Sunday, August 17, 2014

La Caille, An Oasis in the Woods

Eight artists braved the beauty of La Caille, a restaurant located 
at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in Sandy, Utah (someone 
had to suffer...ha-ha).

Painting on the grounds of La Caille was like stepping onto 
the pages of a story book. It's rolling hills, stoney paths, water 
fountains and beautiful flowers were stunning. I half expected 
to see a princess walk out from one of the cottage-like structures. 
There were screaming peacocks, swans, geese, rabbits, roosters 
and other critters.

It was like being in a fairy tale. Perfect for plein air painting! 

We started out at 9:00 am, found individual places to set up 
and began our workshop.

Today was all about learning to control a palette knife.  
It would have been easy to use a brush, but I decided to 
have the students focus their efforts solely on knife work. 
It was a challenge for them to find the balance between 
not using enough paint and spreading too much paint on 
their canvas.

There were many details in the surroundings (like hanging 
flower baskets, ducks and garden sculpture), and we found 
it hard to remember to simplify our compositions. It was a 
real test in learning how to edit!

The first assignment was to complete a value study 
(monochromatic) of each composition.

After the value studies had been completed, we began our 
color studies. May I just say that it felt like there was never 
enough time to complete any of the paintings in this four-hour 

Having a value study to use as a reference was helpful when
the art principle of color was introduced.  We could look back
and forth between the value study and the color study to make 
sure the values were similar.

Introducing color added a level of complexity to our work. 
Selecting a value was relatively easy when we were painting 
with only one color. Having to determine the value of each new 
color required concentration and accurate observation! 

There was a lot of scraping and re-applying of the paint!

I was proud of the way in which the students worked. 
They didn't complain, they stayed focused and they 
produced some great work!

When I first began to plein air paint with a knife, my 
results were disastrous! I thought I was a pretty good 
artist but when I got out in the field (literally) and 
compared my first plein air paintings to those of the 
professionals in my group, I was embarrassed at the 
results of my efforts. I threw my first few plein air 
paintings in the dumpster (that was a mistake), 
however I stuck with it, improved my skills and I am 
seeing some success now.

It was worth the effort! 

Think of today's workshop as an exercise. Plein air 
painting is like everything else; it takes practice! Read 
some books on plein air and palette knife painting, 
take a few classes, but mostly - just paint. Add your 
brushes back into your plein air supplies with your 
palette knives. Combine the control of a paint brush 
with the spontaneity and liveliness of your palette knife.

Keep your plein air paintings in a box somewhere 
and in a year or so - get the old paintings out and 
see how much you have improved. Have some fun! 

Happy painting!!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Quiet & Calm: Does It Get Better Than This?

After a week of rain, we got lucky and landed a sunny day for our "Illustrated Journal" workshop. Nine of us hiked to the far side of Silver Lake in Brighton, Utah and prepared for a morning of plein air painting. 

I had scoped out the area the week before and knew exactly where I wanted to set up, however when we arrived, there was a fisherman there (Dimitri). "Will all of you be staying here in this spot?" he queried. Clearly his hopes for fishing in solitude were dashed.

In a heartbeat I said, "Yes, but we will whisper so that the fish will not be disturbed."
He seemed to like that solution and kept on fishing and we began to paint...quietly.

Judi gave a demonstration about using watercolor pencils and I provided a demo for painting asymmetrical trees.


The lake was a busy place and we often had people stop to look at our work or strike up a conversation. There was a young girl who vocalized her distaste for fish.  We could hear her coming from a distance because as she marched along the trail, she was saying (in a loud voice) things like, "I hate fish! It's bloody and disgusting with all those guts and stuff on the inside. I won't eat it...EVER!" Ha-ha! She was cute and had a big bow in her hair. 

During our lunch break, I reached into my backpack and pulled out a peanut butter sandwich. I set it on the log in front of me. As I turned to grab my water bottle, a squirrel ran across the log and tried to take the sandwich. I hissed at him (remembering to not disturb the fish) and waved my arms. He scooted away. I picked up my sandwich. He ran up the left side of my chair. I barked at him! He took off. Then he jumped onto the right arm of my chair and I instinctively struck him with my sketchbook and sent him flying.

Never saw the little critter again! 

We learned that the "Tour De Utah" bicycle race was on the same day and that the canyon would be shut down from 1:00 - 4:00 pm.  Our workshop was supposed to end at 1:00, however in light of the circumstances, we decided to end at 12:15; allowing us time to walk around the lake and get down the canyon.

Because of the early departure, we didn't get as much time as we wanted to write in our journals. Hopefully the students will write about their experiences when they arrive home. Even without the writing, I felt like the student illustrations stood on their own merits and depicted the Quiet & Calm of Silver Lake successfully!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dress Rehersal For The Silver Lake Workshop

Here's my illustrated Journal entry at Silver Lake, August 3, 2014.

Before teaching a workshop, I go the the exact location about a
week in advance. I look for scenic spots that would be good places 

for my students to paint. I make a note of where the sun is each hour
and try to select spots that will keep my class painting in the shade.

As always, there are happenings and sometimes dramatic events
that occur (great fodder for journal writing). These experiences
lend an air of unpredictability to my outings.

My fellow artist friend, Judi and her husband, Bill, accompanied
me to Silver Lake. The weather was perfect and we met some
wonderful folks along the way!

This is Officer Mike. He does canyon patrol.
I didn't realize that there is a police presence 
in all the canyons surrounding Salt Lake City.
It's nice to know that the unified police service
extends to our nature areas too! I should have 
checked this image to make sure his eyes were 
open...sorry, Mike.

Cecilia (on the right) and her daughter Julia stopped 
to view our work and strike up a conversation. They
both were very pleasant women!

     Here is Judi's rendition of the north side of the lake.

 Judi taking a mug shot of Bill with her iPhone.

Well, I have the place scoped out for next weekend's workshop, 
unfortunately it looks like we might have rain!  We'll see. 

I'm excited anyway!