Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Plein Air Painting in Vermont

Earlier this month, I traveled to the Green Mountains of Vermont to take a painting workshop with oil painter Mark Boedges and to spend time painting the gorgeous landscape with another artist and dear friend of mine, Lisa Mitchell. A change of scenery plus new painting insights make for a great way to finish out the summer.

Painting workshops with other artists are my form of continuing education. I earned my art degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In general, every class that I took there was excellent. I enjoyed the diversity of offerings at a major public university and I took advantage of as much as I could with classes ranging from botany to political science, economics, computer science, physics, and much more. But the studio training in art left me cold. Each class was a disappointment, epitomizing the negative stereotype of tenured professors too lazy to teach. (I write this as someone who's married to a tenured professor, so you know I mean the criticism sincerely.)

Just how bad was it, you ask? Well, my painting professor in college only showed us how to stretch our canvases. That was it! No training on how to mix colors or how to apply them. His excuse? He didn't want to "inhibit our creativity."

I was able to overcome this deficit of training by finding some excellent mentors in computer animation and in pastel painting, as well as by joining some professional arts organizations when I lived in Maryland. Through these avenues, I met full time artists and began to learn the real stock and trade of being an artist, developing skills that include photographing my work, updating my web site, framing my artwork and, oh yeah, painting! Fast forward a decade or so, and I now travel once every year or two to a painting workshop when offered by other professional artists whose work is of interest to me. I'm at a point in my career where I have enough experience in composition, color mixing, and subject selection that there are no great epiphanies. Yet I pick up a little bit here and there from each individual. Each artist has a focus and emphasis that I can take and incorporate into my own studio and painting practice.

The scenery in Vermont was fantastic, despite a drought that had the Mad River Basin at about 25% of its usual capacity for this time of year. The interesting thing about the drought was that we were able to clamber out into the middle of the waterway, climb on huge boulders, and get some unique vantage points that would have been impossible to access during a year with greater rainfall.

Above, a Postcard from the Easel: Painting along the Mad River during a beautiful summer afternoon. Click the image to enlarge.

Shown here are a couple of "Postcards from the Easel" of my plein air painting during a beautiful and enjoyable week. You may see a few of these on my web site in the Landscapes section within the next few weeks after I polish them up in my studio.

Above, a Postcard from the Easel: A plein air landscape in progress. I set up my easel on a huge boulder to capture this view of a ravine along the Mad River. Click the image to enlarge. You can also check out the finished piece, Mad River Ravine, on my portfolio site.