Thursday, June 7, 2012

Workshop Report: Foreground Studies with Emilie Lee

A few days ago we wrapped up a five day landscape painting workshop that I taught at Inwood Hill Park. We had perfect weather and the surprisingly wild nature of Inwood provided a serene retreat from city life. The park is 196 acres of varied terrain including Manhattan Island’s last untouched forest. Inwood’s northern border is the shoreline of Spuyten Duyvil Creek and on the west a steep forested ridge blocks noise from the west side highway. On top of the ridge, one can enjoy spectacular views up and down the Hudson River and of the Palisades on the opposite shore. In the forest, cliffs and large boulders form caves once inhabited by Native Americans. In this beautiful spot we were able to find a wide variety of subject matter. 

In this workshop I wanted to share some of the things I've learned as a student at the GCA and how that has applied to landscape painting in the context of the Hudson River Fellowship experience.  With this in mind, I planned the majority of our time to focus on drawing and foreground studies.  According to Asher B. Durand in his 1855 Letters on Landscape Painting, this is the best place to start when you are first beginning to work outside: 

Form is the first subject to engage your attention. Take pencil and paper, not the palette and brushes, and draw with scrupulous fidelity the outline or contour of such objects as you shall select…”

When we set ourselves up to paint a landscape, most of us are tempted to choose a wide scene that includes a huge variety of challenges.  We are forced to abbreviate everything if we want to finish the painting in a day’s work.  While this approach is also valuable in certain circumstances, the importance of solid drawing cannot be expressed enough.  The practice of slowing down and choosing smaller, less complex subjects is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of nature and sharpen your observational skills.

As you can see from the photos, Inwwod Park is a wonderful location for a landscape painting workshop and we are excited to plan some more for next year!  Our last workshop, taught by Thomas Kegler was also a huge success and you can read more about that in these two blog posts, where you'll also find my rave reviews of the Indian Road Cafe - a conveniently located source of food, coffee, and cookies.

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