When I heard about Weekend with the Masters a few months ago, I was pretty excited that so many fantastic artists were going to be teaching in Colorado this year. I was all excited about signing up for the whole thing until I realized I might not be totally up to it while eight months pregnant – kind of a bummer. Anyhow, I ended up registering for a few of the individual weekend events that didn’t involve hauling painting equipment out into the wild. We headed down to Colorado Springs on Saturday and hung out at a hotel with Aspen (fun – elevator and pool! what more could a 3 year old ask for?!?!), and then I attended a couple of sessions on Sunday.
I have to say, after looking at everyone’s pictures on Facebook and attending a couple of classes myself, I’m pretty envious of those who got to attend the whole event! It was really well organized, and the group of instructors was top notch.
On Sunday morning I attended Scott Burdick’s lecture on using photographic references for painting. For those not familiar with Burdick’s work (www.scottburdick.com), he paints fantastic figuratives of people he encounters on travels throughout the world. His work are lush and full of life, so I was curious to hear more about his process and his view on using photos to work from.
The lecture didn’t disappoint. Scott showed hundreds of slides of his work, as well as some of the photos he worked from for particular paintings. He stressed the importance of working from life on a regular basis to gain the experience needed to allow you to provide info that a photograph can’t, but also stressed the importance of using photos to paint certain types of subject matter or locations. Here’s a snapshot of a plein air painting he used to illustrate the color subtleties that a camera can’t capture:
The thing that struck me viewing the slideshow was how luminous and energetic Scott’s paintings were compared to the actual photos he painted from. He takes very good reference photos, but when he paints he takes the reference further and injects life and emotion that the photos lack. I work from a combination of photos and studies, so seeing his slides gave me something to strive for – if I can’t be improving on the photo in my painting, I shouldn’t be painting it!
In the afternoon, I attended a critique session with Kevin MacPherson. There were about 25 artists at the critique, and we had all provided one or two digital images of our work for Kevin to review prior to the session. Kevin had spent a lot of time preparing comments for each person’s work, and interspersing images of our work with examples of masterworks that showed what he was trying to say. It was really valuable to hear the critiques of everyone’s paintings as well as my own, and Kevin has a great sense of humor that kept us all entertained through it all.
The first painting I submitted was one of my personal favorites. I had entered this painting in a couple of juried shows and been rejected, and wanted to know what was up.
Kevin’s critique of the painting was mainly that it had too many hard edges all over. There are also some issues with repetitiveness in the pine trees on top of the cliff, and competition between the two front cliff faces for attention (he suggested possibly darkening the cliffs in the middle ground to make the front cliffs more important). Overall though, it was all EDGES EDGES EDGES.
Looking at the painting, I totally agree. I think it’s taken me a while to get to a point where I could absorb this critique. A year ago, I might have fought similar comments, thinking that the hard edges are a part of my “style”. Over the past few months, I’ve changed my thinking and have been starting to incorporate more variety into my edges and brushwork, so I was in a good place to hear this critique.
The other I submitted was a larger painting of aspens that I did earlier this year for the Colorado Governor’s Invitational show. I was proud of this painting and it has received a lot of compliments, but there were some things about the foliage that had been bugging me, and I could never put a finger on exactly what my issue was.
Kevin liked the painting but got down the main issue right away – the foliage of the aspens on the right was mimicking the hillside angle, and the cloud on the left was mimicking the shape of the aspen foliage. It was like an aha moment to me – I’d been so stressed about getting the colors and foreground of this painting right that I didn’t even notice the issues with repetitive shapes up top! He also pointed out that he liked the lost and found edges in the aspen on the far left, and suggested that I incorporate some of that into the rest of the painting (again – EDGES EDGES EDGES).
Overall, I came out of the critique with an understanding of some of the bigger things I need to be working on, and it gave me a little bit of a kick in the pants to continue to work on improving my work.
Now that I’ve been all inspired, I just need to find some quality time to paint before this little one makes his grand entrance in about a month!