Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Magnificent Seven

On what can only be described as a less than desirable plein air day, seven of us, myself included, braved blustery, windy, cold and uncomfortable weather to paint at this incredible site today. As I said in my earlier post, photos lie, and the farm across the water was oh, so much closer to us than the above photo depicts. Okay, I will upload another photo to show you what it really looked like.

Now click on it to see it larger! As if this wasn't great enough, cows suddenly appeared, as if on cue and out of nowhere, mooing to beat the band, and almost in rhythm with the harsh honking of the Canadian geese that flew, swam, fought, and did some other things (tsk, tsk) right in front of us both in and along the lake's edge. What a fabulous site! Did I tell you we were on National Forest land and only about a mile from my studio? (If this had not been National Land, I think we'd have lit a bonfire with all the dead wood on the ground!)

The Magnificent Seven, as I will now call ourselves, endured the weather today under-dressed (can you believe the forecast was wrong?) and with only one coffee run and search for more outerwear. I am ashamed to say that this girlie group voted, while I was on the coffee run, to return to the warm studio to eat lunch as opposed to sitting at the freezing cold concrete picnic table on site! Oh, ye of little endurance! (I jest, of course. I was secretly thrilled!)

I'd show you the paintings we produced, but nobody stayed around long enough to take pictures of them once they were through! Perhaps I'll post them at a later date!

Oh, yes, and the Magnificent Seven included Henne Karavitch, Judy Holland, Terri Reilly, Dru Sumner, Amanda Fullerton, Susan Williams and me.

My Doctor and Her Grandaddy

My Doctor and Her Granddaddy, Watercolor on Paper, 18 x 25 Sold
Copyright Pat Aube Gray

Yes, you read that right! That adorable baby is now my doctor! Following the recent death of her beloved "Granddaddy", I was commissioned to paint this portrait from the doctor's favorite (obviously old) snapshot! The doctor is partial to watercolors and this painting lent itself beautifully to that medium.

Painting portraits from photos is something one should seriously undertake only after drawing and painting from life, and then only when painting from the person is not feasible. (Posthumous portraits, of course, fall into that latter category.) Photographs flatten form, alter values, diminish truths, and are subject to the quality of the camera, the digital resolution or film development, the color calibration of developers or computers & monitors, the lighting, and the expertise of the photographer. To drive this point home in a class recently, I gave students multiple photographs of the same subject, each developed, photoshop enhanced, and/or printed differently so that they could see that the resulting portraits from each one of these photos would be vastly different. I then posed the model, the subject of those photos, on the model stand. They were immediately able to see not only the difference between the photos themselves, but also the difference between all the photos and the model!

Once you have painted from life long enough, you understand what will be lacking or altered in photos in comparison to the actual subject, and you learn to make appropriate corrections when painting. Creating the illusion of depth and three dimensional form in a two-dimensional medium is a practiced skill. In today's world, time constraints often disallow the luxury of having a subject sit for us. So if you really want to paint portraits, it behooves you to paint from life whenever you can to prepare you for that inevitable commission you will have to execute from a photo.

And speaking of portraits, next week I will be attending the Portrait Society of America Conference in Reston, VA. I missed last year's so I am really ready to attend this one. It promises to be a great conference, with many portrait demonstrations and guest speakers. This is something I look forward to and always hope I will be a little more enlightened when I return home. Following the Conference, I will be teaching a five day portrait workshop in LaVale, MD.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Successful Workshop with Guest Instructor, Charles Walls

Charles painting his second great demo of the workshop

Tom Paul and his "first-ever" still-life

Kathy Fain, a long-time student of Charles Walls

Elaine Wiley having a great time painting

Susan Deryke took still-life very seriously

Anne Armstrong quietly pursued perfection in her own private corner

Dru Sumner and her perception of deep space

(L-R) Elaine Wiley, Anne Armstrong, Kathy Fain, Charles Walls, Dru Sumner, Susan Deryke Missing from the Photo - Tom Paul

On occasion, I invite guest instructors to hold a workshop at my teaching studio located at Carriage House Art Center in Blairsville, GA. Happily, Charles Walls accepted my invitation to do a still-life workshop in March, and it was a successful week for all who attended. Charles has studied in New York, primarily with Peter Cox, and more recently with David Leffel, becoming a devotee of the latter's philosophies and visual language of light and space, concepts he presented throughout the five day workshop. Two painting demonstrations, one on Monday and the second on Wednesday, successfully (and beautifully) depicted, first, the concept of light and objects moving across the picture plane from left to right (see Tom Paul's painting above) and, second, light moving across objects that moved from front to back in the picture plane (see all the other paintings above.) Thanks, Charles, for a great week!