Friday, March 21, 2014

Alex Kanevsky master class

Last weekend I was one of 16 lucky painters enrolled in Alex Kanevsky's master class at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia.  I was there with the help of an "artist opportunity grant" from the Calgary Arts Development Authority.  CADA defines opportunity as a "unique experience that clearly contributes to meaningful professional growth and development", and I can say with certainty that this qualified.

Like many of the artists there, I wasn't sure about what to expect from the structure of the weekend.  I wondered what we could learn in 2 days from a man whose works are famous for the number of layers and months that go into producing them.  I needn't have worried: it wasn't about technique; the weekend was all about how to be an artist.  Never once mentioning market forces or galleries, Alex talked eloquently and at length about the practises and thought processes that will lead to the creation of meaningful, honest works.

We divided our time between painting one of two model set ups in the large studio, and going to a separate classroom to look at slides and hear Alex's thoughts on making art. Referencing such diverse examples as Diebenkorn's "notes to himself" and Liz Taylor's multiple and passionate marriages, he made us laugh and made enough light bulbs go off in my head to light a room.

This is all vague and tantalizing, I know.  It can't be summed up in a blog post and will be something that I can chew on for the rest of my painting life.  But, for me, the examples and philosophy that Alex presented made me realize that honest communication and expression, and absolute commitment to the execution of every single brushstroke and passage of paint are what I need to focus on.  Just that.  It's plenty, I think.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mexico Retreat

I got back from Mexico last night after a wonderful week of teaching at the Casa Buena retreat. 

 The workshop was busy and very productive though we all wished that we could stay and paint longer.  10 painters joined me from both sides of Canada for a jam-packed week of painting and excursions.  We visited (and financially supported) a terrific market, painted on the beach, and laughed over great food and drinks every evening.

 We tackled the big three: still life, landscape and portrait/figure; applying the same method to each of them. While my method was new to many of the painters, they all became proficient in it by the end of the retreat and I hope it will be something that enhances their own practises in the future.  As with every workshop, there were painting lessons that I learned from the students that I'll be thinking about and incorporating in my work.

Our focus was on composition and big shapes so every painting started as a small, simple thumbnail in 3 values The paintings that grew out of those thumbnails fleshed out those big values into a variety of warm and cool colours, but we kept the colour choices simple by using limited palettes throughout. It was an approach that resulted in a lot of successful, strong paintings throughout the week.

I had a great adventure and I can't wait to hit the studio today.

Happy painting!