I had the opportunity this weekend to take a mini-workshop that was organized through the Utah Watercolor Society. The workshop was guided by Kristi Grussendorf, a UWS and ISA artist that I admire. She has this great ability to work with light and shadow and beautiful underpainting. So, besides just being able to focus two days on art without distraction (which was wonderful!!), I was hoping to glean a little knowledge about how Kristi achieves her wonderful paintings.
The theme of the workshop was "Composition and Focal Point." We had some wonderful exercises the first day in creating floral still life paintings that were supposed to be loose, and created without a reference photo. Both things a challenge for me, as I tend to paint pretty "tight" (though I am getting better about loosening up as the years go on). And, since I paint from photo references about 90% of the time, creating work without a photo, plein air, or still life reference to look at was a real challenge for my artist's brain! She also suggested some ways to add visual interest to a painting including splatter (which I use in almost every painting) and calligraphy (which I hadn't thought of), and a few other things.
Here are my two paintings from day one of the workshop...the first one, much tighter than intended. The second , very loose and impressionistic...very unusual for me. I was not entirely happy with either finished painting, but the exercise was very good.
Kristi guided us through identifying focal points in paintings and demonstrated her more "typical" style of painting, which I was very interested to observe. This day was also about creating a painting from a photo reference.
As much as I try, and I tend to use layers and washes of paint on my paintings, I have never quite grasped the technique of an underpainting that you allow to "shine" through on the light areas of your composition. It has been a frustration of mine in the past few years, and I was so happy to see the practice in person. Additionally, she added some advice on how to plan your painting's focal point and some techniques you can employ to draw the viewer in to the focal point.
On this day, once I finallhy decided which photo I wanted to use (one that I took on my trip to Italy), I commenced with the sketch and the first wash of light paint (the "underpainting"). Then, went to lunch while the first wash was drying and enjoyed the company of several lovely ladies who were taking the workshop with me, as well as Kristi. Cafe Rio....YUM. :)
In the afternoon I added more washes and a few details, trying to lead the viewer into my focal point, and ended up with a painting I really liked.
Then...the "critique" ...where we all displayed the things we had worked on and got feedback from Kristi and the otehr members of the workshop. My painting drew a lot of commentary. There were several suggestions made on how to touch up the painting to improve it...and, ironically, I also got personal feedback telling me not to change a thing. :) Guess if you painting draws enough attention to get that much feedback, at least people are looking at it!
Anyway, in the end, I incorporated some of the suggestions as I touched up the painting at home tonight. A few small changes, but I liked the final result. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a "before" picture of the painting, so I only have the final. This painting is relatively small...about 8x10. But, I liked it so well, I think I will paint it again in a larger format. :)