Oil Painting with Jan Bennicoff

September 9, 2012 in Still Life by joanvienot

Jan Bennicoff, Demonstrating

Yesterday I attended Jan Bennicoff‘s oil painting workshop at the City Arts Cooperative in Panama City, Florida.  The day before, I packed up my supplies from the list she had distributed, which I have been gathering over the past 6 months or so in preparation for my plan to start plein air painting.  I had signed up for this introductory workshop as a review, since the last serious oil painting I did was in college, dare I tell my age, almost 40 years ago.  I loaded a couple of small canvases, 11×14, my brushes, my new lightweight easel and palette, paper towels, and some containers.  The solvent, medium and the paints, were provided at the workshop for a mere $5.00 supplies fee.  The workshop was free to members of Panama City Artists.

Jan set up a still life of melons, and she began her demonstration by making a line drawing of the subject using a brush and a dark color, red in this case. She instructed us to then paint from dark to light, that is, to paint the dark colors throughout the entire painting first, covering all of the canvas, and afterwards painting the lighter values.  She helped us to see the different colors, shapes, and values in the subject from our individual viewpoints, and gave tips on how to execute them, and how to mix the colors.

While painting, I found that I need to buy a few better brushes.  Some of the brushes I have that are the perfect size for how I want to use them, are a little stiff in the bristles, so that putting another color on top of an area of wet paint results in the bristles scratching off the other color.

I didn’t have too much trouble drawing the subject onto the canvas, even though I haven’t practiced contour line drawing in a while.  I’ve been practicing figure drawing, focusing on light/shadow, and defined vs. lost edges, rather than all contours.  I worried about the composition from my viewpoint, which was nearly split in half, with only a small area of a tray overlapping the right hand masses with the masses on the left.  Jan helped me see the shadows and highlights that would also help tie the two halves together, and I repeated some of the watermelon reds in the orange pieces of cantaloupe, and added some oranges into the red watermelons, to also help tie the two together.  To make the colors brighter, I heightened the background contrast, deepening the blue-brown until it almost became black.  I liked the end result, especially considering I completed it in just a little over 2 hours.

I have always been of the opinion that things are more interesting when a little is left to the imagination.  I know that my tendency is to try to be exact with my art, but the painting style I want to develop will be a little looser, exact only when absolutely necessary to define an essential element.  This will require me to assume that my audience can “read” the painting without me describing every little detail, a leap of faith on my part.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot