My landscape painting mentor and friend, Linda Blondheim, is an excellent teacher, both tough and sensitive. She listens to her students' expression of what they would like to achieve in a painting and (if that vision is achievable) helps them get there--a rare teaching gift. Looking at this cypress swamp piece reminds me of the enriching day and growth as an artist I experienced in a design and composition workshop with her a few years ago. By the way, all the best artists I know are self-described learners and are continually pushing themselves to grow and to achieve new directions and goals.
I was privileged to study with Linda again recently at a full day workshop learning about using values well in the landscape ("values" in art refer to the whole range of darks to mid-tones to lights). I know that this is one area in which I need improvement--I get so taken up with the brilliance or the subtlety of colors in nature that it is difficult for me to judge values sometimes or to balance them in an interesting way in a composition. Among other topics, she introduced the Notan system for making values "sing" in our work. It was especially meaningful to work with her earlier this month because her schedule requires her to stop in-person teaching for a time, and I am thrilled I could be in her final workshop (for now--all her students hope that she will return to teaching in the future).
For anyone who would like painting instruction from Linda, she is continuing on-line teaching, both individual and class instruction, and her e-classes are excellent. In fact, her next class unit will be an expanded version of the one-day values workshop I experienced. For more information, go to HER WEBSITE and click on "artist resources" at the top.
Even if you are not looking for painting classes, her remarkable paintings and fascinating articles about her beloved North Florida, its history, farms, ranches, wetlands, and preserves are well worth a visit to that website (click on the link above). If you think all of Florida looks like Miami or the Gulf Coast, you will be amazed to see the paintings her lifetime of exploring has inspired.
Now, about the above painting, an acrylic on a 9" X 12" canvas panel from a workshop with Linda a few years ago. Like many of my accounts of the painting process, the story of this piece is a tale of mistakes along the way and hurdles overcome. The basic composition, under-painting, and some of the finishing were complete by the time I left the workshop. Under Linda's guidance, it was looking fairly good then. Linda had scanned a good quality copy of the magazine photo for me to bring home as i completed the scene, but I had difficulty getting it to look real. Finally, an insight struck as I studied the copy of the photo for the millionth time. The photographer either had used flash or had other additional lighting on the stumpy cypress knees in the foreground so that there was a combination of natural back lighting and dramatic light falling on the foreground. Although that made for a striking photograph, trying similar tones in my painting made the scene look phony. Softer, mid to dark tones in the foreground made a real improvement.
Question of the day: What is your current growing, learning edge?