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Friday, June 24, 2011

Scott Burdick/Susan Lyon workshop - Part 1

Scott Burdick doing a charcoal sketch demo of a Planes of the Head mannequin. (Yup, he did hold the charcoal stick this far back for pretty much the whole drawing).

I'm currently in North Carolina with a couple of painting buddies taking a 10 day intensive workshop with Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon. 5 days drawing and 5 days painting the figure and portrait.

It is academic, thorough, methodical and packed with core fundamentals that are presented over and over in various exercises geared to really connect us with the value, importance and skill of seeing accurately. This workshop feels like I have landed in the middle of an art students league and I am LOVING it!

Our first demo was a basic charcoal drawing,. Throughout it Scott shared tons of info on how to sharpen your drawing tools, how to hold them, how much pressure to apply, how to use them for measuring, and what to look for and consider as your drawing is developing.

Charcoal, chalk stick, pastel pencil, and china marker, all sharpened to long, fragile points to force you to hold them far back and use a super light pressure.

The biggest tip this day was to begin with the big shapes of light and shadow, blocking in the abstract forms, keeping everything in either the light or the shadow. Lots of squinting and comparing to maintain a clear division, and keeping the half tones in the light, and the shadows dark enough to avoid losing the pattern of light and dark. After the demo we all drew a head model, and then the next day moved to quick sketches of the figure. Below is one of several I did that day.

 "Naomi" - 45 minute charcoal sketch

I am learning sooooooo much, totally awesome. Scott and Sue are hugely knowledgeable, so kind and helpful, bending over backwards to make sure everyone (20 students) is getting enough attention and fully understanding the concepts they're teaching. They are top notch instructors and should be on every oil painter's hit list of artists to study with.

Sorry this is not a super articulate post, it's late and we are on day 7 of the 10 days, but I wanted to start to share some of what we are learning.

More great stuff here: Scott and Susan workshop Part 2 and Part 3.

FYI: The Planes of the Head mannequins are great academic tools for working on drawing skills in your studio. You can order them on the website linked here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Start with the essence

"Daisy" (block-in)
Original Oil - 6x6"

This was a demo from a recent workshop done to illustrate the concept of blocking in the large abstract shapes when beginning a painting. This is especially helpful when you are dealing with a complex subject (like 9 million petals). The trick is to really squint down and reduce your subject to the key shapes of light and shadow. The next step in this painting will be to begin to introduce detail and refine edges, but if you can capture the underlying structure and design elements of your subject then the detail rests on on a strong foundation. In this way less becomes more.

On another note, I will be teaching workshops in an interesting variety of locations over the next 4 months. Please click on the links below for more details:

Plein Air in Southfreeport, Maine - Aug. 19th-21st               
Heli-painting in the Bugaboo Mountains, BC
- Sept.6th-10th
Plein Air in Kauai, Hawaii - Oct. 24th-27th
Robert Genn's recent post opened the door on some differing perspectives about workshops. Here is mine:

We live in such a marvelous time - we have the ability to handpick the artists whose work we admire,  and travel far and wide to share a few days learning from and talking art with them. If we are lucky a keen student or art group will bring a valuable teacher into our own back yard. These are golden opportunities. I am a huge believer in studying with fellow skilled artists as a means of deepening and broadening our own abilities. Painting is a highly complex pursuit with endless possibilities for advancement and improvement, and whatever we may know, there will be others who know something in addition to it.

At the very least, a good workshop will shake things up and push you out of your comfort zone. At best, it will give you some fresh ideas for exploration, and one or two pearls of wisdom you will carry with you for the rest of your painting life. As well as teaching workshops, I take at least one a year. It has become my process when I return from a workshop to dedicate myself to honing the best of the skills I've learned, and then incorporating them into the rhythm of my own teaching. In this way, my students learn not only from me, but indirectly from all the wonderful artists I have studied with.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fun on Vancouver Island

"Salt Spring Island"
Original Oil - 6x8"

This was a demo done a couple of weeks ago on Salt Spring Island, BC. It was a flat, gray, mid-afternoon scene and I was completely uninspired by what was there.

I always find this is a perfect time to dig into the bag of tricks and play with an exercise. In this case I chose one of my favourites - thick paint right out of the gate, so thick you have to use a stiff brush and scoop it off the palette. The trick after that is to apply it with a light enough stroke that you don't ultimately wind up with a big, muddy mess.

Every time I try this exercise it is SO fun. There is something about all that paint that feels really playful, and it seems to open up some special, magic portal into creativity. I find I start mixing more colorful colors, trying bolder ideas, and moving the paint in rhythmic ways just because there's so much there. The best way I can think of to describe it is it's like finger painting with a brush - gooey and gorgeous and full of wonderful surprises.