Watermill painting tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann


Maggie Renner Hellmann

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Painting by watermill tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann

Verrucola Castle village

Acrylic travel sketch

Verrucola is one of the great spots where we get to explore, sketch, paint and enjoy a delicious lunch in the local village trattoria. In this scene, I wanted to convey the large imposing castle towering over the village below in a rural Tuscan setting. That’s a lot to include! So, I simplified the village below with less buildings and used the green foliage to frame the building elements. Adding some extra foliage where it helped the design. In the distance, I included the small tower building that gave depth to the perspective through contrasting size elements. Colorwise, I chose a golden tone for the areas of buildings in the light and lavender for the shadow areas. This led me to the overall double complementary color theme: yellow-purple, and red-green.

Painting by Maggie Renner Hellmann a tutor at the watermill in Italy

Poppy palooza

Oil travel sketch

The orange poppies exploded in a superbloom in California that year and I was fortunate to get paint there in the middle of it all. In this oil sketch, I wanted to work fast and loose, framing those glowing oranges and magentas with less intense darker trees in the foreground. The vertical shapes of the trees also offset the horizontal shapes in the distant hills. The pathway leads the viewers eye into the painting and helps to create depth. The challenge here is to know when to stop and to preserve that loose exciting brushwork.

Painting tutor at the watermill in Italy Maggie Renner Hellmann

Venice gondolier

Water travel sketch

The canals in Venice are magical! My goal in this plein air travel sketch in watercolor, was to capture that magic of the gondola ride. I chose a spot where the gondolas regularly came through under an iconic bridge. I decided to frame the scene with the golden orange colors of warm, sun drenched walls with little hints of Venetian architectural details. I chose primarily secondary colors for this scene: orange, purple and a bit of green. I used the triangular, lavender water shape to lead the viewer into the design and toward the gondola. The dark purple gondola and it’s reflection are framed by the much lighter orange bridge and walls. Allowing the gondolier and the boat to overlap in front of the bridge gave them prominence and focus as well as added depth to the scene.

Painting tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann at the watermill in Italy

Vernazza harbour

Oil on canvas – studio painting watercolour travel sketch

We get to visit this stunning Cinque Terre village on our Wednesday excursion day! I completed this studio painting when I got home, using my photos and travel sketches as reference. Vernazza harbor and village is an artist’s delight. I chose to use the boats in the foreground to lead the viewer’s eye into the reflections of the village and then the village itself. My focal point of boats and reflections are created by letting the water dance through the colorful riot of reflections with energetic and vibrant brushwork.

Course dates

Course Completed


‘Colorful & Expressive oil & watercolor’
(also Travel sketching, acrylics, and pastel)

Maggie Renner Hellmann is a contemporary artist from the colorful coastal town of Santa Cruz, California who paints and teaches with joy, passion and enthusiasm. Her work is characterised by a unique blend of loose, energetic brushwork and strong compositions of exuberant colour. Her favourite saying is "I love the joy of color and the poetry of brushwork".

Maggie has over 40 years’ experience as a professional painter and plein air instructor in many mediums – and she loves teaching almost as much as she loves painting! Her years of experience in painting in many mediums have distilled her teaching to the core fundamentals that will help guide any painter toward success. She has taught many workshops throughout the United States and Europe and she will encourage the beginner and challenge the more advanced. Her students love her teaching style. This will be Maggie’s fifth Watermill workshop.

Maggie is a classically trained, knowledgeable and enthusiastic tutor. Her background includes a Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Art - Illustration and Graphic Design at San Jose State University, winning a competition scholarship from the New York Society of Illustrators, followed by 11 years as a Senior Graphic Designer/Illustrator at a national level Design Studio in the San Francisco Bay area. Maggie’s work won many national Design and Illustration awards and appeared in many National Magazines and publications. Following her successful Illustration and Design career, Maggie launched her Fine Art career with advanced painting classes at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Art Academy in Florence, Italy in 1994. Since then, Maggie’s work has been widely collected internationally. Maggie has been featured in many juried and invitational plein air events, exhibits, and publications, winning multiple Best of Show and Artist Choice Awards and invitations to teach workshops worldwide. Her work has been featured in ‘The Artist’s Magazine’ and in published Fine Art calendars. She has recently passed the honoured baton as the President of the Monterey Bay Plein Air Painters Association, shepherding a large group of dedicated plein air painters in the Santa Cruz, Carmel & Big Sur areas of California. Maggie is now President Emeritus after helping to almost double the size of MBPAPA membership, an amazing group of talented painters

Maggie’s painting course at The Watermill

In her workshop at the Watermill, Maggie will encourage beginning artists with easy to follow steps for improving their confidence and skills, while challenging the more experienced painter to be bolder and explore more choices.

Maggie’s emphasis will be on sharing and teaching the core elements of successful paintings: - Design, simplification, drawing skills, perspective, focal point, light source, values, positive & negative shapes, volumes, brushwork & the ‘Joys of Color’. She will also teach painters ‘when and how to use contrasts’ to give excitement and drama to your painting. “I’m happy to work with you at whatever level you are at!”

All levels of experience are welcome. The medium is your choice. Maggie will provide hand-outs and will demo in oil and watercolor, but is skilled with acrylic and pastel mediums as well. She looks forward to sharing her skills & knowledge of painting in all mediums. Maggie will also help students individually throughout the day and enjoys leading helpful critique sessions at the end of most days: a time for painters to encourage, be inspired by, and learn from each other’s play, discovery and learning.

Maggie’s plan: “Each day we will focus on one aspect and cover many areas. Each exercise will help you to overcome any fears you may have in sketching and painting and using exciting colour.

  • Learn and practice perspective and drawing skills.
  • Learn how to simplify and design a plan for your painting by sketching thumbnail value studies.
  • Learn how to identify your light source and establish a hierarchy of values.
  • Learn how to simplify and design pleasing positive and negative shapes and volumes.
  • Learn how to see more colour and master using colour contrasts.
  • Get individual help and feedback in creating a beautiful outdoor landscape

Praise for Maggie’s 2022 course at the Watermill

This was my first visit to The Watermill. I was there as a solo traveller. My week was art-tutored by the decidedly talented, stimulating, patient and knowledgeable Maggie Renner Hellmann. Words don’t do justice to all her charming and artistic attributes. As a complete novice, she guided me with tact and inspiration and I ended up quite proud of my watercolour daubs that resembled those by a 2 year old. Still, practice makes perfect!

The accommodation in picturesque rural surroundings in Tuscany was very comfortable and restful with all amenities. Everything ran like clockwork. Delicious food appeared as if by magic at mealtimes washed down by copious quantities of local wine. Excursions and transport were well planned and there were no hitches. Nothing was too much trouble for Lois and Bill Breckon or for Karsten.

Members of staff were unobtrusive and everything imaginable was done to render it a memorable week. The fellowship of other participants (painting and non- painting) was interesting and congenial. All in all, it was a most enjoyable holiday. SJ

Thank you for all your work , welcome and hospitality to make our week in the Watermill so pleasant. The place is very beautiful and conducive to art and relaxation. The food was really lovely and so beautifully presented. I really appreciated all the extra effort you made to see that we, non painters, were educated and entertained. SC

We had a wonderful time last week. Loved it all—the Botticelli room and the comfy bedding. Our delightful hosts. Your organization and thoughtfulness. Karsten! Our excellent drivers. The location and the beautiful Watermill property in general. The help you gave us both before and during the week. I would encourage others to take classes at The Watermill. SS

Praise for Maggie’s previous courses at the Watermill

“Participating in a workshop with Maggie is a delight! She is one of the rare artists who likes sharing her knowledge nearly as much as she likes to paint. Her demos are a delightful opportunity to be a fly on the wall as she goes through the various steps in the process while simultaneously explaining each step: composition, sketching, laying in the colors, developing a completed painting, and demonstrating and explaining her courageous use of color. Her critiques are equally helpful to the novice and the experienced artist. They are honest, very helpful, and still kind. It was great to see the improvement in each artist's paintings though out the week. These things, along with her availability to help and answer questions throughout the day are reasons I would be happy to take another workshop with her when the opportunity arises. The Watermill was a perfect place; beautiful, well appointed, organized, and the camaraderie of the gracious gatherings, and the food!" LN

“Maggie, what I loved so much about your teaching is that you taught from the very basics and it was exactly what I needed! I have taken many classes over the years, but none like this. I really should have learned the basics but I hadn’t. All of your handouts I treasure and have looked at them since Tuscany. They are all invaluable. From color, to composition, layout of palette, shapes and volumes, value and light, all so important. Your encouragement, your drawing and painting skills, and your enthusiasm for color are all an inspiration to me! Thank you sooo much” JJ

A lovely holiday, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Excellent tuition from Maggie. Superb scenery. Delicious food. Many thanks for everything. SH

“Maggie is good at teaching in all mediums and with all levels. She did wonderful demos. Every day we did critiques together and learned from each other. I highly recommend this art workshop as well as the most wonderful accommodation with great food and wine. A little piece of heaven in experiencing Italy.” LS

Words don’t do justice to all Maggie’s charming and artistic attributes. As a complete novice, she guided me with tact and inspiration and I ended up quite proud of my watercolour daubs that resembled those by a 2-year-old. Still, practice makes perfect! SJ