Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Land of Enchantment

"If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come."
--Native American proverb

Here're the paintings I completed in New Mexico (there are two more--one incomplete, and one a small one done on location at the Santuario de Chimayo; I'll post it tomorrow; I'll also try to post better photos of these first two). I'm surprised I don't have more--I do have some nice little sketches--especially since the workshop was full of hardworking and talented painters (there were twelve us, from all over the country: CA, AZ, FL, MD, TN and yours truly, NJ).
These paintings are all on quarter sheets (11 x 15).

Our teacher, Jan Hart--a lovely person and a terrific teacher; we got not only encouragement and great critiques, but also some very useful information about the properties of organic v. inorganic pigments --was also very good about getting us around to see the sights: her itinerary for us was ambitious, exhausting ... but I'm glad she went to the trouble; I feel like I saw everything I should on a first trip--Taos, Santa Fe, Chimayo, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu. (I ate everything too: all manner of tamales and chiles rellenos, killer breakfast burritos, stuffed sopaipillas--amazing!!--and fabulous Frito pie.)
Jan's son, Jonathan, a pastel artist, was visiting from Seattle, and was wonderful--he was just always there to help with anything you needed, and offered very valuable comments at critique time. One morning he gave a demonstration of his pastel technique: it was amazing, like magic!
Visit Jan's website, http://www.janhart.com/, to see her artwork and link to Jonathan's.

We met in the studio for breakfast around 8:30 and critiques and/or painting. Jan would answer questions and often gave a demonstration. The demos were highly instructive--and inspiring: you wanted to try it right away! At lunchtime we headed out for photo ops, sightseeing (the O'Keeffe house was a revelation; if I lived there, I'd live to be 99 1/2 too), and, on at least two occasions, painting on-site (though there often wound up not being enough time for this before dinner; and no one wanted to be late for dinner). We were welcome to return to the studio after dinner to paint, and many did. One night I painted until around 10:30 before retiring to the Days Inn for a Tecate.

One very useful thing Jan shared with us was her sketchbook.
When she works from a photo, Jan tapes the photo to the left page and does a value study on the right-hand page. Along with the value study, she also thinks about a title (I had always discounted the importance of a title, thinking of it as no more than and possibly a great deal worse than a label; but it also makes you think of what the painting's about--something else I am not in the habit of doing!), and notes the direction of the light and any other things she wants to keep in mind while painting. It seems a great way to prepare to paint, to gather your thoughts. Like in Chinese painting, when we would grind the ink before beginning.

This flat-topped mountain is the Pedernal, the one O'Keeffe said god told her she could have if she painted it enough. And I guess she did, since her ashes are up there.
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