Hi everyone. I’ve been gearing up to take a class. We have just finished our second week. I couldn’t be more excited about what I’m learning. I feel like a beginner again, being exposed to lots of new material already.
The class has just begun painting after being introduced to the basics of canvas and linen, rabbit skin glue, oil primer applied with palette knife, beginning with imprimatura, a demonstration of scumbling, ala Mark Rothko, who will be our reference for the first assignment. The classroom is rich with paint and books, easels and big messy stainless steel sinks, ensconced with a skeleton model. My fellow students as varied as imagination can conjure. It smells good in there, like linseed oil. The outdoor enclosed patio has oak trees dripping, dappling light amid tables for applying ground, making ink, sanding, sawing (yes, there’s a table saw!) painting or just enjoying. There’s even a large room for “no solvent” painters. I’m right at home, soaking it all in.
I painted this today, just to go back to something familiar. The shallots and onions, drying under the broad old oak is quite a compelling subject. I don’t think I got the temperature of the highlight on the tree warm enough. But there are some areas which I really like. I may try it bigger, as this is just 6 x 6″. It was done over an older painting, some of which you can see as the background.
FYI: The class is given by a master painter and equally talented teacher, Chester Arnold through the College of Marin. It meets 7-10 pm, twice weekly until December. Oh boy!
I’ve painted these trees many times. Each time, I see them differently. They are patient and lovely and always exciting. I even see them from my kitchen window and watch the wind blow through their branches. As if they are waving.
Today, I was the second pass on this painting that I started last week and have only just gotten back to. I’m going to have to pick off some debris when it’s dry, it was windy out there, but I’m happy with it now.
I’m very excited to be signed up for a painting class at the College of Marin with Chester Arnold. Chester is a valuable resource, a painting teacher with amazing depth and thousands(?) of students in the bay area. And he’s a farmers’ market regular at our stand! I look forward to learning and sharing.
After the first pass…
Paul got me…
I got the pickles canned, then felt entitled to paint for the rest of the day!
Thursday I set aside the whole day to paint. (Hoping to make that a regular thing…) I headed toward Open Field Farm, west of Petaluma. Seth and Sarah generously offered their gorgeous setting and myriad of big animals, to my visual self. The car was loaded Wednesday. I packed a lunch and headed out by 10.
Before I even got there, I pulled over and painted an irresistible view. There were cows (youngsters) grazing and playing in the field, off in the distance. They shyly came to see what I was doing, then got bored and left me to my work. It was a beautiful day and the road was quiet and lovely.
Then, just as I had almost completely finished the painting except for the foreground pasture, they came back. How could I resist? I used a big brush with black paint, and laid them in as fast as possibly, not really thinking about the rest of the painting. It felt like I’d been thrown the proverbial Hot Potato.
When I got home, I really loved the painting with the sloppy cows and managed to figure out how to make them more believable.
And then I went to Open Field Farm and painting one of their barns.
And look what waits for me the next time I go! I feel so rich!
My fascination with capturing moments; how the light hits something, how the colors work in harmony, there, right there or how the edges between shapes define what’s there. Deciding what is important to me in that glimpse and how to capture it in paint is my quest.
Yesterday I found myself driving through the valley in the drippy early morning and in a extravagantly fragrant rose garden in the late afternoon. I decided to do some quick gouache studies of my impressions, with aspirations of much bigger paintings.
I’m particularly happy with the vineyard painting. I have for various personal reasons stayed away from the endless vineyards in my backyard. But this time of year, they are “budding out” and I drove by an unpruned budding section. The long canes with their brilliant green leaves bobbed up and down with the breeze and it had to be considered!
Here in California, it’s not all that common to have a sky full of continually morphing playful shapes floating above, describing a wholly different experience outside. Maybe a little tease of rain? I just had to paint them. I packed up and got out into the wind. There is something about bracing oneself to the weather, working quickly, squinting, hearing birds, that often leads to a better painting. And, I always learn something.
Today I was thinking about an artist I admire, Quang Ho. His painting graces the current issue of Plein Air Magazine. In the article he discusses that a painter must have a concept for a painting before they start. I formally declared the concept for this painting was the similarity between the shapes made by the lights and darks which describe both the clouds and the hills, and to use paint to describe that fact. And then entirely forgot my concept as I worked to just get it down. Maybe next time I’ll keep the concept closer to the front of my brain…
The board I chose to paint on had much more tooth than I have been using, and it was fabulous! I was able to move that paint in new ways. Some areas were almost dry brushed on, really scumbled. I used my fingers and could work edges in new ways. Love the tactile approach, really working the paint into the surface. Because the surface was unique, the whole process felt new. I thought about a yoga practice I am watching that reminds one to enjoy being a beginner.
I so enjoy being a beginner.
A week ago, I joined a group to paint at a beautiful park, Olompali Park in Novato. Thrilling to be out on such a gorgeous Northern California spring day.
I was able to paint three small studies. Today I finished larger paintings referring to two of the three. Though I lost some of the energy in my second tree painting, it’s been a great learning painting. And one thing I’ve learned is I want to bring the works closer to finish, in the field. Nothing beats standing in the weather, observing!
I’ve been working on this assignment* for months, first with drawings, gouache studies and finally this painting. It’s done from my imagination, which is not a common way for me to work. It depicts me at 15 when in 1969 my family moved from smoggy Southern California to Westchester County, New York. I had just learned to ride horses and they helped find a way out of the anger and sadness I felt about leaving California and my friends.
*Childhood Memories was a challenge to a Facebook group to which I belong. The administrator is a well-known art teacher, who exposes to us to his vision, knowledge and excitement about art, alongside his own spectacular, imaginative, paintings. Though he didn’t like the term “assignment”, I found it to be just the thing in the face of so many personal distractions lately. Thank you Chester Arnold! I will paint this way again, so fun!