Just ended a weeks’ workshop given by Bruce Williamson, an artist and teacher living in Texas who flew here to St. Croix to hold a plein air workshop with the idea of turning us into ” Painters of Light”. He refers to The Yin/Yang of Painting by Hongnian Zhang and Lois Woolley.
Some rapt students at the waters’ edge watching a landscape take shape.
Bruce is a wonderful painter and generous teacher. I wondered what the challenges would be in painting with acrylics while everyone else painted with oils.
I soon found out.
I likened it to wanting to dance with the corps, but while they were in ballet slippers, I was in tap shoes! Did I enjoy it? Yes! Did I learn? Yes! Was I able to apply the same techniques and get the same results? A very frustrated no!
Our repertoire consisted of still life and landscape with the components of composition ( light and dark ), light source ( warm light, cool shadows ), focal point, and value based on grey scale ( Frank Gardner has a great post on this ) being consistent in whatever we painted. Varying directions of brush strokes for interest, giving the focal point sharper definition than background elements. He also included an exercise in painting with a limited palette ( two primaries ) to create harmony of color and deliberate thought of mixing to achieve a result that doesn’t rely on a quick grab of a tube.
I gained lots of insight into these important tenets of a good painting. Bruce starts a blank canvas by visually selecting his subject with a view catcher, then gives himself points on his canvas as reference.
He then loosely draws basic placements of his objects with a sienna wash. At this point, he blocks in his darks. So up to this point I was nodding eagerly ( I can do this, I get this …). Add some lights for a visually arresting composition. Still with ya’ Bruce.
Then the scientific adage of oil and water………
Even with a Sta- Wet Palette, my paint puddles dried before I could dip into them again. Every color had to be re-mixed over and over which creates two problems- a painting that takes forever, and colors that are always off.
Landscapes were impossible for me. I was cautioned by Nancy Moskovitz, well, she actually wished me ” Good Luck ” and said to work fast. Fast and good are not always best friends.
What do I do? I did quick studies of fruit, using the one stroke at a time method that he showed us to really ” see ” the warm and cool, light and shade.
I love the way oils look when working with them- the subtleties of color range and staying power of pools you can keep referring to. But how do I negate drawers full of acrylics. re-tool in oils and all their sidekicks, and justify it? The smell of turp, the safe disposal of toxic liquids on this little island?
I humbly bow deeply and respectfully to plein air painters while I ponder where to go with all this.