August 12, 2012

Always a Student.

This week I was out painting with a group of intrepid students in the Shuswap landscape.  This 8X10 is a study from the bird Sanctuary in Salmon Arm.  I always learn when I teach a class, and this workshop was no exception.  I was teaching and painting at the same time, going back and forth from my painting and the students paintings.  The group thought it would be most helpful to watch me complete a painting in stages at the same time they went through similar stages.  

Because the light and the water was changing rapidly, I really had to expedite this painting, and I was  happy with it in the end because I had to practice what I was preaching.  And this is what I was preaching:

1.  Big shapes to small shapes, always.   The dark of the trees, hill mass, sky mass, large reflections in the water; finessing them can happen if there is time.

2. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing: I was interested in this tree, and kept it the focus of the painting.  I gave it lots of space on the canvas, and composed around it.

3.  Take notice of that which is inconsequential, and then ignore it:  In my mind, the inconsequential would include such things as individual leaves, blades of grass, and so forth - it is more effecient, and a lot more fun to just suggest them, primarily through the handling of edges.  The stuff I needed to lay hold of quickly was the main value and color  shapes, and block them in before they changed.  And change they did. Clouds came over the hills, and wind whipped up the water, rain threatened.

The one detail I did put in at the very last was the blackbirds;  birds  were everywhere and seemed to be integral to the sense of place.  They also made a nice counterpoint to the distant hills.

Thanks to a great group of students for a great workshop.   Hope you are enjoying the Great Outdoor Painting Experience yourselves, dear readers.  The summer is a wasting.



  1. Gaye, such a great post, and I love the blackbirds, they finish it off so nicely. Could you show us the stages you used for teaching?