Friday, April 25, 2014


I rarely take workshops but I just returned from four days painting with oil painter Qiang Huang.

Qiang Huang is the most thoughtful artist I know and an excellent communicator, both in words and writing. Before he makes a stroke on canvas, he has fully evaluated the hue, the color value, the intensity, and whether the color is transparent or opaque. Only then does he place the stroke exactly where he wants it. Working with Qiang has changed my thinking about oil painting.

My recent painting life:
I have been working for many months on my "mind's eye" landscape series in pastel. No reference photos, no plein air. Nothing but me in my studio with a blank surface and my pastels. To me this series has a mystical, dream-like feeling. The illusion of a place or time, or a compilation of memories from life or from a dream. I am pleased with the body of work that came out of that experiment and I'll continue to show it at my galleries into next year.

From the workshop:
I worked with staged still life objects and lit the scene to create a center of interest. The challenge is to portray the feeling or essence in an abstract style but based solidly upon the set up. At the same time, the goal is to work from actual objects and stay true to their color and value. Notice I didn't say form. Round objects may be squared off. A single grape might actually be a square of color with a dot of highlight but the viewer knows it is a grape, partly because of the surrounding/support objects.

I want to explore this style but it will be a discipline in many ways after years of being a free spirit in pastel. I could continue using oils the way I have been using them with the results looking much like my pastel work but the challenge of balancing abstract qualities with VERY careful observation and SLOW execution appeals to me at this time.

The first day of the workshop, I was dissatisfied with my effort and asked Qiang if I could wipe off my painting and paint it again. He strongly advised me to keep the painting and to refer to it as time goes by as a base-line reference point so I can see improvement in my work over time. I know the reason I wanted to get rid of the painting (shown far left below) was so I wouldn't be reminded of what a dud-painter I felt like the first day. By the next day, I managed to "get over myself" and get back to work. I listened carefully to Qiang's critique and suggestions. I took them to heart. I like that saying.

I'm ready for a change of medium, change of subject, change of painting method and hopefully a change of attitude about my work. I will resist the urge to "fix" painting number one. Wish me luck!

My 8x10 inch oils in progress from Qiang Huang workshop, April 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

A spoon and Boo

I just finished the first of four days with oil painter Qiang Huang. My workshop day ended with an OK apple painted in the middle of an overworked still life.

My day started with my usual breakfast. I brought our Muffin Man muffins, avocado, my mocha mix, eggs and my handy little microwave egg poacher that I use at home most mornings. However, I forgot to bring a spoon. The photo above shows how to eat a poached egg using half of the egg shell as a spoon.

My after-class laugh for the day is a photo I received of my sister and her new dog. Today she brought home Boo, the little girl Yorkie rescue dog. She gave Boo a bath. Why is Boo so big?