Jer and I just returned from the south Oregon Coast (Newport to Cape Perpetua) where a two-week paint-out was being honchoed by Eric and Katherine Sandgren. Eric, painter and printmaker, offered a 3-day workshop in the midst of the paint-out. We didn’t make arrangements to stay for the full two weeks, but I did take the workshop.
Eric Sandgren, 1st day demo, Seal Rock State Recreation Area
The workshop was formally a watercolor course, but Eric said he thought that I might benefit from it, even though I work in oils. And he was right. The biggest difference between watercolor and oils is in the early prep for the painting, the kind of drawing in charcoal that Eric is doing here. The setting up of basic shapes and planes in watercolor is more important than in oils because it’s more difficult to make big changes in watercolor than it is in oils. (Eric showed how to revise and edit watercolors on the last day, but he always stuck with his drawn composition).
On day 1, it was dripping rain, so I worked in the forest that runs along the coast rather than out on the edge of the shore. Here’s my best-looking reference photo:
I did three paintings of these and surrounding trees that first day, in part because I hadn’t done any plein air for about a month and needed to get accustomed to the stimulation of working outside; working fast and moving through the processes quickly is, for me. one way to get reacquainted with the experience of painting outside.
On Day 2 of the workshop, we went off to the Cummins Creek wayside at Neptune State Park, on the southern side of Cape Perpetua south of Yachats. There I looked over the ocean a bit, although, because Eric was emphasizing designing with planes and large shapes, I stuck mostly to hillside:
Day 2, general view
Day 2, Detail
The detail above was what I focused on on Day 2, although I layered in the “general” hillside. I did two paintings on Day 2.
On Day 3 we retreated north to Yachats (pronounced “Yaw-hots”) and set up at the park on the north side of the bay, at the Yachats State Recreation Area, where the Little Yachats River enters the bay with the town of Yachats showing across the way. This was my chance to try out my “ambiguous space” composition style. I used a 12 x 24″ board rather than the 12 x 16″ supports that I generally work with when I’m out-of-doors. The long board offered a chance to paint panoramically, which I like, but also presents more interesting compositional challenges.
So here are the various views that I worked into the single painting of that final day:
Detail of the tree that was to form the vertical structure on which the rest of the painting would hang. The tree was extended eastward, being elongated by the wind off the Pacific. I took only one photo of the tree, wanting to have a good reference for the foreshortening of the branches. I got so involved in the painting that I forgot to take photos of a more general view.
Yachats, across the Little Yachats River and Yachats Bay, with the incoming tide. This view, or versions of this view, appears twice in my painting.
Day 3 was misty and cold and the wind was coming in off the sea: I had on a hat, gloves, coat, vest, turtle-neck, and undershirt, and it wasn’t until about 2 PM that I was warm enough to unbutton the coat and take off the mittens. But it was still a fine painting experience.
We finished the day by looking at each other’s work with final comments by Eric.
Sandgren workshop, 2011, final session
In another post, soon to come, I will present my paintings, with some tweaks done in the studio. I did 6 paintings in all, one of which (the last) I feel pretty good about and one of which has been turned to the wall to be sanded down; the rest aren’t finished but are, I think, salvageable. The workshop reinforced many concepts about painting that I’ve been struggling with — feedback on shape, planes, composition, hue, intensity and value (I spent a lot of travel time asking myself about “warm” and “cool” colors). These ideas were reinforced by Eric’s small talks in the AM and the critique sessions at the end of each day, as well as his individual tutorials during the day. He’s a good teacher — has a strong formal background but is flexible and able to incorporate traditional painterly concerns with individual desires and needs. He’s also a bit of a ham, so he was fun to be around.
More later –June