Introduction to Plein Air Landscape Painting in Pastels
Instructor: Steve Hill, has said, “My passion is to find special places…and explore these with every element of my psyche dialed into the joyous, expressive and interpretive language of painting on-site.” He is a signature member of The Northwest Pastel Society, and an active plein air painter and studio artist from Lopez Island, Washington.
Dates: July 21, 22, 23rd, 2017
Registration deadline: July 7, 2017
Place: SJIMA, 540 Spring Street, Friday Harbor
Class size: minimum 8/maximum 12 students
Student level: all levels
Questions: contact Malinda Dryer 360-378-2918
Workshop Description and Overview
by Steve Hill
Please note: I refer to Pastel as “painting” and not a drawing technique. When this workshop is over, you will surely understand why! My specific goal is to teach you to successfully use the pastel medium to create paintings that are quite simple in nature, but that can also create the illusion of greater detail, to the uninitiated. You really only get about 2-3 hours MAX to start and finish a painting “en plein air”, so we’re going to focus on techniques that make you hit the ground running, and be able to do that, when we go outside on days 2 & 3.
We will begin indoors, at the museum for the first day, and work on basic Pastel Stroke Exercises (grids and paper provided by me), set-up our outdoor painting gear and work from landscape reference photos to get warmed-up enough to take it all outdoors for days 2 & 3.
If you’ve taken one of my workshops, the “Stroke Exercises” for this plein air class, are shortened and modified versions from my beginning level classes, using both hard and soft pastel sticks, as well as some new exercises to learn how to apply alcohol washes for “under paintings”. I lead the exercises along with the whole class, to get you moving in the right directions and have found them to be invaluable “basics” to master, no matter how advanced you might be with the pastel medium.
After the “Stroke Exercises”, I will do three small (4”x6”) live painting demos from three typical San Juan Island land and seascape reference photos to show how the exercises actually apply to real painting scenarios. You will also do the same three small paintings from the same reference photos. Those will cover just about every land and seascape element that you will encounter outdoors from trees, buildings, water, rocks, skies, boats – even people in the landscape. I will provide the reference photos for this part.
Each of these will take less than 45 minutes to complete, as I will also be demonstrating how to “simplify” all of those pesky details into a painting that makes total visual sense, by utilizing textural effects, different stroke pressures and stroke directions (all covered in the exercises) as you quickly learn to edit-out all the unnecessary details that plague most artists.
At the end of the day, we will all take-down our gear and have it packed into vehicles ready for the next morning’s painting session.
Please note: On day one, we will all have the luxury of a small table next to our easels, indoors, but that won’t be the case when we go outside. Economy of space and materials is paramount to outdoor painting. Basically you will need to be able to transport all of your gear to your selected painting sites, outdoors. A backpack, small stand-up easel and backing board, pastel papers and an umbrella if you are going to use one, will be what you have to carry. Large canvas tote bags are good for carrying a bundle of gear.
We will car pool to pre-selected outdoor painting sites that will offer everyone fairly unlimited choices of subject matter and that have bathroom facilities nearby. Some of my favorites include: Jensen’s Boatyard, The Gann Ranch, Cattle Point, Eagle Cove areas, English Camp, and American Camp just to name a few. I am positive we will find some very cool and interesting places to paint on San Juan Island!
I begin with a live, narrated demo, at whichever painting site we end-up choosing. My demos will provide a lot of different techniques and take less than 90 minutes. First, I decide what to paint, followed with a small thumbnail (like 3-5”) sketch/value study to give myself a basic “road map” of how I am going to break down the largest shapes and forms in front of me. Also what I might plan to edit-out or move around or change a size, here or there . . . and most importantly, where my lights and darks will be! It all happens right there in a small sketch or two. Get used to it, because that’s one of the best tools I can teach you to instantly get a feel for what’s going to work vs what’s not. You will be doing these little studies throughout the workshop. They shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes each, as you’ll be working in small format. It’s also another way to “getto-know” your subject, as you will actually be drawing the basic shapes and form before you ever start trying to paint them.
Once I have my “design plan” hashed-out, I will launch straight into a larger size 9×12, 11×14, etc., demo painting directly from the subject. I will inform you what I plan to do next, as I paint, and what I’m thinking about each step of the way and how it relates towards finishing the painting.
I highly recommend that you bring cameras to take a few “progress” shots, as I work, because those will help jog your memory when you are on your own after the workshop. I still review some of the photos I have taken at workshop demos with artists like Desmond O’Hagan, Richard McKinley, Susan Ogilvie, Teresa Saia and others who I’ve had the opportunity to study with over the past 15 years. There is always some technique that gets completely covered over somewhere in the painting process and it’s nice to have a few pics to look at later, to see what went down first.
You will set-up and paint after my demos and for the remainder of the day I will come around to each of you with helpful advice.
The museum will send you my recommended pastel supplies list for plein air, upon request. If you’ve already taken a workshop or class and have some, you’ll be ahead of the game. You can expect to spend @ $200-$250 for the basic pastels, pastel papers, backing board, sketch book, 3-in1 viewfinder, etc. If you already have a good solid stand-alone easel (like a French easel, not a big cumbersome studio easel) you won’t need to buy one. I do have great recommendations for inexpensive plein air easels in my supplies list. You will also need a separate pastel stick storage box to put on your easel to keep your sticks organized. Those will be separate cost items, but totally necessary for you to have after the workshop, especially if you want to keep painting, en plein air!!
Most importantly, I want you to have fun, succeed and learn a lot!