Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A New Way to Observe, then Irony of the Eye

I had the opportunity and pleasure to take a two day workshop at the Rockport Art Association (on Cape Ann in Massachusetts) from Lisa Daria Kennedy.   She has been painting DAILY PAINTER paintings for 1550+ consecutive days!!  The blurb for the class indicated that she would do everything she could to inspire US to begin to do the same. Since I can't think of anything important I have done for that many days in a row, I had my doubts.  But what she said in her introduction made a lot of sense.  If you are going to paint everyday, it probably needs to be 
  •  Economical in cost
  • Economical in effort (set up and clean up)
  • Economical in brush strokes
  • Economical in time
I spend a smallish fortune on equipping myself to paint with acrylics (I usually use oil).  I could NOT see having numerous WET oil panels sliding around the back of my car... and I don't have a wet panel carrier that would carry the 10 panels (6x6) that she asked us to bring, anyway.

So, encouraged to "make our marks" and "make ourselves known" we began.
First we set up a little something to be our subject.  Some people brought fruit, others flowers or objects from their purse.  My ubiquitous sheep statues didn't seem up to par, so Lisa shared a Gerbera, some roses and two other nifty green and growing things that I don't know the names of.

I turned it around to find its good side, and found a piece of material to put under it...

And then we were instructed to divide a sheet of Dura-Lar into two 6x6 squares and then divide one of those into quarters.

6x6 is small enough to be economical in all of the ways mentioned above.  Lisa had a huge stack of Masonite squares that she shared with us... as well as Dura-Lar sheets.

We drew thumbnails.  This was supposed to calm any nervousness we might have about painting directly RATHER THAN SKETCHING ON THE CANVAS first.
 So we thumbnailed and used the cool view finder to try out varying compositions.  THEN we picked a part of our set-up and did a teensy version on the Dura Lar.  Painting on Dura Lar reminded me of driving on black ice.  Slippery, unpredictable and pretty exciting.

After doing some 3x3 warm ups, we advanced to 6x6, still on Dura Lar. We were encouraged to tone the painting surface with red or yellow.
 It was fun seeing the various set-ups emerge in varying styles.
 It seems to me that everyone pretty much knew what they were doing, even though everybody had their own areas of expertise or preference:  oils or acrylic or watercolor; landscape or floral or figurative, representational or not.

Lisa told us to be sure and change the paint on our brush on every third stroke OR LESS.  This keeps the hues varied.  But it was hard to remember to do it!

 We mixed as many gray hues as we could in the time she gave us.  This was very helpful in shading the objects in our set ups... Shadows, after all, aren't just variants on black and white.

 It was gratifying to watch my observational AND painting skills improve as the day went on.

 Even with ample breaks to feed the ubiquitous parking meters of Rockport, and lunch, I was drained and tired by our 4 pm end of session.  I was VERY happy with Lantana House... a B&B practically next door to the RAA.  Turns out that two of my class mates were staying there, too. But I crashed, napped, walked for an ice cream by the harbor, then returned to my room and watched the second match of the Stanley Cup Finals.
 The print of the blonde playing the piano was vaguely familiar and definitely pleasant.  I did a little research and discovered some info about the painting and the painter.
Marguerite Stuber Pearson was a firm proponent of the Boston School tradition, characterized by the mastery of academic technique and the selection of traditional subjects of portraiture, figures in interiors and still lifes.  In her debut exhibition at the Guild of Boston Artists in 1931, one reviewer happily reported that her paintings were “executed in the best Boston School tradition.”  Upon seeing the show, Edmund Tarbell (1862-1938) wrote to Pearson, “We are glad that you stick to the Boston tradition, and we look to you to uphold it, which you have more than done and are still doing.”
Pearson grew up wanting to become a concert pianist, but in 1915 she contracted polio during a summer vacation in Maine.  During her recovery she took drawing lessons from Boston illustrators Charles Chase Emerson (1871 - 1921) and Harold N. Anderson (1894 - 1973).  In 1919 Pearson embarked on the rigorous seven year painting course at the Museum School, where she received criticisms from Frederick Bosley (1881 - 1942), Philip Hale (1865 - 1931) and Tarbell.  She worked and taught in a fourth-floor studio in the Fenway Studio building and began to spend her summers in Rockport. There she painted with Aldro Hibbard (1886 - 1972) and expanded her repertoire to include landscapes of Cape Ann.  In 1942 she moved to Rockport to live year-round and became an active member of the Rockport Art Association.  Today she is well known for her pictures of women playing musical instruments in elegant, light-filled interiors.

 Sunday morning began with fresh fruit and granola at Lantana House and then we dove into the study of VALUES.  Lisa gifted us with 10 level value scales in black and sepia.  She showed us how to use the view finder to compare our subjects (we had strawberries, now!) with our paint hues.

To drive home the importance, we painted this set up in shades of gray.  There may have been 50 shades... or more, or less.  We did one that was mostly light, and another that was (supposedly) mostly dark.
 Since she has done so many of these daily paintings, Lisa said she rarely got nervous about the demonstration part of her teaching.
 Then we made our own graded shades for the predominant color of our painting.  Since it was strawberries, it was mostly RED.

But prior to putting any of that red on the canvas, we mixed a very dark Dark (Pthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson) to paint any shape that was in shadow.  This magically insured that there were darks and lights in the finished panel, rather than a muddy mish mash of middle values.

 Then we did "just one more" trying to stick to 30 strokes or less and remembering everything else she had taught us:  the three stroke rule, make a variety of marks.

Both mornings she arrived bragging that she had painted her daily painting starting at 5 a.m.  (Nobody, including her dog, was awake at that hour... it was just her, her mug of coffee and the paint).
My palette even looked different than usual.

I've gotten to the easel two days in a row.
The first day I corralled a bowl of fruit (and an onion).
I'm pretty happy with the result.

 I toned a canvas for the next day.
I woke up today with Pinkeye, conjunctivitis, allergies, or SOMETHING...Perhaps foolishly, I put my contacts in anyway and got part of a painting started before I had to leave for a meeting.  I'm waffling about a break of dawn painting session tomorrow... but why not?  They say that suffering for your art is a good thing. Maybe tomorrow I'll just paint the onion... OR pick some of the poppies/dianthus that are blooming in the yard.  THEN go to the eye doctor.

If you ever have a chance to study with, or listen to Lisa Daria Kennedy, run, don't walk to do so.  She is generous, kind, knowledgeable, fun and funny.  If she teaches in Rockport again, take plenty of quarters or plan on a florescent orange $15.00 parking ticket.  :-(


Debra said...

Thanks for posting! I so enjoyed reading of your experience at Lisa's workshop and sounds like you learned a lot. I'll keep an eye open for an upcoming workshop.

Anonymous said...

I just came from a workshop with Carol Marine and found your post very reinforcing about what I learned, got excited about, and want to emulate. Thanks for such a thorough summation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience - it was the next best thing to being there. I'm an admirer of Lisa's painting, and gleaning some insight through your eyes is a real treat! I hope your early morning sessions are becoming second nature by now.