a Gift of Something New

I attended a wonderful workshop over the weekend.  It was at the Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.  But even more wonderful than the location was the instructor, Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, a naturalist and fabulous artist who is a Master member of the Society of Animal Artists.  I was so blessed to receive instruction – and encouragement – from this marvelous person.  We were also treated to hearing his comments on his paintings that were in the one-man show in the museum’s gallery.

Here’s the piece I worked on in the workshop.  Carel asked us each to bring some photo references.  We composed compositions from them, then went to work painting using the technique he has developed.  He uses acrylics thinned down so that the technique is similar to watercolor. But it’s quite an improvement on watercolor for at least a couple of reasons.  First, glazing is easier as the lower layers absolutely stay put.  Also, one can paint light over dark by using the paint more opaquely.

 The photo here is my piece after an additional painting session here at home.   And I intend to continue working on it until it’s done, which will likely be quite a while from now as the technique is so meticulous (though it will no doubt be less so in my hands!).
Carel really challenged me right from the beginning of the workshop by asking me why I wanted to paint mice.  I am ashamed to say that my flustered, bungling answer was essentially “because I like them.”  Not very deep.  But the lesson is, I think, that considering why I am painting a certain subject will help to convey something in the painting other than simple surface decoration!
I learned that I need to do a lot more planning with my painting, even including value sketches, which I have carefully avoided so far.  I didn’t do one for this painting, but I promise myself to do one for the next!
Invariably, I see something new when I look at the photo of my painting on the computer – in other words, when I write my blog entries.  And what I see here is that I have misdrawn the lower right mouse.  I had intended for him to be looking at the mouse who is scooting out of town.  But instead he’s looking up in the air.  Rather than try to correct this problem – and it’s probably too late anyway – I think I may add the shadow of a hawk so that it makes sense for him to be looking up.  This type of wriggling out of trouble has been typical of my process.  Sometimes it leads to happy accidents but I think it would be far better to work everything out ahead of time.
By the way, Carel has written a wonderful book – “Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding” which is available on amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Rigor-Vitae-Unyielding-Pieter-Kempen/dp/0972015418/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320196915&sr=1-1  and well worth the price.  It’s a generous collection of his paintings with much informative and entertaining commentary. 
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