Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Albert Handell Workshop August 2013, Part 1

Albert Handell
UPDATE:  Albert Handell Mentoring Workshop Coming to Sedona, AZ Nov 2-7, 2014.  Visit for details!

Every other summer, I like to have a guest artist teach a workshop for me.  The artist is always a well-known master of his medium, and this year, I am delighted to be hosting Albert Handell.

Albert has been painting for over 50 years and teaching for a good part of that.   He studied at the Arts Student League of New York City under Louis Priscilla, Robert Ward Johnson and Frank Mason.  He also lived in Europe and had his own studio in Paris.  For many years, he taught at the Woodstock School of Art in New York.  Today he lives and paints in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The author of several books on painting and the subject of many articles, he has won over 70 prizes and awards for his work.  His paintings are in the permanent collection of the Butler Institute of Art and many other museums and organizations.  It is a real treat to have an artist of his caliber teaching a workshop in "Far" Downeast Maine.

For this five-day workshop, we have 15 students from all over the Northeast and eastern Canada.  Several have studied with me previously, but some have studied with Albert, as well.   A variety of skill levels are represented, from intermediate to professional.  Although Albert has a mentoring program, this workshop follows a traditional format of lecture and demonstration followed by student work and critiques.   Each day, Albert begins with a full demonstration of a technique or subject and then, after a lunch break, students go on-location to paint while he visits each student offering incisive suggestions.

I met Albert on Saturday to help him settle in.  That evening, Trina and I had him over to Campobello for a light dinner.  Sunday,  Albert and I drove around Lubec to scope out painting spots.  Although I have my own favorites, it was enlightening to see his take on them and to understand his thoughts on what makes a good painting location.   As you might expect, variety is good - a rich painting spot offers lots of opportunity for composition and subject matter - but  also closeness to the studio, ease of access, parking and restrooms.   With a group this large, closeness and how easy it is to find are especially important.

Sunday evening, we all met for orientation.  In addition to what you would expect - maps, handouts and discussion of logistics - Albert went over setting up a French easel and his choices for pastel surfaces and pastel colors.   (Two of his demonstrations will be in pastel, but one will be in oil, so oil will be covered later in the week.)  Albert loves rich color, but he also understands how to "calm" it - his term - with complements.  Afterward, we all had dinner at the Fisherman's Restaurant at the Inn on the Wharf.

Inn at the Wharf

On Monday, he painted a wonderful tree demonstration in pastel.  He broke the demo into three parts:  drawing the tree, handling color and value relationships, and then applying the idea of color and value to the drawing.   I personally loved the drawing phase; watching Albert's hand as he drew flowing, sensitive lines was like watching a ballet.

Color Theory

Albert's 18x12 pastel tree demo

That afternoon, we headed out to the Inn under an overcast sky where we painted rocks and water.  The Inn offers not just lodging and a restaurant but also a fish market.  While we were painting, a forklift zipped quietly (and respectfully) back and forth hauling periwinkles to the market.  Afterward, Albert critiqued our work on the easel.

On Tuesday, he painted a very masterful rock demonstration.  Unlike trees, he says, where it is important to have "lazy" edges, rocks demand a degree of crispness.  He started off with a watercolor underpainting in Van Dyke Brown and Payne's Grey and, once it was dry, followed with pastel.  He left the painting as a vignette.  "Some teachers tell you to block in the whole thing and work to the edges; I tell you to work on your center of interest and get that right.   If you have time and keep working, you will eventually get to the edges - but it's also okay not to."

Albert's 12x18 pastel rock demo
In the afternoon, we drove out to West Quoddy Head State Park and found plenty of rocks to paint.  Albert was very impressed with the landscape's bold cliffs and rugged coastline.  Although I was coordinating the workshop and helping keep track of students, I had plenty of time to do a large (12x18) rock study in pastel of my own.  Critiques were held in the parking lot.

My own 12x18 rock pastel

Next time:  Albert's oil demo and more.

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