The daffodils are just beginning to bloom, and the first day of spring is just around the corner. The sun is beaming down on my hands as I type, which feels amazing. The first quarter of the year flew by for me. March always requires a little extra pushing to get things done, but I am happy to report that I have been completely glued to my easel which is why you haven’t seen too much of me around these parts. Let me fill you in on the past month:
I successfully completed my 8 week drawing class last week and the portrait painting workshop I taught with Ulan was the best we have done yet. For a lot of them, it was their first time studying from the live model, which is a really special experience and it is so easy to get hooked for life.
Above is a picture of all of the student’s work at the end of the workshop. They all did really well for their first time painting from the live model! We were so impressed.
Above and below are some pictures of the students in my drawing class, hard at work.
Though I love to teach, and I enjoy the weekly commute into Salem, I am happy to have some time off from it to dive deep into my work without having to step away from it to prepare lesson plans each week.
Ulan and I took a drive one afternoon in order to scout out potential painting locations. We drove to a nearby natural spring in Molalla called Wilhoit springs. It used to be a huge tourist attraction back in the day. People would travel from miles around to come drink the healing waters and stay in the resort that was on the property. The resort and cabins are long gone, and what is left is a quiet little forgotten gem.
It was a cold windy winter day when we went. I am itching to get back there with my paints and possibly a model when the weather gets warmer.
On another chilly windy day, we went to Mount Angel Abbey to paint the view of the valley and the mountains. I took some pictures of the progress of my painting, which you can view below, though the wind really picked up and we ended up leaving after a short time. I could have done better with a little more time. There is nothing like plein air painting to strengthen those painting muscles. I tend to work very slow in the controlled environment of my studio. While outdoors, I am forced to make quick decisions, use big brushes, and be bold with my brushwork before the light changes or the elements get the better of me. (Apologies for the low quality photos)
First, a rough sketch of the composition and general placement of the horizontal lines of the landscape. I drew the distant hills with a light purple. Normally I draw with raw umber, but I find with limited time to work, it is better use a blue or purple for distant hills so that I don’t fight with a dark brown color that could potentially still be wet, as I lay in the light values of the sky and distant hills. However, burnt umber can be of some use to take away some of the chroma in the blue of the hills.
Second, I realized the wind was already causing trouble... (my friend Brian’s easel blew over and his painting went jelly side down on the cement). Here I was focused on covering the canvas. I started with a thin wash of green. I was looking at a complicated scene with a lot of layers of farm land going back for miles. I focused on massing it all together at this point.
I then keyed the sky color and then started from the distant hills, working my way forward. Again, trying to ignore the many tiny details.
Then it was a game of greens. There are an endless variety of greens, especially this time of year in Oregon. One artist who comes to mind when bringing up the topic of greens, is George Inness. The art museum in Portland (OR) has a couple of Inness paintings that have such beautiful greens, it brings tears to my eyes. (See below). Studying from life outdoors helps me in an infinite amount of ways. Studies like these used to be brought into the studio as reference material and then used to produce paintings like the ones below.
I had just begun massing in the cluster of trees in the foreground, when we decided to pack up and head for the nearest warm restaurant. Over the years I have learned that it isn’t so much about the end result, but just getting out there and doing it, giving it your best shot, and hoping for the best.
A little tip on dressing for outdoor painting
I have broken down the layering of my clothing to a science in order to be the most comfortable, and warm. However, my most recent adjustment has been the shoe situation. On this painting trip, my toes were numb. (Wishing I listened to the LL Bean store clerk who suggested one size up so I have room for warm air.) Note: perfectly fitting boots with no room are a bad idea, if you are standing still for long periods of time. If you plan on doing a lot of walking or hiking first, wear extra socks to avoid blisters. The extra room for warm air around those little piggies is a must. Also, my newest favorite thing is an Irish wool sweater that I found at an antique shop in downtown Silverton. It is THE warmest sweater I have ever worn. Layered under a slightly oversized jacket, and I’m snug as a bug.
The weather is changing now, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I am getting closer to finishing the paintings that I have been working on and I am so excited to share them on here soon. Keep an eye on my instagram feed and my stories if you are interested in seeing progress pictures. There will also be new workshops coming up. We plan on teaching a color theory workshop, and another portrait painting workshop. Stay tuned for more on that. There will be one last 8 week drawing course that I will be teaching at the Art Department Inc. starting on April 19th and going through June 14th. You can learn more about that and sign up for it here. Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day!