Monday, February 9, 2015

Albert Handell Mentoring Program: Day 1, Albert Among the Palms

Albert among the palms.

I am in beautiful Palm Springs, California, for master painter Albert Handell's mentoring program. When I was hosting a similar workshop of his in Sedona back in October, he honored me by asking me to join him. And it is indeed an honor. In case you don't know, Albert's work is in major museums and is widely collected, and he is also a much-sought-after workshop instructor and mentor to artists. Plus, for me personally, Albert and his wife, Jeanine, have become good friends over the years. (Visit and for more on these engaging artists.)

Although our first meeting with the participants on Sunday wouldn't be until 5, Albert asked if I'd join him that morning for some hiking. He wanted to show me where we'd be painting most of the week. He also wanted to take photographs of some areas where we wouldn't be able to paint either because they were inaccessible with painting gear or too confined for a group.

Although Albert spends much of his time during the good weather months painting en plein air in pastel, in the winters he retreats to the studio to work in oil, using his photographs and plein air studies as references. It's important for a painter to have good reference material, and a hike Sunday morning would enable him to focus on photography.

The grass really is this green.

I met Albert and Jeanine at their hotel and then we drove out to Indian Canyons, just a few miles south of where we are staying. Indian Gardens is literally an oasis in the desert - springs and running water, green grass, and palm trees. I was blown away by the majestic palms, many of which towered 80 feet or more. Because the palms are left in their natural state, massive "skirts" of dead fronds wrap around their trunks. This gives the trees a broad-shouldered, anthropomorphic appearance. It's not hard to imagine them as sleeping, standing giants that may wake at night when the desert cools down.

After spending most of the day there, we took a short break and then met the students while it was still light by the hotel pool. Albert has 11 participants from all over - England, New York, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and, of course, California. Some will be painting in pastel, some in oil. Some have studied with Albert before, some not. After this introductory meeting, we headed uptown to Sherman's Deli for dinner, where we'll be meeting each evening for dinner and career-building discussions.  Afterward, I had just enough time to check e-mail before bed.

I'm very much looking forward to the week. Time and energy permitting, I'll blog daily about our adventures in Indian Canyons. Temperatures will be warm - in the 80s - but it'll be comfortable among the palms.

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