Oil Painting in Texas

I hadn't traveled by myself in a very, very long time. So this was a big deal for me. Usually I'm traveling with friends, or my partner, but this time would be a solo adventure. The last time I visited my friend in Dallas was in 2011, so this was an overdue trip! 

The painting workshop lasted 3 days: Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM, Saturday, 9 - 3 and Sunday 1-4. I couldn't wait to have all that studio time to myself to absorb all the juicy new experiences and techniques. This workshop did not disappoint. Pamela is an amazing instructor and I connected with her right away, Her style is is loose and expressive, and while she is not formally trained (i.e., no art school) I can tell she had all the foundational painting knowledge in place. 

We began by painting very quick gesture style paintings with one color, red oxide. The goal was to not think and worry about details, just get the basic forms down. These were 1 minute paintings that graduated to 2 minute paintings and finally 5 minutes. We would paint, wipe it down, do it again. After doing a bunch of 1 and 2 minute paintings, 5 minutes seemed like a long time!

We painted from a live model on Friday - who was absolutely stunning! Pamela did an hour long demo, showing us how she begins a painting. Watching her mix colors was invaluable for me. I really wanted to see how she set up her palette and how she mixed up her colors in advance. This was so helpful to understand the various tones needed in advance, and then how to intuitively mix paint in between. It was very challenging to paint from a live model. I hadn't done this since college and it was really difficult for me. I made a painting that was kinda, meh, but it was a start. 

We took a bunch of photos of the model at the end of Friday to use for references on Saturday. We learned to work from photography, using Photoshop as an editing tool to crop, rotate, and edit with oil brush tools to create our reference image. This was right up my alley as I normally use photo references in my work. But now I could really understand the difference in how a photograph can flatten shadow areas and where as a painter we need to really create depth in the shadows to create a value, rich painting. Warm shadows and cool highlights. This is how to get the glowing effect.

I decided to paint her demo piece and use her exact color mixes to practice. (see first image)

I chose a reference from dozens of pics I took on my phone of the model on Friday. Pamela helped me decide on a composition-and recommended I do a tall, vertical painting and then we discussed a plan on how to mix my colors.

And at the end of Sunday, I painted this.

Using similar color mixes I learned for the skin tones, and mixing the values of her dress on my own, I was able to create a similar light-filled image. I felt like this was going in the right direction.

Pamela walked by and gasped, and said "you've got it, this is beautiful" She said "don't touch it, this is finished!" That was a meaningful message for me. I was kinda stunned at first, because I wasn't sure, and part of me wanted to keep going. We talked about how good paintings get ruined this way. That aha moment was exactly what I was looking for, and it gave me more confidence in allowing my process to not be perfect.

My mind was racing with all the ideas of how I could take what I learned an incorporate into my painting practice at home. I loved painting the figure, and it will be interesting to see what evolves going forward. Wildlife will continue to be my primary subject matter, but the figure may begin weaving it's way in to my process. Stay tuned!