Friday, September 14, 2012

The Last Day with Jeff Watts

Copy of Dan Gerhartz Portrait

I'm jumping ahead to the last day of the Jeff Watts workshop to spare you my growing pains and frustrations with myself.  I always tell myself that if a workshop seems easy and I produce really good work with each project, I'm probably not pushing myself enough.  Suffice to say that all my work during my week with Jeff was not beautiful.  But I did have many "Aha" moments.  Here are a few of them:

SLOW DOWN.  Loose painterly paintings just look as if they were created quickly.  In fact, it takes a lot of time and thought to interpret a painting rather than just copy what's in front of you.

THINK ABOUT WHAT'S BENEATH THE SURFACE.  In figurative and portrait work, understanding the anatomy under the skin solves many problems.

USE MORE PAINT.  Skimpy paint makes wimpy paintings (OK, that's my quote, but I learned it with Jeff).  Illumination happens with generous thick paint.

PAINT ABSTRACTIONS.  Look for abstract shapes everywhere and paint them.  The end result is a painting that is interesting to look at.

USE SMALLER BRUSHES.  Loose paintings can look as if they were created with large swaths of paint applied with large brushes.  Often, they are not.  Paint small abstractions and meld them together in the last phase of painting.  This will give you a controlled approach which will be more successful.

I hope that you enjoyed my workshop notes with Jeff Watts.  He certainly inspired me to push myself and my painting in new directions.  I would certainly recommend his workshops to you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gesture Portrait, Jeff Watts Workshop

Monochrome Gesture Portrait

On the third day of the Jeff Watts workshop, we created quick gesture portraits of a model who sat all day for us.  I decided to concentrate on my lights/darks and edges (and besides, my knees were knocking from nervousness) so I stuck with the monochrome portrait.  I learned how to pick out abstract shapes in the face to make it more interesting to look at.  I also learned to make edges disappear so that the viewer has to fill in some information.

Gesture Portrait, Jeff Watts

And here is Jeff's fantastic full color portrait, painted in a single sitting.  He starts with transparent washes of color over most of the canvas, then goes in with smaller brushes to pick out the abstract shapes that he sees.  He constantly moves all around the canvas, laying in new color, then going back to paint shapes next to every brush stroke.  A very difficult technique to attempt, but I learned so much just watching him paint!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Late Summer in the Forest, 9x12"

I want to invite all my friends and artists to come to the Art in Nature event on September 23rd at the Crabtree Forest Preserve in Barrington.  I'll be there, rain or shine, painting out in nature.  Artists will be painting all through the forest that day, and there will be music and children's activities, too.  Plenty of art to see and purchase!  The hours will be 10:30-4:00.  I hope I'll see you there!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Figure Studies, Jeff Watts Workshop

On the second day of the workshop, we got down to the serious business of painting figures using burnt umber and white.  I learned something very important that day-- I tended to smooth things out on my figure studies, which made them boring!  Jeff suggested that I paint abstract shapes in different directions on the model to make them interesting to look at.

And here's a reason that figure studies are difficult.  You have to understand the anatomy underneath it all and build out from there.  Here is an example of how Jeff starts a figure study.

He plots the skeleton and major muscle structures before he begins to paint.  Taking the time to study anatomy is well worth the effort when painting figures and portraits.  He showed us an App that he uses called "Visible Body" which shows the skeleton and muscle groups from every layer and angle.  It even shows the muscles in motion.  I hope that I'll have the discipline to delve into this and stick with it!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Jeff Watts Workshop, Day 1

"Hemal", 12x16",  Ann Feldman

I'm just back from Encinitas, California, where I spent a week in a portrait/figurative workshop with Jeff Watts.  First of all, I'd like to say that being a serious student in Encinitas over Labor Day is nearly impossible.  Constant parades of surfers on their way to the beach and the sound of clinking Margarita glasses on neighboring decks were quite a distraction!   I decided to be good during the day and enjoy Encinitas in the evenings.  My mom and sister-in-law breezed through and enjoyed the good life with me, too.  A good balance, I think...

The first day, we watched Jeff demo a monochrome pick-out (below), then we tried our hand at it with a wonderful model/student named Hemal.  The drawing is laid down on a white panel and sprayed with fixative.  Washes of Burnt Umber are painted over the entire surface, and the darks are laid in with smaller brushes and the light areas are "picked out" with cotton swabs, cotton cloths, and paper towel.  

"Demo Head Study", 12x16", Jeff Watts

Don't let Jeff's painterly style fool you-- he works slowly and methodically throughout the painting process.  He constantly looks for anatomical abstractions and paints them in one by one, connecting them as he goes along.  Artist Note: He told us not to forget that edges and value are non-tolerant.  They must be rendered correctly.  Composition and color are where the creativity and fun happen.  

I'll be posting more from this very enlightening workshop.  Stay tuned!