Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don Hatfield

Testing the Waters
Original oil painting 16x20"
by Susan Roux

Have you met my friend Don yet? He's unlike anyone else I know. Of course, that could be said about most of us artists. Our uniqueness overflows beyond our canvases...

But let me tell you a little about Don Hatfield.

He may be a bit scary at first. His essence fills a room. His voice carries and the words may be gruff. He'll definitely catch your attention. I don't think it's possible for Don to go unnoticed anywhere. Busy mall, you spot Don. Crowded city street, you spot Don. Golf course, you can hear him from three holes away...

Do you get the picture? Don stops and talks to everyone. I bet he has trouble driving down the street. He must pull over to talk to every pedestrian he passes!

Is it ego? Certainly. Is it humor?

Well you tell me. Anyone who posts this kind photo of themselves over the internet, for all to see, has got to be funny. Hilarious is more the word. If Mr. Hatfield hadn't made it in life as a master artist, he could have been a renowned comedian.

I know you're aware that my sense of humor is askew. I might laugh at things no one else finds humorous, but I can assure you, Don has more than myself nearly rolling on the floor with laughter.

So how did mister comedy himself get to be such a great artist? Some people are just blessed with lots of gifts... One of mine is knowing Don personally. He's made a real positive difference in my art.

Beyond that coarse exterior lies the heart and soul of a gentle man. One could not paint amazing light-filled images such as these with a hardened soul. His understanding of color, values and technique go far beyond most. His paintings captivate us with beauty, softness and joy in timeless settings with alluring compositions.

Nowhere in his work will you see this gruff exterior he tries so hard to portray. It becomes easy to see why such a gentle soul might try to appear tougher to the world. But after just a few minutes of conversation with Don, his facade drops and the real man surfaces.

Aside from being a great artist, Hatfield (as he likes to refer to himself) is proving to be an amazing teacher. Not only can he capture delicate, dainty forms, he can explain how to do it.

Don excites when he finds artists with the desire and commitment to improve. There is nothing he prefers (well maybe golf...) than to share his knowledge about art. He's a man filled with art history and amidst any conversation can drop a list of old masters to refer to for the information you seek.

I'm proud to announce that Don Hatfield is giving you the opportunity to learn and improve. He'll be sharing his gifts by offering a Maine workshop in July. Stay tuned and I'll be posting more information...

Did I mention you should really take this?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Champagne Thursday

Original oil painting 20x16"
by Susan Roux

So the five artists renting the house in February got together for lunch. It was introduction day. Aside from being artistically stimulating an interesting concept came up.

Champagne Thursday.

Are any of you familiar with it? It's from the movie Failure to Launch with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey. My girlfriend and I adopted it since the movie came out years ago. We get together on certain Thursdays to chat, drink champagne and just cut loose for a few hours. If it's summer, we sit outside on the garden bench. Winter has us curled in front of the fire... Maybe a little tablecloth on a side table with a few hors d'oeuvres, an ice bucket to keep it chilled and laughter, lots and lots of laughter. The great thing about Champagne Thursday is it doesn't need to be planned ahead of time. It doesn't even need to be on a Thursday!

So a simple phrase like, Is it Champagne Thursday this Sunday? Is always followed by an emphatic and enthusiastic YES!

As time went on, random guests were invited to join us on our very random "Thursdays".

I'm not sure why this came up during our introduction lunch, but suffice it to say it did. And as all Champagne Thursdays go, once it's brought up, it must go on...

So here it is. The decision was made to have one on Thursday, February 24 at the rental house. Artists are invited, including you. All that's required is that you bring champagne or wine and an appetizer. Champagne Thursday will officially start at 5:00 pm. So if you're around and want to come join the fun, you'll also get to see what we've been up to during our retreat (hint, lots and lots of art...), stop on by. The house is located in Freeport Maine. As soon as I get the address, I'll pass it along.

No overnights. A lot of you seemed very interested in this week-long art retreat. Wouldn't it be fun if a bunch of you rented another house in Freeport (rents are cheap this time of year...) the same week, and we all got together for champagne and art talks? If any of you are really interested, the week is February 19-26. School vacation. You can comment that you'd like to rent and all hook up through my blog. I can even help you find a nice house if you want. Imagine the possibilities...

Artists connecting with other artists. It's what it's all about. Are you interested?

Frolicking is my latest painting. Too bad I didn't paint a still life with champagne bottles, it would have been so appropriate for this post!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maine Mutt Mansion

Lazy Afternoon
Original oil painting 18x24"
by Susan Roux

Why would 5 artists chose to lock themselves up in a strange house in the middle of winter for a week?

I know it sounds a bit crazy, but coming from me, you're really not surprised. Right?

It's official. All the money is in and the week is paid for. In less than a month we'll be hard at work on our Artist's Retreat! Yay! People often wonder what we do in Maine all winter long. Usually we come up with wild ideas to keep ourselves entertained. It gives us something to look forward to. Yes there are winter sports, but as the years go by, I find myself doing less and less of that. My cross-country skis are blocked in a corner, collecting dust...

Our plan is simple. Bring paint supplies, wine and lots of canvas. We want to work without the interruptions of day to day life. (Enough W's in that sentence?) The group is pretty diverse. Our subject matter, level of ability, mediums and painting process span a wide range. One thing that connects us is laughter. ...well of course art. I think it will be a stimulating, productive week.

So here it is. Our home away from home. Look at all the windows to bring light to our easels!

Did you happen to notice it's on the ocean? It's tucked in a cove in Freeport. There's a famous osprey nest at the state park and it's in our view directly across the water.

The bedrooms look spacious with glorious windows and balconies everywhere.

Of course we may need to shovel them off before we can step out on them... Maybe if the weather is mild (yeah right!) we'll bring our easels out and paint in plein air. Or perhaps plein cold!

At night we'll curl up in front of the wall size fireplace sipping red wine and charging our batteries for the next days round of painting. Not such a crazy idea after all, don't you think?

How do you get through the long winter months?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Barbecue anyone?

Well it finally happened, winter came to Maine. For some reason the jet stream has been circling the storms around us and though we're usually dumped on for months at a time, it took until January to really see much of it this year.

Out in the cold.

I like this picture for several reasons. The most obvious is it's a visual oxymoron. The hot grill chilling out. A reminder of summer stuck in winter. (I could come up with a few more) Sometimes in Maine we barbecue in winter. Especially for football games. Use your imagination and place a Patriots helmet atop the snow covered grill and it bares a very close resemblance to #75, Vince Wilfork. Go Patriots! I smell Superbowl Champions...

Ok, now that I got that out of my system, lets talk about Out In The Cold. It's how I felt yesterday...

I recently joined facebook. I know I'm really late in doing so, but I had my reasons. I'm still trying to find my way around in it. Unlike blogging, I find it a bit confusing. I stumbled upon an artist and noticed his friend list was filled with a lot of artists. It was like hitting the jackpot. I like being connected to other artists, so I decided to start sending friend requests to them.

One artist, led me to other artists, which in turn led me to even more. Wow, I thought. This is pretty cool! What a great opportunity to meet lots of new artists. My mouse was running ramped, clicking on artists. A simple message, copied and pasted on each read, Hi. I'm an artist.

It was all that was needed. My mail box was filling fast with acceptances. As people returned to their computers, adding an artist wasn't a problem. Isn't that wonderful about artists? We are already connected and have so much in common. There's no hesitation when asked to be a friend to another.

Suddenly I was really liking this new experience. The excitement rushed through me. I was setting ground to meet and discuss with artists from all over the world!

And then it happened. I was sent Out In The Cold!

Facebook blocked me from sending anymore friend requests. And just as I was thinking it was a cool place to be... Not only did I get blocked, but all the pending friend requests were removed! I guess facebook doesn't understand that artists are fine with lots of artists friends. It seemed strange to me that the pending ones were removed. How can that happen if it's already in someone's mailbox? I suppose facebook thought I was spamming, but seriously if someone didn't want to be my friend, they didn't need to accept.

So just like my grill out in the cold, there I stood too.

The block is for 2 days. It's like being grounded or something. What a strange feeling. So next time I start clicking that friend button, I wonder how many it will let me send before it shuts me down again?

The sun is shining brightly here. I think I'll go paint before the big game tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Design, Part 4

Coming Up Rosy
Original oil painting 18x24"
by Susan Roux

Just as I was pondering possibilities on how to adjust my painting, a special phone call came in. It was from the master himself, Don Hatfield. He offered helpful suggestions. Don't you just love a good critique? I embrace them. A non-biased opinion that recognizes your achievements and gives good advice on how to make your painting stronger. Good points and bad points, strengths and weaknesses are welcomed bits of information.

Having heard someone's opinion shouldn't mean that you jump right in adjusting what you've been told. After all it's still your painting and you make the final decisions on what actually gets changed and adjusted. Don pointed out the lawn edge. "Have the landscapers come in, cut out a corner of the driveway, put down new soil and plant more grass." Curving the lawn to draw in the viewer more gently seemed a very good suggestion. It doesn't remove it as a pointer, just swirls you in for a softer approach.

Softness. It seemed to be the overlying feeling of this painting. I'd been extremely cautious to keep my roses soft and after talking to Don, I began to notice other places that could use softening. I also found the entire painting too cool. I went in with yellows. I hit some of my flowers. I hit some of my leaves. (Key word here is some) I warmed the driveway and curved it in loosing the hard line at it's edge. I liked what it did to the painting. Softening that line just added to the softness of my blossoms. I proceeded to soften the tree shadow and the bottom of the brick wall.

I'm very pleased with this painting. I have to admit, it became somewhat of a scary thing to do it this way in front of you. I was really exposing my thought process. What if it all fell apart? I tried to ignore that crippling voice. I can do this, I told myself. I pushed on. I wouldn't accept mediocrity.

I was happy with the play in my roses. Using a variety of colors, as explained in Part 3, really helped this to happen. Some blossoms are left in shadow, others catch the light brightly, while still others are in softer sunlight. I was able to regain my focal point to the roses easily by adding lighter yellows. I also, ever so slightly, punched the darks around one blossom.

Thanks for bearing with me as I shared my journey through a painting with regards to design. Sticking to one original thought without wavering is essential for a strong design. Even when the paint begins to pull you in a different direction, as mine did in Part 3, don't let it win. Remember you're in charge of your painting. As I tell my students. You're in control of your painting even when you feel totally out of control! For beginners who struggle with brushstroke, this always gets a hardy chuckle. The decisions you make when choosing colors and where you apply them is uniquely your own. So take some time while painting to make good decisions and try to keep in mind, the power of design.

Thanks again, Don. You're such an amazing teacher...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Design, Part 3

Work in progress
(still not done...) 18x24"
by Susan Roux

Color and value. Those magical tools that keep artists addicted. Make a color change or a value change and you can redirect the viewers eye instantly. How do you keep it all in control?

First of all, don't loose sight of your initial plan. Second, when it comes to color with respect to design, repeat it. Color has the ability to hop the eye from one place to another. To keep your viewer exploring the entire canvas, repeat colors and their eye will bounce around in rhythms.

If you don't get too caught up with local color and build your darks throughout your painting using the same colors, you'll establish a color harmony. Some people like to limit their palette to ensure harmony, but others like myself paint with a palette-full. Either way can work.

With harmony in mind, I worked the rosebush. I used shadow values. This allowed me to take my time establishing where I want sunlight to move across it.

Notice how color was added randomly at this stage. This keeps the eye interested and moving. Even in this close-up, where there isn't information to identify the subject, the eye dances around in varied movements. Had I chose to paint each blossom identically, the eye would quickly tire and the exploration would cease.

Next I began adding sunlight to the blossoms. I took my time, stepping back frequently, making sure to retain variety. So far so good.

It became trickier as I added sunlight to the greenery. The deep rich darks that added contrast to the blossoms were being lost. To bring the painting to completion, close attention to value is necessary. Adjustments need to be made. This is when being able to critique yourself becomes critical. You need to ask yourself, what's wrong and how do I fix it?

The answer isn't always easy to find. The eye will travel to the place of most contrast and the sharpest edge. Unfortunately, as I lost the high contrast around my blossoms, the spot of highest contrast and sharpness became my top window pane. Oh man, what a pain!

So here is my dilemma. I've purposefully kept my blossoms in loose edges to project their softness. Each time I would crisp one too much, I didn't like the stiff feeling it created. Now to keep with my initial idea of the roses being my focal point, I must figure out a way to retain the attention there. I do like the idea of the blossom reaching out to the window. It helps in the exploration of the canvas. As my eye goes to this window, it picks up on the tree shadow and swoops back down to catch the blossoms on the ground.

I thought I was posting a completed painting today, but as I review the many photos I took, its clear to me that my painting lost drama along the way. I've never photographed a series of my work in progress before. It's proving to be a very interesting tool. Also I'm finding that talking about my process is a good learning tool as well. I hope you'll follow along as I push myself for improvement...