For several years I have been wanting to take a workshop with Marc Hanson and finally, two weeks ago I had the chance and headed to the Scottsdale Artist's School in Arizona.
The emphasis of the workshop was painting from field to studio and the main issues related to both situations.
B&W Study 1-Getting acquainted with the flora
Day 1. After introductions and a demo by Marc on how to do black and white studies, we went to Papago Park to find subjects to paint. That first day outdoors was tough mostly because of the the heat and my not being familiar with the plants and colors of the desert. I worked from a shelter all day and at the end I had 4 small studies, all done on 4.5 x 6" Canson paper. I had left my white and black pastels at home so I had to work with a range of purples. After struggling with the first one, I decided to work on the smooth side of the paper and the going got easier.
B&W Study 2
B&W Study 3, Saguaro
B&W Study 4, Papago Buttes
Day 2 . Color study day.
Color Study 1, 12x9"
We arrived very early at the park in order to avoid the heat. I looked around for something really appealing to paint and found a pond surrounded by palm trees --an oasis!
In the afternoon I did a color study of some bushes. One thing that called my attention were the shadows: right under them they were reddish, becoming bluish as they came closer to sunlit areas. I have never seen this so clearly before.
Color Study 2, 9x12"
Later on I did a panoramic view of the mountains beyond the buttes. The colors of the mountains kept on switching from warm earths to cool blues because of clouds to the south and the problem was that I liked both colors!
Color Study 3, 9x12"
That day we stayed late at the park to try capturing the sunset colors. It was very hard as in my eagerness to work fast it didn't occur to me to use my hand to keep the sun from blinding me. My sunset wasn't that great but I knew that with some work it could look better.
Day 3. In the morning, two other participants and I decided to go back to the park very early and do more painting before class.
Saguaro Color Study, 9x6"
I worked some more on my pond painting but got quite frustrated with the changing reflections on the water and my going after them instead of sticking with what I originally had.
Back in the classroom, Marc did a large color demo. It was so enlightening! He basically finished the whole thing in a few hours. He said that one needs to visualize the finished painting before starting it. This came as an epiphany! I think this is a key point: once you have your composition and color scheme worked out and you have a mental painting, it's probably easier not to get side-tracked with unimportant things.
In the afternoon I did a color study based on my black and white study of the saguaro. I found this exercise very valuable as sometimes I tend to get carried away with color, forgetting to match the correct values.
Day 4, I started my large painting on a 16x20" Ampersand Pastelbord. I thought the mountain view of my previous color study was more interesting for a large painting.
Things were going well at the beginning but somewhere I got lost. I do remember fussing about color intensity from background to foreground. Also, comparing it now to the color study, there is so much deviation in color... I definitely need to rework it.
Large painting, unfinished, 16x20"
After my frustration with the large painting, I worked on the sunset from day 2.
Phoenix Sunset, 7x9"
Day 5 In the morning I worked on my pond painting.
Pond at Papago Park, 12x9"
For critique we had to select two pieces of work. I chose the large painting (the one that had given me so much grief) and the one of the pond.
He said for me to work on being more suggestive or expressive with shape (especially with trees) and not to give much detail to areas that aren't important. Something else he suggested was to work on the substrate that was right for me. He thought my pond painting was the better one (and I agreed with him on that). He said that I seemed to be struggling with the Ampersand board because of its texture, so he suggested I redo that scene on a different support. Having worked on Ampersand boards before and with good results, I think the real problem for me was not having imagined the painting finished beforehand thus not having a clear idea of where I was going with it. I do not like to leave things unfinished so I'm hoping to resolve those issues soon.
Coming home after a 5-day workshop with only two finished paintings would have seemed ridiculous to me before, but not this time. Even if I had come home with no finished paintings at all, I wouldn't have been totally disappointed. I enjoyed every minute of the workshop and feel that I learned very important things, which if applied to my work, might yield better results.