Yesterday Bea Bearden and I drove down to Gloucester, Massachusetts, to attend a plein-air-with-figure workshop in a garden attached to the home of David Curtis. Although David, as we are encouraged to call him, is an anointed master painter (member of the Boston Guild of Artists), I had not been acquainted with him, his work, or his teaching before Friday, when I got the call from Bea and signed up for the workshop. I feel extremely lucky to have got the opportunity. For the past few years, I have not been signing up for plein air workshops (unless they involved the figure somehow). I’ve taken so many plein air workshops in my short career as an artist, and done so many plein air paintings, that I had begun to feel I could not learn anything new. (“Know it all” syndrome.) Besides, it is the figure that I wanted to concentrate on now, so that’s where my workshop budget went. However, in one casual Sunday afternoon (three hours) David Curtis conferred upon me new insights into plein air painting. The kind of insights where you might say, oh, yeah, why didn’t I see that before! Maybe you did see it, but I hadn’t, not consciously at least.
Here are my two favorite insights:
- First: On an overcast day (that’s what we had yesterday), the light comes from overhead, not at any angle. Hence the tops of flowers, e.g., are catching the most light. Duh! you say? I know. Obvious when you think about it. But I had never thought about it before.
- Second: Did you notice, in the Sargent exhibit at the Boston MFA a few months ago, that there were very few skies showing? The absence of sky, usually the lightest element in a landscape painting, allows there to exist in the painting a different lightest object–one not at the top of the painting, which is, after all, a damn awkward place to suffer a focal point (unless you are focussing on clouds). From this opportunity to create a lightest spot elsewhere on the canvas comes the power to be unusual, to be dramatic, to capture the viewer. We all want to capture the viewer, and hang onto her. Now we have a new tool–eliminate the sky as an element of the scene.
We were a group of nine students in Gloucester, all quite accomplished painters. On the way home, Bea and I congratulated ourselves on the fact that we held our own in this company. We will join them again for two more Sundays later in August, and I am so looking forward to it!
Due to the speed with which I work, my painting was completed within the three hours of the workshop. Even better, it is one with which I am very happy. The flowers gave me the opportunity to paint just the kind of landscape that I like best, and the lovely model with her coral dress and orange-red parasol were a feast for the eyes. Thank God I brought my cadmium orange and cad red light. And my perylene red and quinacridone magenta. All were needed for the many reds and pinks in this painting.
I made sure that my angle on the stone cupid showed off his best side too. Can you tell that the flowers inside the ring of granite stones are impatiens? The dabbing technique to simulate flowers and leaves is something I adopted back when I was first studying landscapes with Stan Mueller, and he encouraged it. It’s not something I can always work into landscapes vistas, and maybe that’s why I prefer not to do vistas. I began this painting with a burnt umber ground, applied to cover up the Campobello Island seascape underneath. (I’m getting more and more ruthless in my painting demolitions.) The dark ground helped me speed toward completion.
Today I worked on another portrait of my daughter Nancy. The Group (Monday Life Group) agreed that we wanted to paint the blue patterned kimono that she uses as a coverup between poses. My parents had brought this kimono back to me from Japan in 1966 or thereabouts, and after five decades it is finally coming into its own! However, it was not possible to deal with the pattern in the time given to us. Moreover, the wet blue paint did not allow for adding fresh whites and pinks where needed. So this is a Work in Progress.
After the kimono dries, I will add the patterns using this photo I took with my phone.
I don’t know if I really missed the tilt of her head as much as the photo suggests, but someone did tell me recently (Paul Ingbretson, I believe) that we humans have a hard time overcoming an innate desire to untilt heads. I have noticed as much in myself before, so I was trying extra hard this morning to counter that tendency. Sigh! Regarding the size of her irises, that was a deliberate decision to exaggerate them in order to get across how one perceives Nancy’s eyes. They come across as large.
Last week Nancy had posed for us nude, but wearing quite a deep tan–from walking the dog, she claimed. Her droopy eyelids of last week caused me to bring her a large iced coffee this morning in the hope that we not get the sleepy look again.
I almost want to hide this one from you, because I feel I butchered the nose. Still, it’s interesting as a study of skin tones.
Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:
at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (both are in Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett and the Bernerhof Inn in Glen; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter; two paintings are hanging at the Bedford Library as part of the Womens Caucus For Art exhibit “Summer Bounty”; a single painting is on view at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester for the summer; and at her studio by appointment (email: email@example.com). You may also view paintings with prices and order prints at my Fine Art America page. If the painting you are interested in is not there, or if you prefer to bypass that experience, you may contact me using the private feedback form below. If you want to add a public comment to this blog, go to the bottom of this page where it says “Leave a Reply”, and enter your comment in that box. I love to get public comments, so don’t be shy!