Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Journey West"... thoughts and review

Getting Off to a Good Start... Plein Air Painting in Scottsdale, Arizona

After my trip West and a week long workshop at the Scottsdale Artists School with Jennifer McChristian, I had an email from my friend and artist, Carmen Sharpe, asking me to tell about what I learned. So this is especially for you Carmen and I hope that others might find this brief overview interesting or helpful.

Jennifer emphasizes the basics of what a good "plein air" painting should have. 1) good design/composition, 2) correct drawing, 3) correct values, 4) temperature/color, AND 5) that everything in a painting is in relationship to everything else. Sounds simple??? Ummmm.....

For good design and composition I used my view finder. To establish values of a composition I mixed a 4 color grey scale to block in my drawing. (See photo of Jennifer's palette, above.) Next, using a mixture of Indian Yellow and Thalo Red Rose thinned with turp, I toned my canvas and drew the composition using the grey scale painting as the guide. This really helped me to get the values right! But the finer details of temperature in relation to everything else was a challenge. Jennifer is so skillful when it comes to color and temperature. Sometimes my shadows were too purple or too blue and the color of the warm areas needed adjusting. I was amazed when she would make the slightest adjustments to the color/temperature (and always in relationship to something else in the painting) what a difference it would make. She makes it look so easy! LOL!

I might add that in addition to being an excellent instructor Jennifer is fun, energetic, upbeat, and patient. I especially like the way she explains the what, the why and the how of everything she does, while she paints and when she would come by my easel to help me. Very instructive!
Jennifer emphasizes drawing and sketching as the basis for being a good painter. She says that she takes a sketchbook with her wherever she goes! I bought a beautiful sketchbook with a handmade leather cover , which I love, from Sharon Hall at Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ.
Thanks also to Ben, her husband, who helped with the ins and outs of our locations each day.