Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Albert Handell Mentoring Program: Day 2, Why I Painted in Pastel Today

Can you find the painters?

Monday morning, we all met by the pool to caravan to Indian Canyons. Although we got there early, the day was already proving itself to be hot. Fortunately, our painting location, Andreas Canyon, offered plenty of shade in the way of tall palm trees.

Albert first took participants on a stroll to show us spots where he had personally painted. It was very informative to hear his reasons for selecting certain spots. Mostly, it had to do with lighting: rim lighting (or back lighting), side lighting and front lighting. Rim lighting and front lighting, he said, offer the most consistently stable shadows; side lighting seems to have faster-moving shadows. Rim lighting is hard on the eyes because you are looking directly into the sun, but it provides beautiful, backlit effects. Front lighting can be difficult because the intense sunlight shines directly on your painting surface, but it offers intense shadows that can be useful in composition. Side lighting often creates shadows that aid in defining form. Each of these conditions has pros and cons, and ultimately it boils down to artistic choice.

Albert's pastel demonstration
Albert then set up for a pastel demonstration to show how he handles white sanded paper. He made it clear that this was a demonstration, not a painting. "Making a painting is an entirely different thing," he said. The demo lasted about an hour and, although unfinished, it fulfilled its purpose.

The short demo left us plenty of time before lunch to paint. Most of us set up in the shade just off the road and out of the reach of the dust from cars. Here's my subject for the morning, and I have to admit, this is my first palm tree painting ever:

Two Palms in Morning Light, 12x9 pastel 

About noon, we broke for lunch. We continued our day in the shade by finding a group of picnic tables surrounded by 80-foot palms. Afterward, Albert asked me to lead the group further down the road to the West Fork Falls area to show them some of the scenery we'd photographed on Sunday. This will be another painting spot for us later this week, and he wanted them to be prepared for awesome beauty.

Albert makes a point during his oil demonstration

By two, we were back at Andreas Canyon where Albert began an oil painting demonstration. I give him credit, because he borrowed a participant's set-up - easel, palette and paints - for that purpose. (He'd flown out for the program and wasn't able to bring all his oil gear.) "I used Raj's palette because it is clean; you can't paint on a dirty palette," he remarked. Again, he demonstrated painting palm trees, but this time it was with his transparent oil underpainting approach.

Then we were free to paint. As in the morning, Albert went from easel to easel giving advice. I chose palm trees again:

Three Palms in Late Afternoon Light, 12x9 pastel

By the way, I almost painted in oil today but chose pastel instead. I actually had everything packed for oil but at the last minute decided to switch. Why?

Well, during Albert's first demonstration, I did some pencil sketching. Having not painted palm trees before, I wanted to explore their form with a pencil. I needed to draw to work out proportions and the like. I found my exercise so useful that I decided that I wanted to continue in pastel, which can be considered a "cross-over medium" between drawing and painting. I wasn't quite ready to pull out the sloppy oil paints just yet; I wanted something I could draw a line with.

The park closes at five, which is a little unfortunate because that's when the light on the mountains is just starting to get spectacular. But we were all tired by then, anyway. I went home and cleaned up before meeting everyone at Sherman's Deli for dinner later.

Albert intends the mentoring program to be an immersion experience, and it is. Over dinner, we didn't talk politics or gossip about celebrities - we talked instead about painting and the business of painting, and about our own missteps and successes as painters. Oh, and also about the huge size of the dessert portions. One slice of Sherman's tiramisu would feed you for several days!

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