Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Everything I know about Painting – Not


After painting a dozen years with many workshops and classes, I was getting dissatisfied with my work, especially the lack of variety of landscape subjects, e.g. thin trees in winter, dense summer overlapping trees and brush.

I invested in a mentorship of eight afternoons with a painter whose work I admired and whose approach was looser than mine, another direction in which I wanted to go. This was 24 solid hours of one-on-one instruction, demos, and critiques: in short, anything he recommended discussing or demo-ing and anything I wanted to cover.

Warm Spell 8x10 Oil

So far, I found out that:

·         I needed to do more detailed, larger preliminary pencil thumbnails before painting and really “nail” the light and shadow of objects like trees clearly

·         I could actually use black paint and put some intense darks in my paintings, “up the ante” in terms of drama; one can also mix in red and other hues into the black to vary it slightly

·         “Use more paint” has always been my shortcoming and have someone remind me again was important

·         You can paint think over thin, but also thicker over thick and it works. I was able to lay on thick paint with all sides of the brush, e.g. thick and sometimes irregular sky holes; really load the brush and with a light touch dab it on thick; this allows painting darks over lights!

·         I also needed to be reminded to preserve my four value planes while introducing different hues of the same value in each plane; this preserves the big, dramatic shapes which capture the viewer’s eye

·         I tended to paint in a high key, i.e. warm palette, and never noticed it. When you are painting, especially a winter subject, this needs to be a conscious choice not unconscious or accidental

·         Painting from his reference photographs was a stretch for me but his keen eye for a composition made for some well-designed paintings

·         I wanted to make sure I did some homework and had at least two paintings done at home for the next afternoon session; this was by turns frustrating or rewarding, depending on if I had grasped his technique the previous session. No lazy days here.

·         Painting “under the gun” of an instructor in the studio imparts an urgency to most of us which usually results in poor drawing, proportions, inappropriate hues, etc. Better to take your sweet time; it’s results that matter, not speed.

·         Coming to the end of the mentorship I realize that old habits die hard, still not using enough paint, etc. but some progress made.

Many thanks to my knowledgeable and patient mentor Kevin Menck; see his excellent work at



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