Sunday, November 14, 2010

Video Demo by Linda Lee: English Country Cottage

Oil on Canvas

This is from a demo video I bought from It is by Linda Lee. Linda Lee used to teach at a Michael's near my house and 20 years ago I took some lessons there. I remember she was a a good teacher and I enjoyed her lessons.

I know this painting is really not art, but I learned new things. She had me use sable brights, which I never did before. They made smooth, blended brush strokes. She also had me make three piles of gray (with plain old black and white): pale gray, medium gray and dark gray, and we used those to take the bright chroma off the colors without altering them.

I am going to try to do a couple more paintings similar to this, using the her techniques, just to get them down. I think the more different things I learn, the more I have in my arsenal of oil painting strategies.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Huntington Garden Roses

Oil on Canvas

This is from a photo I took on a trip to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. If you have not been there, they have two art galleries, which hold Sargents, Constables, Turners, and lots of Gainsboroughs. They have the Blue Boy and Pinky. They also have 200 acres of beautiful gardens.

My goal with this painting was to make it bright, cheery and "pretty", the sort of painting that someone would buy to cheer up a room and go with their couch. I have never done roses before, and the roses in the photo were washed out, so I basically had to make them up. I don't think this will win any prizes, but I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do.

Why I think Susan Sarback is a Terrific Workshop Teacher

I have been to a handful of art workshops. They are very expensive, both in the cost of the workshop, the cost in the lost money from my job, and the cost in spending a week out of town. It is very important to me that I really learn something significant in exchange for all this money.

So far, Susan Sarback is one of my favorite teachers as far as her teaching style goes, and these are the reasons why:

Some other teachers don’t have clear steps about how they approach a painting. Their steps tend to be: “First you start, then you flesh it in, and then you “restate” until it is finished”. Susan has four very clear steps. Each step has a goal that must be competed before moving on to the next step. Susan comes around and tells you if are ready to proceed, or what you need to do to finish the step you are on.

Some other teachers don’t really like you to take photos during the demo because it disrupts the demo. People try to crowd around during the demo to take pictures and the other artists can’t see the demo, which is understandable. Susan stops at the end of each of her steps and allows everyone to take as many photos as they like before she proceeds.

Some other teachers set up one or two still lifes and everyone has to crowd around to paint them. Only a couple of students get the best spot with a really good angle and good lighting. Susan has all the easels lined up on one side of the room and as many still lifes opposite each artist. Every still life is well thought out for the appropriate level of the class, and is individually lit. This way, every student has an excellent still life to paint from.

Some other teachers' still life objects are chosen by chance, therefore not all the vases and pots are adequate subjects. Susan has a storage area full of carefully selected still life objects with suitable colors and textures. She also has a bin of fake flowers and fake fruit, so things are not going rot or wilt under the hot lamps while the workshop goes on for a week.

Some other teachers, after the demos, tend have a big, sweeping statement like, “Now do just as I showed you in the demo”, and off we go to muddle our way through tying to replicate what we just saw. After Susan's demo, she has the class do specific exercises to get each step down. First she had us do a value study of a block to make sure we all understood Step 1. After that, we did all four steps on an orange. Everyone had their own perfectly lit orange to work from. Then we did all four steps on one vase and a piece of fruit, again every student had their own vase and fruit in front of them to paint from. By mastering each step slowly, no one fell behind.

Some teachers, after the demo, sort of wander off and do their own thing while the students struggle alone. I know that at a few workshops, the teacher would never come around, and I would have to go find the teacher and drag her over to my easel. Sometimes the teacher gets very involved with one student, and winds up leaving everyone else alone for long stretches while she focuses on the one student for long stretches of time. That student gets a private lesson while the rest of the class is "every man for himself". Susan has all the students lined up in front of all the still lifes and she goes down the line, over and over, stopping to help, encourage, and correct each painting. She spends a minute or two with each student. When Susan gets to the end of the line, she goes right back to the beginning and starts all over again. This way, everyone stays on track.

Some other teachers say, “You’re doing fine”, when you know you are lost. Susan makes sure that no one goes on to the next step until they have mastered the current step that they are working on.

Many teachers, when the workshop is over, the students do not paint like the teacher. The student’s work falls woefully short of the teacher’s work. I suppose that can be expected since the teacher usually has many more years of painting expereince. But when Susan’s students are done, they can ALL paint like the teacher. They may not be able to paint as quickly or draw as well, but all the students leave with the ability to get the glowing paint and color, just like Susan. I can take Susan’s technique home with me, and put it to work on the subjects that I like, which in my eyes, is the whole reason that I take a workshop.