A couple of weekends ago my painting mate Andy and I went to an acrylic workshop. The premise was to learn how to paint focusing on light and shade through big gestures rather than fiddly detail. I was a bit anxious beforehand, having never attended a workshop before. As it turned out, the fellow artists were very lovely (with a wide range of painting experience between them), and the painting exercise itself was totally engrossing, so much so that time and paint flew.
I produced two pictures, both from photos which I’d taken, which I thought would meet the light/shade requirements. We had about an hour and a half per painting, with a technique demonstration before each.
The tutor painted a street scene in his initial demo. The closest I had in ‘feel’ was a photo taken in the woods, with light filtering through trees. I managed to be looser than normal for me, which was good, but using the big brush loaded with many colours simultaneously gave me some challenge when it came to depicting foliage. My colours, especially the greens, became rather muddy and pastelly rather than being zingy and bright. I also think that I could have changed the composition to improve the painting, but I’m not going to get hung up on that as there are so many other issues with it.
The second painting was based on a photo I’d taken of sweet peas backlit by evening sunlight. I wrestled terribly with it, and am still not overly happy with the outcome. Once again, in retrospect, I should have tweaked the composition. I found it incredibly difficult to adapt the tutor’s blocky technique to the rounder organic shapes of the flowers, and lost the plot a bit. Well, a lot. I ran out of time and didn’t get this into a shape where I could feel that it was working, although I can see now that there are areas I could improve if I chose. However, at the moment painting opportunities are too rare to want to return to fix ‘struggling’ paintings.
So, all in all, I found the day tiring, and a bit frustrating too, and came away feeling that I’d failed to capture the style of the teacher. However, with a bit of time and some reflection, and another painting done (watch this space), I realise that I did learn some interesting facts which I’m consciously putting into play in my acrylic paintings. Namely:
- Underpainting can be a real asset to a picture – I’d never tried this before. And now I know that I’d be best off choosing a colour I want to use, something which will contribute positively to the subject. I really didn’t like the mauve background suggestion of the second painting, which must be why I painted over almost the whole picture…You live and learn.
- Light is REALLY important. Duuuuh! I think I need to consciously try to make more use of it in my paintings. Letting the lights sing out just brings everything to life.
- Darks can be very colourful, and dark violet is a very useful colour. It was a new addition to my palette for the workshop, and I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do with it. But now I realise it combines well with ultramarine and maybe pthalo green, or burnt umber to make a very rich dark colour. I’m sure that I will be using this again.
- Using very big brushes and large canvasses (A2) can be a lot of fun.
So, this workshop was a new experience, and I definitely gained experience. And in summary, although I had trouble imitating the teacher’s style, I realise that I am actually glad, because it hasn’t entirely swallowed up my own way of painting – that which makes my paintings mine. I reckon that’s a good thing.