Wendie , I thought I would write you about some of my impressions from The Plein Air Convention in Las Vegas.
First of all, I would highly recommend to all my fellow artists, the experience of being with a group of painters with a passion for painting outdoors. It was wonderful. It is worth the price of admission for that alone. We started out the convention with lectures and demonstrations the first two days. We then painted at the old Howard Hughes ranch the next day. The last day of the convention we painted at Bonnie Springs.
Next year in April, they will have another convention in Carmel, CA. I encourage my WIPAPA buddies to seriously consider going to this next one. The first day started with a lecture from Richard Robinson. He is a painter from New Zealand. I have seen some of his videos, excerpts of which you can see on you tube. I lived briefly in New Zealand and am familiar with some of the areas that Richard has painted. The landscapes of Aotearoa (NZ) are breathtaking. Richard talked about the concept of Notan. An Asian concept of the play of light and dark shapes in relation to each other to form a pleasing pattern. Design is the most important part of the painting. Jeremy Lipking, Tony Pro, and Alexey Steele did a demonstration of portrait painting using one model. Tony said that every painting you paint is a self-portrait no matter what the subject matter It is about your state of mind and understanding of your subject at that moment.
Clyde Aspvig spoke about having taste and restraint in your paintings. Don't be satisfied by the obvious view. Lose the unnecessary and simplify that what nature gives us. Contemplate nature in the microcosm such as moss on a rock and translate that into a landscape painting by using the patterns and textures of the moss into your treatment of a tree or field. Fractal patterns of a bird's wings can be writ large when painting rocks , for example.
Next we were treated to a lecture by the grandson of John Singer Sargeant. Sargeant carefully composed his paintings and nothing was left to chance. He did what needed to be done to serve the composition. Ulrich Gleiter and Kim Lordier then demonstrated from paintings they had done out in the field. Ulrich paints boldly with impasto strokes and strong chroma. Kim worked in pastel and tries for a strong focal point by softening edges and giving the viewer less information around the last few inches of the canvas.
Ken Auster did a demo on a huge canvas of a trolley car in San Francisco. The best advice he gave and I took with me was that we see things for what they are because of what is behind them. The strength of the focal point will determine how much detail you will need to support the focal point. Matt Smith talked about how there is no such thing as a plein air style. Reflected light is everywhere. Painting bounced light in the shadows will help infuse light into the painting. He puts his skies in last so they aren't too rich or too dark. If you can keep your values to 3 or 4 it makes for a more pleasing picture.
Scott Christensen talked about being vulnerable and taking chances. He believes , like Carlson, that overstatement is a weakness. Camille Przewodek and Ned Mueller demoed together. Camille's bold use of color starts at the very first brushstroke. Her philosophy is ," it is easier to tame a stallion then bring a dead horse back to life." Ned begins by doing value studies and concentrates on shapes , not the things of which he is painting. Don't think about the water, trees and rocks you are painting but the abstract design of their forms. Ken Backhaus' lecture was on the decisions an artist must make for a successful painting. He used other artists work to bring home the points of design, asymmetry, color harmony, atmosphere, pattern, brushwork, subtlety of values, and formatting of the painting itself.