and hue. Once the ability to express light on a form is developed, we will discuss a variety of palette strategies to help carry these concepts into your future paintings.

Days 2 & 3: Working from a live model, the portrait will be the departure point for a discussion of simplification and abstraction within pictorial space, with an emphasis on Charles Hawthorne’s mudheads. Through reducing the visible to its simplest terms, we will attempt to develop accuracy through layering shape into proportional constructions of the head. Our goal will be to develop our awareness of figure-ground integration, unity, light, and depth through formal relationships within painting. Referencing historical and contemporary portraiture, and working from a model will also be included. Some painting experience required; oil paint is the medium.


Aaron M. Thompson is a professional painter whose Paintings and Drawings have been exhibited in P.A.F.A.’s Samuel M. V. Hamilton Museum, the Charles DeMuth Museum, and Provincetown Art Association Museum. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Thompson earned his BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and was awarded The Merit Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he later earned a Masters Degree in Painting. As a Gamblin Artist Colors Mid-Atlantic Educational Representative, Aaron has given lectures on “navigating color space” and oil painting “material practices” at Museums and Institutions of Higher Education for a decade. Currently, he is a Full-Time Assistant Professor at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design where he teaches drawing and painting in the Fine Art Department. 

Website: aaronmichaelthompson.com, Instagram: @paintlanguage

Aaron Thompson, Mudhead Demo, 2022, oil on board, 9 x 12 inches