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Water , Water, Everywhere – Julie Gilbert Pollard Workshop

Oil painting of reflecting water scene, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop - first try
Oil painting of reflecting water scene, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop - first try Oil painting of reflecting water scene, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop, second try
Last week I learned that water can see.  Who knew?!  That was just one of the hundreds of tips Julie Gilbert Pollard gave in her workshop in Panama City Beach, Florida, “Wet and Wild:  Painting Vibrant Water Scenes in Brilliant Color”.  This tip came on the first day, when we were working on reflections.  In other words, Julie said, “Water reflects as if you were looking at the scene from its vantage point.”  To illustrate, if a dead tree is angled out over the water sideways to the viewer, the reflection is a reverse mirror image, the same size and directly underneath the tree, in reverse angle.  But if the tree is angled towards the viewer, the tree above the water will appear shorter due to foreshortening, but the reflection will be much longer in proportion, because the water is “seeing” the tree from underneath.

So I look at reflections differently now.  I look at color and shapes differently too.  Everything is more colorful since that workshop, and I am seeing much better.  I find this is always the case after any period of immersion in art, that I see better and am more aware of colors and shapes.  One of the other participants in the workshop said that one of the few things you get better at as you age, is art.  I laughed, but I understand that statement.

We worked in the classroom, from sample photographs Julie provided which illustrated the concepts and techniques she was teaching.  She used the first four chapters of her Adventurous Oils, a Workbook Companion to Brilliant Color as well as several hand-outs.  It was a treat being taught by someone who understands how artists learn, who was able to paint and talk at the same time (no small feat, integrating both the left and right brain at the same time!), and who was able to provide constructive assistance as we worked on our various pieces.  And the participants were a happy bunch, the paint-mixing and experimentation punctuated with their softly-spoken stories to their table-mate and their laughter.  My own table-mate, Faye Gibson, owner of Meacham Howell Design, also was using oil paint;  the rest were painting with watercolor.  Since the instructor was giving demonstrations in both watercolor and in oil painting, I brought in a 6-color Walmart watercolor set and made a watercolor painting and then painted an oil painting the second day when we were studying waves, shown at left.  The watercolor painting was snatched up by a good friend of mine as soon as I posted it on Facebook.

Watercolor painting of wave, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop

Oil painting of wave, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop

Oil painting of a cascading waterfall, painted with palette knife, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshopThe third day we studied cascading water.  Julie teaches cascading water as if it were a gathered skirt of a wedding dress, with the initial drop being the waist and flowing skirt, followed by a ruffle of white where it splashes down on the pond below, with a “train of lace” surrounding the splash on the flat pond.  I painted my first palette knife painting that day.  Clean-up is much easier at the end of a knife painting — all you have to clean is the knife!

The fourth and fifth days we were supposed to finish the paintings we had started the first 3 days, but I had already finished mine and painted a second one each day too.  Plein air painting has made me pretty quick.  So the fourth day I cut a few flowers off the crepe myrtle bush in the parking lot, and put them in a pitcher of water on my desk, thinking I would learn to paint the pitcher full of water.  But the flowers fascinated me, so I painted them primarily, with only a suggestion of the pitcher underneath.  Our technique for the day was negative painting, where you paint the negative space surrounding the form.  My efforts taught me the techniques, but made the painting very twiggy, so the following day I painted out most of the twigs and branches, and it became flowers again.

Oil painting of a wave, painted with bright colors as a value study of color, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop

Photograph of bright color painting, de-saturated to show values of pure colors

On the final day, the technique assignment was to paint a scene in pure color, using colors straight out of the tube, or pre-mixed, using colors for their inherent light-dark values instead of as color.  I again painted with a palette knife, using the wave photos for reference.  Anywhere there were dark values in the painting, I used ultramarine blue, violet, and reds, and cobalt green, lavender, and orange for the middle values, and orange and yellow for the lighter values, with white for the froth.  The idea was that if you took away the color, the painting would read correctly as a black-white-gray value study.  So I took a photograph of my painting, and then de-saturated it to remove the color, and was pleasantly surprised that indeed, it looks “right” as a value study.

To top off the workshop, there was a drawing for one of the instructor’s paintings, and I won it!  Icing on the cake!

Photo by Helen Balance, Beach Art Group Joan Vienot with Julie Gilbert Pollard
Photo by Helen Ballance, Beach Art Group
Incomplete oil painting in progress, crepe myrtle, negative painting assignment, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop Oil painting of crepe myrtle flowers, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop

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Figure Drawing: It’s a Work-Out!

You might not think anyone would work up a sweat while figure drawing, but it gets pretty intense when I am strongly focused.  OK, it’s nothing like a Spin class, but it can be Work!  I draw hurriedly, especially during the “warm-up” phase at the beginning of the session, when drawing is very difficult.  Later in the session, when I can automatically draw a curve, or locate a “landmark”, it becomes more like “play”, but in the beginning it can really be a struggle, with my curves and angles often going completely the wrong way from how they should be drawn.

I try not to worry too much about it, because if I judge my results along the way, I will freeze up.  And I am very selective about the people I will listen to who might criticize my work.  That is why I so appreciate our instructor, Heather Clements.  When she says, “That leg looks broken,” or “That arm looks like it is coming backwards instead of going forwards,”  it really helps.  I usually can’t see that sort of thing myself at the time, until it is pointed out to me.  If I am working in my home/studio, I will look at my art in the mirror, a trick that helps me to see those disproportions or imbalances.  The mirror image looks completely different from what I am used to seeing while working on the piece, so it is easy to see when a leg looks “broken” or an arm looks like it is going the wrong way.  I’ve noticed that before with other things — my old cat, April Alice, had dark fur around one eye, with dark eye liner, and white fur around the other eye, but her face, which I saw everyday, seemed symmetrical to me.  But when I would hold her and look at her in the mirror, she looked like one eye was a lot bigger than the other.  Apparently my mind compensates and “perfects” images as I look at them, hence the value of the mirror image when I am correcting a drawing.

The Wednesday evening figure drawing session at Studio b. this week seemed like more of a work-out than usual, probably because I was very tired.  But maybe I was still keyed up and pouring more energy into everything I was doing.  I was in the middle of teaching a 2½ day course for my day job, a required certification course for people in my profession.  When I teach, I try to do it with high energy and enthusiasm, being educator, entertainer, and expert, all at the same time.  My physical fatigue however meant that my hand cramped up sooner when I was drawing, and my arm got tired.  A couple of times I quit drawing before the end of the pose, which I never do, ordinarily.  But a couple of times I tried to finish the drawing after the pose was over too, taking time away from my drawing of the next pose, so I don’t know what that was about.

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Drawing in Reverse

Figure Study

This week at the figure drawing session at  Studio b, instructor Heather Clements suggested that we draw the mirror image of the subject.  This required us to transpose the figure in our minds, because we didn’t actually use mirrors.  As usual, we drew a number of warm-up gesture drawings, and then some longer poses.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped drawing the mirror image — I’m sure it was a valuable exercise, but the process was boggling my mind.   So to continue along the vein of thinking in reverse, I decided to reverse my procedure.  I usually draw the shadows to define the form.   Instead on this final pose, I drew only the lighted areas, using nearly-white Nupastel on gray paper.  At the end, I used a little black Conte to define the form, leaving the gray paper to show through for the midtones.