So, last month I took my first-ever painting workshop. It was a decided step out of my comfort zone, as I'd always been convinced that the other students would be way more competent, and the teacher would bark out, "You don't belong here!" and everyone would stare at me as I slunk away in shame.
But last month when I found out Michael Obermeyer would be teaching a workshop at the Randy Higbee gallery, I immediately signed up. I'd always admired his work, and he promised to show how to "complete a painting in a limited amount of time," which was intriguing to someone who can agonize over a canvas for months without even finishing it. True to his word, Michael whacked out a beautiful landscape demo in 2 hours flat, and I spent that afternoon rapidly painting an ivy-covered Parisian building. I had pain-stakingly done the same scene once before - never quite finishing it - so it was a revelation to see the "limited time" version actually wasn't too bad at all.
This past weekend, there was another set of workshops at Randy Higbee's. I signed up for Scott Prior's "Painting the Urban Landscape," and arrived on Saturday morning loaded down with my painting gear. Was I taken aback to discover it had been cancelled! Randy was apologetic, and offered me the Tom Balderas still-life class instead, at a discount; I could just sit and watch for a while and see if I liked it. I called my husband and dithered for a bit. Tom's style is VERY different from my own, extremely loose and expressive, and I'm not really a still-life painter, so I didn't know if the class would be of any use.
But then, Eduardo's encouraging comment on my first blog post had brought me to tears, and I had vowed it was time to stop moping around and start posting things again, so my collectors will know I'm still here. If I skipped this workshop, the whole weekend would be eaten away by chores, and then what would I write about? So I joined the class, eyeing the instructor warily, telling myself I could always leave at the break.
When Tom started doing his demo, I was amazed: he took a Zorro stance, and jabbed at the painting board with his brush like he was jousting with it, dancing back and forth! At times he scrubbed, rolled, and dragged his brush so hard that I could hear the metal ferrule scraping on the surface. He was talking the whole time about focusing on the "big shapes" and comparing the "relationships" - is this color warmer or cooler than this other one?
My favorite bit of advice he kept repeating was to "exaggerate" the colors, even using color straight out of the tube. He said you can always tone it down, but it's harder to bring the brightness back up. (He also emphasized the importance of keeping your brushes and palette clean, so as not to muddy the colors.)
This "exaggerate it" advice didn't just apply to paint colors. He said that when he first was looking for a gallery, an artist friend of his advised him to start at the TOP - apply to the Whitney Museum - and work your way down the list. The Gagosian won't return your calls, but you'll expect that. And somewhere down the list, you'll probably click with a place that likes your work. But if you start at the BOTTOM - trying to sell your work at garage sales, for example - you could easily spend 4 years selling paintings on your lawn, not realizing that you could be doing much better. I thought that was an awesome concept! His lecture was so inspiring that I was scribbling notes like mad.
By the end of the afternoon, I had a mostly-completed piece which just needed some adjustments, and a happy sense of accomplishment. It was actually fun! Both workshops forced me to work fast and freely, and I was relieved to discover that there was actually nothing to fear at all.