Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bucket List-The Final Piece!

Reid's beginning to model the face

And so, here I am at the last two days of the workshop.  I have observed a great deal by watching every morning.  I learn best visually.  So every morning I watched and made notes on what I observed or what he said.  Someone would ask him a question and he would say, "I don't know.  That really doesn't help you much, does it?"  But when I thought about it, sometimes I don't know how to answer a student's question.  Maybe I don't know.  It's not a crime.  Yet, I know he knew what he was doing and why.  Mr. Reid seemed totally at ease with those types of answers.  Many times he had fine answers.  In fact  at one point he said he thought we ought to be less concerned with "all that", which I took to mean the mechanics, and just paint.   Several times he would tell us not to do something and then do that very thing!  I find this to be one of the biggest problems with teaching/teachers.  We get so used to "doing" a thing and it becomes so rote we forget how to break it down for the beginner.  But I did find him to be one of the better teachers I've had overall.
Fri. Reid demo-Joseph Wolveskill

What he did do that I found very valuable was talk through his process as he worked each morning.  As he drew he talked about what he saw and what he was drawing and why.  When he painted, what colors he was using and why, water to paint ratio,or brush work.  I was a sponge.  I tried to repeat something new each day with good and bad results.  Each afternoon he would go around to every student.  Every day I got a new lesson and something to work on.  The first day I told him I was trying to "loosen up" and he told me " I don't know what to tell you.  I know that doesn't help you, but keep trying." I was a little freaked out by that.  I thought, OK, well, what do I do now?  So I just kept trying.  And then he would come back around and tell me to lose an edge or finish what I started.  When I repeated what he told me I had success.  But old habits die hard and I kept falling back to my old way of doing things.  Two steps forward and one back. 

I came away with a renewed understanding of the importance of the gesture:  The portrait, but especially the figure is stiff without its proper gesture.  Correct proportions.  The value of measurement.  Line and edges:  Changes in the direction of the line and lost and found edges.  These are key in leading the eye and creating importance.  Color:  the temperature of color and where we place that and why.  Warm colors come forward and cool recede.  The extremities are warmer in color.  It just reads right- even if exaggerated. 

The models each day were of different ethnicity, which was very helpful.  We had an African American male and female,  an Asian female, a native American and a blond haired blue eyed Caucasian woman.   It's so important to be versatile and know what color mixes to use for certain skin tones.  It is always a good idea to learn to draw many different body types, skin colors or differing facial features.
Finished Reid painting- Joseph Woveskill

In the end, I failed in my attempts on Thursday and was not hopeful on Friday.  Thursday's demo had been of Joseph Wolveskill,  a native American of Sioux decent.  He was a colorful individual with a love of the history of his heritage and history in general.  Thursday he was decked out in traditional native American garb and the painting Reid did was fabulous!  I did not have him as a model until Friday.  Friday Joseph wore an authentic cowboy "outfit".  I watched the Reid demo in the AM and tried my best to draw and paint Joseph in the PM.  About an hour and a half into the process I was so frustrated I could have screamed. (I may have...)  I always have an awkward phase in a portrait painting which I work through most of the time.  This time I was just so frustrated.  I received some timely encouragement and instruction from Reid at this point and I turned a corner on the painting.  The finished piece I am very happy with.  I have an accurate drawing, I have good composition, I have lost edges, I have good values and strong color--and it's very loose!! 
unfinished painting of Joseph Wolveskill
Friday PM. 

I have not had the time to practice my success.  With the approach of the holidays and other commitments I have had precious little time or energy to paint.  This is my recurring problem!  I leave you with a painting I did for a demo that a student told me was "Reidesque".  So hopefully what I learned lies dormant and will revive itself in the coming months! 

Happy holidays- posts may be sparse until the new year!  Thanks for taking this little journey with me.  Your comments have been great!
Happy painting!   Michelle

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bucket List Part Two

Thanks to all of you who even thought any of the pictures last week were mine.  Sadly, I did not paint even one of those!  All were Reid's.  I will share some of mine, but be warned and get the children out of the room--they are not pretty! 
Last week I wrote about the first two days of the workshop.  Each night I would come back home with the kids (well, 28 & 26 are still kids to me) and flop down--EXHAUSTED! Being in a 9 to 4 week long workshop is more art than I usually do in a week!  And that in itself is why I do them.  I am able to fully focus and concentrate on my art for one week out of a year.  Nothing but art for one week. 

The first day. Seems stiff and
harsh to me.The only thing I like
is the chair!
Later in the week we are into a routine and I've found a coffee machine to fend off the afternoon fatigue.  Reid is still doing the spellbinding demo's in the A.M. and I am still working to loosen up and paint with bold color and one stroke confidence!  It's not happening!  But he makes it look so easy!!  I know it can be done, but can it only be done by the master?  Can the sensei impart the knowledge in one short week?  Is this student a little slow?  Shouldn't I be getting it by Wednesday? 
This workshop is painting the figure in watercolor.  I am no stranger to painting the figure.  I still have some issues with accuracy in drawing, which Charles helped me with a great deal.  His dot to line and gesture drawing, which I have been doing for years and which is nothing new, once again made a huge impact on what I really see and what I think I see.  Back to basics! 
Reid at work Wednesday A.M.
Right and below is the same model he did in the A.M.  I was happy with the gesture and the drawing, but the face is harsh and she still looks cut out and pasted on the page.  All things I am working to overcome.  It is not as harsh as the first one, so I feel I am making some progress. 
The floor beside Reid was as colorful as his paintings! 
He snaps the brush on the floor to remove excess water...
My work Wednesday P.M.
Somehow I find myself over the hump and staring down the last two days of the workshop.  I have a little panic attack since I have not produced one painting I feel good about.  Please don't misunderstand.  I am not being overly critical of my work.  But when you know where you want to go and what you want to achieve--you know when you are not getting there.  This was a turning point for me.  There were many fine artist I was with who made great strides quickly.  Others were struggling like I was.  Reid was right there, encouraging and giving help but I just couldn't get where I envisioned myself going! 

I will end part two with these reflections:  On Thursday I wondered if I should just make peace with what I could do as an artist.  Maybe my "style" was so strong I could not break free enough to do what I saw.  And should I?  Then I thought "why bother to learn anything then, or admire anothers work?"  If I gave up just because I couldn't do it the way I thought I should by now, what was the point of taking the workshop?  I am always telling students that no one is a virtuoso without training and most of all practice.  The very definition from Miriam Webster is:  one who excels in the technique of an art.  Excellence is never a waste of time.  But it does take time. 
Reids version of the model. 
And second, I clarified what I was hoping to learn and that was not trying to paint like someone else.   I do think it's possible to get so enamored with someone elses technique or style that you "copy" them at the expense of your individual voice.  What I wanted was to have that same control with a looser look and a better overall artistic voice. Looking around the room I noted that although each artist was looking at the same model, all are painting her in their own way.  Your art is like your fingerprint.  There is no one in that class who could paint like Reid, though a few could get close.  But even those that were close had a unique quality to their painting that no one else had. 

I went in Thursday morning understanding that I was there to stretch myself, not paint the way I always painted.  That meant being willing to fail again on Thursday.  But do I make the progress I want in the coming days?  Yes, I do.  In the end I learned some valuable lessons that I think have changed my art. (yet it only comes out every other painting!!  Old habits die hard!)  I'll show and tell all next week! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bucket List

I've never felt the need for a "bucket list".  I mean it's such pressure, right?  What if you don't get it all done?? And doesn't the list change over the years??  And why make yet another list??  But I have to say, I just crossed one off the list... and I've never even made one!

For years I've been following several artists who's work I admire. Years ago it never occurred to me I would ever meet them, let alone take a workshop from any of them.  Yet I watched their websites and read the workshop adds in the back of magazines, dreaming that someday...never realizing I was mentally making a bucket list.

Since my mom's death four years ago I've honored her memory (she was very supportive of my art) by taking a workshop.  These are not just vacations or gifts I give myself or things I can cross off a list. This is serious stuff! They are a time to reflect, (often I am alone in a hotel) on my art and myself.  They are a time to meet and interact with other artists and share experience.  And it's a time of learning from artists who's work I greatly admire. They have all been growth experiences.

I've blogged each year about my experiences. (I will try to post those in the sidebar as archived posts for you to look at)  As luck would have it (a figure of speech, I don't believe in luck) my son moved with his job to Phoenix, Az. I wasted no time checking out online the famous Scottsdale Artists' School.  The kids were just minutes from the school and one of my favorite artists was going to be there in November!  It was the beginning of August and that workshop was full with a waiting list a few weeks later.  Without really thinking it through well, (like how I would get there and where the money would come from!) I put down my deposit and I was in. 

So I saved my pennies and planned my trip with great expectation hoping I wasn't building it up too much and be disappointed.  I reasoned that at least I would spend a week with the kids in the sun and warmth of the southwestern landscape that I love, so no matter what, it was worth the cost.  And I was right.  The time spent with the kids was awesome.  And Charles Reid did not disappoint!

Now if you don't know Charles Reid, google him!  He is one of the most talented living watercolor artists in this country.  (not just my opinion)  His style is loose.  Very loose.  But I am drawn to that because, while it seems that loose would be easier, quite the opposite is true.  So most of us struggle to be loose and still make something recognizable!
First day, first demo
What I experienced is an older (older than me-so that's relative!) artist who is self taught in watercolor.  What makes his techniques interesting is that he was an oil painter who uses watercolor the way you use oils. But what makes him remarkable to me as an artist was the way he modeled form and manipulated the medium!  At one point I told him if I tried to put those same colors in those same intensities on my paper to paint a face, it would look like a clown!  He just said, sometimes it does!  His never did....
Finished painting
For the rest of that morning I sat transfixed as he painted  a portrait in two hours.  It was inspiring.  It was daunting!  Each afternoon we struggled to implement what he taught.  One day "getting it" the next day "losing it!" And I found myself afraid that I didn't have what it takes to paint that well.  So the fear paralyzes you.  And if you are paralyzed you cant grow. That was just the first day.  It was a week long, people!!

I have many things that need to be done around here for the holidays-so let me finish this blog in the coming weeks.  I'm looking forward to sharing what I learned with everyone.  The challenge now is to keep painting that way so I don't lose what I've learned!   Check back next Friday for more workshop adventures!
Day two.