Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Artist Workshop at North River Arts Society

I took at workshop with Stapleton Kearns in Marshfield Hills, Mass last weekend at the North River Arts Society. The area was an old New England town with original houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is very close to the ocean with lots of salt marshes and wonderful views of islands off of the mainland.

The first day, we headed to the beach just south of Scituate. It was a test of wills with the wind, and somehow I managed to keep my easel upright, though I did have problems with the painting from the start. I was amazed at the stability Stape's Gloucester easel  in the 59 mph wind. It didn't move at all. His setup looked stable and seemed light to carry. The Take-it-easel is a similar design.

The next day, we headed over to some salt marshes, as tried to quickly capture the view before the water drained down at low tide. The scenery was gorgeous, and you could see for miles across the water and marshes to an island in the distance.

Stape gave me some good pointers in design. He said to divide up the space into three spaces, Papa Bear, Moma Bear, and Baby Bear. Make one area the largest and most important, another secondary, and another, the smallest. Also, he warned against leading the eye off or too close to the edge. Think first of design, where the eye leads within the picture. He also tried over and over to get us to hold our brushes at the ends, with thumb pointed up for upward or side motions. For downward motions, hold at the end and pull down. But, pull and push the brush for light, easy strokes that don't destroy the work underneath.

For my sky, he had me take some very light peach and pull across in small patches to illuminate the sky and give it life. This is over the blue and white areas. In one painting in the beginning, he also took light peach and used it on the horizon line in a large swath, then mingled in blue and white at the top edges of this. He seems to have a lot of sky in his landscapes, but he never cuts the picture in half. To get the horizon line correct, he uses a stick or a brush to measure down from the top of the canvas.

I seem to make my distant land a bit too dark. Stape corrected this for me. I have to watch out for this. Also, put a line of lighter blue across the water near the horizon line to give the water some glimmer. Add darker tones for water ripples here and there, to counteract flatness.

The last day was spent at World's End, a nice island set in Nantasket. It was a wonderful day there, though the hike to the painting spot was hard work. I will definitely have to replace my glass palette with plexiglass or wood for large treks. We had a nice breeze off of the water that helped to displace the hot air.

The group was fun, and because it was small, we had great input from Stape and lots of attention. He liked to ask us what we learned, after each visit and day. It kept us thinking.

I think that the hardest thing when learning how to paint is to remember everything while you are out there. It has to become intuitive. I think that it takes years to develop this skill.