Saturday, June 28, 2014

a different light

In a break from routine, I had the joy this week of participating in a painting workshop guided by retired professor and excellent artist and teacher Paul Davis, of whom I've written before. Paul lives in Teasdale, a neighboring town to Torrey, and very occasionally offers a week of stimulation and wisdom to a small group of painters. The emphasis this week was on plein air painting, involving neither cold wax nor monotype but rather painting alla prima, as I learned to do with Doug Braithwaite when I first began to paint with oil in 2002. So the workshop provided a chance to explore old skills and habits, as well as equipment -- I had to drag my old field easel out of storage, and beg some Liquin from a friend. Always innovative, however, Paul presented to the group a series of ideas and techniques that stimulated creativity and caused us to look at the process anew.

In addition to the traditional "standing-in-a-field-painting-what-you-see," which we did every morning, Paul led us through some new ways to both think about the process and take it out of its traditional approach. For one thing, we took a photo of the rock formation that we painted on the first morning, then back in Paul's studio that afternoon, we created the same scene as a collage (right). Then we proceeded to paint the formation a second time, from the collage. This was just plain fun, but it also brought insights into planes and angles, light and shadow, and ways to simplify the complexities of a cliff face (or any landscape).

Another day, Paul challenged us to paint the field in front of us not in its actual colors but in a tonalist manner, keeping to light and very close values and neutral hues. Tonalism emphasizes atmosphere, or mood, over accuracy or brightness of color. The photo above shows my easel and a partially finished rendition of the scene to the upper left.

It was refreshing to spend a week away from my studio, among other like-minded and very talented artists, remembering old lessons and learning new ones. It left me with renewed energy and enthusiasm for painting in all its manifestations.

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