Friday, August 17, 2012

Workshop Groupie!

Since moving to the lower 48, I vowed to take more workshops. They are fun, informative and a way to get away from the studio for a couple of days to do something other than production. A place I really enjoy going is Cole Gallery in Edmonds. It's an hour and a half away, including the ferry trip across the strait, with a nice Best Western within walking distance of  the gallery and everything else downtown, including quirky shops and great food. Besides, Denise Cole manages to get some great instructors to come to her little place, and if you forgot anything in the way of supplies, the Art Spot is close enough to dash over on a break and pick up something.

This time, I attended a portrait painting class taught by Michael Maczuga. His work is vibrant, loosely impressionistic, colorful and exciting. All stuff I can use. We started Friday's session with a (gulp) color wheel. I know about color wheels. I taught art in Alaska for 18 years, right? Well, this was a color wheel like I'd never done before, not to mention that we were using REAL oil paint- not the water soluble oils that I've been enamored with for the past ten or so years. How, I wondered, would we be cleaning these brushes if we didn't use soap and water? You don't wanna know.  

From there we moved to painting real models. We started with a black and white study of values, and I was introduced to a really cool tool in the form of a plaster head which Mike placed alongside the nice young lady who was posing. From the plaster head we could refer to the planes and determine that wherever there is a plane change, there is also a value and temperature change. Well, who'd a thought?

Our next exercise became a psychedelic challenge in that colored lights were place around our model's head to help us think not in terms of flesh tones, but in values. Well known aviation artist R. G. Smith used to say that it doesn't matter what color it is as long as the value is right. So when Mike said it, it was not exactly new. Still, no matter how many times we hear these things, they need to be internalized so that they become automatic. My friend and mentor Charles Thompson always tells me that you don't paint a red airplane with red paint. Particularly a shiny one. There will be reflective colors from what is surrounding, and, well, it doesn't matter what color it is as long as the VALUE is right.

So we continued on this journey toward a final painting on Sunday afternoon. The model was delightful and we enjoyed painting her. Much of the information will take time to settle in, even though a good deal of it was not exactly new. It often takes hearing the same thing in different ways to make it happen. Now I can't wait to put these new-found old tactics into practices. As Mike says, better to have 100 starts and learn something every time than to spend all your time on one thing trying to fix it. Or something like that.

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