3 Days with Stapleton Kearns

Continuing with the tale of the marathon workshops, I had a very different experience with Stapleton Kearns, whose plein air landscapes embody classical techniques. I struggled to adjust, without surrendering my newfound Griffel sensibilities.

All three days we would be painting in the middle of a large field in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. On Day 1, I obediently brought out a 16 by 20 panel even though the few times I had painted en plein air on a 16 by 20 canvas I had been disappointed. My brushes aren’t big enough, my easel not big enough, my tubes of paint not big enough. I never finished that Day 1 opus, so I have not yet photographed it. Someday, maybe.

On Day 2, I abandoned the large format and reverted to 11 by 14. Life improved. The 11 by 14 is displayed above. Three silos. My original intention had been to focus on the tracks and shadow in the foreground, and keep the silos as background. But the silos and the shadow on one of them are so irresistibly interesting. (By the way, to use the bathroom on the farm, as we were invited to do, one had to follow those tracks back to a farmhouse that is not even visible on the horizon, negotiating two mysterious (to me) and heavy gates–I ended up slithering under them until I was shown how to unlatch them.)

In the afternoon I started a smaller painting on 12 by 9, one with a view of Mount Monadnock in the background because you can’t just ignore the presence of Mt. Monadnock. This time, though, I kept the focus off the mountain and I daresay you wouldn’t even notice it if I hadn’t told you.

My Day 3 inspiration was a distant view of farm buildings in a different direction, and I tried to translate that distant view into a closer one on an 11 b y 14. I am still fussing with it, and may eventually give up on it, or accept it and photograph it. But meanwhile, I had taken a close up photo of the original inspiration, on our way into the far away field, and from that photo I have recently, in studio, rendered a smaller reproduction of the vision in my head. Here that is:

Stape was incredibly energetic and devoted to us. We literally worked until the sun started to set. He gave long individual critiques, which took him hours because we were spread out all over the farm, long demonstrations, and at least one long formal lecture. He was so full of information, opinions, and advice, and so totally willing to give it all up for us, that I am sure we each were ready to give it all up for him at the end of those three days.

To get a feel for the man, visit his blog, which I try to visit each day. He is so diligent about posting every day that even during the workshop, when he had a long drive to get back home after eating dinner with us, he never missed a blog entry. In fact, if you go back to mid-September, you can read about us in his blog–his assessments of us for the public were consistent with what we heard on the farm. But I make him sound merely diligent, which would be so boring. NOT BORING! Go check it out.

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