Monday, May 01, 2006

Whitaker Workshop #6

Although I made these notes last week, my Internet connection at the hotel gave out on Tuesday and I haven't been able to continue posting until now.

On day 2, the workshop began with a continuation of the demonstration painting of Alexandra. Bill usually starts each painting session by carefully scraping off any ridges in the paint. Today he started by oiling out using Maroger medium. This procedure unifies the painting surface, lubricates it, and brings up "sunken" darks. Today he glazed over the shadow area on the jawline with ivory black mixed with a touch of raw umber. He made this a transparent area of darks and then painted into the glaze and pulled some of it into the lighter surrounding areas.

During the demonstration he talked constantly, relating again some of his most repeated lessons:
  • Violate your edges
  • Paint across the form (it gives more solidity).
  • Use the lightest touch possible.
  • Set up a "home position" and stay there to observe and paint.
  • Have your brightest colors swim in a sea of gray.
  • With color, start strong; you can always weaken the chroma as you go but it's harder to punch up.
Bill added color today, spotting in areas of color and value as he saw them. You can see the effect in the next two photos above.
Working this way, he painted about two hours or so every morning and we painted the remainder of the day. Bill spent a lot of time simply watching, seeing how each participating artist went about the work, suggesting techniques, corrections, and exercises in looking at the subject.
Perhaps the most useful exercise he suggested was to spend a lot of time looking at the model but without looking at one's painting. He suggested that we simply look at the model, experience her, and not think about anything. Just look; absorb the person's appearance. Get to know the landscape of the face. In fact, he advocates that one not think too much during the painting process. Bill says that he makes 2 to 5 sketches of each of his sitters, trying very hard to get to know their features, coloring, and structure. He paints from life almost every day.
(By the way, our model is Alexandra, the daughter of Chris Saper. Chris is a fine portrait painter with whom I've worked in the past. Chris was participating in the workshop as well.)
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