Monday, September 21, 2015

Great time in Wisconsin

  This past weekend I had the privilege of leading a workshop with 11 talented pastelists from the Wisconsin Pastel Artists group. These folks know their medium so my contribution was to share what might be called "seeing skills". And that boils down to not looking at things in isolation. It's natural to look at just the thing you're trying to focus in hard...but to make it look like it's sitting in space in natural light you have to see it and it's surroundings SIMULTANEOUSLY. The thing is, our eye spontaneously adjusts for any distance or atmosphere. So each place you look in isolation ends up looking somewhat similar spatially when painted. It's also why a lot of painters who do great work in the studio from photos crash and burn on location.
  The remedy is to look at your chosen center of interest and assess the color and level of detail of its surroundings by noticing how they appear in your PERIPHAL VISION. Look at the color of something distant. Then put your finger up to the side of it and focus on the finger. The color of that distant thing is quite different when you see it in your PERIPHAL VISION. It's usually not too detailed compared to your finger either...until you let your eye stray back to the distance. It's a habit you have to develop and keep reminding yourself to practice.
 Anyway, we worked at a beautiful park overlooking Lake Michigan in perfect weather.

The water was indigo, turquoise and something like cafe au lait. Cynthia Dirtzu worked from this bluff where your phone would randomly switch time zones...freaky.

 I was pleased that everyone was getting a convincing sense of the day's lighting. Carol Chapman took on these bluffs (which have no fences to prevent your taking any vantage point, though there were a couple that were placed to protect the eroding bluffs from US).

 Julia Pagenkopf pulled off an amazing view of the grasses and foliage that grow right to the bluff's edge.

 On Sunday we worked in a marsh area nearby to switch from vista to close subject. Michelle Murphy and Marcia Gorra-Patek took on the problem of getting a shallow plane of water to read flat.

There was a lot of good work done that weekend. You may be able to see it on the Wisconsin Pastel Artists FB page.
 I had a great time with some new artist friends and discovered there's more to Milwaukee than beer, sausage and Harleys. It's a formidable food town. The find of the weekend was Kopp's. A dozen life sized cow sculptures in the parking lot, a Jetsons style circular building, a retro-futuristic interior and DELICIOUS butter pecan frozen custard (which blows ice cream away).


  1. Beautiful scenery, talented and friendly artists, good weather and food.......sounds wonderful! I am sure the artists all benefitted from your workshop. I will check out their Facebook page.

  2. This was one of the best workshops I have attended. John is an exceptional teacher and his demonstration really illustrated the concepts he was trying to convey - which he did in clear, articulate language. And he spent a LOT of time with each artist. Can't wait for the next workshop!