Re-Charge Your Mojo
Last week, I went to Monterey, CA to attend Weekend with the Masters – the art workshop and conference hosted by American Artist magazine and a handful of art supply vendors. Just like last year, I left the event on the verge of spontaneous combustion of the brain. Hundreds of artists from all over the U.S. are under the same roof for four days; the all-art-all-the-time energy was palpable and fascinating. (Imagine talking about brushes & various papers for an hour over lunch with no one getting bored! Or just by chance, meeting a group of attendees who have admired the same artist online and in publications, and for the first time, will watch him/her demo a painting live & discuss process – together.) Conferences like this are the antidote for any artist who spends days and weeks working alone in the studio.
There were about 26 instructors on site, so attendees had a chance to take multiple classes and attend various demos from 5-8 outstanding artists in just a few days. Instructors also got a chance to meet each other – some for the first time – and I saw many of them wandering in and out of the classes of their peers to listen in, or paint/draw for awhile. Evenings were dotted with clusters of kindred spirit attendees and instructors – huddled over dinner & drinks – talking about exhibits, museums, galleries, process, marketing and supplies. The energy level and stimulus at events like this make focusing enough to draw or paint challenging to me, so I usually opt for demos where I can watch, take notes and just absorb. I made an exception for the all day session with Daniel Sprick – one of my favorite contemporary painters. He did a demo for us in the first half (photos below) and we did drawings or paintings of the model with him in the second half (my unfinished study is above).
Daniel set up his easel relatively close to the model and used a small panel and Cobra water miscible oil paints – which were new to him (a gift from the manufacturer attending the event).
Daniel’s portrait was started with a line drawing of the model’s head and features, laid in very light with vine charcoal, followed by a broad fill in with thinned pigment – which obliterated what he laid in with the charcoal. When asked why he brushed his charcoal drawing away with the paint, he smiled and said you should trust that if you can lay features in once with charcoal, you’ll be able to place them again with paint. And it’s a second chance to get it right. In the shot above, he went back into the flat mass of the shape of the model’s head and started blocking in shadow patterns and making adjustments to the curves of the model’s face and cheekbones.
Daniel’s palette for the portrait (Cobra Water Miscible Oils)
Daniel uses a mahl stick to steady his hand for the smaller or finer brushwork.
He laid in daubs of color with deliberate, slow placement, and made jokes about how kind we all were to stay and watch such unexciting stuff.
Daniel uses a fan brush – held lightly at the tail of the handle – to gently soften edges over a brow or cheekbone of the bridge of the nose, etc.
I know it’s cliche, but watching the face emerge from the panel under his brushes was akin to a magic show. He is such a masterful painter, and this was just a two hour demo. He told us that he normally works 12 hours interrupted on the first day of painting a head.
I’m 77 this year, and I’m seeing more and more color with a better-trained eye. I think I need two more lifetimes to get painting down. But I don’t have that “artistic angst”. Painting is a joy, and I’m grateful every time I pick up a brush that this is my vocation. We should all paint like a pig eats.
~Richard Shmid at 2011 Weekend with the Masters