Tuesday, August 30, 2011

September 2011 Classes

Be Inspired

 I hope you can join me for the next set of classes in September!

September 8- Three Square Inches of Inspiration

Copying is a tried and true means of learning how to paint. I want you to explore another artist’s painting that inspires you.

However, in this class, instead of copying an entire painting you will choose 3” square portions to replicate! This gives you the opportunity to examine the colors, strokes, layering, and details the artist chose to use, as well as giving you a look at the underlying abstraction in each small section. It’s fascinating to see how just a small section of a painting can be a work of art in itself.

You will do three different ones in class, all of which may be derived from the same painting. This requires you to find a photograph that’s close to the same scale as the original painting, or you may use a painting from your own personal collection of another artist’s work (or, if you like, you may use one of my original pastel paintings in the classroom.)

I bet you’ll start to look at everyone’s paintings differently after this class! It’s quite inspiring.

September 15- Inspired by the Subject

If the idea of painting something new seems a little daunting, this class is for you!

It may be that you’ve toyed with the idea of painting a still life or an interior. Maybe you’d like to explore another genre of landscape or paint a seascape. Perhaps you want to learn how to paint birds or other animals. In this class you can delve into whatever subject you’d like to explore.

You’ll need to do a little research ahead of time for this class: find paintings by an artist whose subject matter inspires you. This needs to be a range of paintings on the subject you want to explore, not just one. I suggest a minimum of five paintings on the subject. I don’t want you to copy one of the artist’s paintings exactly, I want you to examine the body of work and see what it is you’d like to emulate. 

In class we’ll put your examples (from books, magazines the Internet) on the board and see if together we can figure out what is key—is it the color, gesture, line, detail, contrast, or...? Just what is it the artist did so well that makes you want to imitate the work and what elements are most necessary? Yes, you can translate from one medium to another to some degree. Do your homework on this one!

Then you’ll derive a composition and give it a shot in class. Keep it smaller in scale but not miniature in size. Any subject, any paper, any medium is fine.

September 22- Extract Nature’s Colors

The colors of nature are truly the inspiration for the way we think about and use color, of course. In this class I want you to spend some time making a record of various colors you see together in the natural world.

Bring in photos of places you pass frequently, things right in your own habitat and as current as possible. Perhaps you see a cottonwood tree turning golden, or the grasses in the front yard. Maybe you’re inspired  by  a ristra on your deck or the last of some flowers, weeds that are beautiful (the colors can be!), or the color of the Rio Grande where you walk. Remember—not the pot on the porch, not the paint on the wall—only natural colors!

You need to take good color photos that are fairly current before this class and print them out as inspiration, or make some color studies on location. In class we’ll make a palette of colors from the photos—but the trick is we will NOT paint those references. Instead, I want you to find beautiful harmonies of colors and analyze the proportions of each one, as well as finding dark and light, warm and cool colors and then use them to make a chart, from which you will paint an interesting abstraction in this class.

Don’t like abstracts? Never have them work out? This exercise will give you an formula to use, so that won’t be a problem. Come with an adventurous spirit and see what happens! It’ll be fun and inspiring.

September 29- Critique and Potluck Brunch

Often a critique is the most instructive class of all!

Bring a body of work for us all to look at. We’ll set up all your work on the board and on easels, so be sure the paintings are ready to tape up or show on a piece of foam core/cardboard. No need to mat or frame things, though you may bring framed pieces if they’re instructive (however, they won’t be ‘critiqued’ per se.) Work in progress is fine, too. If you wish to join us for lunch and the critique, but not show your own work, that’s fine too.

Bring a dish to share and we’ll enjoy a day of food and paintings. We have a microwave and a toaster over, if needed. This will be a paper plate meal.

I’d like to put out the word about the critique to other artists in our community, so if you’re a member of any art groups I’d like to let them know. I’ll design a flyer you can use to help promote this class. Let’s spread the word!

Monday, August 29, 2011

September 1-- Cliffs in Detail

Red Cliff, gouache

In this new class we’ll examine the drama, light and color of rocky cliffs like the one I painted above. This one is in gouache, but you could use any medium to accomplish it. The challenge often is how to use enough color, detail and line, without overburdening the painting too much, but this will be a detailed demo. I want to discuss how color works in the upright plane (not solely red rocks, though I may paint them since we see them so often here.) We'll talk about painting details and how to give the impression of depth and recession, as well as how to drape the foliage so it's believable.

Look for a close-up with some interesting detail. If you have one with good strong light and shadow it will give you the opportunity to paint both, and it's visually more interesting. I wouldn't try to paint a gigantic vista, although this may be a good chance to paint the Grand Canyon or Canyon de Chelly. Focus in one one interesting area of a cliff and make it the subject of your painting.

I have a few people already signed up, but I'd like to know if anyone else is coming. Please RSVP via this link. Class is at our new location at CCF. The studio opens at  11:00 for set up, and class is from 11:30-2:30. Any medium is welcome. $25.00 at the door.

See you on Thursday!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The BIG Vista class results

Above you can see the demonstration painting I began in class. I used PanPastels on a piece of white Pastelmat paper 18" x 9" in size. I'd say there's about a half-hour to an hour of work in it up to this point. It needs to be finished, of course.

First of all, in class we discussed some of the key points about painting a large open space. To review, we identified the four values of the landscape. Do you know these? They are light, medium-light, medium-dark and dark. That is: sky, ground plane, mountains and trees. It's a generalization that doesn't work in all cases, but is true often enough to be quite useful. Things become a rule because as a rule they are so. (See chapter three, 'Angles and Consequent Values', in John F. Carlson's Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting (1929), for more information on this.)

There are five rules of aerial perspective that landscape painters use all the time. As the eye looks into the distance: Colors become cooler. Colors become less intense. Detail is lost, edges soften, and value contrasts diminish.

I have yet to establish the detail in the fore-to-middle ground in the demo painting above, but the color is already starting to work. Notice how the yellow-green grass becomes much bluer in the distance. Likewise the more distant mountains have less purple. There's a reason for that, another set of rules that, as a rule, work: In the foreground you see all the mixtures or red-yellow-blue. In the middle ground the yellow is filtered out leaving purples (mixtures of red and blue.) In the distance red is filtered out, leaving blue. The atmosphere is basically a big blue filter. Leonardo observed and recorded this phenomenon. He said: "Thus if it is to be five times as distant, make it five times bluer."

So at it's most basic level you could reduce the landscape to three colors, like this:

The box on the left side looks harmonious and correct to me, while the box on the right feels upside down and unbalanced. That's because the blue filter usually causes us to see the landscape the way it is on the right: yellow foreground, purple mountains, blue sky.

In his book John Carlson states the law of aerial perspective: "All colors become cooler in color and lighter in value as they recede from the eye, except white." Why is white an exception? Because technically it's a value, not a color! White becomes slightly duller and often shifts to rose or yellow at great distance, becoming pure white as it nears you. But the rest of the colors in the landscape are progressively filtered to become more and more blue, and lighter and lighter in value.

Here in New Mexico, where I live and teach, we have to take into consideration altitude and humidity, as well. We have plenty of altitude, rising from 5,000 ft. to over 14,000 ft. in the highest mountains, but we have almost no humidity. At altitude the air is literally thinner than it is in lower regions. The lack of moisture means we have clear air that allows us to see details a hundred miles away! If you're painting on the beach, you need to take the reverse into consideration--more air, more vapor, less detail much sooner. But there are days when I can see the crisp edge of a mountain I know is 50 miles distant--it looks like its across the street. To paint believably here, edges stay tight and crips much longer than they do elsewhere, something you have to consider when viewing someone else's artwork.

I found a wonderful illustration that might interest those working on still life, portrait or other genres of painting. It's self explanatory: Atmospheric Perspective. The visual alone is worth looking at. Test yourself before you read it and see if you can identify the nine recession cues mentioned there. (Hint: some are mention in the five rules above.) These cues can help you create the illusion of air between the nose and ear in a portrait, or between the apple and the copper pot behind it in a still life.

Keep going, gang!

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 25--The BIG Vista

I had a real treat yesterday that's likely to translate into an interesting demonstration on this subject. We took a drive up into the Jemez Mountains and although it was stormy, I have some wonderful photos of the BIG vista to inspire me. 

I love painting the vast, open spaces. It's a chance to play with aerial perspective about as much as anyone ever gets to in New Mexico. (Some call it the "Land of Enchantment". Others call it the "Land of NO Humidity" = little atmospheric regression.) Our topic will be how the air affects the landscape

Find a good photo with lots of rich information leading well back into space, including all four value masses: the sky, mountains or mesas, trees, and foreground. We’ll discuss ‘the rules’ of distance and look at how to control values, colors, edges and use effective strokes. Think BIG, at least in scope, if not in scale. You may paint any size piece, of course, and use any media you like.

For those who were with me last week, I encourage you to apply that lesson to this week's painting. Don't just rush ahead to the next painting. Why not look around for an inspirational color scheme from another artist and see if it can be incorporated into the painting you plan to do?! Analyze how the artist used color expressively, what kinds of layering or strokes were incorporated, and the balance of warm or cool, and light or dark colors. This may help you do two things: consider the values in the big vista photo you're using, and free yourself of the tyranny of the color in that photo!

I also suggest that if you plan to come to next week's class on CLIFFSIDES (September 1), you might consider combining the subject matter with this week's class, as well. Perhaps you have some photographs of your trip to The Grand Canyon or Canyon de Chelly, or others locations that include a cliff and large panoramic vista. That would be a good subject for this week and next, and you might find next week's demonstration comes at a good time for the details of the painting. Just a thought for you...

Please RSVP if you're coming to this week's class and are not already enrolled. The class is $25.00 at the door. And remember, we're meeting in our new location.

See you on Thursday,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Color Wheel Paintings class results

This turned out to be a very instructive class, even to the instructor (not an uncommon thing!)

Here's what we did. I gave the students a cartoon to use, derived from a photo of a barn:

Feel free to copy and print to use for your own color studies.
You can see that I reduced it to grayscale so we could see the values easily. I asked them to paint the 'real' colors first, then using another person's painting as inspiration, to interpret the colors they had used and plug them into the cartoon.

Then I asked them to use the color chart to derive new colors, for instance in the third box (in the lower left of the four color studies above) I moved three spaces to the right and used whatever color I found there. My inspiration was Carol Marine's painting of the green apples you see to its right.

The class was quite revealing, as they often are. I think the most inspiring idea was to look at the color work from other artists, but not just copy it. By plugging it into the cartoon we were forced to take a step away from the 'thing-ness' of it, and think about why the color worked and how to apply it to an entirely different subject. The cartoon releases you from dealing with subject matter, to concentrate only on the color.

But we discovered we needed to look at the balance of colors, too, and sometimes it was good to pull out a little bit of the application, like how the artist built up a beautiful color relationship by layering or putting colors side-by-side, and in what measures, to make one area more beautiful in our color studies. Interesting!

Here you can see the first of my studies inspired by Susan Ogilvie's painting to its left.  I love what happened with the roof, sky and trees, as well as the fore. The barn in sunlight and the darks still need work, I think. That can be my next two color studies. I want to analyze how she used the blues amid the the green/red areas.

It needs more time, and probably at least one more class devoted to it, but it's a good way of inspiring color, I think. I hope you all will find it inspiring and have some fun with it.

Keep painting!

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 18--Color Wheel Paintings

Color is the lifeblood of a painting. Do you ever wish your paintings had more expressive color? The kind of color that makes your toes curl? Exciting! Inspiring. Gorgeous. Inviting. Brilliant. Mellow. Lush. Strong.

Is there art you look at and just long to be able to do what the artist has done with the color? It might be bright, saturated color. It could be muted, moody color. Perhaps it's a certain set of colors that just grabs your heart. Well, this week I want to help you analyze and think about  color, and challenge you to push it a little farther in your own work. It's a simple, concentrated but fun exercise!

First of all I want you to find art that has color that inspires you. Take some time before this class--and this is CRITICAL to the class--to find examples of paintings with color that really, truly catches your breath, thrills and delights you. It can be from any era, any artists, any medium, anything--but remember, it's about the COLOR. Bring prints from magazines, books, or photos you print out of these paintings with you to class. Find at least three different color examples, and even more if you're inspired.

Bring a virgin white sheet of paper or canvas that you can divide into four 4"x6" sections (or bring four smaller pieces), your painting materials, and the photos of other artists' paintings you love.

We're going analyze colors on the color wheel, except we aren't going to use a wheel. We're going to use this color chart, designed by Don Jusko.

courtesy Don Jusko, www.realcolorwheel.com

It will simplify things if you print out a chart for yourself. I've broken it into two 8.5" x 11" halves. I'll have my chart at class for you to use, but you'll have to share.

I'll give you a simple, fun color exercise in class! Come ready to think and play. It's a color class, so pastelists take note and bring your colors. Painters have it easy. Any medium will work.

Please RSVP if you aren't already listed as attending, because I'm preparing handouts and would like to know the number to bring. Space is limited!

Remember, we're in the new location, meeting at Christ Community Fellowship near I-25 and Paseo del Norte.  If you need directions, email me and I'll send them.

See you on Thursday!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beginning Critique and Through the Water class results

Clear Water Stones, 5" x 7", gouache on Arches #300 c/p

It was so good to get back to class again!

We began with a  critique, looking at 3 or 4 paintings from each student to determine the direction and improvements each one wants to make, not only in individual paintings but on the whole. I really have a talented and enthusiastic group of students.

Following that, I gave a short lecture on how to paint rocks underwater, with a demonstration that was done mostly using PanPastels. Above is a painting I prepared to show how effectively you can paint this subject using gouache, and below is an example of how you can approach this subject in pastel.

High and Dry, 9"x 12", pastel on Pastelmat
To paint underwater rocks I suggest you begin with a photograph that inspires you. Find a photo that shows large and small, wet and dry rocks, has shadows caused by interesting light, and features some reflections on the water to indicate its movement.

Choose a medium tone that will allow you to build both light and dark areas. Do a good sketch showing the placement of the rocks, either in charcoal or pastel. It’s not necessary to draw every single stone, but locate the major players, and then loosely indicate the size and general placement of scattered stones in non-essential regions.

Don’t be afraid to go dark in the early stages. Using saturated colors of the proper value will also work to your advantage when you mute the underwater rocks with further layers of pastel.

To create the impression of water over rocks is really a fairly simple process. Select a color that will portray the water, whether it’s a blue-gray or green-tea color, and lightly glaze or feather over the color in place. Don’t cover the lights and darks beneath, and don’t obscure all the color with a thick layer.

Then add highlights in the reflections, bubbles, floating objects, and ripple lines in the water. A reflection obscures what is beneath, so paint from bottom to top, but leave room for paler areas on top. To paint a ripple, think of two mirrors pointed in different directions, catching the color of the object they’re pointed at. Use sharp edges to create the impression of liquidity. To paint a floating bubble, draw an ellipse on the water in a color darker than the surface, then ring it with light and carefully draw in the light colored dome. Pay attention to the direction of the light and shadows, and where you see highlights. 

Keep going, gang!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pay Attention: Photos

 A little dividend for my student friends about....

Focus on what you most likely will paint.

Look for subjects that you actually want to paint, not just ones you respond to on the scene. It might be true that the thousand flags flying over the capital are stunning, but ask yourself if you really think you’ll spend the time needed to capture all the myriad colors and details, or if you might more reasonably want to focus on one or two flags for a painting. Serendipity is delightful, but composing the photo with your painting abilities and skills in mind makes for a better resource in the long run.

Take more than one photo of a subject.

If you find a subject you think will make a good resource, don’t limit yourself to one quick ‘grab’ shot if you can. Take several shots from different angles, close up and farther away. You may be able to stitch them into one shot, or make one painting out of several of them. You never know when you’ll want to know what was to the left or right, or what was casting that weird shadow! More is better.

Let the day and place work for you.

It’s easy to say the light is wrong, and you just can’t get good photos, but that derives from your attitude and what you hoped to get. Forget about it! If the day is gray, look for beautiful color amid the gray, focus up closer to details or look for textures, or shoot into things like shops or through car windows. If the wind is blowing, look for subjects that show the movement of the wind, tipsy flowers, blowing hats, or dust and leaves obscuring the sky. If it’s rainy, look for reflections or raindrops. Don’t neglect to take interior shots, or shots looking from the inside out.

Remember what your camera does.

Do more than point and shoot. Pay attention to how the scene changes when you lift the camera to look at the viewfinder. Does it put everything way out at arm’s length? If so, you might need to use your zoom. Would the photo be clearer if you walked closer to shoot the photo? (Sometimes the quality of a zoom shot is lower.) If you’re shooting people, using the zoom is a good thing, as it puts them at ease, unconscious of the camera. Be sure, however, that if you take a ‘character’ shot you get a signed model release. If you have a recognizable person in the painting you need one.

Don’t forget you can control the settings manually.

When shooting into direct bright light you can end up with silhouettes, lens flares, and an overly contrasted photo. Move to one side or point the camera upward or downward, or arrange to shoot with your camera in the shadow cast by an object. You can change the camera settings so that you shoot darker or lighter photos, too. Bracket pictures so you have a range of light conditions, if you’re unsure. Shooting in shadows is equally challenging, sometimes resulting in gloomy photos. Learn how to adjust the ISO to a higher setting, if needed.

Focus on the main thing.

Don’t get distracted trying too include too much in one picture. Are you shooting shadows? Get several shots of the shadows from different angles, close up and further back. Then take a shot of the thing casting the shadow. In this way you defeat the propensity of the camera to average the light. Shoot light pics, then dark pics.

Pay attention to the background.

If you have a choice, try to position yourself to avoid complicated overlapping patterns. Look at what’s in front of the shot, too. Again, several shots might be in order here. As the artist you can pick and choose what to use from each photo.

Straight and level is best.

We’ve all seen the cute tipped-camera shots. You basically get more into a frame that’s straight and level. Sometimes it’s hard to correct the sloping horizon line in a painting, so getting it straight helps.

Horizontal or vertical?

Don’t forget that you can change the format of your camera! There may be times when shooting a vertical shot will give you much more interesting possibilities, including elements in the he foreground to higher in the sky. At other times the horizontal format is far preferable. Just don’t’ get into one habit. Change it up. Shoot the scene both ways!

Basic geometry counts.

Look at the underlying geometry of the place you’re shooting. Compose so that the circle moves into the square, or the oval is at the one-third mark. Don’t forget the ‘rule of thirds’ when composing: visualize that tic-tac-toe game drawn over the scene and place key elements where the lines intersect. Remember that these rules are made to be broken, but it takes good planning to break them effectively.

Get creative.

Lie down under the tree. Climb up on the wall or stand on the bench. Put your hand into the shot, or include your foot. Shoot into or through something. Look for reflections to shoot. Find a strong diagonal line. Look for a smiley face to shoot—they’re everywhere. Sometimes these shots give you a creative boost for a painting. Sometimes they just keep you looking and thinking, so you’re excited by the process again.

Blowin' Blossoms
It's spring in New Mexico!

And the Girls Looked On...

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 11--Beginning Critique & Through the Water -- New Location

As I was out walking this morning there was just a hint of a taste of a bit of a cooler feeling in the air, and I realized fall is actually headed our way. We still have a few weeks of warm weather to come, and I hope some more rain, but fall is waiting in the wings! 

So, are you ready to settle down and start to paint again? I know I am.

This week we're going to have a beginning critique. We've come to think of a critique as a way to end a class or workshop but Iet's shift our thinking a bit. What is a critique meant to accomplish? I think it should be a means to keep or get you moving. I often talk about finding the "point of friction", that place where as you let out the clutch the engine engages, so look over the work you plan to bring and see where you think you'd like to go. Usually that means finding the place where you need to know or need to grow. We'll certainly look at each piece with an eye to improving it, if you're still in the process of working on it, but try to paint the 'big picture', too. 

Rock photo to use in class.

Then I'll do a lecture and demonstration about how to paint underwater rocks. If you would like to, you have  permission to copy and print the photograph here and use it for the class lesson. We'll examine the way the colors change in and out of the water, how the edges shift and the values mute when the rock is beneath the water. There's a bit more to it--things like refraction and ripples and light patterns, but come to the class to learn about those! 

Please RSVP (clickable link) if you haven't already. The class is $25.00 and you may pay at the door. 

Now for the big news: we're going to start meeting in a NEW LOCATION this week!


We will be meeting in a nice room inside Christ Community Fellowship, 5908 Anaheim Avenue NE, located off of San Pedro north of Paseo del Norte Blvd. So many of you responded positively to the idea of relocating to a more central spot that I’m even more enthused than I was about this change. 

The classroom is quiet and private, has plenty of tables and chairs, a nice little kitchen for coffee and tea (plus a microwave if you want to heat your lunch), and the parking gives us easy access. You can come via Interstate-25 or travel on surface streets. If you plan to come to this class, let me know and I'll email directions. 

Class will be the same time as always 11:30-2:30. I'll open the classroom around 11:00 if you'd like to come and set up ahead of time. 

See you Thursday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August Class Schedule

Starting this month I’m scheduling four-class blocks. I think it will be easier for you to check your busy schedule up to a month in advance. YES, you may sign up for individual classes. As soon as you know you will be able to attend, click the link and let me know. You may pay at the door. I'll post the class announcement on the Monday previous to it. I need a minimum of four students to make the class a go!

The cost of the 4-class session is $100.    Please RSVP for ALL FOUR classes here. < Clickable link 

Beginning Critique & Through the Water
Please bring up to three paintings for the critique. Then we’re going to warm up after our summer away with a look at rocks underwater. I’ll supply the photographs, you bring your materials, and we’ll examine the way that colors change, edges shift, and values mute when a rock is beneath the surface of water.  
August 11 RSVP < Clickable link

Color Wheel Paintings 
Here’s a chance to play with some creative color work. Have you wanted to enhance color? This may help you begin, or move farther along, in your experiments. In this new class we’ll use the color wheel to locate the major color groupings, and analyze how to further harmonize colors from there. I’ll help you select colors that shift away from the photograph to further enhance the painting’s mood and voice.  Please bring some examples of other artist’s paintings that you think use excellent color that intrigues you (books, magazines, photos.)  
August 18 RSVP < Clickable link

The BIG Vista
We’ll be painting the open, vast spaces today in order to be able to see the evidence of how the air affects the landscape. Find a good photo with lots of rich information leading well back into space, including all four value masses: the sky, mountains or mesas, trees, and foreground. We’ll discuss ‘the rules’ of distance and look at how to control values, colors, edges and use effective strokes. Think BIG, at least in scope, if not in scale.  
August 25 RSVP < Clickable link

In this new class we’ll examine the drama, light and color of rocky cliffs. The challenge often is how to use enough color, detail and line, without overburdening the painting with too much detail. Look for a good close-up with at least as much detail as in the photo at left. This may be a good chance to find out how to approach painting your photos of the Grand Canyon or Canyon de Chelly!   
September 1 RSVP < Clickable link

Class is held Christ Community Fellowship Church from 11:30 to 2:30 on Thursdays. Bring your lunch along and watch the demo for the first hour, then work at your easel. Classroom opens at 11:10.