Autumn Afternoon at Lake Lure

 Autumn painting of water

This was another plein air painting I did on my mountain trip. I did this painting during John Budicin portion of the workshop. I was in full sun but it was windy so I didn't want to mess with my umbrella. John commented that I'd better shade my painting from time to time or else the values would be too dark. I tried my best, but when I got inside and looked at my painting it was indeed darker than I had expected. I may yet touch this piece up a bit, but I'm not sure. I do like the way the water looks, so I wouldn't want to mess with it too much.

In some ways John's style was very different from Ken's. John used little #3 round brushes, where Ken used #8 filberts. John had a more expansive pallete and Ken's was pretty limited. I found this interesting and it also confirmed to me that there is no one "right way" approach. What the two had in common, though, was an emphasis on design, value, and seeing everything in shapes and planes. I think these ideas were starting to solidify with me especially during the days when we painted outside.

This painting measures 9x12" and is done in oils on canvas mounted hardboard. I haven't uploaded it to my main website yet, so please contact me if you would like more information.

Fall Harvest

autumn landscape painting by Jennifer Young

Well, my workaround for posting to my blog while painting in the mountains was short-lived. In fact two of my previous posts were lost in the internet ethers, so I'm having to "retro-post" after the fact. This is one of the paintings I completed en plein air while at the workshop. I felt like I was finally finding a groove with this one, and thankfully we had a lovely mild day to work with!

The model posed only in brief intervals for us, so we had to work fast to get her "attitude" AND get the color notes and values that surrounded her. It was fun and challenging, but I am really happy with my results. There is something about painting en plein air that really helps to inform the light. I love backlit scenes like this one, even though it can be hard on the eyes if working in this way for a while. Ken's only critique when I was done was to say that the background trees might compete with the figure, leading the eye away from the center of interest. While this may be true, my feeling was that the fall colors helped to "set the tone" of the painting. Plus I am a color fiend and that fall foliage was too seductive to overlook. I did end up toning it down a little though.

This painting was done in oils on canvas-mounted hardboard. It measures 11x14". For more information please click on the image or contact me.

Asheville- days two and three

It has been an interesting and educating two days here at the workshop. Unfortunately the weather continues to be problematic, so we worked inside from the model on Tuesday. I will say that we had a terrific model who looked like he could have come out of an Italian Renaissance painting. Since Ken Backhaus' segment of the workshop deals with painting the figure within a landscape, we spent our time studying proportions, drawing, and values. I worked from the figure a lot in college but it has been a while since I've worked from a live model and I'd forgotten how challenging and rewarding it is. I think I will definitely continue this pursuit when I get back home, because even though I am a landscape painter, understanding the challenging human form instructs you on many levels. I wish I could post some picutres but alas my camera software has refused to download any pictures from my camera. I'm not sure what is going on with it, but as it is, I only have a limited amount of time that I can use the computer and I just haven't been able to mess with it.

Ken has had us work mainly in one-hour sessions. One of his main challenges to us has been to get us to commit to an idea (what do we want to say in this painting? what is our point of interest?) and then lay in the major shapes and values in broad strokes. Broad strokes doesn't mean just slapping the paint on hapazardly though. Every stroke must have meaning and intent. It was really helpful to me to work in this way. Having the time limit challenges the artist to make informed decisions and commit to them, and not to just futz and noodle endlessly with the painting. It gives a decisiveness to the work rather than having it look too worked over. This is the way with plein air painting also. The challenge is to commit to a statement of light, even if it shifts and changes as the painting progresses. So while I may have preferred to be painting outdoors on location, the figure studies really helped me to have some "ah-ha" moments.

Day three- The weather finally cooperated! We went outside to hickory nut farm and painted a beautiful autumn scene in a pasture. Some of the farm horses wandered up to where we were so that they could check us out. Ken placed the model at a distance in the landscape so that we could incorporate her into a broader scene. Even though the figure was small in comparison to the rest of the scene, her proportions had to be right or else it threw off your entire painting. I must say I was very happy with my results. I chose an angle that gave me the most beautiful backlighting on the model, the surounding shrubs, and the autumn foliage of the trees.

Since this may have been our only opportunity, weather-wise, I and one of the other painters also went out after class and painted on our own. We found a beautiful rolling vista with dramatic colors and cows and horses in the pasture. It was around 5 p.m. by the time we set up and I knew the light would change very rapidly at this time so I chose a small 6x8 pochade. It was plenty big, really, as the sun quickly dropped behind the mountain.

Day one at the Asheville workshop

Well it has been an interesting time here in Asheville so far. Yesterday it was beautiful and sunny, but C-O-L-D and very windy. The combination made it almost unbearable for most of us.  We stuck it out though!! The way they've organized this workshop is to split the group into two, so that one instructor gets half for half of the week, and the other gets the other half and then they switch. Ken Backhaus was teaching the first half of my workshop. His focus for the class was "the figure in landscape painting".

Okay, so I didn't read the prospectus that well and I had no idea we'd be doing figure painting. Being so excited about painting the landscape here, I was a bit taken aback and somewhat put off by having to paint from the model. I kept looking at this gorgeous land and thinking that if we were going to paint outside in the freezing cold, why not paint the landscape and work from the model indoors any time?

But having taught workshops before I also understood how hard it is to have control over a class and offer something that pleases everyone. In fact, it is nearly impossible! So having remembered "what it's like" I relaxed and decided to just enjoy the teaching, knowing that this was a time to learn and be challenged, not to worry about coming away with any "finished" paintings.

In fact the figure is the most challenging subject a representational painter can attempt. There is a reason why the the old masters started their training by painting and drawing the human figure. If you don't get the proportions right, it is obvious for all to see! And the figure is a great instructor of proportion for any other manner of painting that one might attempt.

Ken started out the workshop with a very interesting and informative session on color mixing. He uses the following limited pallette:

  • Ivory black
  • Alizarin Crimson Permanent
  • Permanent Rose
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Raw Sienna
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Titanium White

His "color" demo showed how he can mix a myriad of colors from his palette. This palette was somewhat "earthier" than I am used to, but I enjoyed experimenting with it. The one component that I really do not use in my own palette is the Ivory black paint. I'm not really sure it will find its place on my own palette when I return home, but I  think it always helps to learn more about color by limiting the palette. Plus, it is a good way to provide color harmony in your paintings.

After the color demo, Ken showed us how he designed a painting using the figure. He spoke much about how to design the painting using large planes and notes of color. His approach was a bit like composing using puzzle pieces. Everything was about comparison. Comparing one proportion to another, and one value to another. It was very helpful and very informative!

Afterwards, we were able to start a painting of our own using the figure. Unfortunately by that time it was about 30 degrees and the winds were at 20 mph. Most of us were woefully underdressed for the occasion! We all finally had to stop due to the extreme temperatures. Many of us were shaking so bad from the shivers that we couldn't even draw any more. I went out immediately afterwards and bought boots and long johns.

This was a difficult day even for a seasoned plein air painter. Ken is from Minnesota and even he admittedly struggled. I felt for him during his demo, but not as much as I felt for his model! Nevertheless, the days lessons were very instructive.

I've taken some photos but I have yet to figure out how to upload them withouth my usual setup. Once I figure this out I will post some images!

Jennifer Young; Vibrant Landscapes Oil Paintings and art prints online www.jenniferyoung.com Contact

I've arrived in Asheville

I'm here to take a painting workshop from two painters who I really admire; Ken Bachkhaus and John Budicin. This is a gift I've given to myself following the work I've done for my last show and some large commissions. I was on the waiting list and there was a cancellation so I found out rather late I could get in.  I have a ton of work to do to get ready for my new studio opening, but I decided to go for it any way. I haven't taken a workshop in a while, but as an artist there is always much to learn. I never want to get to a point where I think I know all there is to know. As long as I can stay filled with wonder and curiosity I know I am in a good place. I have held a short list of artists in mind whose workshops I feel would be of benefit to me. But as a working artist, it is hard to find the time to travel all over the place to take classes. The opportunity presented itself with TWO artists I admire, and I couldn't pass it up.

My drive into Asheville was stunning. If this isn't the peak week of autumn here it has to be pretty darn close. The mountains were dressed in a kaleidescope of fall colors. Weather has been spotty so there were some large storm clouds clearing away in the sky as the sun set over the mountains. I drove due west straight into the most spectacular sun and cloud displays I think I have ever seen. I wished I hadn't been driving so I could have at least snapped some pictures! As it was I had no idea where I was going so I had to pay attention to the road and catch glimpses as well as I could. Any way it made me feel excited to be here.

We are in for a chilly week. I have a low threshold for the cold so it should be interesting, as this is a plein air excursion. The forecast is pretty "iffy" so far, but it looks like we will get at least two or three days with some sun. Tomorrow is supposed to be windy as well. I'm game though. I intend to learn some things and I have no doubt I will. I hope to post my work on the blog (the good, the bad and the ugly) as I develop it while I'm here.