Friday, March 2, 2007

Ray Roberts Workshop - Day 4

Today was a marathon -- I did three paintings. After the mixed weather of Wednesday, Thursday's sun and calm were a blessing, and I had to honour the day by painting till I dropped.

We drove out to Lost Dutchman State Park where we had an 'in your face' view of the Superstition Mountains. The hiker in me wanted to hit the trail and wander up into the spires and cliffs, but I was there to hone my painting skills. I got there early, so I started a study of a saguaro with the mountains for a backdrop. It was good I picked the subject I did, because when Ray arrived, he asked us to work on foregrounds -- and most of my painting was foreground.
Foreground can be especially troubling in the desert where you have a chaos of vegetation and rock. Ray made a quick oil sketch (he doesn't call his outdoor work 'paintings,' but rather 'sketches') to show us how it's done. Find the patterns of dark and light and try to create a movement for the eye to follow to your center of interest. I ended up wiping out my start and re-doing the foreground. Ray contributed a little warm dark to my cactus. I was trying to capture the reflected light that bounces into the shadow. He pointed out I was making this light too bright. "Any value in the shadow should be darker than any value in the light."
About this time, two schoolbuses arrived, packed with 8-year-olds. We were all a little worried about this, but they had plenty of chaperones and the kids were actually curious about what we were doing. Four came up to me and told me about their art teacher and how they liked to colour. Then they went off on a hike -- and again, I wish I could have joined them!
But I had to start my next painting. I attacked the mountain. Ray noted that the shadowed sides of my rocks were too cool. "Unless sky light -- which is cool -- is reflecting down into he shadows, keep them on the warm side." This surprised me, as I was seeing the shadows as cool blues and purples. But I took his advice, and I found that putting in greys that were just a tad warm really made the mountain come alive.
My final painting of the day was of -- what else? -- the rocks. They were just getting more beautiful as the day went on. I got a little caught up in the patterns of lights and darks in the rocks. Too much detail, and Ray made a subtle change that helped my rendering of them. With a small brush, he smoothed out some of the detail on one cliff. This made them a little less busy and more restful for the eye.
(By the way, I do know most of this stuff Ray's been talking about. But when you're out in the field, trying to learn some new things, sometimes you forget and you need to be reminded. It's also good to have an extra pair of eyes check your observations. Shadows -- cool or warm? I had trouble telling.)

By the end of the day, I was beat. I'd made three paintings while standing all day in the full sun. Still, I managed to rally enough to go to the Thursday night Art Walk. I wanted to visit an opening at the Scottsdale Fine Art Gallery for two friends. Carol Swinney and Jeanne Mackenzie, two pals from my Sedona Plein Air event last October, have work there. It was good to see them again.

Tomorrow, we'll paint in the morning and have critiques in the afternoon before saying our goodbyes.

(As always, you can click on the thumbnails to get a bigger picture.)

No comments: