As with anything in life, if you want to develop a skill you need to practice. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. If your desire is to be a representational painter, your painting needs to represent its subject. The proven method to excel at landscape painting is to get outside and paint nature - to witness first hand how light interacts with the natural shapes, the color of those shapes in different light and the values of different angles.
Have you ever taken a photograph of the sunset and it doesn't do justice to what you saw in real life? That is the downfall of photos. They are a helpful tool as additional reference material but painting from life is necessary to truly capture nature as it is.
These workshops will center on how to see what is in front of you and transfer that to your canvas by stressing the basics of drawing, value, edges and color helping to produce more compelling compositions. All the while learning to see in terms of mass and form rather than focusing on the details, such as every leaf on a tree. There are basic principles that can be taught then it’s up to you to master the craft through practice and by exploring your own style and voice.
In addition, we will discuss supplies and equipment, delve more into the benefits and drawbacks of photography and studio versus field work, interspersed with valuable insight into what I have learned through my painting experience. You will also receive personal attention and demonstrations.
To gain a background understanding of the fundamentals of painting before attending a workshop, I recommend a few books that I believe every painter should have in their library:
|Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting||Composition of Outdoor Painting|
Supplies and Equipment:
I am often asked what I would recommend for supplies and equipment. Each artist has their personal preference of supplies, paint colors, and items they carry in their pack. Of greater priority, I would like to stress the importance of being organized and using quality products. What I have found in my teaching experience is the lack of quality supplies or disorganization as the culprit to many a bad painting experiences. Painting outdoors is challenging, so doing whatever you can to make it easier on yourself sure helps.
That being said let's talk about easels. There are many types of easels that are good. I have tried a number of them and still always find myself back at the French easel. They aren't the lightest but I can get all my paint, brushes, palette and clips inside of it. If you do decide on a French easel, don't skimp. There are a lot of cheap ones out there, the latest ones seem to be coming from Costco - PLEASE don't bring these to class. I think the Julian is still the best one out there. The other one I do use, especially when hiking, is the Open Box M, which seems to be the new favorite among most outdoor painters these days. They are light and work well but there are many new ones coming on the market that are similar and good too, such as the guerrilla box.
There are many different types of brushes. In recent years I have switched from bristle brushes to synthetic, flats sizes 4, 6, and 8 for in the field and I bring along a few 2s, and 10s as well. It doesn't matter to me what type you use so much as they are in good paintable shape, not with splayed ends or rock hard. I must admit that I am quite hard on brushes so I don't purchase the most expensive brushes, but the ones I do use are always in good shape for making a mark.
In regards to paint, there are a lot of different choices here as well. I use mostly Utrecht but also some Graham. I would recommend artist quality paint over student grade in general. The pigment levels are higher and there are no fillers in them. It doesn't matter the colors you choose to use as I have painted with many painters who use what I would think are strange combinations of color and it works great for them. What is more important to me is the way the paint is used. Such as, always start with large fresh dollops and place your paint in the same order around the outside edge of your palette every time. This will help keep your paint clean, and by having regularity in the order of your paint it will allow you to focus on the task at hand and not searching for the location of any one color. This may seem trivial to some, but I assure you that when in the throws of battle with nature and time is running out as the sun sinks, you will be glad that your tools are close at hand and you can direct all attention to your painting.
For painting in the field I like to use gessoed panels. Usually the sizes range from 6x8 to 11x14 and most commonly 8x10, 9x12 or 10x12. There are a lot of different panels to use and most are good. It seems to be a feel thing that people like about a certain product. Linen is a pleasant surface; I like Fredrix canvas as well. The one thing I don't recommend is to bring stretched canvas outdoors. The sunlight comes through the back making it nearly impossible to see what youÔø‡Ôø‡Ôø‡re doing. Again, make things as easy as possible. When outdoor painting, much is out of your control, therefore make good on things that are in your control.
I have offered these recommendations so that you can come prepared and be able to concentrate on painting rather than worrying about supplies and other items that preoccupy your time. My hope is you will come away with a greater understanding of the principles of painting, how to paint what you see, and how to compose powerful compositions. Painting outdoors can be immensely gratifying and rewarding and it will help you be a better landscape painter. I look forward to seeing you in the field soon.