Friday, January 25, 2013

Scottsdale Artists School Workshop Experience

Brunette in Gold Light
16 x 12
Man in Blue
16 x 12

Last week I escaped the cold and attended Ignat Ignatov's "Alla Prima Portraiture" workshop at the amazing Scottsdale Artists School.  

As a self-taught artist, I felt I'd come to the edge of what I could achieve and was in need of a push to get to the next level.  While there's a bounty of inspiring instructors to learn from, Ignat, with his precise tonal control and subtle colour, was the person whose work spoke to me the most.

Throughout the week we focused on creating believable form, modelling the face under different light conditions and ensuring that we never lost sight of an overall structure of values.  Placing correct values powerfully at the start of the painting was the key to its later success.  In fact, if the values were right from the start, the painting practically painted itself.

I've always had an eye for colour interactions, but tone was something that I needed to work on.  By the end of the week I found that I was much more sensitive to subtle value changes than when I started

The two paintings above were from the workshop.  While only my nearest and dearest will see the first day's effort,  I'll show you the second and the final day's works.  What pleased me about "Brunette in Gold Light", was its honesty.  It was the second day and I had reviewed my mistakes from day one and made a plan for how to proceed.  I worked only on value and accurate colour temperature, leaving fancy brushwork and interesting edges out of the equation.  Well, I did splash out a bit in the hair and I loved doing the earring but  those were my reward for playing it straight everywhere else.

"Man in Blue" was the final day's work.  I was hitting my stride and I think it shows.  The values are under control and the viewer's eye moves through the painting along a path that I intended.  This painting puts the week together for me: accurate tone and temperature, and interesting brush work and paint consistency.

I feel that this workshop has given me enough tools to move off of my plateau to a new level and I count myself lucky to have picked the right teacher at the right time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Limited Palette Workshop at the Calgary School of Art

Harmony in Limited Palette
16 x12
Last week I had the good fortune to attend Ignat Ignatov's portrait workshop at the Scottsdale Artists School in Arizona.  It was incredible and I learned an amazing amount.  I'll be posting a blog about it within the next week, so please check back.

One of the things that we did in the workshop was to paint a portrait in a limited palette and that's what I'll be teaching in my upcoming workshop.

Painting the Portrait in Limited Palette will be a one-day workshop held on  Friday, February 15 at the Calgary School of Art.  The cost is $100 and the hours are from 10am to 4pm.

We'll be using the Zorn palette which consists of cad. red light, yellow ochre, ivory black and white.  It's a muted, but elegant selection of colours that can be used to paint most anything.  It can easily create mud because it's entirely opaque, but, with a careful and logical approach, it can also create stunning paintings.   Using limited colour means that you get instant colour harmony and can spend your painting time working on composition, values, temperatures and brushwork.

If you'd like to register for the workshop, please contact the Calgary School of Art.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Plein Air on New Year's Day

16 x 12
On New Year's day I headed out to my favourite painting spot to see what surprises it would hold this time.
I've painted this view at least 10 times.  It's not even a rivulet in the strict sense of the word, more of a little piece of overflow off the river, but it's shape is an elegant S-curve and water is my favourite feature to paint outdoors.

Here's a confession: though I live within sight of the magnificent Rocky Mountains, I have no urge to paint them.  I prefer the intimacy of small, unremarkable pieces of land and try to show how marvellous they actually are.

What caught my eye that day was the reflection of trees and sky in that brilliant, enclosed piece of water at the top of the S.  It looked like an opal in a rough setting.

Because I hadn't arrived terribly early (it was New Year's Day after all) and the light is gone by 4pm, I had to work very fast to knock it all in.  After a quick massing with Ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide, I placed the focal point with lots of confidence and paint.  What a great start!

Unfortunately, the colour turned out to be wrong, and it was only after I'd placed colour in most of the other elements, that I could properly judge the right hue for that little gem.  It had a lot more green in it than I originally thought, partly because I had put so much warm land around it and it needed to be cool in comparison, and also because my eyes had become keen enough to see it properly after an hour of staring at it.  So I scraped the bold impasto - more than once - and tried different mixtures until one of them sang out.

Then it was just a matter of keeping my eye on that spot during each application of paint elsewhere, making sure that it continued to be the most important part of the painting.  I toned down and greyed all of the other shapes, keeping the paint less interesting than that thick blob of light, and I was done in no time.   What a grand way to start 2013!

Happy painting and the best for you in 2013.