Saturday, February 14, 2015

Albert Handell Mentoring Program: Day 6, The Big Critique


On Friday, we headed back to Indian Canyons where Albert painted a large pastel, again using his transparent watercolor underpainting method. As with the previous day's painting, this was not a demonstration but a painting. "They are two completely different things," he explained. He was silent as he moved his empty hand over the paper, figuring out the design, and perhaps in rehearsal of what he would shortly do with a brush.

Albert at work

As someone who frequently gives demonstrations, I understand how important silence is. This early stage of the painting is critical to what comes after, and being pelted with questions by the audience or verbalizing one's thoughts can divert you from the best path. But as soon as he had laid in his design with Payne's Grey and Hooker's Green and picked up the first pastel, he began to narrate.

The finished painting was a beautiful abstraction of the scene before us. Here is the transparent watercolor underpainting followed by the finished piece:

Albert's transparent watercolor underpainting

The finished painting


While watching Albert from the cool shadows, I was taken with a clump of palm trees I'd painted the first day in pastel. The morning light on it was rich, warm and inviting. After the problems I'd had with oils the day before, I decided to paint the same scene again, this time in oil. I felt confident I could manage it, which is a helpful feeling when faced with a complex subject. I was very happy with the result, and Albert was, too.

Three Palms, 12x9 oil
Michael Chesley Johnson

After lunch, it was time for the Big Critique. For this, Albert wanted us to lay out all our work, good and bad, that we had done during the week. We turned a picnic table into a giant easel and then set up additional easels around it. As each participant's turn came, Albert would take his time looking at the work and moving pieces around. He put the strongest pieces together, which allowed him to see clearly what the artist's strengths were; the remaining paintings allowed him to see the weaknesses.

Pondering student work

Albert shows his work from the week

There wasn't a bad painter among us, but there were differences in craft and vision. For those who clearly knew how to paint, he offered career-building advice; for those who needed to work on their skills, he offered homework assignments to improve them. Although the advice and assignments were tailored to the individual, I think it was instructive for everyone.

The Big Critique takes longer than the daily ones, but we still had some time to paint. Albert wanted us to work on tree trunks - although they look simple, the coloring and texture present difficult problems. But I had some business to conduct, which didn't leave me enough time. So instead, with what was left of the day, I took a hike. It's something I'd wanted to do all week but didn't have the chance.

That evening, we met for dinner at Sherman's Deli to celebrate not only the end of our week under this great master but also Albert's 78th birthday.

Most participants are staying through Saturday to take advantage of a final painting session. Unfortunately, I have a long drive back to Sedona, so I will be leaving early and will miss it.  (Plus, I have my own Paint Sedona workshops to get ready for next week.)

I want to thank you, Albert and Jeanine, for a great week. It means a lot to me to be invited to work with you in one of your favorite locations. But I'll see you again soon!

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