Monday, January 26, 2009

Painting Workshop


I've just returned from beautiful Vancouver, B.C. and Liz Wiltzen's three day workshop. The main focus was to learn to paint alla prima in a loose and painterly fashion, and to create interest and excitement in our work. This was my first ever workshop, and I must say, that it was all and more than I had hoped for. Liz instructed and inspired all six of us to reach out and stretch ourselves artistically. She is a very engaging, professional and giving person who can flat out paint. Upon seeing her work which is absolutely beautiful, one cannot help but want to emulate in some way what they are seeing. The woman is a star!

On day one, we started by reviewing several of Liz's paintings where she discussed composition, colour/values and process. What created interest and why. Then we watched her do a couple of demos where she demonstrated with a few deft strokes how she wanted us to proceed with thirty second paint sketches of a live model. After the buzzer went, we wiped the 9" x 12" raymar linen panels which she had given us, and got ready for the next attempt. This went on for the next two and a half days with time limits increasing to one, two, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty and sixty minutes. Liz would do demos every so often, and walk around offering words of advice and encouragement.

The whole idea of these quick paintings was to learn how to get it down and not let the drawings within get too "precious". We basically drew figures with thin paint in the thirty second drills just trying to realize angles and proportions. As time limits increased, we blocked in the figures and started including background shapes. At this point we would have nothing but a large shape with no inside defining lines. Then we would start to add colours, using thicker paint as we layered, sculpting with our paints, rediscovering our edges. As the painting developed, we would add highlights to show direction of light and give it shape and life. We were encouraged to lose our edges and find them again three or four times to create depth and interest. Hard edges for the most part were a no no. All of these exercises were eventually tiring, but so much fun. Liz also impressed upon us how important it is to have lots of paint on our palettes. When you run low on paint, you tend to take shortcuts, and ultimately fall short of doing the best job possible.

By day three, I think we all had made some amazing progress thanks to our fearless leader, but as our confidence grew, our paintings again began to become more detailed, so Liz had us go back to the thirty second to five minute drills. My fifty minute painting is at the top of this post. I wasn't too happy with the colour and highlights, but the proportions and feel of the pose are not too bad.

I would also like to acknowledge our fabulous models Wanda and Helene for offering up so many amazing poses and outfits, and virtually turning into granite until the buzzer went.

9 comments:

  1. Man, I learned a lot just from reading all that and seeing these pictures. Thank you so much for sharing these great details! I'm pretty sure I was given a reverse instruction of highlights first in a class I took. I would *much* rather do the dark block-out of the whole figure as she had you do it, then add the rest. And the losing and finding edges several times for depth -- that's a really cool thing I should try. Thank you, Vern!! I can't wait to see what effect it has on how you paint. (not that it needed improving) :)

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  2. Thanks Camille, Glad you got something out of it. Losing edges can be huge and using this method made a lot of sense to me. Liz's demo shows it all beautifully, and the key is to use thicker and thicker paint as you build up. Hope it helps everyone as much as it did me. There are other beautiful styles of painting, but this one can be a lot of fun.

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  3. Wow Vern! You went up the learning curve real fast! Your new paintings have such a freshness to them! (Not that your old ones didn't) What a fantastic event for you! I like what she said - about a lot of things - but particularly about keeping enough paint on your palette. Good advise! I'm with Camille - can't wait to see how it's influenced you - here forward.

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  4. This was really interesting, Vern. I enjoyed reading it. It sounds like it was a great experience!

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  5. Thanks Pattie, this was one great experience and I'm sure there were a few other little tips like that which I forgot to include. I am very anxious to see how this influences me, but I'll tell you this, I am very confident that it will help me improve.

    Thanks Kari, glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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  6. Wow, what a GREAT experience, Vern!

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  7. What a great post... makes me want to go the her workshop. I am new to art and doing gesture drawing, I never thought to do it like she does only in paint. Thanks for your time and wonderful pictures. I really need to lose edges and leave detail for the last. I will keep trying. Honor

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  8. Thanks for visiting Honor. We're both just starting with the drawing part, so lets have some fun with it.

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  9. After reading this post I came away with a renewed curiosity and desire. There are so many new perspectives to consider! The process sounds intriguing and challenging. I scrolled through your work, and while your paintings have always been good, I see a new energy and inspiration after your workshop. Can't wait to try it!

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