Earlier this month, Marc Dalessio and I ran a marathon 5-day landscape painting workshop in Stonington, on Deer Isle, one of my favorite places to paint in Maine. Everyone worked very hard, with some students painting for hours before and after class times each day. It was a whirlwind week, and I believe everyone got a lot out of it, Marc and I included.
Marc demonstrating his approach to students on the first day of class at Sand Beach. Marc talked at length about using sight-size as an effective means to expedite drawing, adjust placement and scale on the canvas, and how he deals with compositional pitfalls as they present themselves throughout the process.
Marc’s demo on the first morning was about two hours, while Marc’s wife Tina painted with their dog Emma, in the background.
below, a few images of the students at work throughout the class:
Paul Sullivan painting on West Main St
Bob Sullivan painting from the corner of Andy’s Wharf looking towards Green Head
Sandra Dolan painting the harbor from Church Street
As is often the case in the northeast, the weather was unpredictable. Our weather for the course ranged from high 80s with humidity to low 60’s and freezing a-la-San Francisco in August when the fog rolled in. We had rain, fog, clear skies, puffy clouds, wind, and all that sometimes in the same day; as if traversing the seasons in real time. It’s a lot of fun- but provides an extra logistical layer to a class like this. Between the weather, tides rolling in and out, and light changing as usual, there are a ton of variables to deal with. Our intrepid group of students put up with the fact that neither Marc nor I can control the weather, no matter the app on your phone (we discuss weather apps a lot, here’s a list of Marc’s favorites).
marc and cooper happily working away in the rain
Stonington is such a fantastic place to paint. I invited along a couple of New-England hometown heroes who have been painting the area for decades, Stapleton Kearns and TM Nicholas. Both did a lot of work during the week. It was nice to have painters with their experience along, as it adds to the critical mass getting momentum in a class. The students can listen to what Marc or I have to say, and then see entirely ‘similar but different’ approaches on the canvases of others. I think that’s quite valuable. Additionally, the entire academic method that Marc and I were taught in (by Charles Cecil and Daniel Graves, respectively) came through the studio of RH Ives Gammell, who was Stapleton’s teacher in the 1970s. Through that common background, we were able to talk a bit about the concept of artistic lineage and heritage as it applies to both 19th-20th century academic painting and american impressionism.
TM Nicholas (not pictured), my easel, Meghan Weeks, Stape Kearns, Marc and Tina Dalessio all painting in the fog after class
Stape, Marc and TM chatting on Church Street in the afternoon.
The one day that rain got real heavy, Stapleton kindly offered to do an indoor demonstration. An indoor demo during the rain is a total lifesaver for the morale of the class, and Stape does a great one. He paints entirely out of his head, without reference, and it is always a seascape- not a landscape of the sea, but a big ‘crashing wave’ picture that really couldn’t be done from life. Towards the end of the demo, Stape, Marc and I all started telling stories a bit, again reinforcing the common themes in what we do, and how we were trained.
Stape’s demo, above (though I would wager he’s kept working on it since)
One of the novel aspects of these classes is that they are like little engineering summits for outdoor painters. Painting outside has become so popular that there are tons of products on the market. That said, nearly everyone I know uses a unique system, often that they rig up to some degree themselves. Dalessio was showing off the brand-spanking-new version of his Carbon Fiber homemade ultra-super-light system, I was showing everyone the Viktor Butko rack system in my car for traveling with big paintings. I also spent time plugging the new painting boxes from Mosepi (which are really very similar to the cigar boxes that my friends and I used to paint with, I like them very much), they work well for what we do. Cooper Dragonette showed everyone his homemade kit which was very fancy, Stapleton Kearns showed the class the many virtues of the Gloucester easel (recommending exclusively the Stapleton Kearns model by take-it easel, of course). We even had an real honest-to-goodness well trained furniture maker in the class that made a homemade box and panel carrier system that literally brought gasps to viewers (peter, you should sell those).
On the last day of class, Marc gave a demonstration specifically on using indirect painting techniques to strengthen your landscapes: glazing, scumbling, and talked extensively about scraping down and controlling your surface. Marc uses these tools to strengthen effects of atmospheric perspective, or to add fog and cloud cover, and perhaps most useful, simply correcting areas of color without losing your hard work underneath.
Many thanks to Marc and all of our students for coming up to Deer Isle to paint for the week. For 2018, Dalessio and I have begun planning a course in Italy. If you would like first crack at such an opportunity, sign up for the mailing list at the top of the classes tab.