Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What I learned

This last paint-out was a good education. There were some REALLY good painters there who have been to workshops with REALLY, REALLY good painters...Paint-outs are worth going to for that reason alone: you can see that knowledge applied and painters happily share what they learn at workshops.
 Here's some of what struck me as valuable:

1. A lot of the painters came from large metropolitan areas: St. Louis, Chicago, Twin Cities, Milwaukee and so on. They seemed more attuned to non-rural/architectural subjects and saw more possibilities than I did. KEEP YOUR EYES ON 24/7. Beautiful is beautiful whatever it is.

2. Consequently, they seemed to mix more interesting greys...which I don't run into as much with green, rural subjects. I need to get better at mixing neutrals with 2 colors + white to keep them clear. Actually, I sort of "blinked" or "blanked". Black + white + one color would have been more interesting than what I was mixing. 

3. Free vs. loose.
Loose implies something that SHOULD be tight is coming un-glued. 
FREE implies something intact, but has life and movement. 
I'm still a bit blocky and solid. I could lose more edges...which would just happen if I was drawing more with paint - making things vs. coloring them in.

4. Light (but not white) passages benefit from being laid in a tone darker (with say, yellow ochre or orange if it's warm) and then being painted over in white, so that the two colors mix to the desired value but have a bit of broken color interest as well. Another beautiful variation on that is a warm-hued white over a pale blue. Sorolla did that well.

5. Perhaps NOT pre-setting your palette is beneficial: Pick your blues and other colors after you've surveyed the subject. A palette limited by the SUBJECT, not arbitrarily limited. 

6. If you're putting a general tone under your shapes in the early stages, BE AWARE OF IT'S INFLUENCE. Either put down something very close to the final color or use a complimentary hue. DON'T SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE. 

7. Work out the position of EVERYTHING in the picture at the start. EVERY area has to contribute. ALL THE MORE IMPORTANT if the area is in the FOREGROUND. If it won't work change your position to the subject or try another subject.

8. Strong value contrasts stand out on the wall. If the subject doesn't warrant them, be sure to have beautiful color harmonies - they're just as good.

A lot of this stuff I know but don't always apply - especially in the heat of the moment. Another good reason to attend paint-outs!


  1. Great info and thanks for sharing. I have a question about #4 though, what's a warm hued white? I know some brands sell different whites but just curious what you mean.

  2. I was thinking of a very light passage, almost white, but with a orange, yellow or pink cast to it. I used to mix the color and put it down but I noticed this other approach seems to have a bit more "sparkle" because the the two components don't mix completely.

  3. Looking forward to seeing how you work these tips into class lessons!