Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Ray Roberts Workshop - Day 5

For our last day, we painted about 5 miles from the school. Ray chose a vacant city lot to paint in. Yes, you read right -- a vacant city lot! When I got out of the car, I was confronted with about 20 acres of creosote bush and views of low-rise hotels. Fortunately, Ray pointed out the beauty of this place. Camelback Mountain was waking up to the warming sun with beautiful shadows on its slopes. The creosote bushes would be a great final exam to see how well we could organize seemingly-random foreground shapes into meaningful patterns that support the center of interest.

I did two paintings before we broke for lunch and critiques. One is of Camelback; the other of a nearby mountain with palm trees. I used artistic license both to organize the creosote bushes and to edit out the hotels. Ray's contributions:

- Make sure the bush shadows get a little bluer as they get farther from the bush that casts them, because a little more skylight bounces down into this area, and not so much closer to the base of the bush; and
- Try to keep shadow patterns irregular and not repetitive.

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

My favourite, though, was his contribution to the palm trees. "Palm trees, unless you're really close, are just a silhouette against the sky. They may have some brighter spots, but those are just accents." He proceeded to take my brush, darken the tops and "cut in" the shapes. "After 15 years as an illustrator and doing palm tree after palm tree," he said, "I promised myself I'd never do another palm tree."

During the week, I stuck to Ray's approach to plein air painting. I wanted to see how he did it and what benefit I might get from it. His approach involves using a great deal of white. I've always laid in an underpainting with transparent color and held back on using white until I was ready to apply some opaque paint. (I enjoy the contrast of transparent v. opaque paint.) Ray goes for the white right off, using it to get the values he wants rather than using the untoned white canvas with transparent paint to do so. For me, I found his method does give you more control over value from the start. It will take a little more practice for me to avoid the "chalkiness" that can result for using so much white.

It was a good workshop -- refreshing to try a different approach, inspiring to see some of Ray's work in person, and as always, fun to get somewhere warm in the winter!

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