Thursday, February 17, 2011

The beginning

Through the Grass
Original oil painting 18x24"
by Susan Roux

I almost didn't post this painting. I just completed it with my class and it looks so different from the series I'm working on in my private time, that I hesitated to show it.

It's interesting when your work evolves and you're a teacher, because what you're teaching still resembles your older stuff. I think of my galleries and wonder, what they will do with these varying looks? I'm not sure they can even hang together...

But there is a story behind this work.

Class started this painting before Christmas. It's been a long road, between cancellations for snow days and holidays. It was also a good challenge for both students and myself to direct them through this complicated scene. Fields of wild grasses are one of my favorite subjects. How I love to let my paintbrush dip in colors and scribble the canvas. Most of it is spontaneous and therefore hard to describe to a student. The other difficulty was having several figures. Those figures are where my little story lies.

My studio is downstairs. It's too small to teach in, so I hold my classes in the dining room. Every week after classes, I'd remove the plastic from my table, replace the tablecloth and assemble the chairs around it. As time passed and the number of classes increased (I'm teaching 5 a week now) my dining room became a second studio. It's a rare occasion when I pull out the wall-matching tablecloth and replace the chairs. As one class rolls into another and I try to paint on my own, the partially painted canvasses collect. I often place them against the hallway wall where the staircase is. Some of them make it all the way down to the real studio, but lately most of them line the hall. It's sort of like a floor-level gallery.

One day as my husband came up the stairs, the figures in the above painting were directly in his sight. I hadn't painted figures in my work in awhile at the time and he complimented me on them. He seemed so delighted that when Don Hatfield called that week, I mentioned having put figures in my work. I asked if he wanted me to send him an image? Totally expecting him to give me an enthusiastic yes, I was quite surprised by his response.

Rather than ask to see the figures, he began to talk to me about the danger of painting figures in a scene. He spoke of how they too often jump out at you and in actuality they should be part of the scene. I remembered how he taught us to let our strokes move from the background into our portraits and reverse. My mind started to wonder (like it doesn't already do enough of that on it's own...) and inspiration emerged.

I pulled out a fresh canvas and a photo of a girl. I had one thing in mind. Make the figure be part of the background. Frolicking is what I created and this is how my latest series started... The big difference was not drawing my figure. When I do, I want to stay within the lines. This time I began with paint, not a pencil.

So it's for this reason that I've posted this painting. Sometimes it's nice to know where and why something new began.

This brings us back to Champagne Thursday... which will be held next week, February 24 at 5:oo pm. The address is 94 Shore Drive, Freeport, Maine. Please come. Admission is champagne and an appetizer. I'll be away painting all next week. Sure hope this sinus thing moves on before Saturday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don Hatfield's Workshop

Hat Dance
Original oil painting 24x18"
by Susan Roux

Everything is in order. The venue is booked, the local Inn has reduced rates for you and Don Hatfield is definitely coming to Maine in July to teach you. He's laid out all the specifics on his blog, so I won't regurgitate here. Just go pay him a visit.

I will tell you that you need to sign up through me. So if you're interested or thinking about it and need an extra nudge, contact me. There are four 3-day slots you could be booked into, so in order to keep it all straight, Don has me in charge of registration. If you are interested in being in the same class as a friend, let me know.

I told you about Don's humorous side and today I want to tell you about his dedication to teaching anyone who is driven to improve. Yes, I said dedication.

We are all aware that college art degrees nowadays fall very short of teaching the real principles of art and painting. It's been common knowledge that if an artist desires to really learn the specifics they must do so through an apprenticeship, mentorship or workshops. The real secrets are handed down from seasoned artists to beginners and intermediates. As time marches on, the greats of today are sensitive to this and want to ensure that the knowledge continues through generations and time.

As I see it, it's our purpose to learn as much as we can in order to pass our knowledge along. Otherwise, art and painting as we know it will be a dying art...

Here's where Don Hatfield comes in. He's interested in teaching you. Really teaching you. I hosted him last July and he taught a workshop to the locals. Since then I've been in weekly communication with him. Phone calls, emails, skype... you name it. Anything and everything I could do to keep him informed on my progress. If you've been following me since then, you know my drive to improve has been very strong. I have Don's support to thank for this. He's continually feeding me bits of information that help me progress forward.

I never knew what it would be like to have a mentor. Now that I have one, I can't possibly tell you how amazing it is. I've been teaching for years and find it so nice to have someone I can bounce my ideas off of and get real valuable input in return. It's like having the best teacher in the world at your disposal. Wow!

When you read his workshop page and he makes mention of staying as much in touch as you desire, he isn't kidding. Aside from the initial workshop fee, he asks nothing of you except to work hard at improving. How can you beat that? It's the deal of the century!

So incase you're sitting on the fence, wondering if you should sign up or not, do so. You won't regret it. Don won't try to mold you into something else. You can still paint your way. What he will do is teach you about relationships and open your mind and eyes to things you most likely miss. He's mastered it and can offer each person what they require for advancement. Many of my beginner students will be taking his workshop, so don't think you aren't advanced enough to take it. He'll help you at any level.

Hat Dance is my latest painting. I didn't refine her as much as the others in this series. For some reason I really liked her initial block in. She looked so fresh and summery. I decided to keep her and work the background to compliment the look. Each one of these evolves. I've been having so much fun. That's not to say I don't get frustrated from time to time, but watching them evolve on canvas, taking on a life, a personality of their own is a wonderful experience. I never know where it's going to take me when I begin...

Don't forget to sign up for Don's workshop. He won't teach you tricks or gimmicks just the real fundamentals that will help you improve. (Plus you'll get to meet me!)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paint the poetry

Garden Stroll
Original oil painting 24x18"
by Susan Roux

I've had the pleasure of interacting at length with some of you lately via email. I have to tell you how fun and helpful it has been for me. I hope you feel the same way.

Have you ever noticed when you try to explain something about your process to someone, it helps you improve? We already know what we're doing (well at least most of the time) but putting it into words helps bring every aspect of our process to the forefront.

While talking to another I spoke of attempting to paint the poetry. My dictionary describes poetry as a special intensity given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm. I like these words. Special intensity, style, rhythm, the expression of feelings. Nowhere in this is anything about details or precise representation. The focus is on feeling, style and rhythm.

Doesn't that just put a whole new spin on everything?

All these years I've been trying to paint the elements in my composition and it turns out that wasn't the challenge after all. Paint a unified feeling on your canvas. Think of ambiance. You know, like that nice candlelit table setting you'll be preparing for your sweetheart on Valentine's Day. You'd pay attention to every detail so the whole entity, including tablecloth, candlesticks, dishes, flowers and vase would support an unmistakable feeling of romance. Yes the wine and dinner are probably your focal point, but everything about the table supports this feeling of love.

And so it must be with art...

I thought I finished Garden Stroll the other day. I knew she wasn't as strong as my other girls in this series. I placed her in a garden and trying to interpret this new style in a landscape was challenging. I had put her aside, but was left a bit dissatisfied. After talking to an artist about how I take a long time tweaking my paintings with the idea of painting the poetry in mind, I looked at her and realized I stopped short of what I wanted to capture. Does this happen to you?

You set a painting aside and next thing you know, it calls you back.

I couldn't ignore her. She was really urging me to continue. I'm glad I put her back on my easel. I'm much happier with the results. I may not be capturing the whole poetry thing, but I think I'm on the right track by having it in mind.

Do you ever paint the poetry?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gentle approach

Hello Little Bird
Original oil painting 20x16"
by Susan Roux

After being thrashed around by Scarlet, my hot ticket, I was determined to find innocence. I took Hello Little Bird to the opposite extreme. I needed to calm myself after the frustration and aggravation Scarlet the tartlet gave me.

I must admit that though my anger stills surfaces at the sight of her, I do think she's well done. I laugh thinking she may be the first in the series to sell. One thing for certain, she sparks conversation!

The art class that convened after she was painted was instantly in an uproar of excitement and laughter. I mentioned how I couldn't hang her on my wall because she still upset me so. Without hesitation, the gentleman in my class blurted that he would have no problem with her hanging on his wall! His eyes were popping out of his head. I think his forehead beaded with sweat. Comments of what this tartlet wanted rang sharply and continuously through the two hour session. Laughter on how she had control of me the entire time and my still visible anger permeated the room. Scarlet caused quite a raucous! At one point, I had to move her out of the gentleman's sight. She was too distracting for him to accomplish any painting...

By the end of class I had become the brunt of their jokes. Finally I picked her up and held her in front of my easel at the height she was when I painted her. Instantly the laughter stopped as they glimpsed the angle at which I was being stared at. That strong glaring attitude piercing down on me was extremely intimidating. Suddenly they understood my boiling feelings.

Next, an observation made from a beginner student, surprised me. She has only been painting since September. Her insight is keen and she mentioned that since I created her, there must be part of myself in her. Somewhere in my core is this floozy and perhaps I'm so upset with her because she exposes a part of me I like to keep hidden... Ouch.

Moving on to Hello Little Bird...

I started with a calm pose and changed a lot of things during the painting process. I was crabbing at a direction, a feeling, I wanted this painting to possess. I was unsure of what that should be. At the beginning I had a breaking wave in the foreground.

She didn't seem to want to pop like all my other girls in this series. Finally I removed the wave that lined up with the highlight of her skirt. She became a stronger image. I kept struggling with challenging focal points. I painted splashes around her feet. At one point the bird was nearly annihilated all together. A clear direction for this painting was not visible. Then it hit me. It was all about her approaching the bird. The splashes need to go. The feeling I was looking for was one of gentleness. A soft non-intimidating approach was necessary. The bird needed to trust her.

Finally with a clear focus, she quickly took on an angelic feeling. The drape of her dress reminded me of wings. I can almost imagine her raising her arms and watching them transform into beautiful, light-catching feathers in a vision on an angel that only the bird can see...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Red Hot

Original oil painting 20x16"
by Susan Roux

Sometimes a painting has a mind of its own. So was the case with this one.

I've been having fun exploring soft colored shadows, especially in white. I'd hoped to paint another similar to my past two. Capturing a soft sexy yet innocent feeling. But this hot ticket would not submit to my desires. Her red skirt caused so many problems! Innocence was the furthest thing this painting was ever going to possess.

It was a frustrating journey as I tried to gain control over the attitude of my young lady. In my attempt I furiously added colors to my background. Layering them over and over each other. It was quite odd looking when I dipped my big brush in red and scribbled it everywhere. I just wanted to calm her flirty skirt! That red just screamed.

I'm not sure how artists like Diane Leonard can continually paint red dresses without getting out of control. I see others who have mastered handling such a powerful color. As for myself, I think I'll stay away from the Valentine hue. I'm far more comfortable with the likes of white...

I exploded verbally as night fell and after toiling all day, she still mocked me. I washed my brushes as she stared down over me. I wanted to pull her off the easel. She made me so mad. Perhaps she reminded me of how some girls made me feel way back in high school. Looking down at me like I didn't belong.

The mind can play crazy games sometimes...

A new day can cast a totally different light. I expected to be upset with my canvas. I pulled her off the easel, placed her in a gold frame and set her in a different light. Backing away, I was surprised to see the background shine and glisten as though it had been gilded. The skirt that screamed so loudly at night, calmed in the shimmering atmosphere. The photo doesn't come close to capturing this effect. As I moved around the room, those endless layers that formed my background were as alive as my hot ticket. She's trying to steal the show, but she exists nicely in her environment. I wish I could show her to you as she really appears.