Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “Woodstock

Painting Workshop: Considering Composition

My recent workshop was themed “Landscape and Mood”. Color pops to mind for most when considering mood, but I emphasize composition, shape, edge, and directionality of shape/shapes even more.  I have observed that many developing artists—even beginners to painting—bring certain things to the easel that seem to be innate. Color preferences and type of line or gesture that a given hand tends to make are often so. Composition, however, generally needs to be fully  brought into the conscious mind to be mastered, with much analysis that comes from moving elements around to see how they serve the whole.

In representational painting, the placement of the components of a piece greatly affect the mood, as well.

I encourage my students to look at the narrative aspect of their composition, but also to examine their work in progress as an abstract painting. Are all of the shapes interesting/pleasing to the eye? Do they relate well to each other even if not touching or near? Are they not repetitive, like the bumpety-bump of a caterpillar? Too regular a curve, like a bowl, rather than a subtle S-curve with lots of variation? Do the shapes create directionality within so that the eye circles around the piece and doesn’t fly off and get lost? Are the edges varied?

In order to better show all of this to my students and have them experience it mindfully, I added some new exercises to my recent workshop at the Provincetown Artist’s Association and Museum. First I demonstrated  and then the group did small color/compositional studies on primed paper designed to be done fairly quickly, with multiple versions of the same image, moving elements around. Instead of repainting the piece until you get things where you like them best, each version is left as is so that they can all be looked at and critiqued as a grouping before beginning a larger piece on canvas. The studies serve not necessarily to pick the most successful one to follow, but as a means of becoming familiar with the variables of the image so that the larger painting can be approached with more confidence and awareness of the choices that it presents.

As vehicles for learning, the small pieces can also stand on their own.

Thanks to my PAAM student Carol Duke—both a painter and a photographer—-I have a nice sequence of photos showing many of the exercises, demos, and steps I currently employ in this workshop.

This group was particularly lovely, though I always get great students (good hand; good eye; great questions; supportive of one another; usually a developed studio practice, sometimes a very open and enthusiastic beginner).

Below, working on small compositional studies with subtle variations in placement to explore these elements before starting the larger piece.

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DSC_5224Showing various ways of handling edges (so important!): embedded; lost and found; wet-on-wet; scumbled; hard over soft.

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Above, my studies and students dark-gessoed paper, ready to begin theirs. Below (my photo), first small studies completed. 

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DSC_5341Beginning my 12″x36″ piece.

WSPTown13Everyone setting up at their easels to begin work on larger paintings.

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Mixing colors from primaries. We all have our tubes of favorite mixtures, so the true derivation a given color we mix on our palette can be confusing—-so many ways to arrive at it!  Going back to mixing from primaries clears away a great deal of confusion, and is way more fun than it sounds. Hue, value, and tone are all covered, and all requests are fulfilled (Naples Yellow! Mars Violet! Olive Green—bring it on!)

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Final critique, which includes suggestions for where to go with unfinished paintings. This time we moved around to the wall behind each artist’s easel. Progress and breakthroughs happened on different days for different students, but everyone had at least one! And epiphanies—well, those often bear fruit later on…

I love what I learn from my students! Agnes, returning for the forth time, had this advice for another artist who wanted to create for herself the silky surface that I developed years ago—“If you can’t hear the brush as you work it across the surface of the dark gesso {with tooth}, you are using too much paint.”

How come I never noticed that?!

On the subject of surface, I do find that this is another aspect of  painting that seems to be innate to the artist. Many students come into my workshop and want to learn how I create my surface. The process is something that I developed years back through trial and error and experimenting with materials. I teach every step of it, but like to encourage an artists with a lovely painterly hand to go with what they already do well. From there, we build, returning to the emphasis on composition and organizing/simplifying detail.

DSC_5573Packing up…till next time.

RichnessofBlue“Richness of Blue”, finished in my studio. So glad that I didn’t include the lighthouse and jetty in this version…just simplicity. The other variables that I explored originally in my studies were placement and angle of the tidal pool and where it goes off the edge of the piece on lower right; size of back shore and strip of water beneath it; and color of sky.

For more on how I develop a piece, see my blog post;

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/painting-demonstration/

And for more discussion of landscape and mood, including analysis of mood in specific paintings of mine:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/landscape-and-mood/

About our emotional experience while painting:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/painting-teaching-and-the-emotive-self/