Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lights and darks

Loading Traps
Work in progress 16x20"
by Susan Roux

I've been painting all day long lately. Since the workshop, inspiration is peeked. Thank you for all your encouraging comments as I dive into a new approach. Its as though my motor is on and I'm afraid to shut it off for fear of loosing precious information.

Paint, paint, paint. Like a mad woman with a brush!

This is the initial block-in for my latest piece. Actually it isn't really the initial one. I took a photo of what I thought was my block-in, only to find the man's head was very puny. Odd how I couldn't see it looking at the canvas, yet it jumped out so clearly in a photograph. A bit discouraged, I returned to the studio to enlarge his head... Its better now.

Don Hatfield's approach is to focus on the large shapes of light and dark without attention to detail.

I'm trying really hard to do this, but I'm certain I have way more detail showing in this initial block-in than he would allow. He has a reputation of "slaying our darlings". This means knocking out the detail to reinforce and adjust the correct values in large shapes.

I chose this image to paint because it related closer to our portrait lesson than wildflowers in a field. Though I'm assured the same principles apply, it seems easier to follow his instructions with a figure in the scene. Now that my figure is adjusted, I can begin to focus on all the different planes and how light affects them. Be it reflected light or direct sunlight.

I think I'm off to a good start. My biggest fear is the yellow grid of the lobster trap. I'm hoping to keep it soft and simple, but the mathematical side of me will be pushing for every line in the grid! I'll try not to listen... Perhaps I can put them all in and then make some disappear.

We'll see how that goes. After all, its only paint.

Enjoy your day. Don't be afraid to experiment a little... or a lot.

Monday, July 26, 2010


From the Clover
Original oil Painting 20x16"
by Susan Roux

Ok. I admit it. Taking a workshop can totally throw you, no matter how wonderful a workshop it was. Admitting you have things to learn and be willing to change your approach takes great commitment. Don Hatfield opened my eyes to things I've never noticed before. It is impossible to return to where I was prior to this enlightenment. One must move forward.

From the Clover was started before I took the workshop.

Some of the things I learned, or perhaps was reminded of, was focusing on lights and darks. Though I think it has always been my focus, there were elements that I missed. Elements like the necessity of grays. I pondered this for some time before daring to approach this painting.

How do I go about it now? That was the real question.

This composition was not the best to apply my new found knowledge. A sharper contrast between lights and darks would have been better. Nonetheless, I attempted to put it into action. I added grays. I focused on the light. I tried to keep my colors accurate.

When you attempt something new, there's so much to focus on. We all know that thinking while painting hampers the natural emotional flow we strive to achieve. I know in time I'll be able to do these things without thinking and what is within me will pour out easily again. For now, my work is cut out. I can see a direction to follow. It makes sense and its stimulating. This will be a time of experimenting and learning.

I'm really hoping to see significant improvement in my work from this experience. That may be too much to expect, but I expect it anyway...

Time will tell.

(note: I couldn't adjust the colors accurately on this photo. It gave me lots of trouble. I've photographed it 10 times in different light to get it right. Still, it isn't... There's a lot to be said for viewing the original art.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thanks Don

My husband, Mike
Day-3 of the workshop 20x16"
by Susan Roux

My house feels empty.

Yesterday I drove Don Hatfield and his lovely wife Janey to Wiscasset, Maine where their holiday is continuing. They have been living with us for the past week or so and today, morning coffee is quiet and lonely. Don thought I would be happy to finally get my house back, but as I suspected, its just the opposite...

I met Don blogging. Somehow our interaction turned to an invitation and evolved into him coming to teach a workshop in Maine. What a gift! Stephanie Berry wrote in detail about the workshop. Click her if you're interested in reading all about it. As for myself, I can tell you this will mark a turning point in my art and possibly my career.

Aside from being hysterical, Don is a wealth of knowledge eager to share his talents. He's given me a new perspective and after all these years of painting, a new way of looking at things. How unusual to have your eyes opened anew. My mind is whizzing with so much information. I'm trying to process it and soon put it to the test, painting.

Since very early in my blogging, I've urged you to reach out and meet new people. Here I am today echoing that same message. You never know where it will lead you. Its always an adventure and sometimes a precious gift.

Don you've been a precious gift. Thank you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Our secret

From the Clover
Work in progress 20x16"
by Susan Roux

The rocks were talking.

I've never experienced anything like it. We were on Deer Isle, painting plein air from early morning 'til mid-afternoon. The weather was hot and sunny so we packed our gear and drove to find a beach locals told us about. It was a tiny beach. A very tiny beach...

Off to the side I noticed a trail. It rose up a wooded hill. A dense pine forest, perhaps all growing on large rocks. Something felt very ancient here. The trail forked. It was a short walk. Each ended at a different location around a point. Three completely different beaches, facing three different compass points, all separated by this wooded hill.

One particular beach seemed to pull us in. Chris, Karen and I descended onto in.

A different energy existed there. It was powerful and it tingled inside us. In awe, we moved slowly, not speaking. Large rounded boulder type rocks surrounded us. The tide was low, exposing a tiny sandy beach. I was pulled to a large rock, where I immediately crouched to listen.

The rocks were talking.

It really did feel ancient here. It was humbling. Like these rocks had been here so much longer than any of us, they had even evolved to speak... Chris and I were overwhelmed by the energy we began to talk about our shared Abenaki Indian ancestry. Something here made us feel very connected.

Then Karen surprised us by saying she had Abenaki in her too. Her grandfather was a medicine man!

We are living proof that not all the French and Indians were at war...

No wonder we've become instant friends. We were already connected. Just as this place made us feel connected. Ancient knowledge seemed to be here. We all listened to the rocks. It was the vast areas of exposed barnacles crackling and popping. It put Rice Crispies to shame! The range of sounds it made was incredible.

A bit further, the rocks rose up on either side of us.

From there, you needn't crouch to hear the chatter. It echoed around you. How cool and spiritual a place this was! The secret beach found only at low tide.

It had so much to say...

We returned to our rental house to tell everyone of our magnificent find. They laughed at us. Talking rocks? Seriously now...

The looks on our faces must have sparked some interest, because the next day Mike wanted me to take him there. We needed to wait until low tide. It was misting, so I knew it wouldn't be the same. In the heat, the barnacles had closed tight. The sound was coming from within their closed shells. As though these tiny crustaceans were complaining about the intense heat bestowed upon them.

Much like I've been doing these past few days in the Eastern heat wave...

The sound was softer. Much softer. But upon seeing this place, Mike suddenly understood. He even apologized for laughing the night before. Armed with his trusty camera, he took the photos posted. I wondered how many people came to this beach and never herd it talking. If they were themselves chatting, they would have drowned the sound. If felt like our amazing secret. The place where the rocks talk...

I still have chills thinking about it.