Guest post by Luann Udell.
Luann writes for FineArtViews and The Crafts Report magazine. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."
LEARNING TO SEE: An Art-Making Class with Kristina Wentzell
Last night I sat down to an easel for the first time in 45 years.
And I created a painting that I LIKED for the first time in my life!
How did I get here?? It’s a miracle!
I was part of Kristina Wentzell’s painting party at the “Art, Wine & Fun Night at Walpole Mountain View Winery” in Walpole, NH. (You can see more of Kristina’s themed painting parties here.)
Kristina started these painting workshops awhile back. Known for her own vibrantly colored, cheerful landscapes and still lifes, she works with groups to introduce them to the pleasures of painting.
Kristina showed us how to recreate one of her original paintings—in this class, a view of a vineyard. (The best part of this class? You could look out the window in the sunroom/tasting room where we worked, and see similar mountains and vineyards!)
She broke it down into a step-by-step process, guiding us all the way. When we were ready to get to work, we sat ourselves in the sunporch/tasting room, with gorgeous views of the vineyards on three sides. Easels were already set up and ready to go with a primed canvas, along with brushes (two), paint palettes (a paper plate with the eight colors we’d need) and a waterproof tablecloth (which was useful almost immediately!)
|Here's where it all starts. Orange!|
Kristina showed a finished sample of her painting—the one we would recreate-- along with versions of each step. As she explained each technique, she demonstrated on each appropriate sample painting.
We started with a light charcoal sketch, which allowed us to play with our compositions until we got one we liked. Then we mixed our first wash of color and painted over our sketched lines. We continued to mix the colors Kristina introduced, adding layer after layer of hues, moving into different areas of the canvas.
|I do like my mountains!|
As we worked, Kristina came by with encouragement and suggestions. When I got stuck, she was right there, guiding me gently along. When I ran out of green (about three times!), her assistant Kat, a Keene State College art student, was right there with the paint tube.
The hardest part? I was surprised by what I thought would be the easiest step—mixing colors. Kristina showed us how to work the pigments together, creating a little “mound” of color. It’s actually harder than I thought to mix pigments into such a small, neat “pile”. I tend to mush it all over, which not only takes up a lot of “real estate” on my plate, as Kristina put it, but also makes the paint dry faster. I believe I’m the only person who had to ask for an extra plate. The result was, I had to constantly stop to mix more color, which meant a subtly-different color mix each time. Hmmmmm…..I’m gonna have to practice that!
|Still need to master the "little mound" method of mixing paint. I used up all my "real estate" on the plate, as Kristina put it.|
|I was graciously given a second plate. |
The second hardest part? Like any work of creativity, what we make doesn’t look like much until we’re completely finished. It’s important to keep that in mind at all times. It takes patience and confidence to accept each step as “what it is”, moving on to the next step, and the next. Until finally, we’re ready to tweak here and there….and voila! A miracle—a change in perpective. Instead of cartoonish drawings and blobs of color, a lovely landscape emerges. And there is our finished painting. I carefully signed “LU” to the bottom corner, not trusting my skill at painting my whole name.
The beauty of this process is that I never felt I’d “screwed up”—at least, not irreparably so. Sometimes I made course corrections. Other times I shrugged and said, “No, it doesn’t look exactly like Kristina’s.”
|I do like my trees!|
Because it shouldn’t look exactly like Kristina’s! As each person bravely held up her piece, (and the admiring “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” started) it was so obvious to all of us….
We had all painted “the same thing” in a style that was uniquely ours.
All of our color choices were similar—but also very different. Some of us had limned gently rolling hills. Others had mountains that seemed to dance. Some of us had painted a soft sky, while others had skies that rolled and glowed.
We had all created a version of Kristina’s painting. And we had all created something very different and unique.
|My grapevines looked a little like lettuce, so I went rogue and added some squiggly details to them. They still look like lettuce. But like artistic lettuce.|
I’ve learned the power of good framing. Tomorrow I’ll mosey on down to Creative Encounters in downtown Keene. I know Karen Lyle and her staff will help me choose the perfect frame for this piece, at a price that’s affordable for me. It will join the other works in my collection of new and vintage landscapes, painted by talented professionals and eager neophytes. (Of which I’m firmly the latter.)
I had a wonderful evening out with delightful people. I sipped local wines, munched on incredibly delicious cheese and met up with old friends. I now own an original painting by Luann Udell for the price of a few good bottles of wine.
And I came home with an incredible sense of accomplishment and joy. I have lost my own fear of painting. I’m not giving up my day job to become a painter. But I now see the attraction of the process. And I’m delighted with my modest results.
Thank you, Kristina!