Monday, May 24, 2010

Robert Carsten Workshop

I've heard that one should take time to put in practice what one has learned from one workshop before taking another. That makes sense, but when a good opportunity comes one's way, one just have to take it, so that's why I ended up taking the Robert Carsten 2-days workshop 2 weeks after the one with Susan Ogilvie.
Carsten was invited to Syracuse by the Everson Museum, and because a friend had said so many wonderful things about him and the tidbits of info he gives here and there, I decided to take it. Good move! He is a wonderful teacher, who made the lessons fun and relaxing, at the same time that he encouraged us to do several paintings.

Painting #2
I learned so many little things that are very important in producing good work, one of them, not to give up so easily when the painting is not working the way you want it, as was the case with painting #3, where the season went form spring to summer,

Painting #3
and an opening was added on the left bank switching the area of interest from the water on the foreground to the opening, and making the painting more interesting.

Painting #4
I wanted to get ideas for painting different weather conditions and we had 30 minutes left before a general discussion session. So, my snow scene was done in a record time of 20 minutes! The pressure made me decide quickly what to leave out.

I'm very happy I took this workshop as it also gave me chance to get to know other local artists I see only on occasions.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ogilvie Workshop, Days 4 and 5

Day 4 started with a discussion on color. Susan suggests to consider value first, then color/color temperature and then, increase or decrease its intensity. The goal is to make a logical approach to color selection instead of simply guessing. She started a demo using an acrylic underpainting. I didn't have gatorboards left, nor had any fluid acrylics in the primary colors so I just observed and took detailed notes so I can use the technique some other time.

Painting #6
I started my painting #6, which was finished the next day. It might not be a very interesting or appealing painting but I learned some very important things about color and how I work from this piece. One is that I need to be more daring with color. Originally the mountain in the distance was a paler blue. At Susan's suggestion the color was intensified but it still reads as a cool, cloudy day. The same happened with the sky. Instead of lavenders, some peaches and pinks were added which had the effect of warming up the scene just a little bit without changing the overall feeling of an overcast day. I also became aware that I tend to add whites or very light colors when I need to warm up an area. Susan selected some warm browns for me to demonstrate how to warm up the dirt in the foreground.

Day 5 was business talk in the morning. One important thing Susan mentioned is that 50% of art time is really business. This is something to think about...
She continued with the pastel application on the acrylic underpainting. The key is to simplify, develop value slowly, and unify with color. She stresses not to use white. The only reason she carries it in her box is to demonstrate how glaring a streak of while looks on a painting that has a wide range of values and reads well. We continued with our own work and she did several rounds of critique. All of a sudden, it was time to pack and go home.

I feel enriched by this workshop, and also very energized. Now I'm figuring out what to do next.

Going with friends made the trip even more enjoyable as 4 of us from the area decided to lodge at the same place and were able to prepare breakfasts and dinners together, and play cards at night. It was "me" time I really needed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ogilvie Workshop, continued-Day 3

While there, Susan was to be the juror of awards to the 6th National NE Pastel Competition so she saw it as a great opportunity for us to learn about her thought process in selecting work. She only commented on the top awards, but it was very interesting and informative. That morning she did a PowerPoint presentation of several of her works from sketch to finished painting which was helpful in making us aware of the steps she takes when something isn't quite there, and how she solves the problem.
Painting #4
In the afternoon we went to see her painting on location. She did a quick sketch and started a demo. Her demos were never finished in one go, but they were helpful because it was like seeing how her mind worked when deciding what color to use and what areas needed to be tackled first. I asked her why she had chosen a scene that didn't seem to have that much appeal compared to what was around and she said that sometimes she simply likes to challenge herself and she learns the most form those pieces.
I decided right there that I was going to do the same, because after all, what was the point of taking a workshop if I wasn't going to push myself to some degree? A falling bank with some dead trees peeking out of the water was my afternoon project.
Painting #4, reworked

I'm showing here my first attempt (top one) and the reworked version, after some good critique from Susan. I needed to define some of the trees, the horizon line was almost at the center (that was more obvious when the board was placed on the side) and I needed an element on the left side to keep the eye from wandering out of the painting.
At the end of the workshop, she said that was my strongest piece, and I'm happy to say that I felt the same way too.

Painting #5

That day I also painted this fall scene. The shadows on the foreground were made up and perhaps that's why I do not like them. I'm debating on taking the easy way out and crop it, or rework those shadows...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ogilvie Workshop, continued-Day 2

On Day 2, Susan did a sketch demo on location, at a beautiful area of the Moose River. She uses the Golden Mean to place the areas of interest. Important points are : Get the parts that appeal to you. Simplify. Use abstract shapes to compose. Make color notes.
Painting #2
Her idea of making the sketch work for you, was a revelation to me. I have often taken artist license when painting certain scenes, but what she said had more implications and possibilities, and made me realize why sometimes I end up with paintings that do not work. This is more difficult to grasp when you are painting outdoors and feel you are cheating if you make major changes to the scene.
I did two sketches that morning and would have liked to do a third one but it started to rain. It was lunch- time anyway. In the afternoon I worked solely from my second sketch.

Susan wanted us to paint water reflections and at least one structure/building. I had 2 paintings with water reflections, now I needed one with a building.
Painting #3
For a while I've been thinking of a photo of a barn I liked, but didn't know how to change the composition. I knew what particular things I wanted to include but didn't know how to put it together. Susan suggested to place a tree behind the barn. I did a sketch using that idea and it worked! She also suggested that I include the pole to give a sense of scale.

Reference for painting #3
I'm showing the reference photo just to give you an idea of how much you can change something and make it work for you.
I think the specs of reddish underpainting add a lot to both paintings and I'm planning to use it for other supports.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Workshop with Susan Ogilvie-Day 1

I recently came back from a wonderful 5-day workshop with Susan Ogilvie, at the Old Forge Arts Center.
Three great pastellist were coming to the area this year (Ogilvie, Handell, Dawson) and it was tough deciding which one to take. I chose the Ogilvie one because of comments I read by some Wet Canvas members and blogger Katherine van Schoonhoven. The idea of exploring color and getting out of my comfort zone was very appealing to me.

It's the best workshop I've taken so far. It was challenging and now I feel so empowered by it.
From the beginning Susan encouraged us to do 2 painting/day. I was able to do only 6, including a major change I did to one of them. My only regret is not having done a winter scene while there as I would have loved to hear he comments on painting snow. The people from the Old Forge Arts Center were very helpful and accommodating, allowing us to stay two more hours after the workshop was over for the day.
Day 1
Susan did a demo on Gatorboard preparation. You do that by tinting the board first and then applying a mix of pumice gel and dry pumice powder. Working on this surface was challenging at first. I'm glad I did my first try on a 10"x 8" board. By the time I painted the second piece, I had gotten resigned to working on that texture. When #3 and #4, were painted, I was enjoying it so much that I ended up applying it to an Ampersand board. If you are the kind of person who has trouble letting the color of the support or underpainting show, this might be a good thing to try, as it's really hard to completely cover it (of course, this depends on how thick you apply the pumice paste). One of the things Susan stresses is doing a good sketch and working from it, and simplification is one of the keys. She started a pastel demo working from her sketch. If something doesn't work, change the shape, change the value, or change the color. We painted from photos and sketches.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Getting ready

The art sale a week ago went very well. I sold 7 paintings in 2 days! Some were bought by returned customers. Anne is the new owner of the two pieces shown here A Cloudy Day and Meadow in Fog--thank you Ann!

Some artists do not paint scenes that appeal to them simply because they think the subject won't sell. What sells should never be the main factor in determining what to paint. Not everyone goes for the colorful, bright, "happy" paintings. Personally, I love foggy and cloudy days because I find them very comforting. They bring very good memories of field trips to cloud forests in Costa Rica, and they often invite introspection.

Follow your muse. Sooner or later you're likely to find kindred souls who will appreciate your work.