DVD Review- Castagnet's "Painting With Passion"

Over a year ago, before I took my classes with Alvaro Castagnet, I prepared by getting his DVDs through the interlibrary loan.  This is an amazing tool, for those who haven’t tried it- the public library system is very robust, if you're willing to be patient.  I recently have had the opportunity to re-watch the three videos, which I’ll be reviewing over the next few posts, as I think each DVD is useful for different things.  This first one is for “Painting With Passion!”

It’s worth noting that none of Alvaro’s DVDs are available on Amazon, which is why interlibrary loans are so important for US viewers.  The Amazon pages have reviews though, which is good.  You can, however, buy them directly from Alvaro’s website.  There’s even a short trailer for each DVD located there.  Except this one.  This DVD seems to have completely disappeared.  You can't even get it from the APV Films website, which is a shame.  Why no one is offering this as a download is beyond me, as I find it the best introductory lesson of all Alvaro's DVDs.

“Painting With Passion!” was, I believe, made in the early 2000’s, and it shows.  The production quality isn’t quite as good as his later DVDs, there’s more ambient noise, etc. and Alvaro is clearly younger. !  I like the painting he does well enough (which is a street scene from Melbourne, with an umbrella), but IMO his paintings are better in the later DVDs.   As an educational DVD, however, it is, out of all of Alvaro’s DVDs, the one I think is most useful for the almost-beginner. It’s only 60 minutes long (instead of the 90 minutes of his other videos), but all of that time is spent on a single painting.  That can either be a blessing or a curse, but in general, I think it benefits the video as a learning tool, and wish more DVDs followed suit.  Alvaro talks A LOT more than he does in his other DVDs, sometimes perhaps rambling a bit here and there, but he also covers a lot more stuff that would be of value to a novice painter.

He doesn’t teach anything about making washes, or how to mix pigments to get a specific hue, etc. but he does, in particular, spend a good amount of time talking about both his tools and the whole process of composition-- a pretty direct result of spending 4x as much time on camera for a single painting.  For example, he starts on location, where he takes reference photos, etc.  He does a quick sketch on site as well, which is instructive too, because you see how he simplifies what’s before him into a working composition.  He also talks about how he uses all of this reference material later on, when he returns to the studio.  He even takes photos of people for reference, something he doesn't seem to do at all in the more recent videos.


Once at the studio, he thoroughly goes over his tools- brushes, paints, and paper- and how or why he uses them.  It’s the clearest, most detailed explanation he gives out of all of his DVDs.  You then get to see him work from a photo as he makes the sketch on the watercolor paper, start to finish- also something almost entirely skipped in the later DVDs.  This is the only video, by the way, where he paints in his studio, and I appreciate it- I think most of us do the majority of our painting off-site, so its good to see how an accomplished painter works when the environment is much more like our own.

From there, perhaps a full ½ hour into the video, he finally begins to paint.  The rest of the video is much like his other DVDs, except 2x as long.  I don’t know if I’d need to see him paint in this kind of detail every time, but it’s still very instructive to see all the “inbetween” parts that are edited out of other videos. It’s not quite real time, but its got much more of that feeling.  This leads to many helpful educational moments- he talks about, in detail, his “plan of attack” for the painting, so you’re prepared to pay attention to what he’s doing.  He talks about composition, and why he puts this dark here versus there, etc.  These sorts of details are only referenced to in later DVDs- he’ll say that this or that should be dark or light, etc, but not really go into __why__ that’s important… what it means to the success of the composition.  In this video, he does. 

A year ago, this was clearly the DVD that had the most value to me.  I didn’t know much about going on site for sketches and reference material, about the sorts of materials he used and why, about composition, or using such dark darks, and this videos focuses a lot on those things.  It was very useful for me at the time, as an intro to Alvaro’s style of painting.  This year, coming back, the DVD was of less value to me, and I got more out of some of his later DVDs, but I also have a great many more paintings under my belt.  Where you lie on that continuum will probably determine which video you’ll want to watch, but this one, IMO, is definitely worth while.