I had the delightful opportunity to attend a landscape painting art workshop in Denver in July. The class was given by Ken Elliot who lives just south of Denver, and who happens to be a cousin of my dear Austin friend Carrie Boyles. About two years ago she told me about this cousin of hers who painted, who I should look up. Well I DID look him up and I simply loved his wildly colorful landscape paintings. He didn’t seem to be bound by reality when it came to choosing colors but he managed to make neon colored mountains, trees and skies look exactly RIGHT. Anyway, when I realized I could take a class from him, I jumped at it; and of course, Karen was on board with the whole idea as well.
The class was a held in a beautiful museum, amongst several lovely landscape paintings; and we set up on canvas tarps and long cafeteria tables, and stood at our easels. Ken did a demo using a photo for inspiration and to get the composition rolling. He used 1 1/2 inch “chipper” brushes from Home Depot and changed brushes every time he changed colors. The the result was that his colors stayed clean and he began getting beautiful blendings in just the spots where he wanted them. It was amazing to watch and even the other participants were doing the most marvelous things when we got to our own easels. One gal was painting her landscape on a canvas flat on the table and pushing the acrylic paint around with squeegees! Ken was great about coming around and giving us his undivided attention. The main thing that stayed with me from what he said was, “Do something bold!”
The colorful landscape painting above is the final version of the first exercise from that workshop. I didn’t much like it at the time and to bring it home I just put a paper towel on it and stuck it in a plastic bag and stuffed it in my suitcase. When I got back to Austin, I peeled the paper towel off and found much of it had stuck to the paint! duh! At that point I thought “Does this mean my new landscape painting is now considered a mixed media piece? Ha, Ha!” The paper towel pieces were kinda lumpy and fuzzy so I got out a sanding block and worked most of the towel parts off. At this point I had nothing to lose and decided I liked the sky but the other parts were too dark. I painted brighter versions of the too dark parts, and threw in a hedge of (what I will call) sage bushes alongside (what I shall call) a road . . . and “Voila” it seemed to have arrived!
In many ways, the messed up canvas on my landscape painting gave me the freedom to do something BOLD. When working from a blank white canvas, I always feel pressure to put down the right color in the right place the first time, but of course that is ridiculous. But I hate that step of looking at the white, thirsty, gessoed canvas! It is just so needy! It is pleading with me, “Please make me beautiful!! And hurry!” I have to keep telling myself it’s just paint and it can be wiped off painted over or sanded down if I get it wrong. At least when you do something bold it is easier to judge whether it should stay or it should go!
Is there a life lesson here? So much of life requires that we do the right thing and stick with the routine, but there are those times you are stuck and things aren’t working . . . Then it is time to do something BOLD! Stir things up my friends, the possibilities are invigorating!