12" X 9", o/cp
This image might look familiar, because it's based on a previous painting which sold during my show earlier this year in San Diego. I *thought* I had a decent photograph of it, as documentation. Then, recently, I was contacted by a major textbook publisher in Boston. An editor had come across my work on the internet, and they offered to pay me a substantial sum to use the image for the cover of a forthcoming textbook if I could provide a hi-resolution image. When I sent them what I had, it turned out that they were all low-res photos of it. Photos good enough to blog and to have a record of what I had painted, but not nearly good enough for publication with a top-rate publisher. Almost a missed opportunity. I repainted the work, and shot it in high resolution. I've always loved this image, and felt it could have been done better than before. And I'm actually much happier with this version. I've seen a preliminary mock-up of the cover--it looks great!
So the moral of the story is, always ALWAYS have good, HIGH-resolution photos of your work. Even though a painting sells, you retain the copyright to that image, and you never know when someone will find it and want to pay you generously for its use!
This way of seeing color is directly descended from Monet (who, once he developed full-color seeing, wished that he could forget the old ways of viewing the world--because they do interfere). William Merritt Chase was Monet's student, and Hawthorne was Chase's student. Hensche was Hawthorne's student, and Camille studied with Hensche. There are several other renowned artists working today who studied with Hensche, though in my opinion Camille has elevated these principles to their highest art form.
Today we're painting the figure, in a very different way. Hawthorne and Hensche developed the "mudhead" study as a way to see the figure and face as a general shape with light and shadow planes, without getting mired in the details of features. The subject is typically backlit or in strong light such that the facial features are not well-defined. Here is the beginning of Camille's demo painting, and the model, who kindly consented to be photographed:
Here is the finished demo painting, about 1 1/2 hours total time:
We had two painting sessions, with different models, a little over an hour of total painting time for each (since models need to take breaks, and we benefited from breaks too). Here is my painting from the morning session, when the light was directly behind the model:
I especially like the light and shadow on the skirt in this one. By afternoon, the sun had moved so that the second model was illuminated from the side; I was disappointed not to have shadow planes on the skirt, but otherwise it was a beautiful pose:
So, the workshop drew to a close, but the real learning has just begun. Anytime new principles are introduced, it's inevitable that one's way of painting is shaken up, going through a new process of definition. And as Camille said, the path of progress for any painter is not linear. Sometimes we have real breakthroughs, and sometimes we take one step forward and two steps back. That's what makes it an engaging, life-long endeavor.
and almost immediately, a family of swans showed up:
Dad, Mom, and six babies. Mom gave us the evil eye, but ultimately decided we were okay, so they spent the rest of the morning teaching the young ones how to forage.
Here's another shot of Camille's setup, showing more of the shore grass which figures prominently in her painting:
Typically, she starts with the most obvious color note, and then lays in the adjacent color notes, so that they relate properly. The Colorist approach is to see colors in relation, NOT in isolation, because it's not possible to relate them properly until they are next to each other on the canvas. That's why we mix and apply color, and then adjust it on the canvas as necessary. The spaces left between colors in the early stages make it easier to do that. That's also why we start with a white canvas instead of a toned support, so that the perception and relationship of the color notes won't be influenced by an undertone. Here, she has finished the initial color notes:
And here is the finished demo painting:
There was not enough room for all 20 of us to set up in the area where Camille had been, so I chose to paint a scene off to the right a ways (no photo of the scene, unfortunately). Here's my painting (which is currently for sale, as of 12/2010):
Shollenberger Slough, 10" X 8", oil on canvas panel, palette knife
Purchase this unframed painting for $135. (No Paypal account required.)
Again in this painting, I had gotten much too detailed and fussy with the foreground. Camille unified it with a few strokes of the palette knife, and then I added more shadow notes. Vast improvement. Each session, morning and afternoon, was three hours long. Camille would paint for about 1 1/2 hours, and we would have about the same length of time to paint. We were strongly encouraged not to get into detail, but rather to see the color relationships and light keys, and paint the light and shadow planes accurately.
The temperature continued to climb, and there was no breeze and almost no shade whatsoever out there. By the time Camille started this second demo at 1:30, it was 99 degrees and we were all standing in the sun on a broiling hot asphalt path which radiated more heat. But she persevered, and we all did too. Here's the demo:
With about an hour left in this session, we all spread out to find a spot to set up. Especially in this heat, my priority was to keep a very simple composition, and to really focus on seeing the color relationships. No details. I found a spot that I recognized from one of Camille's paintings (this one, done under very different lighting conditions). Here's my study:
The whole scene was in the light plane, except for the reeds and their shadow right at the base where they entered the water. The reflection and the whole surface of the water was in the light plane, and Camille pointed out the need to lighten and warm the reflection to keep that water surface in light, not shadow.
Here is the first stage of Camille's demo painting--all the main color notes have been stated and relationships established:
And here is Camille's completed demo painting:
The magenta undertones in the sky and trees still show through the touches of local color, and convey the sense of coolness in the shadow planes. The morning sky really did have a violet cast to it. Camille used brushes for her demo paintings today, mainly so that she could work faster; most of the students also used brushes. Honestly I feel that their work suffered for it, because it is so much more difficult to keep color clean with brushes, especially when there is indecision. And there was a LOT of that today. I preferred to stick with palette knives. This is my painting (12" X 9") of the same house, from a different vantage point:
I love the fact that Camille will say exactly what she thinks at all times, and will step in and correct something that isn't working. She helped me immensely with so many elements of my work every day during the workshop. Here, the roadway in front of the house. It was an asphalt road, and I couldn't get past the blue-grey local color of it to depict the sense of the sunlight on it. Camille mixed that warm tan color and laid it in, and there it was, a sunlit roadway! She also uses the same terminology that I've always used to describe painting--it's a language. We learn to express ourselves in that language as we acquire the vocabulary, and that is a long-term process. I understand that very well, since I taught languages before I became a painter. And it's exciting to think of painting as a life-long learning process.
Here's the second scene that we painted today--the early stage of Camille's painting is at the lower left:
Here's a better look at the first color notes in Camille's demo painting:
This was afternoon, and along with the temperature, the sky color had significantly warmed. Her initial color notes here reflect that increased warmth. She used a brush for the initial stages, and incorporated palette knife work in the finished painting:
Her handling of paint with a knife is absolutely incredible to see. There's a subtle calligraphy to it and a perfect mastery of technique that shows in every stroke of her work.
Here is my afternoon painting (9" X 12"):
Camille stepped in and removed some of the fussy-ness that I'm prone to, making the statements of foreground and background much more positive and definite. The colors didn't need much adjustment.
Tomorrow, we paint at the famous Wetlands where Camille produced a series of work that left me speechless the first time I saw it.
At the end of this post, there are some examples of more developed studies by Camille and Dale. For now, we were just trying to see the main color notes, disregarding reflected light and variations within the main color notes. Today we had blocks and round objects, to encourage us to find the pattern of light and shadow regardless of the presence or absence of planes, relating the color notes and light keys correctly. Shadow inside an object is invariably a different color than shadow on the outside of that object, even though it is the same local color. And while yesterday I was still trying to create more of a still life than a study, today I focused on the specific color notes and light keys, without worrying about creating a completed painting:
There is white canvas left between the color notes; they are not brought together until later, so that adjustments can be made more easily in the early stages.
Below is a more developed demo painting by Camille, showing the subtle shifts within the main color notes of shadow and light, especially notable inside and outside the pot:
To see how Dale Axlerod applies this colorist approach to still life, take a look at the beautiful work on his website.
Our focus in this workshop is landscape, learning to see most anything as a series of blocks or other shapes in light and shadow. Tomorrow, we get to apply what we've learned to houses, trees, fields and distant mountains.
The workshop was brilliant! By recounting each day of it here, I hope to deepen my own understanding of the principles and renew my commitment to the practice of seeing and representing color in a new way. Our brains are naturally programmed to see only local color; we differentiate objects primarily through line and value, and my past experience in art school did little to change that. Learning to see and represent light and color the way the Colorists do is incredibly invigorating, and is already changing much about the way I see the world. We began with block studies, which Camille demonstrated. This is the setup she was painting: And here is how she demonstrated a beginner's painting of it (from a more elevated viewpoint):
It's critical to see the relationship between the color notes and the light keys. That's what makes a painting work, to convey a sense of bright sunlight and deep shadow. Every plane on the blocks and the tabletop has a slightly different color, even if they look very similar. In reality, no two distinct planes are exactly the same color, so it's important to represent that. We were instructed to "paint like beginners"--meaning that, for the purpose of the exercise, we were to properly relate all the color notes and light keys, while disregarding reflected light and color changes within each plane--just one color to represent light, one for shadow, within each plane. My first study shows some understanding of representing the relationship of sunlit and shadow planes of Blue, Green, and White blocks on a light pink and light yellow cloth, but there's still reliance on local color and on value:
My second study, White, Yellow and Red blocks on light blue and light pink cloths, went through a lot of adjustments to relate the color notes and light keys correctly:
I need a lot more practice with these.
Tomorrow, more block studies, including some round objects! Days 3 and 4, landscape!
7" X 5", oil/stretched linen. Using the limited "grab-bag" palette described under the "Orange" post, I tried this Kevin Macpherson exercise to enhance memory and imagination while painting landscape. Those things are essential, because so much has to be edited when painting plein air. That's tough for a realist-still life painter like me, who's used to painting just what's there. Try doing that plein air, and you'll be out there all day. Imagination and memory help a lot with the editing process; this exercise involves studying a photo of a landscape for a few minutes (actually, he says 20 seconds), then putting it away and painting it from memory. So part of the result is remembered, and part is imagined.
6 X 6", oil on stretched canvas. It's been a rough week. Landscape painting is really kicking my butt, partly because it's been a few months since I could do any, and partly because I'm in that mental trap of overthinking everything instead of just letting myself paint. I'm sure that never happens to anyone else, right? :) So to keep the process moving, I'm determined to post the fails as well as the wins, because that's what this blog is for.