"We have a wonderful world to be inspired by and each new day is like an adventure into the unknown, where things that require a second glance can be captured in time on a canvas for anyone to enjoy forever." (Louise Corke)
Jef Sturm is a well established regional oil painter, who is known for his loos brushwork and vibrantly colored landscapes. When a member of my local guild told me that Jef was mentoring open workshop sessions, I jumped at the chance to get some tips on how I could loosen up.
A reference photo of Sand piper Trail in Huntington Beach State Park, SC The first session Jef had me bring one of my reference photos and try to paint it within three hour period, I chose a photo I had taken of a hiking train through toe maritime forest in Huntington beach State Park, SC, I used a palette knife and got most of the painting completed within the three hours. It is worth noting that the restricted time allowed to paint the scene forced me to put in less detail and use looser strokes. Completed 8"w x 10" h oil painting of Sandpiper Train in HBSP Jef's objective for this session was to learn how I paint and take note of my strengths and weaknesses. He watched how I, set out my palette, the media I used, how approached the subject, and the way I applied the paint. This time he didn't make many comments, but the next session he wants me to paint a scene from one of his reference photos. PS You can see Jef Sturm's work at: http://jefsturmpaintings.org/
My 12" x 12" painting of Lake Thurmond at Hickory Knob State Park
This is third week of mentoring from Jef Sturm, He had originally suggested we paint the same scene together this week, but when I didn't receive a source photo from him I thought he had changed his mind. Earlier this week I had started a painting of Hickory Knob State Park from one of my reference photos . I had finished painting all the landscape portions of the scene and was really anxious to complete the painting while the vision was still in my head.
Reference photo for Lake Thurmond at Hickory Knob State Park. The day the reference photo was taken it was raining. All the landscape colors were vibrant, but the sky and the lake were just a dull boring gray. I was hoping that Jeff would give me some tips on making the sky more dynamic. He did look at the colors I was mixing, but I guess he like the direction I was taking it as he didn't offer any direction so I finished it off on my own. ( see the final painting above).
Meanwhile Jef and another artist started painting from a photo of a woodland and stream that he was projecting onto the wall. It was very informative watching how Jef paints. The traditional way most of us learn to paint with oils is from dark to light. We start by putting down the darkest shape in some sort of dark blue, then the next darkest in the next coolest color, and layering lighter shades atop the darker.
Jef uses a medium he mixes himself to thin his paint: 5 part gamsol, 1 part stand oil, one part Damar Varnish (shake together until completely mixed) . He dilutes his oil paints with this mix down to the consistency of water. Then he paints large transparent shapes of every major value using various hues to cover all but the lightest part of the white canvas.He uses a very large brush to do this. The medium dries fairly quickly so by the time he has finished covering an 11 x 14 canvas, the first hue is dry enough to start adding another layer of transparent color atop of it. When he is finished it is almost like looking at a watercolor, except that because he is layering atop dry paint, there is no mud. and the colors really sparkle.
I tried mixing some of this formula myself and playing with it at home. It is wonderful for water with reflections, skies and other areas you want the light to show through (like leaves back-lit against a sky), but is less helpful for creating the heavy texture I love so much in oil paints. In the next session, Jef and I are each going to paint from one of my source paintings. This will help me to better understand his technique for working with such thin layers. I am pretty sure I will use his approach in some parts of my paintings an continue to apply impasto like texture with a palette knife in other sections. Every new technique I learn has the potential to reshape my style into something even more exciting. So I am really looking forward to the next session.
I have been working all week on getting the Sedona Series ready to be hung at the Seacoast Artists Gallery tomorrow. As usual, the gallery notified me a couple of weeks ago, how much space I was allocated, and where that space would be. It is now up to me to decide how many paintings I should put in that space , and how to arrange that set within my wall space.
Of course the Gallery does have rules about the minimum amount of space they allow between paintings, and how close to the floor or ceiling one can hang art work, but that still leaves a lot of room for arrangements. I spent most of the day today trying different layouts out on my living room floor to see which paintings looked together by color and shape. After a testing out a dozen different arrangements, I have finally settled upon this one. It will allow me to hang at least eight of the ten paintings from the Sedona Series, and still have enough flexibility in sizes that if one sells, I won't have to rehang the entire wall just to replace it.
One of the last things I do before framing my paintings is take a high resolution photograph of each one. This requires mounting the unframed painting on a black velvet background, setting up photo lamps on stands aimed at 45 degree angles to the painting and mounting my camera on a tripod. The camera is then raised to be even with the center of the painting and perpendicular to the paintings surface. The goal is to get a high quality photograph which is as close the painting's actual color as possible. This is what the the Sedona set looks like.
Cathedral Rock Reflections 11'w x 14" h Oil Painting
This painting presented some interesting challenges. The classic view of this landmark is usually viewed with the red spires reflected in Oak Creek's still waters. To get this perspective photographers stand in the middle of the creek when the water level is low and there weather is cold enough that no one is in the water.
Unfortunately, on the day we were there, temperatures had reached 105 F, and every inch of water was occupied by somebody trying to cool off. even upstream, in the areas where there was large areas of exposed rock and little water to splash in, there were families spread out everywhere ,picnicking and enjoying the view. I was finally able to snap a few small puddles in the rocks with good reflections, . I had to crop the people out of the scene then concentrate on painting a more interesting foreground.