Saturday, August 31, 2013

Albert Handell Workshop August 2013, Part 2

West Quoddy Head State Park, Lubec, Maine

(See Part 1 of the Albert Handell workshop here.)

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

Wednesday morning, we met in the studio where Albert gave a demonstration in oil.  For this one, he chose a couple of photographs of running water from which to work.  Starting with a warm-toned surface (a panel from Sourcetek with Claessen's #66 linen), he scrubbed in a transparent underpainting with a brush.  Next, he followed with opaque passages applied with a knife.  "When I pick up my knife," he said, "I am going for the finish."

The demo lasted nearly three hours from start to end.  Again, it was a masterful piece - what else would you expect from a master? - and when I took a close look at it, I was surprised at how little paint there was on the surface.  Albert depends very much on that initial, thinly-applied, transparent underpainting to do most of the work, and then uses a little thicker paint in key areas to punch up the painting.

Afterward, Albert discussed his color choices with us.  In addition to the recommended paints on his supply list, I spotted a particularly beautiful color that wasn't on it.  It is Violet Grey from Holbein.  In the photo of his painting, you can see touches of it.  By the way, his travelling palette is simply a large sheet of 1/4" hardboard sealed with Liquin.

Albert Handell - 16x20 oil demonstration
After a short lunch break, we headed out again to West Quoddy Head State Park for student painting.  As before, Albert went from easel to easel offering help.  Now that students were more familiar with the lay of the land, I didn't have to spend much time tracking them down!  Even so, I must admit that my painting that afternoon was less than satisfactory; I chose one of my favorite rocks to paint, but the lighting on it was full frontal, and I had a great deal of trouble identifying planes and related half-tones.  Still, it was a good exercise in learning to see.

Showers in the wee hours of Thursday morning made us all wonder if we'd be in the studio.  Thursday was supposed to be our "all-day on location" day.  Dawn came chilly and blustery with lots of cloud cover, but since it wasn't raining, we headed out to the park.  Fortunately, the weather improved steadily all day.

In the morning, Albert painted on location.  Students had the option to watch his painting as a demonstration; or to paint the same scene along with him; or to go paint on their own.  He stationed himself in front of a particularly rugged-looking spruce snag and got to work.  A few students set up and painted along while others watched.  Because space was limited and I didn't want to take a space that could be occupied by a student, I went off and worked on my rock planes and half-tones.

Albert Handell - 18x17 pastel
By lunch time, there was still plenty of overcast, so I drove back into town for a bite to eat.  When I returned, the light was still soft.  I picked another favorite rock and worked on that; of course, the sun decided to come out about half way through the painting, which forced me to work from memory or to wait for moments when the clouds softened the light again.  I wanted to preserve the moodiness of overcast and low tide.  I was pretty pleased with this one.

Michael Chesley Johnson  - 14x11 oil rock/water study

Albert didn't paint in the afternoon but went from easel to easel as before, offering help.  Afterward, we all met in the parking lot for our "tailgate" critique.

Friday was the last day and much of it was devoted to critiques.  Although Albert gave critiques at the end of each day, these were short sessions due to time constraints.  But Friday, he looked at each participant's work again and also at up to six additional paintings from each person.  Besides offering detailed suggestions, he uncovered trends and habits, both good and bad, and then gave each person an action plan for improving as a painter.  He also demonstrated scumbling and glazing on some of the student pieces.

Albert demonstrating scumbling on student work.

The final afternoon was for painting, but before Albert went out to visit each person, I had a late lunch with him.  It was good to have a wrap-up of the week - he was very pleased with the student work - but we also agreed to schedule a mentoring workshop in Sedona, November 2-7, 2014.  Albert is in much demand as mentor, so I am pleased that he wants me to coordinate such a workshop for him.  (For details on his mentoring programs, click here.)

It's always sad when a workshop ends, but I think we'll all remember Albert's words when we paint on our own.  One of my favorite lines from the week:  "I'm a fast painter, but I don't rush."

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