Oh, Over-confidence, you are not our friend. After two solid days of absorbing artistic truth from a Master, I felt so happy and confident to tackle a lovely, bucolic country scene. I think my heart got ahead of my hand and I was quickly brought back down to earth. But, lest you think it depressing, I must tell you about the community of students I was in. Everyone was so great and so eager to learn and grow. There truly were no "ego trips" or critical attitudes. We ranged in experience and skill levels and came from many different areas of the country. We all struggled with our supplies, we all forgot or lost something, we all succeeded and failed and kept soldiering on. It was wonderful!
This is my final workshop post...except for the big reveal of my work...and I want to share the "limited stroke exercise" (cue dread and doom music.) Here's how it works: first make an initial drawing of the subject using thinned paint (Anne used burnt sienna.) Get your basic shapes, lines, and relationships in place
Step 2: Amp up the values with at least 3 values apparent, light-midtone-dark. Oh and also to leave about an inch of margin on the right side where you can tick off your brush strokes.
Step 3: Mix up some colors on the palette with the value range to them.
Step 4: ready, set, go! Do the painting in 20 brush strokes. What?? Fortunately, a brush stroke is loosely defined as whatever it takes to get the load of paint off the brush. In other words, you might go back and forth in an area filling it in with paint and count it as one brushstroke.
The goal is not a finished painting, but an exercise of seeing, decision-making, and executing. It's an excellent way to do a plein air sketch of a subject to help you evaluate the composition and form interest. On the right margin you can see Anne's marks to log each lift of the brush. I think it was 17 or 18. Squint down on the painting and you can see how she maintained her light, mid, and dark values with the colors she used. Even though there are minimal details, you can still see perspective and identify the subjects.
I intend to put this exercise into practice, but it feels kinda risky to do without supervision. (haha) I also have to overcome that feeling that every painting I do must strive for perfection. It kind of feels like the more I improve, the more I venture into unknown territory.
I guess you could say that I am drawing out the workshop blogging as far as possible, since it did take place in April and I do apologize! But it is kind of fun to break it down into small enough chunks so that I can explain the process of learning to "paint what you see."
Some of us SEE better than others and over the weekend I began to see that this was an area where I was significantly challenged. Look back at my May 7 blog post and check Anne's initial drawing of the Franklin, TN church. Her lines and perspective are spot on. When I tried to lay in my lines and shapes...well.... It definitely takes practice!
In the afternoon of Day 2, Anne sent us into the neighborhood to paint a lovely little scene of quaint houses. Again, I found that my brain was flabby at interpreting what my eyes were seeing. Was the line to the vanishing point angling up or angling down? It was crazy that I couldn't accurately reproduce what I knew I was seeing! Kind of like trying to write with your non dominant hand.
This is the little house I chose to paint (it looked a lot sweeter than the photo shows and then that "Happy Hiller" plumbing truck pulls up and parks? What the....) Wow, did I have struggles with the lines. When the drawing doesn't read correctly to the viewer, well, it's pretty hard to appreciate the painting. In Anne's words, "I see what you're trying to do, but it's all kind of wonky." Once she got me straightened out (with a few quick flicks of her paintbrush) I was able to make some decent progress on the painting.
On Day 3, we were back out in the country, this time painting barns. Oh my goodness, again with the wonkyness. Somehow, after staring at and painting that dang barn for at least an hour, I had somehow elongated it all the way to Alabama. Good grief! Clearly my brain and my paintbrush need to get better connected. Anne very kindly and patiently pointed out that it didn't much look like a Tennessee barn all stretched out like I was painting it, then helped me chop off that back third and raise the roofline. Ta da! Back on track.
You would think a workshop might be discouraging, but it's so stretching and challenging that I come away exhausted, inspired, a lot more conscious and aware of the intricacies of creating good art. Since the workshop, I think my attention and understanding of lines and shapes and their relationship to each other is definitely on the track of improvement.
One nugget Anne taught me was to honestly identify my areas of weakness/deficit and make them my top priority for growth.
My remedy for a challenging, exhausting, ridiculously fun day of painting?....a lovely glass of wine!
Some vacations just seem to linger in the mind...and, possibly, in the body. I'm not saying I actually ate the worm at the bottom of the bottle, but, well, the past few weeks I have been contending with something that may or may not have come from cavalier consumption in a 1st-3rd world country. Thank heaven for first world medical care (insert shout-out for my GI doctor...should I tell you his apropos name? Dr Hande. And, yes, he does a top notch colonoscopy!) But I do have to say the cure (Flagyl) is equal to the misery of the condition (insert mopey face.)
This experience will have no bearing on how I feel about Mazatlan and her beautiful people, beaches, flora (well....) & fauna and we will definitely be going again next year. So let me unveil the final, official versions of my original plein air paintings that I produced this Spring in Mexico!
Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...