Friday, August 2, 2019

Marc Hanson workshop

A few weeks ago I attended a 3-day plein air painting workshop led by Marc Hanson, a painter I have followed online for a few years now. I've wanted to do something like this for a while, but none of the ones I was interested in were held anywhere near me. Marc's was in Lowell, MI about a 3.75 hour drive away, just east of Grand Rapids.

We painted 2 of the 3 days in a park where a stream fed into the Flat River (which then flows south into the Grand River, which is the Grand Rapids river), and the last day in downtown Lowell. This was a great experience and I'd certainly do it again.

Marc doing his monochromatic study - big shapes & limited values

Marc's completed color painting

Day 1
Marc painted a demo - he did a monochromatic study of a scene, adjusting the composition and learning the value structure and then painted a full-color, large version
We did the same 2 type of paintings as Marc did. I did my 2 on one board, with a taped divider down the middle.

my take on this exercise
oil on 9" x 12" panel

Day 2
We did the compass rose exercise, wherein we each had a board divided into 4 equal sections. We then painted in each square for 15 minutes, turning 90 degrees for the next one, and so on. Our challenge was to find something interesting in each area.
We each painted from the same view, a tree on the bank by where the rivers met

oil on 8" x 10" panel

Day 3
We did a memory exercise where we looked at the scene we were painting for 3 minutes and then painted for 12. We did that 4 times. After that, we painted the same scene it for an hour in a normal fashion.
Marc did another demo painting in the afternoon.


Major points/lessons learned:

– Marc paints with essentially a split-primary palette and I did so for the 3 days. In recent years I have been "designing" limited palettes for each of my paintings. It was nice to get back to the arrangement I started painting with, and stick with that for 3 days. I think I will work more in that way going forward. Not switching it up all the time helps.

Marc talked about how paintings can tend to work better if they are weighted towards having more light or dark areas, and not an even split. He suggested about a 70%–30% balance, whether the larger figure is dark or light values. I have been reading Edgar Payne's book The Composition of Outdoor Painting lately and he makes a similar suggestion.

Marc stressed keeping shadows transparent and "mysterious." Save the opaque areas for things in the light. He generally addressed large shadow masses first and manipulated them to find interesting shapes and simplicity.

Marc usually paints on a warm-toned support. He began by drawing in the big shapes and wiping and re-drawing them until he had an arrangement he liked. He used a brush with thinned paint for this. Then he addressed shadow areas, and started working on the largest/most critical masses. He found warm colors wherever possible, and stressed them to counter the overwhelming dominance of greens before us. He also emphasized pulling the brushstrokes in the direction the light moves over forms.

One of the key lessons is that he designs his painting using the worthwhile elements that are before him. He is NOT painting an exact replication of every leaf and branch. The view before him contains raw material that can be used for a painting. It is not the painting itself.