I was too excited to sleep much during my week at the Scottsdale Artists School, despite my quiet, comfortable hotel room. One morning I woke as the sun was coming up, with the moon still shining brightly. Everything outside my window was glowing so I immediately grabbed my sketchbook and paints. What a great way to start the day, even if on only a few hours sleep.
I promised to share what I learned from Rose Frantzen but after typing up 5 pages of notes, I’m not sure they will be helpful to anyone without having been there and seen her working and guiding us. That said, here is a bit of my notes:
- “I paint what I see, I don’t paint what I don’t see.” If it’s blurry and you can’t tell what it is, paint it blurry (soft edges), don’t guess, don’t “know,” just paint what you see.
- Before starting a painting ask yourself, “How does the pose/subject make you feel; what is the story; what is your impression of the subject; what is the purpose of your painting? Be sensitive to self, that is your real teacher.
- Don’t waste time painting stuff you’re not interested in. But you don’t have to like the pose or the subject, that tension is OK to paint.
- Start with the easiest shape or color to see; in a portrait usually the forehead and/or the “keystone” (the shape between the eyebrows and top of nose). Make the keystone your anchor and keep returning to it, comparing other areas to it for color/value/size.
- Look at your painting in a mirror every few minutes to catch problems.
- If the drawing is wrong the painting will fail. Better to wipe off a bad drawing and start over until the drawing is right.
- Viva paper towels make a huge difference when wiping off paint…they remove paint better, don’t shred or leave paper crumbs. (I know because I wiped off my drawings many times during the class and when she gave me a Viva paper towel to use I couldn’t believe the difference.) Use them as a painting tool to wipe out the light areas too.
- Keep the paint really thin, barely covering the canvas, until the very end. Then add rich, thick brush strokes of white or light colors judiciously.
- Feeling doubt? Ask “What does it need?” instead of just saying, “Something is wrong.” Compare the problem area to something that is working to help you see what’s needed.
- Trust that the time doing sketches, prep, research for a painting counts as much as the actual painting time.
- Don’t care about the painting itself; if it fails, focus on the experience, the exploration.
My notes include a lengthy description of her process including a list of steps and supplies. If you’d like a copy of the full file, just leave a comment with your email and I’ll send you my file, but no guarantee it will all make sense.
I’m finding that the break between the class and getting to paint again (because of all the work on my house and studio) has somehow helped what I learned to sink in. I started a portrait over (abandoning the first version from before the workshop) and it is making a big difference.