Friday, November 6, 2015

recap of santa fe experience

now that i am back from santa fe and have had time to reflect on the experience, i can say that in terms of growth as an artist in general, and painter, specifically, i have never had a more intense, concentrated and productive endeavor. the lead-in to the one-on-one mentoring with ted nuttall, that being the 5-day workshop (4.5-day in my case.....more on that later) was perfect.

i was able to reacquaint myself with ted's teaching technique, review those didactic elements of making art and painting that he considers important, and get my both my brush and mind in the painting mode.  the workshop was pretty much vintage ted with each half-day session starting with some sort of slide session emphasizing various aspects of painting, not just watercolor painting. the topics included, but weren't necessarily restricted to, some examples of figurative artists' work, contemporary and historical, painting the facial features, hair and beards, design and composition principles. the later were, for me, the most valuable of these.

to sum up the design/composition part one should first sort out who (or what) the subject of the painting is going to be. after that critical decision, one needs to decide what shape of paper, then what size, and then finally and where in the painting the figure will reside. it's a mistake to try to work with 1/2 or quarter sheet sizes and shapes where a square may be a more appropriate shape for the story one wants to tell. just because the long axis vertical is the convention for "portrait", the landscape orientation may suit one's needs better.

in terms of placement the conventional rules such as not in the dead center, not at an edge toward which the figure is walking or looking, may not meet one's needs and also may not result in an exciting, fresh, interesting painting. so, be prepared to break the rules, but then also be prepared to make the transgression work.

i finished one painting during this time period: the painting shown on the previous  post, "ready for middle school."

after a day's rest and a strategizing meeting over dinner on saturday, sunday brought the 3-day mentoring session. the days usually started with bemoaning the world's current sorry state, musing about the obvious solutions, discussing recent novels we both had read, and ingesting quarts, if not gallons, of dunkin' donuts coffee....ted's favorite. the harmony of this activity was helped  significantly by the fact that we are both of similar political persuasion.

the first day we spent the entire morning carefully and fully critiquing my most recent 15-20 paintings. some of these i knew had problems, but the ones that i thought were pretty good were found lacking in some area or another as well. this often came down to my penchant for leaving quite a bit of white paper in the background juxtaposed with some fairly dark element(s). this, obvious in retrospect, clearly detracted or at least took some of the attention from the figure. the analysis of these better paintings often yielded the most eye-opening and useful observations. so, objective one was identified: work on backgrounds by looking at other artists whose work i admire, think about ways to make it somewhat interesting but enhance the figure rather than hijack the show, and go at it slowly with many thin layers rather than diving into low value, irretrievable territory right from the get-go.

the other thing that emerged from this most valuable session was that i had to pay as much attention to all aspects of the drawing as i did to the placement of the figures and shape of the face (or figure). ted made the observation that it looked like i sort of "winged" it when it came to the supporting objects such as hands and hair........they needed to be just as carefully drawn as the face. people are so familiar withe the face and hands that any little inaccuracy will be seen as "not right" (even if they are not sure why) additionally i had a tendency to do the same thing with the surrounding inanimate objects that i chose to include. any ambiguities as to what the object was was a detractor. if it really couldn't be drawn and painted so that it was pretty obvious what it was find a way to leave it out....don't make it up. all of these inaccuracies and ambiguities would probably lead to an inordinate amount of time on the viewers part trying to figure it out and detracts from the artist's main message or story.

the good part was that my compositions were strong and fairly interesting, and my brush and paint handling were good.

after that first morning i painted on two works with ted at times offering impromptu advice as he watched from behind or specifically requested comments. he also worked on some of his pieces that allowed me to see how he tackled various problems while i took a break or was letting something dry. even though he was working, he readily stopped everything when i had need of help and came right over.

work time was more or less 0900-1200 and 1300-1600 hours each day. i usually took a nap after the afternoon session under the guise of intending to "read."  ted usually caught up on stuff with his business. we also took several side trips to local galleries to see exhibits that ted thought interesting or important. one such trip (during the workshop portion) resulted in us seeing and speaking with daniel sprick who was engaged in the filming of a documentary about himself and his work. as daniel was a long-time idol of ted's, he (ted) was like a little kid who just met his favorite super hero. of course there was a photo taken....i'll try to find it to post.

ted was a most gracious host offering housing in his home in santa fe and free reign over the kitchen. for the most part we ate at his home and i gladly did a little cooking when we didn't go to a restaurant.

as usual when an experience has been great,  i didn't want it to end.  as the wheels came up at the albuquerque airport i had already decided that this sort of mentoring is a most productive method to advance in one's ability as an artist and painter and will gladly go out again in a year or two to have another "go" at it.


  1. I read it all avidly , sounds like you found a mentor AND a friend , what a swell experience this has been ! I'm glad you are back and looking forward to seeing your next works .

  2. Wonderful for you, Bob! Sounds like it was stellar in every way. 👍

  3. Glad you had the opportunity to learn from (and work with) Ted Nuttall...and it sounds like like you had a wonderfully invigorating experience. I am awaiting all your future posts.