Friday, February 13, 2015

Albert Handell Mentoring Program: Day 5, Color Flutes

We returned to Indian Canyons on Thursday, where Albert painted a complex cluster of palm trees. As he got into the painting and began to analyze what was happening with light and shadow, he said that even he felt this particular scene was quite challenging - and he wondered if perhaps he should have chosen something simpler. The fine structures of the palm fronds, the fast-changing side-lighting, the unusual coloration of the palm tree "skirts" all contributed to to the challenge. But he did pull it off, and grandly.

Albert's chosen scene

Albert's painting

My experience that morning was quite different. I made three oil paintings before lunch, two of which I scraped down. I'd chosen palm trees, too, but they weren't all that complex. My problem? I was using too thick paint too soon. I was up to my hips in it. I knew better, of course, so I'll just blame the warm air that made the paint so slippery as to be unmanageable. By the time I got to my third attempt, the light had changed too much, so I switched to painting rocks. This one went much better. I was very happy with the result, and Albert was, too.

Rock with Flutes, 9x12 oil

His only suggestion for this painting was to add what he calls "flutes" - tiny spots of color to increase interest to an area, or to connect two jarringly dissimilar ones. He calls them flutes because he likes to think of a painting as a symphony, with each shape being played by a particular part of the orchestra. To liven up the dead brush around the base of my rock, he added specks of pure Hansa yellow deep. In keeping with the analogy, you might consider the dead brush to be a somber passage played by the cellos, and the yellow specks, played by a flute.

Lunchtime critiques

After lunch, we drove to a wash where palm trees stood like chess pieces at the end of the game, scattered across the board. There was no wind, the sun was hot, and although the trees provided shade, one had to clamber over boulders to get to it. That's my excuse, anyway, for another scraper. Albert came by and offered some suggestions, but then I cut my finger with my painting knife. You don't realize how sharp one of those can get from all the scraping, but it does. Scraping is like taking a kitchen knife to a whetstone. Plein air painters, I recommend you keep a first aid kit in the car. I didn't have one, but I'm glad one of the other painters did.

Albert was still recovering from his cold, so he passed on dinner at Sherman's. Still, we talked art. This time, about plein air painting goals and galleries.

Friday is our last day. I will be prepared - after class on Thursday, I picked up a first aid kit at the local pharmacy.

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