Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This week I'm involved in a workshop with Thomas Bosket, my long-time teacher who teaches at Parsons School of Design in NYC during the school year.  This is the 6th or 7th time I've worked with him, beginning in 2000 or so.  I met him when I took a drawing class he taught at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN.  He's a fabulous teacher, full of knowledge and an insatiable desire to share it.  He is zany, intuitive, kind, and demanding. 

When I work with him, I invariably learn enough for me to chew on for the next year or two.  My work shifts dramatically after his workshops, and I find it takes me a couple of years to absorb everything I've learned and to integrate it so it's mine.  Our first year together, I went from drawing 3" pregnant nudes in pencil to drawing my kids' faces 3'x6' on brown paper!  THAT was dramatic!  The thing is, I feel like both options are completely valid, and I like both - it's just that he opens me up to possibilities I hadn't considered before because I hadn't know they existed.

The other thing he helps me do is figure out how to integrate my very intense, emotional side and my more perfectionistic, careful side.  Can you figure out which is which in the two pictures I've put here?!  I tend to behave very carefully in my world so I won't rock the boat or upset people.  That part of me certainly comes out in my very careful, photorealistic work.  But there's also another part of me which is quite intense and emotional.  I feel deeply - what artist doesn't? - and, with those with whom I feel safe, I express myself thoroughly.  I would ideally love to integrate those two parts more fully both in my life and in my art. 

Each time I work with Thomas, I work on ways to accomplish that.  Over the years I've found ways to bring more passion into my art, even if it's subdued and subtle.  The picture on the left, Dancing Woman, isn't subtle at all!  I had begun the canvas months before but couldn't get anywhere with it so I set it aside.  Then one day I was feeling angry and decided to blow it out all over the canvas.  In 2 hours I had a finished piece, and I felt so much calmer!  It was great therapy!  So constructive - and effective!

I will also often paint with my hands (with latex gloves on) because that is so visceral.  It's so satisfying - like finger painting when I was a kid, or making mud pies.  The picture I did of Dylan recently was done with my fingers.  I like the immediacy of it.

In this workshop with Thomas, I'm trying to learn how to paint classically, like Ruebens and those guys.  I am aware that I don't have a lot of technique - I just paint however occurs to me.  So I figured if I learn the classical way to paint, I can then choose to use that or not, but I'll be making a clear choice rather than working by default.  So this morning Thomas showed me the first step to painting a cactus in this method.  it's extremely dark and subtle at this point. 

First he painted the canvas brown - he wanted to use burnt umber, but all I had was burnt sienna, so he used that mixed with a bit of Vermillion (red).  Then he mixed black and white - I NEVER use black! - and painted the shadows in varying values of grey.  Then he modified the greys by putting color in with them, but still in the mid-value range - not very dark, not very light.  The result is the picture you see (except that it's a poor picture because of the glare on it from the wet oils - sorry!)

Thomas is going to show me the other steps tonight so I can see the whole process from start to finish.  Thank goodness!  I'm finding it embarassingly difficult to understand and absorb the process from words.  I really need to see it, then I need to do it!

This afternoon after his lesson I took out a canvas I'd laid aside a few months ago (Shiela x 4) and started doing the process on it.  First I covered the canvas with a layer of sienna brown mixed with a bit of burnt umber.  I don't  have a picture of that.  Then I began putting in the greys on the far left-hand image. The task I set for myself was to render the values correctly in grey.  I didn't get to the next stage yet - this one took a long time.  What it feels like to me is that this process takes many, many layers - it's a lot more work than direct painting.  You also have to know where you're going and trust that the process will get you there.  I don't quite trust it yet - that this grey image will end up with luminous gorgeous skin.  I have done that with direct painting, but I can't figure out how to get there from here.  It seems like the greys would just remain grey and yucky. 

I do trust Thomas, though, and look forward to learning how to do it.  I have an image of a woman who has exceedingly pale skin.  I'm looking forward to figuring out how to make her look effervescent and glowing from inside through this method.

Stay tuned!!

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