Paintings from the Sandgren Workshop

[Ed. note: this is a re-posting from the southeastmain blog]

By june

I’m finally ready to post the paintings from the Sandgren Workshop, not because they are fascinating and wonderful, but because, well, because it’s time.

I did six paintings in three days, and then I reworked them in the studio. Five of the paintings were single framed views; the sixth was a stab at making ambiguous space. One of the paintings was so bad it’s now face-down in the studio.

Day 1, at Seal Rock State Park, south of  Newport, Oregon, on the coast:

JOU, Seal Rock Park 1, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

JOU, Seal Rock Park 2, 12 x 16″, oil on masonite, 2011

For years, I have pondered the difficulty of painting treescapes immersed within brushy, unfocused areas. Perhaps ambiguous, unoriented, fragmented space might do it, but here, it’s “just” a matter of painting the light through the fog. Now I should have known about light through trees long ago, but insights seem to come slowly to me. This was an incidental insight from Eric Sandgren, the workshop instructor. He spoke a lot about layering of planes, but demoed the light, and that  stuck with me.

Day 2, Cummins Creek at Neptune State Park on Cape Perpetua, south of Yachats

JOU, From Cummins Creek Park, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

JOU, Cummins Creek Tree, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

Day 2 was sunny and bright, unlike day one, when the advantage of painting trees under the trees was that one didn’t get dripped on. The general palettes of the two days were quite different, of course, and Eric got to home in on color intensity as well as value. He nattered on about warm and cool colors, a concept which I theoretically have understood for years, but never worked in nuance before. So I practiced seeing warms and cools where they weren’t obvious, and did as suggested with the intense ultramarine in the ocean on the first painting of the day.

After I got home, I reworked these paintings, and in doing so I lost their freshness. I am disappointed in how they turned out but not in what I learned as I fussed and fretted over getting a rhythm and sequence to the materials. So during and after day 2, I’m thinking “layering, intensity of hue, values, rhythm and sequencing, and planes.”  Well, I tried to think of those things, serially and all at once. Multitasking at its most difficult, particularly as I am supposed to be handling a paint brush at the same time….

Day 3, North Park, Yachats (which isn’t called that anywhere but in Eric’s handouts. But it’s so obvious that misnomer didn’t matter)

JOU, Yachats across the Bay, 24 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011

I had gone to the Sandgren workshop hoping to deal with the vexed question of painting something more than the framed, monocular perspective, the traditional view of ocean and land. The Yachats painting was my attempt to incorporate larger issues into an ocean painting. It, like the two from the previous day, has a lot of flaws, including serious overworking in the studio. However, it contains all the elements of ambiguous space that I need to do it again, better.

The conditions on Day 3 are the stuff of plein air legend — I had on four layers, a hat and gloves, the wind howled and the rain spat, and it wasn’t until 2 PM that it warmed up enough for me to take off my gloves and undo the top button on my coat. Nevertheless I was pleased to have found one way to work toward capturing the oceanic space as well as the sense of the whole scene as one might view it from various places. Eric’s insistence upon planar composition made sense to me in a way that years of thinking about shapes as a compositional basic never has.

So, while the final products may have been lackluster, my sense of excitement in cementing some ideas that I have circled for years continues. –June

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