Monday, May 10, 2010

Crazy For Color Workshop

Yesterday I wrapped up a 2-day workshop entitled "Crazy for Color". Below is my first day demo, a value study done on site at a wonderful abandoned farm in Ohio. All of the buildings are red with green roofs, perfect in my mind for a workshop.

"Grey Day Value Demo" - 8" x 8" - Oil on Gessoboard

After 10 days of great painting weather, Mother Nature turned, and the workshop was delivered in spitting rain, high winds and cold temperatures. That is plein air painting, but someone usually whines. Not this wonderful group, they got down to it and endured!!!

DAY 1:
While I set up my equipment I asked the students to start looking around for something they were interested in painting, and gave them instructions on doing a thumbnail of interesting shapes, using only three values. We had discussed the the importance of having an idea first - a poetic intent. This idea would guide all the consequent decisions they would make in the composing and painting process. While they sketched so did I. Once I had my idea and my value thumbnail I gathered all the students.

The demo started around 9:30 am on Saturday morning with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. I wore layers of clothes: a silk turtleneck, then a cotton one on top, and a scarf around my neck for extra warmth. On top of that, a hooded sweat shirt purchased after a trip on a tall ship in Michigan (if it's good for sailors, it's warm). Fourth layer, a cotton sweater, and topping it all off was my Dad's old hat, a sort of Alpine style hat with a little feather on the side and a fleece interior. Thick hiking socks and boots kept my feet warm.

I used a Loew-Cornell palette knife size J-2, my favorite knife. I've used it so much that it's pretty sharp on the edges. I've never cut into a canvas, but I have punctured or sliced my fingers by accident. I've owned it since the early 90's, and although I have since purchased others in this size by the same company, my original knife is my favorite. It just feels right in my hand.

My workshop was sponsored by Sunbear Studio, an:d I was not far from finishing my demo when Meredith Marten, owner of the studio, arrived to take some photos and to let my students know that they could come back to the studio for coffee and muffins. WOW! No sooner I was finished, they all took off "to use the toilet". We took a lunch break at that point, an hour early, 11:00 am instead of Noon. I heard that the class had mutinied and were not going back outside. They decided to do their value paintings in the studio from their thumbnails.

I got a chuckle out of this, and went with the flow. It was actually nice to have all the students corralled in one room, they couldn't get away, and I could get to them all easily. I worked with each student to make sure they had a poetic intent, and strengthen their drawings in terms of good shapes and values that would support their idea. By the end of the day, most of the them had completed an interesting value painting from their morning thumbnails. Those that completed the value painting quickly went on to work that same design in a color version.

Below is my demo from day 2.

"Huges' Hen House, Morning, 8" x 6", oil on canvas.

During my demo I talked about mixing the prismatic palette of colors and the benefits of using a limited palette. I had my thumbnail handy discussed it with them. The painting was started with a tone of cad red light thinned with OMS and wiped to a light pink. I laid down a few placement lines with the same color and switched to my palette knife. I painted and talked about what I was doing, and at some point the thought crossed my mind that I was taking too long, so I asked if they wanted me to just paint, or to talk as I painted, which would take a little longer. They said to talk. So I explained everything, every step of the process of my decision making and everything I was physically doing and as much as I could about what colors I was mixing. At times I couldn't tell them what colors I mixed together because I make great use of mixing from pile to pile to create subtle nuances of tones. At the end, I added some hens that had walked out. I said I hadn't had much practice painting chickens from life and one student said they were really just two triangles. She was right!

I think that this painting could benefit from a little more detail in the focal area, but I was more interested in getting the students working and helping them at their easels. It was a great day in the sun, but still chilly in the shade. I did my painting standing with the easel and painting both in the sun, no umbrella.

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