13 October 2012

Ray Roberts Day 2.

Hey! I'm liking my progress.

 Day two rolls around and we are treated to a day in the sun with no respite or shade. Yet, we soldier on because we have to crank them out. I'll let you know that Ray's workshop involves painting lots and lots of boards. He did THREE demos each of the three days ! Plus at least two critiques per painting.  Granted it takes him an average of 30  mins. for each demo ( the only breaks we get) but they are all a delight to watch.

Another one of my pieces. A very simple composition. But the sea is a bumpy moving mirror and after a while one sees all kinds of hues, colors and shapes. Who said this was relaxing?

Probably my least successful attempt.

On the second day we honed in the same basic principles: design , organic shapes, color coding. Some new tips also. For example Ray demonstrated how to enhance the core shadow on rocks by adding a dark saturated color where the light turns to shadow. He also explained how to modulate a painting with atmospheric perspective through color. He said , for example, that yellow greens are the colors that first fade away with distance so foreground yellows should remain the most saturated an clean.

As for the mental state of painting, Ray said it has to be somewhat childlike. Children do not act driven by an "inner architect" that wants to organize the space and align things, they do have a natural ability to create interesting forms and designs and their intuition alone makes the avoid the pitfalls of static and boring.
Ray switching between left and right brain.
A watercolor sketch i did  of Ray teaching.

Some friends asked me to post my notes.
Office with a view.

One piece of advice of particularly liked: SQUINTING is a great tool not only because it eliminates detail but also because it amalgamates value and color relationships. Especially in a marine environment where color shifts are the norm rather than the exception, squinting gives a much clearer idea of what color things add up to.  Watch out for blue colors, blue color make paintings colder and people respond better to warmth  in color.

Why is it that a boldly composed painting looks more realistic than one where the details have been painstakingly carved out? To sum it up: A stylized pattern makes the artwork look more real than a faithful rendering. Stylize to make your artwork look more real. By stylization we mean the crafted design that engages the eye and the color application that respects the values, belongs to a clear element in the composition and is as accurate as possible, you can push it a bit as well.

Ray composes an atmospheric piece or a wide view. . First the dark shapes

Avoiding repetition , tangents and symmetry.

The hills in the back are added in as a block.

In comes the white foamy water, now with a milky hue.

Everything has its color code and its design.

The resolved sketch.

12 October 2012

Ray Roberts' Workshop Day 1

 I have been looking forward to take a workshop with master Ray Roberts for a long time. So when I found out he was giving one in Malibu I signed up right then and there. Ray Roberts, in my opinion, is one of the best landscapes painters alive and we are lucky that he teaches.

While I talk about his workshop  on this blog, there is no substitute to taking it and seeing him work. So I consider this post mostly as a record for myself.

My first exercise after Ray's demo. Already things happening.
 Ray Roberts paints "sketches" in plein air, sometimes up to ten a day. He paints them very quickly but not rushed and doesn't consider them finished paintings but just reference for larger pieces. If a sketch looks good, Ray suggests it might make a good larger piece . They are used for color reference.  Along with photographs and video -yes, video is used to freeze frame for example a wave in mid-explosion- they constitute the basis for larger paintings.

Reductio ad minimum. Small pochade , few brushes, simpled gessoed card or plywood.

Ray's  palette is not necessarily fixed. Some interesting things about it: It's already  spread out . There are no earth tones, Ray likes to mix reds and greens to create those. Because it's hard to keep them clean, Ray pre-mixes three small piles for  highlights. White PLUS yellow, orange and red. Sometimes he also premixes some phtalo yellow green.

Ray looks for  a simple statement and composition.  Nothing is detailed. He usually would start by mixing a neutral color and  creating the main shapes. Dark shapes first and then moving on to the other main blocks of color. He is very conscious of design and composition at this stage. One thing he emphasizes is the creation of an interesting design: no symmetries, repetitive forms, similar spaces.... I personally thought this was not a problem for me until I started working and he critiqued. What a battle it turned out to be and what a lesson. Only for the trouble I had, the workshop was worth its price several times over.

Starting the sketch with some bold neutral shapes and darks. Already design decisions are made. 

Premixing for highlights.

Deciding where the wave should go.

Drawing, according to Ray, is an ongoing process. To draw and then "fill in" the forms creates stiff looking paintings. He constantly makes decisions as he goes along and is not beyond moving things around to fit a better more interesting  form.  he likes to keep one color mix for every compositional element so for example, all the foam shadow areas will draw from the same distinct color. The rocks will have their own color, the ocean, etc...  This color separation creates clarity in the elements.

The lead color of the morning ocean confines the warm specular highlights of the sun . Observe the softer edge of the wave crashing within the rock to the left.

Even the highlights serve a compositional purpose

Almost there. The warm highlights are the brightest element. Observe the foam of the crashing wave is not white but a shade of purple . The highlights have to stand out.

 I made that little graph with Monet in the center to illustrate a common rule regarding the colors of the sky. The zenith would tend to the a reddish ultramarine and as we approach the horizon we can see a shift in the hue. This is a simple rule but it underlines the importance of  capturing the gradations of color that occur in big surfaces like the sky but also the ocean or even large areas of rock and foam.

Some examples of Ray's sketches.   They are done very quickly and in some cases he divides the canvas to make even quicker sketches where he experiments with  different color approaches. These are color and compostion notes that a photograph would never reveal. Looking at them it is easy to see why photographic reference is quite insufficient.

High Key, Normal View, High Saturation

The highlights have added extra vibration by adding different color notes withing the area.

Ray tries to avid the expected. Always seeks the organic forms and the "ins" and "outs". Bigger forms.  Also avoids  earth tones that tend to dull things out.  Because the light changes very often  sometimes he keeps t canvases handy.  One in case of sunny skies, another when the clouds roll.
There is a certain "color coding" like I mentioned , every big shape is within one color mix.

04 October 2012

Rankin Ranch C.A.C. paint out

"Chicken Run" 9"x12"
The Rankin Ranch is near Tehachapi, in Kern county, California. It occupies a basin and it is somewhat deep in the mountains . The Rankin family has owned it for generations and runs the ranch just like any other ranch except they do allow for visitors who want to enjoy the ranch atmosphere (think dung) . Dwight and Laura Dreyer organized this outing and it turned out to be quite an experience.

Arriving at a new location to paint always involves a bit of scouting and figuring out what is there that will inspire the eye. After our trip to Tejon Ranch, where the main attraction is the natural beauty, I was expecting a similar treat. While also very beautiful, Rankin Ranch's main visual appeal is the fact that is indeed a working ranch, with  cowboys, cows, horses...the works. And they are not there to perform for you or planted by the County Fair. They go about their business and  you can watch. Always behind the fence. Cows are temperamental that way.

It is for this reason that I'm still upset about missing the cowboys as they maneuvered the cows from the corrals early in the morning the first day. We were advised to witness it but I decided to paint the chickens above  instead. It is a nice painting mind you but it doesn't compare to some of the images some other lucky artists took with their cameras. My point is: if you happen to be in a ranch like this, it might be worth thinking of it not only as a place to paint but a great place to gather reference for future studio art. You've been advised. Master of the West I am not but I wish I had been a bit more adept at chasing the action.

"Amanda Rankin, cowgirl" watercolor
 The Dreyers  organized for Amanda Rankin to graciously pose in full gear and with a fidgety horse that ended up not wanting to model. I just got ten minutes to sketch her  (so many options can be overwhelming) but she was a great model. There was also a petting zoo where I met "Poncho" the miniature donkey with a lousy attitude and the subject of the painting below.  And the rest of the rodeo included beautiful vistas, a great homestead building, old barns and even  a cute creek. Lots and lots ob subject matter, most of it in constant motion.

"Poncho and the goats" 8"x10"

This is a working ranch, not  a show

The main painting subject will be cows and cowboys.
 Among the painters that came, I had the chance to make some new friends  and annoy the old ones all over  again. Michael Obermeyer was there creating wonderful piece after wonderful piece and not missing a beat. He certainly knows how to  make great use of his time because he managed to hit all the events and opportunities.  Also there were Alfred Tse, Molly Lipscher (with her new customized Ford Transit in which she intends to install a studio complete with sleeping cot, stove and porta-potty, somehow), Jane Thorpe, Rose Ash, Diane McClary, Nancy Angelini, Diane Nelson, Frances Pampeyan .... some sharing cabins and some on their own. This cabin sharing business was the source of much hilarity. Details shall remain absent.

And talking about cabins, the facilities were very nice with a large community room and a dining hall festooned with "Republican of the Year" diplomas and women in Nancy Reaganesqe hairdos . You get my point, Obama is not coming to visit and a glance at an issue of "Ranch" magazine will bring that point home in a hurry. The people in the ranch couldn't have been nicer if they tried , including the very patient cowboys (even though I suspect they liked posing for pictures because they squinted into the distance with that forlorn look that is "just so" and  shifted their hip balance with a bit of sass as if a movie director was at their heels).

So city folk, if you ever happen to go paint in Ranking Ranch, make sure your camera batteries are in tip top shape and may be this is time to invest in a good lens.

Michael Obermeyer exploring the possibilites

Moments of beauty are unpredictable and fast

Early morning over the