Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Class Demo and Plein Aire Landscapes

Plein Aire Painting: Park Bench, Downtown Blue Ridge, 11x14 Oil on Panel, Custom Framed, $450
Copyright Pat Aube Gray

Plein Aire Painting: West Main St., Downtown Blue Ridge, 8 x 10 Oil on Panel, SOLD
Copyright Pat Aube Gray

Creek at Cartwright's, Oil on Canvas, 11 x 14, custom framed, $750
copyright Pat Aube Gray

In a recent class for oil painters, I painted the demonstration, Creek at Cartwright's, above. The primary emphasis for my students was the aerial perspective, which allows us to see the depth and distance in the landscape, and the strong value contrasts and color intensity in the foreground of the painting. I painted this scene in watercolor years ago, also in a class, but I found I liked it far better in oil. I was particularly pleased with the impact of the reflected light on the tree on the right as well as the realistic look of the little land mass stretching into the creek.

The top two paintings were painted in plein aire (outside, on location) in downtown Blue Ridge last weekend. The Southern Appalachian Artists Guild organized this paint out for both Saturday and Sunday, with paintings turned in mid-day Sunday for an Exhibition. The work completed was really nice - very professionally executed art in such a short span of time. Many of the pieces were sold, including my West Main St., Downtown Blue Ridge, the middle painting above. A big thank you to Marsha Savage for her work in organizing this event.

On Wednesday, the day after tomorrow, I am taking a group out to paint on National Forestry land right on Lake Nottely. Across a very narrow strip of water there is a farm with great red-roofed barns and a farmhouse with the mountains behind them. I have wanted to paint this place for years and I now have my chance! I am planning five such outings this year (April, May, June, Sept., and October); I arrange for a picnic lunch and beverages and we always have a great time! Look forward to photos of paintings in a future post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Artists Doing Great Things

Sketch done in Walnut Ink made at the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas School
copyright Pat Aube Gray

A little more than a week ago I drove to Asheville to meet my friend and good watercolor artist, Carol Parks, for what I thought was to be a day of visiting galleries. Carol and her husband, John, have been in many of my workshops and we share a passion for good art. They have been attending life drawing sessions recently at the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas in Asheville and Carol surprised me by arranging for us to have a tour of the facility. By its name, I did not realize that this is actually an art school. It is a non-profit organization founded several years ago by North Carolina native, Ben Long, an accomplished artist and painter of frescoes and winner of the First International Leonardo da Vinci Award in Florence, Italy. Ben apprenticed under Maestro Pietro Annigoni in Florence, Italy.

We were met at the entrance by "Gully" (I wish I had gotten his full name), a gracious young man with a most beautiful smile and warm and paintable face. Gully both works and is a student at the school and had arranged for us to meet Ben Long as well as several other faculty instructors including John Mac Kah, whom I had known previously, Mark Henry (a great pastel painter), John Dempsey, and Rebecca King. We were treated to a couple of great cups of coffee and a wonderful round table (literally) discussion in the library with Ben, Mark, John, Gully and Chris Holt, a student, that lasted for several hours.

The school is located in the old industrial area of Asheville, in recent years a haven for artists and their studios. The interior is what, as a teenager, I imagined an art school, an atelier, to be like. With bare floor studios lighted by skylights and otherwise naturally lit by old factory windows high on the wall, easels, pedestals, skeletons, plaster casts, still life setups, and beautiful art set the stage for master-apprentice style learning, as used by the Old Masters and in many of our modern-day ateliers. Students here are taught how to make their own materials including gessoed panels, grinding pigments for paints, ink made from walnuts, picture frames.

The mission of the full-time school is to preserve and develop the traditions and techniques of the old masters in representational art that span the periods from classical Greek to contemporary realism. The curriculum is designed so that graduates of the school will possess solid refined drawing and painting skills in the four genres of representational art: figure, portrait, landscape and still life. Students are immersed in anatomy classes, drawing, and then, when they are ready, in painting. Instructors work alongside students in producing works, a boon to students able to observe the professional artist overcoming the challenges of the work.

A real surprise for me in the library was one of Gully's drawings, a wonderful charcoal portrait of Carol's husband, John Kidd. John has been sitting for the life drawing sessions and Gully really captured him. A great drawing of a great guy... and by a great guy!

We visited the individual studios and saw students, each with their own still life set-up, painting in oil; the room where students gesso panels, grind dry pigments and make walnut ink; the classroom where anatomy is taught, complete with muscular and skeletal diagrams and drawings on a chalkboard; the studio full of plaster casts from which students begin to draw from a 3-dimensional object as in nineteenth century European academies; and the gallery of very impressive faculty and student work. I could not have been happier!

At lunchtime, Carol and I ran out to see one downtown gallery and returned in time to visit Rebecca King's portrait drawing class. The students were all doing a great job drawing in charcoal alongside Rebecca, who was in the midst of a wonderful three quarter charcoal drawing of the model. I was graciously invited to join in but declined due to time constraints.

My thanks to Carol, Gully, and the faculty for a wonderful and most memorable day (and for the walnut ink!) I would encourage any student looking for full time art instruction in the academic tradition to consider the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Turning Myself Around

Pam, charcoal on paper, 16 x 13, copyright Pat Aube Gray

Each Tuesday night artists who belong to my "Studio Club" come to my studio and draw or paint from a model. Following a family tragedy in 2007 followed by shoulder surgery, it was well over a year before I was participating again on a semi-regular basis. I found that my interest in this had waned, even though, as a portrait artist, it shouldn't, and working from the model used to be one of my favorite things to do. At the start of 2009 I vowed to participate regularly once again and get myself back in the swing of things.

Well, I was there, but my ability to do well seemed to have disappeared! Whatever I once had I didn't have anymore! I was painting in oils and wiped clean my canvas repeatedly, seemingly unable to produce anything the least bit satisfactory.

Trying to work my way out of this block, I decided last week to draw instead of paint. I love to draw and thought it might make a difference if I changed mediums. To further distance myself from what I had been doing unsuccessfully, I also decided to draw in charcoal, something I rarely do. (I usually draw in graphite or conte pencil.)

I am happy to report that this seemed to do the trick. Getting out of my element, so to speak, working in a medium that I still have to "work out" because I am not used to it, forced me to concentrate on the medium and not on the actual drawing process. So the drawing ability, which is more or less second nature, kicked in while I focused on the use of the charcoal. I think I wound up with an acceptable rendering of our model, Pam, and, hopefully turned myself around!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Oranges and Sycamore

Photo of Actual Still-Life Set-Up

Oranges and Sycamore, 11 x 14, oil on archival linen board, copyright Pat Aube Gray

I have completed this still-life which I discussed in a late January post, "The Value of Light." I changed the backdrop and table cover considerably from the set-up for two reasons: 1) I wanted my painting to differ from those of students painting the same subject, and 2) I wanted to do away with the fabric folds to simplify the composition. In the January post I discussed the value of the light in the composition so I won't repeat myself here. You may note that the color in the pitcher is played up considerably in comparison to the real pitcher as I felt it added to the color harmony by playing up brighter orange tones that can also be found in the oranges. I also painted some orange into the brown section on the right side of the little ceramic piece, once again for harmony but also to play the orange tone against its blue complement for added impact. (Click on the images above to enlarge.)

I am very happy with this painting and hope that you like it as well! It is available for sale at Carriage House Art Center.