Please click on paintings to view larger.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Plein Air Workshop in Banff

Just finished teaching a 3 day plein air workshop here in the Banff/Canmore area. The first day was superb outdoor painting weather! Our first outing was in a meadow 5 minutes from my studio where we all had a crack at mountains and fall trees.

The gang! 12 keeners, some with quite a bit of experience and some trying plein air for the first time.

Robbie Hosegood in front of The Three Sisters

 After day one, the non-summer we have experienced this year returned with a vengence. On day two, we took this opportunity to work indoors. We spent some time on theory and then dedicated the day to building our skills painting from photos. I used exercises from Kevin MacPherson's book "Landscape Painting Inside and Out" (highly recommend it!) The 3 we did were:
  1. turn the photo upside down and paint it in flat, abstract patterns
  2. paint the photo in black, white and grey only
  3. THICK paint right out of the gate, increasing thickness as the painting develops
They were all great learning exercises, each one challenging us in different ways. It was the first time I had done them, so I got to learn too! Most importantly, they give you more tools in your kit for ways to move beyond merely copying a photo.

Day 3 was cold and rainy again, but a lot of the group was eager to get outdoors and do some more plein air work, so we went to the Banff Park Administration Buildings where they plant a gorgeous flower garden every year, and remarkably the flowers were still in bloom. I think everyone was pretty excited (and a little warmed) by the color, and lots of them used the fun nature of the subject matter to try the thick paint exercise we had worked on the day before.

Wendy Lockie undaunted by the weather

Hermann Brandt able to set his umbrella down in a drier moment

Holding an umbrella is not huge fun, if you want to do a lot of plein air I really recommend the BestBrella kit -  for keeping things dry in rainy/snowy weather, and for providing even light on your panel/palette and access to a wider variety of subject choices when the sun is out.

Jackie Ramsay with a really good start - we talked a lot about blocking in the large, abstract shapes, and she really got a handle on this here.

Helen Whyte setting up

After braving the elements in the morning, we headed back to the dry, warm studio for our last afternoon session and did another Kevin M. exercise, this one painting the whole piece high key, no value darker than 5. WAY harder than you might think, give it a try! Start by mixing your 5, placing it where your darkest darks are in your photo reference, and then don't go darker than that anywhere else on the painting.

*If you're not sure, a 5 value is is a tone that is halfway between white and black on a scale of 10. Now all you have to do is translate that in to color and keep everything else lighter :D

PS: This post on a plein air workshop seems woefully short of plein air tips, I guess because most of them were sprinkled throughout the 100 in 100 project, but I promise to do a brief review of the key tips next post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bold Brush Finalist - August 2010

I'm pleased to announce that "Secret Vantage" (#74 in the 100 in 100 project) was a finalist in this past month's Bold Brush painting competition. You can view the other winners here. Thanks to judge Brian Stewart for selecting my work!

Other news, my good friend and super accomplished painter Frank Serrano has a new blog. Great chance to get some little gems on ebay at a terrific price, click on his name to check it out!

Finally, I'm teaching a 3 day Daily Painting workshop in my Canmore studio November 5th-7th. There's one spot left if you're interested. Details here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dan Schultz workshop

Just took a 3 day Dan Schultz workshop where we covered portrait work as well as painting the figure in the landscape. I find the longer I paint, the less workshops are about learning something new, and the more they are about either being reminded of things I have forgotten to focus on lately, or hearing something in a new way that helps crystalize it.

Those things for me at this workshop were:
  • Placing an intermediate color/ value between shapes is a great way to soften edges
  • When drawing, measure, measure, measure!
  • When blocking in, CONTINUALLY squint and compare to get the values down accurately
  • While it's important to compare a value to the one beside it, it's even more important to compare it to the lightest and darkest values in the entire subject. Here is an example:
    In this photo of Maya, it's easy to see that if you were trying to assess the value of her face only against her hair or the background, it would appear very light, but if you compare it to her hat or scarf you can see it's at least a couple of values darker than they are, and you must leave room for those lighter values.

    Workshops also help shine a light on the bad habits we can develop when working unmonitored in our studios. During this one I realized that in my impatience to get to the painting stage I will often move on to it before I have achieved a totally accurate drawing. Bad.

    I also find that when a painting's not going well, I have a tendency to do something bold and dramatic to try and fix things. Dan is a very careful, subtle painter, and watching him was a valuable reminder that sometimes what is required is the patience and discipline to slow down and make some very small, focused, intricate adjustments. At times this calls for painstaking attention, but it is amazing how it can make all the difference in pulling a painting together in the later stages.

    Dan's demo of Marsha. This is unfinished, but it gives you a good idea of how well he simplifies busy, complex subject matter into a few well placed, varied strokes to suggest what's there.

    Photo of Marsha modeling (NOTE: Photos posted here are copyrighted. Please respect this as well as the models - they were paid to model specifically for us.)

    Dan is humble and sweet, a passionate painter and a thorough and engaged instructor. I highly recommend taking a workshop with him if you have a chance.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night....

    Robert Genn and Sally Pearson painting in Silver Basin.

    We had it all for Bob's trip, from sun to sleet and everything in between. A couple of snowed in mornings gave the opportunity for demos in the warm, cozy lodge, but as soon as the clouds lifted we piled into the helicopter and headed into the field to experience first hand high alpine plein air.

     Sunrise painting session at Hourglass Lake.

    Painting above Kick Off

    This spot had particularly great design elements, but truly the beauty of heli-painting in the Bugaboos is that every landing gives you a wealth of new material to draw from. Just as heli-skiing is the ultimate ski experience, heli-painting is a remarkable and unparalleled plein air experience. This whole thing started last summer when I suggested to Robert that this would be a pretty cool trip to offer. He agreed, we ran with it and the two inaugural trips we've  just completed were pretty outstanding. We will be presenting another trip like this next summer, please let me know if you would like to be notified once we have set dates.

    Check out Robert Genn's current newsletter for more about this past trip.

    I am currently taking a 3 day Dan Schultz workshop. He's a great teacher and I'm learning lots, will share some of it next post.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Robert Genn arrives with the gang!

    View of the Bugaboos from Rocky Point Basin
    (click on images to see larger)

    Robert Genn arrived in the Bugaboos this morning with 10 eager students, and this afternoon we flew out to this spectacular location to get our feet wet. The crew were troopers, the weather was far from summer warm, but they bundled up in layers upon layers and soldiered on. Most of them did a couple of paintings each in the 3 hours we were out, working in acrylic, watercolor or oil.

    Robert giving some guidance to Laurel McBrine.

    Tatjana and Sinisa Mirkov-Popovicki starting their first piece, don't think Sinisa stopped smiling the entire afternoon.

    Sorry for posting photos and no paintings, will post some of the work from the trip once I get it home and photographed, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing the gorgeous scenery up here!

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Heli-painting in the Bugaboos

    "Cobalt Lake"
    Original Oil 8x10"
    (purchase info)

    I guided heli-hiking in the Bugaboo mountains of British Columbia for 12 years, and it was such a pleasure to fly back in there last week with two of my dearest friends for some plein air painting. Cobalt Lake is my favourite lake in the world, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to paint it from life.

    Today I headed back up to the Bugaboos with a group of keen plein air painters to explore this amazing place and work on our outdoor painting skills.  About 5 cms. of new snow, and air temps were crisp to say the least, but they LOVED it! Here are some photos from our first afternoon out. (click to see larger)