Friday, May 30, 2008

Late May Marsh

"Late May Marsh" - oil - 11x14 © Marc R. Hanson 2008
Not much painting today, lot's of tasks and errands to do. But I did get out this afternoon for a quick 11x14 of a pretty interesting sky. However, I used a board with a very rough Russian linen and my brain was not in gear with how much paint it required to cover this thing. This is a very simple, broadly stated painting. More about mood and color than anything else. It's always good to get one in, good for the soul. Thanks for looking.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Portrait Class

For a change of pace, and a total "re-education", I've been part of a Thursday 'sculpted portrait' class for the last 8 weeks. Unfortunately spring has brought a lot of travel for me and I have missed several sessions. Our instructor is James Shoop (click the title for his website), a highly trained and schooled sculptor (attended The Art Students League, and other New York schools) who teaches anatomy at the Atelier Lack in Minneapolis and in his studio in St.Croix Falls, WI. We are very fortunate to be able to study under him. He is 'the' model figurine maker for DC Comics, designing all of the models for any figurative products that they produce for the commercial market.

We are working in an oil based clay that doesn't really dry out as long as it's covered minimally. It's heated in a microwave to loosen it up to a workable consistency and applied over an armature that is made of metal pipe and wire.

The studies are life size, measuring from the model with calipers, and built slowly from the skull out.

My study is far from complete, but the basic proportions and structure are in place making it possible for me to continue to work at home with photos...I hope. On my piece I've just begun to build the mass of her hair, that is a major part of the design and to finish this will be very important to do well.

This side of the head is most complete. I took it as far as I could and got approval on placement from Jim so that I could use it as a reference for the other side. The model is a belly dancer with long flowing dreadlocks coming around her neck and over her shoulder, down her back and bangles in her hair. All of that would need to be added. But first and foremost is the basic structure and for me that was a challenge enough. I was not interested in 'finish', I know from teaching painting that having that in your mind when trying to learn a new thing is a trap. First the basics, then the rest. The process of working 3 dimensionally is exciting for a painter.

Where we are used to thinking "lighter, darker...warmer, cooler", to describe form, now becomes a process of angles, curves and movement in space...actual space, not 2 dimensional space. That was a challenge to re-orient my thinking process, to realize that I had to know which direction a planar angle held in space and how fast it made a directional change, where it started and stopped in actuality instead of where I could make it stop with color and value on a flat surface.

You probably all know this, but not having had any sculpture in my past, this was all very new to me...eye opening!

This has been one of the most enjoyable diversions into a different 'Art' arena that I've ever taken up. I hope to continue the challenge. Here's my effort to date.

© Marc R. Hanson 2008

I'll post Jim's piece to show how it's really done...though he says this is a long way from finish too. Pardon the photograph as it was taken hand held in very low light. His work is really spectacular as you can tell from even this incomplete study. As I mentioned, we are very lucky to have him just across the river in St. Croix Falls!

© James Shoop 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Calm peaceful...chilly...spring morning! Yeah!!!

'Morning- Watershed Pond' - 9x12 - oil ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
A little chilly for the end of May, but at least there's nothing dangerous happening in the sky. This is a little piece of land with a secluded pond that is near me. The light today was not anything to cheer about, rather dull. My problem to solve then became... how to paint "dull" and make it interesting. Hmmmm....I tried. Thanks for looking.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A California Workshop Adventure!!!

This is going to be a rather long post, starting with my 'welcome home' party, Minnesota style. Oh, first thing to happen is that I lost one of my two checked bags...though it was found and has been returned.

I've just returned from teaching a 5 day workshop in the Loomis, CA area. As usual, a great group of painters joined with me for five days of learning while being challenged by Nature and paint...and I hope by me. I have to give all of the participants more credit for sticking this one out than I would to a group of native Polynesians painting in a snow storm in bikinis!!! No kidding, we endured everything from temps pushing over 100˚F to 45mph winds, including dust and weed seeds in the eyes and on the paintings. Funny thing is, I planned this workshop by looking at the weather almanac and picking what historically looked like a very calm, mild, and dry period for the spring in California's northern region. The two days following the workshop it was in the low 50'sF with rain and snow up on the mountain passes. So much for 'blah-blah' California climates.

Or at least I was thinking that way until I started my trip from MSP back up to Taylors Falls on Sunday evening! We experienced a severe weather breakout that left a path of terrible destruction in it's path just southwest of me. Many homes completely destroyed, and many injuries and one death that is known of so far. You've probably heard of how green it looks before a tornado...that's green let me tell you.

Here's what it did to me about 20 miles from my house. The hail stones were the size of tennis balls, according to those who had few enough brain cells to go out and grab one! The way they hit my windshield, while driving at 55mph, told me that it would not be good to go grab one just to see how big it was. They were more than big enough. I ended up with these two windshield impacts and three dents on my truck's body. Fortunately I was able to pull off as soon as I was hit and point the back of the truck into the onslaught of falling hail stones and that probably saved my entire windshield from being blown out. That would have made a very wet ride home.

So on to the workshop itself. The day I left, Friday prior to the Monday start, the Loomis area had 'heat alert' weather warnings for temps pushing the 105˚F mark. This is just way too hot, even in the shade. But the location that I had planned to use for us was all natural with shade from oak trees, but out in the flats of a very grassy area. The heat lasted for about two days of the class but then the winds picked up and blew at gusts approaching 45mph or more! So my next challenge was to find areas to paint that were out of the wind. Truthfully, there weren't any. So we stuck close to town and painted for a couple of days in a park that challenged Hawthorne's statement that "It's better to make something big out of something small than to make something small out of something big." We were being challenged to make "anything" period!!! I will say it again, that these students stayed out there and painted two or three paintings in the afternoon heat, wind, dust and just pure aggravation...speaks volumes about the kind of people they were. They weren't quitters, that is the one thing I know for sure. I'm very appreciative of their being that way, of being committed to paint and learn despite Mother Natures lessons. For a number of them, this was their first experience painting outside. What an introduction. They made the week a true pleasure.
Here are a few picks of the area that I painted and that we did make it to on the last day of the workshop. We tried one other day but it was too windy.

So we located at The Horton Iris Farm, in Loomis, and painted there for two days until the temps bottomed out. This worked out very well for the group. It was shady and in a low lying area so the winds swirled keeping us cool. Not to mention the eclectic mix of old 'stuff' and buildings that the owners have around the property. There was lot's to paint, but the iris bloom was over so we made do. That's a lesson all in it's own, painting with what is available.

'Orange Port-A-Potty In Black And White' - oil - 6x8 - ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
This is a black and white demo of an orange Port-a Potty with a white roof. For the students it was a good thing to see how important it is to carefully analyze and orchestrate the value scale of the scene that is in front of them. It was hard not to see the warmth of the faded orange as being the brightest value out there. Fortunately the white roof gave away 'who' held that position of the lightest value in the scene. Anyway, I use these black and white exercises in class to teach the importance of understanding how the values of the various passages and objects in the scene create the impact that the scene has to the eye. And how that relates to orchestrating color and value for a visual statement that says what it needs to say.

You might think that the instructor guiding these students has a screw might be right! This is the class painting what's behind them! You should have seen the looks on peoples faces who were passing by. I finally had to explain to a few of them what the class was doing just to save face in case they overheard one of the students swearing at my name out loud.
This is an exercise where they have 5 minutes to observe the subject ( which was behind them), followed by 20 minutes to turn back to their easels to paint what they remember. Robert Henri, Frank Reilly, John F. Carlson among other notable teachers used similar exercises with students to help them to see that the impression of what is in front of them is what should be painted, not all of the detail that is there, and to help improve their visual retention.
Following this hour long exercise, three sessions of 5/20, I let them turn and paint the same subject while looking at it for one hour. The only thing that really improved from the first painting, when viewing both studies of each student, was the accuracy of their drawing. That makes sense of course. While looking at the subject you will pick up more 'structural' information than when remembering it. But...and a big 'but...each and every painter painted the first one from memory with better color and with a very accurate layout of what was behind them. In fact, their color and application was so good without staring at the subject the entire time, that several have told me that they intend to keep up this exercise when they get home.

It was a good workshop with another great group of painters and people who I now consider friends. I'm lucky person to do be able to do this.

Here are some of the demos and paintings that I did while there.

'10a.m. And 98 Degrees' - oil - 9x12 ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
I painted this on one of the mornings before the workshop started. It was HOT! I found one spot in the shade with limited views, but was interested in the brilliance of the grasses against the large dark valley oaks leaf masses.

'Traylor Homestead' - oil - 8x10 ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
Painted in the evening looking toward the homestead of the family who donated the land to Placer County for the park. I hope they know what they did by donating this land. I watched a coyote being chased by a cow, vultures, a number of hawks of interest, wild turkeys, innumerable California quail (very amusing birds to watch), pheasants, lizards, cottontail and large jackrabbits, and ducks all who inhabit this beautiful piece of what the area used to look like. It's a real treasure for the area to have this large a track of unspoiled land to use.

'Horton's Old Ford Shed' - oil - 8x10 ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
Again before the class began, last weekend, I painted at the Horton Iris Farm. This old Ford flatbed truck was seeking shelter from the heat too. This was a fun exercise in trying to keep the value of the overhang and it's contents dark and rich enough for the sunlit areas to look sunlit, but to still be able to play with the subtle, but relatively warm, cool tones of the shadows.

'Oak On A Knoll' - 9x12 oil ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
This is a demo on the 'can't look at what you're painting' day, in the afternoon. I looked! Some in the group wanted a limited palette demo so this was painted with just Cad Lemon, Permanent Red Medium, Utlramarine Blue and Titanium White. By the way, I used the Griffon (W&N) Fast Drying Alkyd Tit White for the entire trip. I'm getting to really like the way it sets up so fast. In the heat of last week it set up in minutes sometimes. It was windy and hot again, but it was a good demo to do because it is the subject that the students painted in the morning. I had to paint in the direct sun and explained to them the dangers of that and what I do to try to compensate in that situation. We can't always have things perfect while painting...duh!

'California Trail' - 9x12 - pastel on paper ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
It was unusual for me not to have more than one pastelist in a class, and she was also an oil painter. But that was the case so this is the only pastel demo I did during the week.

'Horton Iris Garden' - 6x8 - oil ©Marc R. Hanson
This was painted last fall and is one reason I decided to hold the California workshop. The color is phenomenal there, and usually the weather is too.

If any of this torture is of interest to some of the painters out there, I still have workshops open and upcoming in Merriam, KS in two weeks, Traverse City, MI the last week of June, Grants, NM the last week of July, and my five day here in Taylors Falls, MN in August. Email me for more information on any of these workshops if you are interested.
PS...It's really not torture, it's painting and how much more fun could it be than that! And the weather "couldn't be any worse"...I promise! Thanks for looking in.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

'First Green Of Spring' - oil - 8x10 - ©Marc R. Hanson 2008
I've been nursing a cold for the last few days and the weather has been perfect spring painting material! So today, I leave tomorrow to teach in California for a week, and with that in mind I had to get out at least this morning before getting ready for the trip. I'm glad I did, the warmth felt good and I know that by the time I return all of the delicacy of spring will be gone and full fledged leaf growth will have happened. This is a good time of year. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Here are a couple from the OPA trip to Missoula, MT the first weekend of May. There were a lot of activities over the weekend but Kami, Joni Jurek and I managed to get out into the country side to paint a couple of times. It's always hard to go somewhere new and find the spots right away. So there is a lot of driving usually involved, especially when somewhere like Montana where every bend is another inspiring view...but what's around that next corner??? That's the trap.
We painted up the Blackfoot River canyon, northeast of Missoula, and south of Missoula in the Bitteroot River Valley...Stunning!!!
For some reason we spent a long time on each of our little 8x10's. We think it's because it was just so nice to be out there in the West's warmer weather, standing at the foot of such majesty...painting. I continue to be amazed at how special it is that I get to dot this thing I do. And when standing amidst the grandeur of the western mountains, quantity is a 'lower shelf' item, quality of the experience is 'top shelf' for me.

'Still Snow Up There' - oil on board - 8x10 - © Marc R. Hanson 2008

This piece is from our stop along the Blackfoot River. It had all the 'pictorial' elements that attract picture makers like us. Blue sky, distant snow covered peaks, good middle ground darks and a foreground of the rushing Blackfoot River. What's not to like about that?
I painted it on one of my pumice/acrylic primed boards using W/N Griffon Quick Dry White. I only mention that because the combo of the two creates a pretty tacky surface, good for dragging a loaded brush of paint onto. You'll see that texture if you enlarge the image by clicking on it.

'Bitter Dog Barking' - oil - 8x10 - © Marc R. Hanson 2008

There is a story to this location that relates to the title. Again, Kami, Joni and I were happily enjoying, the Bitterroot River this time, and the glory of being in the Big Sky country with paints and friends. This location was spectacular, I'm attaching another photo to show what we were up against, and we took some time to feel it out...but mostly to just marvel at the beauty all around us.

Once we set up to paint, and were happily painting along, Kami and I were jolted by the sudden very angry growling and barking of a dog about 5 yards behind us. This was not a dog just saying "Hey, look at me!". This, ears laid back, snarling (ugly by the way) critter was saying something more like "Get the *^@!(**!#* out of here or I'm going to eat YOU BOTH!!!" We decided it best not to pay any attention to him...right...that is the hardest thing in the world to do, paint with a vicious dog right behind you while ignoring the dog. Well this went on for some time. Eventually we grouped together, along with a big stick in hand, to look like more unappealing 'victims' to this dog. That didn't do a lot to dissuade his intentions for quite some time. This was uncomfortable and the normal things like not making eye contact, ignoring it and even indicating that we were willing to jump into the rushing river if need be...didn't seem to make a difference. To abbreviate a really long story, eventually he wandered off...towards Joni who did avoid him by her ignoring his snarls...with no damage. We did keep a look out for him the rest of the time we were painting though...and that was a real interruption to our concentration.
Could be why we painted on our 8x10 panels for...well...let's just say...'too long'. :)
Hence the title of my sketch from the location..."Bitter Dog Barking".

Friday, May 9, 2008

'Arcola Spring' - pastel - 8x16 - field study

You might be saying, "Spring!?". That's what I thought, so I thought some more. My first thought was "Am I color blind?"..."This looks like fall, not spring???" If I have any faith in what I do it's that I can mix the colors that I see in front of me, with some creative input that is. But these colors look like fall no matter how many excuses I come up with. However, my faith in mixing color holds because while painting this one, any color with a hint of green in it jumped out at me screaming, "NO!". So I let the faith in my color recognition abilities override what the pre-conceptive area of my brain was telling me and painted what I saw, not what I thought. The result is a spring painting that isn't your 'typical' spring color scheme.

But I'm still wondering why the color is so warm in the new spring growth. Does it matter to a visual artist? No, it doesn't have to. It is important to me however. And I think it is because I come from many years of being an amateur naturalist and painting works that required the co-ordination of flora, fauna and seasons. My thought here is that the maples (swamp maples I think) are flooded and have been for several weeks. They are growing on islands in the middle of the St. Croix River and they regularly have to deal with high water for a short period of time. It doesn't look likely that they'll be on dry ground for a couple of weeks to come yet. It might be that they are not getting the mineral and other nutrient content from the soil that they ordinarily would, and like your houseplants (at least mine), if overwatered....the leaves will yellow. In a normal year, when the high water has receded earlier, the leaves of these maples at this stage are not as warm, are more 'limey' green.

Okay, enough natural history for today. Thanks for looking in.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

'Wetland, Co. Rd. 7' - pastel - 8x16 - field study

This morning started like a beautiful spring day in May. Sun, warmth, the buds just starting to bulge with the expectant revealing of the new leaf growth for the season. Frogs croaking, red wing blackbirds chirping and establishing territories, and YES....Ticks! Darn, they're back. This is a time of the year when I most like to take out the pastels and try to capture that elusive, feather weight quality that the new greens possess. This is just me talking, but in my head, oil paints are a little 'heavy' and slightly 'clumsy' for the incredibly delicate textures and subtle shifts in hue and intensity that I see out there right now. I'm not saying that oils aren't completely compatible with it ( no nasty emails please :), but I love what pastel will do for me at this time of year. Anyway, this is the result. Thanks for looking.