Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 5.

By now, I was noticing a shift not just in how I painted, but in how I *saw* things. It happens most often when I'm not trying to see that way. When we stare at something and try to see it a certain way, we quickly get retinal fatigue; our eyes try to compensate, and we see the complement of the color we're staring at, which dulls it. Full-color seeing happens most effectively when we relax our vision and almost look through or around a subject, when we see the "big picture" of how vibrant colors are, and how they relate to each other. Many of us thought that there must be some formula or system to this way of painting, but there isn't. Color is represented according to how it appears in relation to other colors, and that is different for each situation and type of lighting.

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:
Przewodek "mudhead" demo1

Here is the finished demo painting, about 1 1/2 hours total time:
Przewodek "mudhead" demo2

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:
Mudhead 1
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:
Mudhead 2

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.