Sometimes a day of painting plein air means walking out to the back yard, picking some fruit, laying them on a white tablecloth outside and painting away. This was that kind of day. Enjoy!
Today was the first day of a 5-day Peggi Kroll-Roberts at l’Atelier aux Couleurs in Petaluma. Peggi has a wonderful unique style for painting the figure, so I’ve looked forward to studying with her for some time. She’s also a lot of fun.
Today, we started simple: gray scale paintings. These are done, much like Notan sketches, to both build compositional skills and learn to simplify. This two-scale gray study clearly separates light from dark. This is a great exercise. Normally, I’d do something like this with a black sharpie on white paper, but painting this just gives you that much more experience handling paint. It also let’s you make corrections in drawing as you go.
Throughout the day, we kept adding levels of gray. I was able to get to 4, in this study. While some students went on to color, I actually liked spending time on these a lot. Removing color from the equation, and simply focusing on value and composition is somewhat liberating. I’m happy with the way this turned out. If I can keep to values this accurate in color, I’ll be a happy camper.
I painted all of today’s study on a single large board, which I simply divided up into 6 areas for my studies.
Tomorrow, we get to paint the figure! I believe she said we’d start that in shades of gray first, then graduate to color. Stay tuned.
I studied with John Ebersberger this week at l’Atelier aux Couleurs: the Art Academy.
John’s a great teacher, full of energy, enthusiasm, and most of all, knowledge. He is from the “Hensche School” painting method, whose lineage goes backward from Henry Hensche (John’s teacher and Hawthorne’s assistant), to Charles Webster Hawthorne (Chase’s assistant) to William Merritt Chase. The main ideas of this school of painting (which is really more of method of seeing) is that 1) form can be modeled with color variation; 2) painting in outdoor light; 3) outdoor light/conditions introduce a “light key” that must be represented (eg, from an overcast day to a full sun day). To give you a practical example of how the school’s differ, a tonalist would mix a shadow color, then add white and a bit of yellow to show the sunlit side, whereas a Hensche colorist would see each color as a completely distinct mix. So while a Hensche colorist may turn a form with color and temperature changes, a tonalist (or “value painter”) may do so with value alone (the range of values from black to white).
I’ve studied this method under Camille Przewodek as well, and can tell you Henche’s method is not a “one workshop thing”. This is my 3rd, and I feel I’m starting to get it. It takes years of study and practice, and although Camille has applied the technique to plein air painting, I think it’s best learned with outdoor still life study. In fact, if you study with her, you’ll probably spend most of your time painting colored blocks in outdoor light. Sounds boring, but believe me, it’s more challenging than you may realize. In a still life, you can practice with objects and light conditions that are highly varied.
To learn more about this school of painting, I recommend joining John’s Facebook group on Hensche, and not bothering too much with the Hensche Foundation website, which does not present his best work and looks quite stale.
Here are some of my and John’s studies, along with commentary. I hope you find them useful! If you’ve studied this technique as well, chime in with your feedback by entering a comment on this post.
As you can see, John paints with a full spectrum palette of color. If you’re interested in the specific colors, let me know in comments and I’ll list them out [see the update below, all his colors and the brand of paints he uses are listed at the end of this post].
Isn’t this a beautiful start? I missed most of this demo, but was able to capture the end of the start, and where he started to work on refining the large pot. The sides of the pot and the cast shadow on the table are being refined with warm/cool note differences, but he started the pot just as he did the apple, as simply a light and shadow note.
I have a video of this on my previous blog post, step-by-step. Notice how the shaded side of the head holds together well, even though there is variation between the hair and skin (the lit side, too). He emphasized this often, that you hold to the large relationships first (figure to background) before you start color variations, and eventually detail.
This was my first attempt of the week. I didn’t have time to finish it, but I’m happy with the start. I do think my shadow notes are dark dark, and I started to work lighter color into them (you can see the darker beneath). I’d also just started to model the blue pitcher and the pear. Notice that I’ve left white space between each color note. This can be confusing at this stage of the painting, but it’s important because it allows me to continually adjust color spots and relationships throughout the painting. If you bring the color spots together too soon, and need to adjust later, you’ll risk creating mud and maybe creating a type of edge that you may not want.
I was really happy with this figure study, probably my best of the week! John took a photo too, as he’s collecting examples of studies for his website. I had time (about 2 hours) to get the relationship between figure (face) and background, and just started modeling the hair and forehead. Wish I could have finished this one.
Here’s another start from later in the week.
UPDATE [July 15, 2009]: I heard back from John, and he’s happy to share both his palette, and his favorite brands of colors too! Here’s what he wrote me:
1. Titanium white
2. Cadmium lemon yellow (or light)
3. Cadmium yellow medium
4. Cad. Orange
5. Cad. Scarlet (or scarlet lake) — A must for outdoor work (see specific colors listed below, you may also explore reds made with napthol and perylene).
6. Cad. Red deep
7. Permanent Rose (or quinocridone red)
8. Dioxazine Purple
9. Ultramarine blue
11. Cerulean Blue
12. Permanent Green Light
13. Viridian Green
1. Yellow Ochre
2. Indian Yellow
3. Burnt Sienna
4. Indian Red, Light Red, or Mars Red
Any paint brand is fine to start out with, you will find what works best for you. Ultimately you want to learn what pigments you are using. Some are right in the name – Cadmium yellow is made from cadmium pigment. Some are not in the name, for instance Winsor Newton’s Permanent Rose is actually a quinocridone pigment.
Regarding less expensive student brands of paint – when colors are named things like Cadmium red hue, or cerulean blue hue, the pigment is not what is stated in the name – this is not necessarily bad, as some of these pigments are useful. For instance the Cad. red hue may be a napthol, a color with strong tinting strength – and the cerulean hue may be a pthalo, a color with strong tinting capability.
Usually I like a warmer and cooler version of each of the primaries and green. Also a small range of earth tones is helpful.
Here is a color list with brand names that I like to use:
1. The Blockx Cadmium Yellows are terrific for use with palette knife. I use Blockx Cad. Yellow Pale, Cad. Yellow Medium, and Cad. Yellow Deep. When using a brush, I prefer the Rembrandt line of yellows because they are more fluid.
2. Winsor Newton, Cad. Orange (Rembrandt, when using brush)
3. Blockx, Cadmium Red Orange – the brightest red available, on the orange side, similar to cad. Scarlet (a bit thick for use with brush, especially in winter).
4. Old Holland, Scarlet Lake Extra – a beautiful transparent red
5. Gamblin, Napthol Red – the brightest red pigment (made by other companies under different names. Gamblin also makes a Napthol Scarlet, which I haven‘t tried yet)
6. Winsor Newton Cad. Red Deep – not bright, but you don’t always want bright. Almost a cool earth note.
7. Permanent Rose, Winsor Newton (Gamblin, Quinocridone Red)
8. Either Sennilier Permanent Violet, Gamblin Dioxine Purple, or Old Holland, Bright Purple. Also try any of the variety of quinocridone pigmented oils. I still pine for the old Rembrt. Perm Violet and Red Violet!
9. Blue – Still experimenting with brands- right now I use the Rembrandt line – Ultramarine, Cobalt, and Cerulean. I also recommend Manganese Blue Hue by just about anybody, but Gamblin is probably the best deal.
10. Viridian – Rembrandt (have not tried too many others. WN, too stiff.)
11. Winsor Newton, Permanent Green Light, and Cad. Green Pale
12. “Sevres” Green is nice (Blockx makes a good one), or Winsor Green by Winsor Newton. (they might still make Winsor Emerald too)
13. Sometimes I use Rembrandt, Chromium Green Oxide (indoor work, and winter and gray day keys)
14. Burnt Sienna (Rembrandt for brush work. Try Blockx Burnt Sienna Deep too – a very “cool“ brown.)
15. Rembrandt, Indian Red –
16. Old Holland, Mars Red-Orange or Blockx, Light Red
17. Winsor Newton, Raw Sienna (I’m sure other brands are fine as well
18. Blockx, Yellow Ochre, for palette knife. Rembrandt for brush.
19. Winsor Newton, Indian Yellow (you might also try Gamblin Transparent Orange)
20. White – Gamblin Titanium White. Blockx is excellent as well, but a little stiff for brush work right out of the tube.
21. I almost forgot!! Rembrandt Turquoise and Winsor Newton’s Indian Yellow – two indispensable colors.
I spent last week in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona inside a classroom with 4 other enthusiastic students studying with Kevin Weckbach. Kevin is a generous teacher who both paints well and can explain his thought process thoroughly. As you may know, this is a rare combination!
I believe I first saw Kevin’s work in the annual OPA catalog. Among the hundred or so predicatable paintings, there are always a few that sneak past the jury and scream originality and true honesty. That’s why I wanted to study with him. I wasn’t expecting a lot, because my assumption was that someone this original probably can’t explain how it he does it, but he does so well.
I’m not alone in my assessment of his teaching ability. Kevin teaches at the Art Students League, Denver, where he took over Quang Ho‘s class (and where he maintains a two year waiting list). This post includes my class notes, his demos, and some of my own painting studies from the class.
As artists, it’s difficult to measure where we are in our growth, in contrast to other professions that offer levels of certification, by testing practictioners for an agreed upon set of skills. Kevin described the three levels of an artist:
If we all had one system of painting, reaching the intuitive level would be great, but what makes things interesting is the fact that we can represent subjects in a wide variety of visual approaches. We’re not cameras, we’re artists, so when we paint, we seek to convey how we feel about a subject. If there were only one way to represent a subject, every painting of the Grand Canyon would look the same. Originality comes about when we combine our feeling for a subject with a visual approach to represent it.
So what’s a visual approach? As you can imagine, there are many ways to approach painting a subject. Kevin taught 4 of 10 visual approaches to painting. The 10 include: Dark by Pattern; Local Tone; Light & Shadow; Line; Texture/Pattern; Color; Shape; Form; Siloette; and Front Lit. Each approach has its own set of “rules”, but the main point is that they provide alternative ways of seeing subject matter and representing it in paint.
This visual approach is characterized by:
This approach may be good for representing:
The Mary Cassett painting above was offered as an example of this approach. It has three clear values, with only slight shifts within them: the light (bed linens, clothes, china), the mediums (table, skin tones) and the darks (hair, back wall, etc). You can see how each value creats a path for they eye, and is virtually connected. Kevin’s demo below shows how he approaches painting in Local Tone. Click the YouTube video below to watch.
This visual approach is characterized by:
The Willem De Kooning painting “Excavation” was offered as an example. Kevin spent the least amount of class time on this approach, so I don’t have demos or more examples to show. I’m also not entirely sure when one would select this approach over another.
This approach is characterized by:
I painted a Dark by Pattern painting below.
This visual approach is characterized by:
I painted two Light & Shadow figure paintings below.
Camille Przewodek teaches a regular Monday class at her studio in Petaluma. She’s one of my favorite teachers (her new series of marsh paintings are incredible), and she has a nice group of regular students.
We started by Camille offering a crtique to see what everyone had accomplished since she’d seen them last. I happened to have a couple of paintings in the trunk, so had something to show (Land’s End, Fall in Golden Gate Park). She thinks my brushwork has come a long way, and likes the expressive strokes, as well as my drawing and composition skills. She felt I needed to work on depth (which I agree with).
I’m studying with Camille in Hawaii in February–and can’t wait! I know I’ll learn a lot, and be inspired by the locations we’ll paint. I can highly recommend Camille for any level student (click for her workshop information).
As we often do, we painted still life studies outdoors, some students painted color blocks (a great exercise) while others painted a traditional still life. I set up a couple of plastic lemons, a green bowl and a cream pitcher. Here it is.
My supplies are arriving back from my recent trips (Ovanes Berberian workshop and Telluride Plein Air), so I am finding paintings that hadn’t yet been photographed and posted.
This is an interesting one. It’s near abstract. My focus was on color harmony, not form. Kind of like it–at least it’s something different from my normal work.
Have you attended an Ovanes Berberian workshop? Please chime in with your own tips using the comments feature. Want to prepare for your workshop in advance? My sponsor, Virtual Art Academy is run by Barry John Raybould, who also studied with Ovanes. His online, self-study courses are great. Click here to learn more.
Update: To get on the email list to attend a Ovanes Berberian workshop, contact Ray Morrison:
1838 YALECREST AVE
SALT LAKE CITY, UT 8410
I stayed the Memorial Day weekend at Lake Alta, a favorite get-away, owned by friends Sam and Phil. We’ve been going to the lake now, perhaps twice a year, for the past 17 years, so I’ve painted it many, many times. That weekend, I went in search of other material, particularly because the light that weekend was quite silver, as there where layers of clouds that prevented full, warm light. I was surprised to see it silver, even in the morning.
Light aside, our friend Rick made dinner the night before and cut some flowers from the garden for the table. Made a good still life, so I set up my easel outside and placed the vase on a red bench. The funny thing is, this same red was used to paint their horse stable, so you’ll see in my next post how the paintings sort of work together.
We painted still life setups outside today. Beautiful day, a little too warm in fact. I got bored painting still life, so painted two other artists. One painting of a yellow chair was just okay, so I wiped it.
This is my first still life of the morning, a quick small “warm-up” study.
Green Vase – Oil on Linen – 6×8 – $100 AVAILABLE
After painting another still life (yellow chair), and feeling bored, I wiped it and painted this of local (Tempe) artist/student, Gina. I’m pretty happy with this one.
Gina – Oil on Linen – 6×8 – SOLD
This was painting was done of Sue.
Gay painted the demo below, then we spent the day painting small studies (about 30 minutes each).
Gay started with the basic drawing:
Started with darks, and as usualy takes each object to relative completion.
The finished study:
This one is mine, I painted a section of the same still life set up.
Another of my 4 studies today. I’m happy with the watermelon color, but had problems with the drawing of the brass pot behind…It meets the slice of melon in an awkward way.
A blah study for me. Nothing reallying happening. I struggled with the cup.
My last study of the day. I’m happy with the color harmony here. Exhausing day!
I’m not going to write a lot of thoughts tonight about this day and workshop as I would like to absorb more lessons and “boil it down” effectively. For now, I hope these picutres are helpful.
Gay began be demonstrating her palette:
Here’s her demo at the drawing stage. She began with a light violet wash.
Gay started with larger dark areas, then went from object to object, completing both light and shade planes, keeping things flat at this point.
She kept her values in a relatively close range, mid-value at this point, but again worked every object close to completion.
Notice the texture she’s building, even at this early stage. Really interesting brush strokes and direction.
Here’s the final demo.
Here’s my study for the day. As I compare my work to hers, clearly I don’t have enough sophisticated grays. I need to work on this. She did like my color and brushwork, but felt I took the painting too far, eg, I had it more abstract before this, and then wrapped the apples in dark strokes to better define them. Should have left them as is. How many artists does it take to finish a painting? One to paint, another to tell them when to stop. 🙂
I painted this small, 8×10 still life study Wed. night. I only had a short time to paint, and since my goal is to paint every day, thought I’d better paint something. Anything. It was too late to go out, so I picked some flowers from our garden, found a vase, table cloth, and set up a still life in my “studio” (garage!).
I started with Ovanes’ method of washes. I probably should have left the background wash alone (it was a very deep red), but I found the flowers were not “popping” as I’d like. The background needed a color shift from warm to cool, and also from pure, raw color to a gray to give the flowers a stage to shine as the star attraction. You’ll need to click the image below to see full-screen to see some of what I’m talking about. It was fun pouring on the paint! It’s paintings like these that I’m glad in paint in oil.
I’m delivering this today to Viewpoints Gallery for my July show there.