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.


Anonymous said...

Marc... I can't thank you enough, it was a WONDERFUL workshop and I'd do it all over again...wind, heat & all! I hope to take another workshop in the near future...I have to get over my fear of flying first...either that or buy a hybrid car HaHaHa! It was snowing on Donner Pass on the way home, and it has been raining/windy here all weekend...nothing compared to that wicked hail you ran into though -WOW!!!

Again, my sincere gave me invaluable tools to work with, now to put them into practice :O)

Anonymous said...

We may have all been tired at the end...but we sure weren't bored!


Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

This is a great workshop tale, Marc. What a variety of weather you had! You're all to be commended for braving it. Thanks for sharing the story. (Nice paintings, too!)

Marc R. Hanson said...

Teresa...It was wonderful to meet both you and Mark and to paint with you in the workshop. You have a good eye for both color and for drawing and if you admit'll do some great things!!! :) Have the faith, keep it and paint like you mean it.
Hope to see you guys again one of these days soon. It was a great time despite the conditions.
Thanks again.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Sonni...You were a major part in keeping that 'boredom' level down, that's for sure! Was a great time.
Wish we could have done the nocturne that night. I was ready, but it does get late at this time of year. Come here in early February and we'll do one. The sun goes down reeeealllll early then. Be sure to bring the -100˚F boots though!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi Michael...I agree. They were troopers! Thanks for looking in Michael.

Anonymous said...

that California trail piece is awesome - its got a great sense of realism, i enjoy it a lot

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hey Simon!!! Thanks for all of your comments about my work. You're doing some pretty great little paintings yourself. Love the shoes in particular. My roommate at Art Center in Pasadena was a BC'er....Murray MacDonald and a piper at that. He's a designer and does architectural renderings up there somewhere, on an island now I think?
Thanks again and keep up the good work.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Marc. It is great to catch up on all that you have posted over the last couple of weeks. Sounds like you had a great group of students. That is great when that happens.
Very cool that you have them do the painting from memory exercise.
Great work as always.

Larry Seiler said...

Great stuff to read, Marc....what an adventure!

I liked the account of explanation with the back turned exercise to passerby'ers! hahaa...

Reminds me of reading Henri making students observe his seated model on the first floor, with their easels four flights of steps in another room. Good stuff!

My hats off to the students enduring such a week of heat, wind...a tribute to expectations they were investing in mentally for learning! Says much about character of students and instructor!!!