I’m not sure whether artists, on the whole, see the world a little differently. Maybe yes, maybe no. When you’re a fish, it’s hard to see the water, so it’s difficult for me to know for sure. I do know that when I’m in the company of other artists, I have things to talk about and connect with. When I’m in the company of people that are not engaged in some sort of creative endeavor, I’m just, well, bored! I do my best to be polite and I’ll even try to reframe what they are talking about in some sort of creative light. It can be challenging though. Does this make me a curmudgeon?
Artists tend to be very positive and engaged folks. They’re excited about what they are doing and love to share it. That makes talking and connecting fun. It’s infectious too. You get to feed off one another’s positive energy.
Finding a tribe of like-minded artists is important. I know I tend to work in a very isolated, solitary situation. Even though I’m a YouTuber and do tons of social media in reality, I’m by myself most of the time. So when I had the opportunity to go to Bend, Oregon to take a lesson from an artist/friend Eric Jacobsen, I wanted to do it. My student, Graham (aka) Sandy arranged for the two of us to drive out and spend the day with Eric. At first, I jumped at the opportunity, knowing that I’d get a lot out of it, but as the day drew near, all the hesitation started to creep in as did my tendency to want to stay cooped up in my cave. You know how that is…you plan something that sounds really good and then when it comes around you think of all the ways you can squirrel your way out of it! Luckily, despite some initial efforts to do just that, some last-minute complaints about why it was annoying, I packed my gear and jumped in the car with my friend/student Sandy. Off we headed to Bend.
The weather cooperated on the drive out and we were rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular sunset show over the mountain pass. Conversation was easy as we mined the mysteries of art-making. The 3.5-hour drive passed in a snap.
After we had our initial fill of his wonderful space, we settled down for a brief talk about the fundamentals of painting and the creative process. Eric emphasized that he wasn’t going to tell us anything new or that hasn’t already been said by countless art instructors. I loved this. He’s right, the principles of painting are the same for us as they were for Edgar Payne or Joquian Sorolla. We can be assured of the soundness of these principles, we just have to learn them! It helps to have good guides like him!
Eric did two demos for us; one in oil and one in acrylic. For the oil painting demo, he simply stood looking out the large picture window at the lovely winter landscape. He used a limited palette to create his beautiful, loose interpretation of the scene. He emphasized that he wasn’t copying exactly what he saw, but arranging the elements and composing them to create a pleasing design. He worked steadily and confidently. The thing that struck me was his brushwork; it’s both bold and sensitive.
For the acrylic painting demonstration he showed us how he would interpret a photo reference. This time he toned his board using a thin layer of phthalo blue. He approached the piece in much the same way as the oil painting, using the elements of the scene to create a pleasing composition. He moved things about, eliminated unnecessary elements and by doing this created movement and rhythm for the eye. Towards the end, he added some marks or “detail” that draws the eye to his focal point.
After lunch, Sandy and I got set up to paint. What to paint? Sandy chose to set up looking out the window at the same scene that Eric had painted. Good idea! Since I’ve been working on my still life workshop, I thought I’d tackle a still life. Eric had a large table set up with various vases, bottles, some beautiful yellow and red apples, dried leaves and lots of crazy branches and stems. I knew this was too much for me to do in a short time, so I poked around his shelves for another bottle or vase to place in the scene that I could use as my focal point and paint just a small section of the set-up. I didn’t spend too much time hunting around but I found a cool green jar.
I had the opportunity to show Eric the paints I typically use and he made suggestions based on my still life. I sometimes use viridian green but he suggested phthalo green instead because of its transparent quality. The bottle is transparent, so that makes perfect sense! And I love the phthalo colors, so I jumped on that. I really enjoyed painting the still life in his studio…so relaxing and fun to be in a different creative space!