Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kim English Figure Painting - Workshop Highlights and Review by Pamela Blaies

Artist: Kim English

I just returned from a week long workshop with Kim English.  His painting style and mastery of color temperature is fabulous.  I was particularly interested in how he captures such beautiful light in his paintings. Some of my artist friends have asked if I would give a little summary of the workshop and what I picked up - so, I thought I would share it in a blog.

We had a figure model to paint from each day.  On the first day, we began by doing 3 minute sketches....  Yes, you read it right...3 minute sketches...of the figure!  Then the timer would go off and the model would change her pose and began the timer again, while we all wiped our canvases to begin again.  (Thank goodness I brought oil primed linen for easy wipe-off.)  He showed us in a short "sketch demo" how he blocks in masses instead of drawing.  He encouraged me to lighten the values in my shadows.  I was amazed how light I could push the shadows and have it still appear as shadow by being careful to change to the correct temperature for the lights.  After lunch, he let us begin with 5 minute sketches.  Kim would walk around behind each of the students during the painting sessions to answer questions and make comments and suggestions on our progress.    By the end of the day, I calculate that we had probably completed somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 paintings.  Below was a 3 minute pose from the first day.  Although I got the basic figure in with proper values and color, it took me a couple of days to relax in the frenetic atmosphere and begin to make cleaner strokes.

On day two and three, the mornings continued to consist of 3 minute sketches and then on to 5 minute sketches.  Later in the afternoons, he allowed 10 minutes and up to 15 minutes by the third day.  I definitely felt like I was at "art boot camp."  I generally paint pretty fast naturally, but I like to have control and think before I lay down my strokes, so the demand of constant "rushing" was definitely out of my comfort zone.  I think one benefit I received from these exercises was lots of intense, targeted practice of drawing and use of color.  Another benefit I saw was that I begin to get an intuitive feel for seeing value properly and pulling out the necessary elements - no dwelling on unimportant details.  

Crazy, but yes, the model is petting two pigs (the ceramic kind.)

On the final day, after the usual frenetic pace of the morning, I was pleasantly surprised by a slightly more relaxed afternoon.  Then, I hopped into my car for the 5 hour drive home and arrived wishing I could sleep for days.

Sketch from Final Day

Reflecting on the week, I would say there were pros and cons to this style of workshop.  Painting fast and constantly working under time pressure resulted in not getting many "keepers" and was a little discouraging.  But, Kim was teaching us a process and not focused on getting painting results in just one week.  I learned the value of being able to quickly capture the essence of a gesture.  He made me get rid of all earth tones for the week.  No Burnt Sienna or Raw Umber allowed.  For me, that was tough!  However, he showed me how to mix a nice Burnt Sienna and I found a new permanent addition to my palette - Cadmium Orange - love it!  I have done a lot of painting already this week and noticed that my brushwork has really loosened up.  I'm also getting a little more daring with color.  Inserting more color and lightening some of the values in my shadows has made my paintings come alive with light.  I can confidently say I'm glad I had the experience.

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