I just got home from a wonderful workshop with Doug Braithwaite. He is an amazing plein air painter from Utah. http://dougbraithwaite.blogspot.com I was lucky enough to be able to attend at Quartz Mountain Fall Arts Institute in Oklahoma this year. It was a truly inspiring experience. I learned so much from Doug about painting, and how to see the natural world and to break down environments into basic shapes, the same way you would with any other subject. His process starts in such a simplistic fashion, it changed my world. The main focus is to create a value study of your subject prior to beginning the painting, and then while it is still wet, begin tinting that underpainting with the appropriate colors. This technique frees the artist by allowing them to work out the more complicated drawing and shadow aspects of the painting in the early stages and then focus on the confident application of paint. Confident brushstrokes people. He explained that as we add paint, we should be painting dark to light and thin to thick so that the lighter colors have the thickest paint. He also talked at length about color matching, and mixing all of your paints before you actually begin the painting which allows you to be able to capture your subject with certainty regardless of the changing light conditions that are to be expected when painting outside. Over the course of the 4 days, he created 3 demo paintings. It was amazing. We gathered around his easel and watched him complete a painting within a matter of 3 hours. His second demo was of a derelict old building with some children's playthings scattered about. In real life it had very little appeal, but through the lens of his painting, it became extraordinary.
My first attempt at painting after this demonstration was, somewhat wanting. Clearly Doug had made it look too easy. I started with the value study the same way he had showed us. I worked on it probably longer than necessary, but I had this strange need to be told that it was time to move on to the color.
Eventually I got over it and started adding color. I lost some of what was great about the initial study. I made the mistake of not mixing my paint prior to beginning to layer it on, so by the time I got halfway finished my painting was a bit too dry. The only way to counter this problem was to really start adding more paint. I realize now that in the past, I probably have not been using enough paint, but that is a different story all together.
The second day was trying. After another astounding demonstration by Braithwaite, we were off to paint again. I was having the hardest time deciding what to paint. It seemed like I could not get any good shadows, and I couldn't get all of the elements that I wanted in the image in one composition. After working up a value study for an hour, I got frustrated and wiped my board down completely and turned to start a new composition. I worked up a value study for that one and started adding color. Then I decided I did not like it, so I set it to the side and pulled out a new surface. It was now magic hour and the shadows on the area that I had originally started drawing were lovely, so I quickly worked up a value study of that area. I frantically began mixing paint to try to capture as much of the color that was present as possible. The day was over, and it was time to go, so I packed up my things. I took a few quick pictures of the two areas I had sketched up and went back to the studio after dinner to work. I had to finish those paintings. I stayed for quite a while, but I got it done. I think they turned out well, despite my earlier frustrations that day.
Here is the first pass
I got a critique from Doug and added a few final touches. His biggest suggestion was: more confident brushstrokes.
Here is the second pass
I pushed the oranges more in the grass, and added more paint.
Here I added more life to the water by using the moll stick to create a few hard edges by the shore, and also stronger highlights on the water.
Overall I think it was a very inspiring trip, and I learned quite a bit, and got a few decent pieces out of the deal. I call that a win.