November 5, 2009

quick studies

I just returned from a figure painting workshop with Kim English. Unfortunately, he does not have a website, but you can see his paintings here. I have studied with Kim before; absolutely LOVE his work. His method of teaching is quite different from most instructors: no formal lectures, no lengthy demos. Instead, he asks students to paint quick studies where the model changes poses every 5-10 minutes. At first it seems impossible, but with premixed colors, you get into a rhythm of painting that allows you to move into a comfort zone where details and noodling are not allowed. Heck, THINKING isn't even allowed. No time! Just lay it down, wipe it off, do another one.. .or another ten as the case may be... Kim believes that the best poses are the natural ones that models fall into when they are comfortable, so he avoids formally posing them, explaining that it is more interesting for them to "tell their story" not his. And when there are two models, he encourages them to interact with each other instead of remaining perfectly still. It is quite different from the static poses most life drawing classes require--and tons more fun. While I wiped dozens of studies off, there were a few (included here) that he felt captured the essence of the assignment, and so he instructed me to save them for reference. In other words, about 99% of the studies were not worthy of saving in my case, but that's not the point. It is the process of seeing and capturing fleeting moments that you are after--if you have never tried it, challenge yourself! Set a timer. Better yet, set up your easel at a park, a university, an outdoor restaurant-anywhere that you can observe people being themselves coming and going, and practice painting quick gestures. Sure your models may get up and walk away right in the middle of your "perfect" painting, but that's okay. Another will soon take her is great practice if you need to get out of your comfort zone, get out of your head, and loosen up your brushstrokes. The only "rule" is to avoid details; instead look for shapes, values and gesture. Oh and, make the painting be about what the people are doing instead of striving for an exact likeness. It is guaranteed to energize your work! And you!
"Painting the moment is like stopping the clock at the split second of truth. It's out of time, fleeting, yet eternal. That's why I paint quickly, to capture the essence of a moment before it disappears"...Kim English


Leslie Saeta said...

What a wonderful idea! You have inspired me to try this. I love your quick studies. How many premixed colors did you use? Just curious.

FCP said...

Hi Leslie,
We pre-mixed only enough colors to describe the big shapes, usually about 6 to 8; often using a warm and cool version of each to show light and shadow variations. Then, after the canvas is covered, we defined the shapes a little further, making them warmer, cooler, darker or lighter, as time permitted. And of course if you are painting the same model or background more than once, you can use the same mixes for several studies.
Hope you have fun trying it,

Lisa Daria said...

These look great. . . !

Marian Fortunati said...

I have heard someone else describe Kim's classes in much the same way. You seemed to thrive and grow from the lessons though.
Although I KNOW it would be good for me at this point I'd be too intimidated. Good for you!!

I love the way you captured how the light caught the sides of the model's hair in the first one... Perfect!

Edward Burton said...

These are wonderful, Faye, and WOW, workshops with Kim English and Peggi Kroll Roberts - lucky you! I love their work.

Crazy Ravens Studio said...

Faye, these sketches are fresh and lovely in their own right. Well done.

Diane Hoeptner said...

Sounds like that was a worthwhile class! Your saved figurative sketches do have a very free and effortless feeling, gotta love that!

L.Holm said...

I've always loved his work. Had no idea he held workshops. Thanks for sharing the essence of the lessons...great tips and advice, and these are beautiful sketches.

c.gillespie said...

I love your work. Your gesture paintings are wonderful! I agree with you about Kim English - I must keep my eyes open for any workshops given by him! Glad you pointed him out - I haven't come across him before.