Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Prepare for a Plein Air Workshop - 2

"Eureka Street" 16x20, oil

My last post, How to Prepare for a Plein Air Workshop, must have scared off a few people because no one made any comments. Hopefully, I haven't also scared off prospective students! But truly, the more you can prepare before spending big bucks on a workshop, the more you'll get out of it. And I'm not really as grumpy as I may have sounded. Past students say I'm quite tame.

I have one more skill you might want to address - design. Now, design is a complex issue, and one can spend a lifetime learning how to create designs that aren't clichéd and overused. But students should have some basic ideas of what a good design consists of. A lead-in for the eye, perhaps, and a balanced (but not boring) composition. Sometimes I'll see a student paint a really well-done rock, but it'll be smack-dab in the middle of the canvas. The painting would have been a better piece if the student had given some thought to design.

If you look at Edgar Payne's book, Guide to Outdoor Composition, you'll find many thumbnail sketches that can serve as templates for your work. The "U," the "Z," or the "balance beam" can be applied to most landscape situations. You can memorize a few and practice fitting your landscapes into them.

Arthur Wesley Dow, in his book Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color, states that design cannot be taught but is learned through exposure to good design. The more great paintings you study, the more intuitive your design skills will become. (Intuition is nothing special, just well-digested experience.) Not near a museum? Not a problem. Many works are available on the Internet now.

9 comments:

mary pyche said...

NO WAY are you grumpy. I highly recommend you and your information to anyone out there. I'm preparing right now for an Italy painting trip and today's dilemma was that my Shadebuddy umbrella, which is 48" long, exceeds the 45" airline allowance for carry-ons. Perhaps you might want to advise your friends who make this product to shorten it? Anyway, I bought the EasyL which looks pretty good, light and short, and the case will also hold my tripod. Hello to Trudy.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Hey, thanks, Mary! I'll pass that on to the Shadebuddy folks.

lady guerrilla painter said...

Hey, Mary - Thanks for the feedback about the Shadebuddy being too long to be a carry-on. The thing is, if it were any shorter, anyone 6' tall would be bumping their head. I guess trade-offs are unavoidable.

Jo Castillo said...

More good info. I will point to these posts. Thanks.

Jo Castillo said...

I forgot to say how much I love the painting with the red. Great use of complements.

Donna T said...

I didn't think you sounded grumpy either, Michael. If anything, I marvel at your patience! A friend of mine took a workshop with a well-known oil painter and it was an expense for her. She was so frustrated because a few other participants showed up with no knowledge of set-up or even how to use the basic materials. Time that could have been spent on my friend's education was lost. I give any workshop instructor a lot of credit for trying so hard to please everyone (and not become grumpy!)

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Jo and Donna!

mike rooney studios said...

Grumpy? No way!OMG if you could have seen me jumping up and down screaming Yes Yes while i was reading your first post on getting ready for a plein air class. i'm like so frustrated with people who dont even bring whats on the list, or dont even paint a few days before the class to make sure they can set up the "brand new" easel they bought two days before the class. some cant even mix basic colors and then i've got to juggle them AND some "pro's" that i'm trying to keep from being bored messing with them. such a tricky and frustrating part of our jobs eh? next year i'm thinking of making basic painting skills a prerequisite for taking a class with me. just makes the whole class so much more productive when everyone has the basic skills. i did one where everyone could paint well and WOW what a pleasure that class was. i know that youve had that too! it was nice right? you seem like a very patient type so youre speaking the hard truth!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Hi, Mike - I'm patient, but then, I did write the post, didn't I? ;)