Creativity: Navigating the Sacred Sphere
In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to attend a two weekend painting workshop held by artists Daniel Mirante and Judith Way. I had been seeking a teacher to introduce me to the basics of oil painting for a while now and realised this was my opportunity to familiarize myself with the traditional methods of painting. Although a competent digital painter, I came to the workshop with no prior knowledge of oil painting, so I think from this perspective it would be interesting to give an overview of how much I gained from this workshop.
The weekend started with a brief introduction to the workshop,the artists and the creative space we would be sharing. The space had a very calming atmosphere, suitable for setting our creative intentions and cultivating our collective vision. The other artists were very open and interesting, they had gathered from all different places but were here for the same reasons!
We jumped straight into learning how to create our own egg tempera medium, Daniel explained the process and ingredients we would be using and would instruct people take over now and again so we could gain a sense of how it was done. Next we had a fun warm up exercise to get our creative minds flowing. We used charcoal on paper to create textural lines and strokes, the aim was to examine the versatility of the charcoal…but I think most people started seeing an image forming and couldn’t help but render them. For example in my piece I could clearly see a number of snakes in a web. The next exercise was to take the recently created egg tempera to start establishing a light source on our charcoal pieces.
The next task was to create a decalcomania on our art boards so that we could start to work on our considered piece for the rest of the weekend. I was amazed by the familiarity of the decalcomainia process as I use a similar process in my digital work as you can see below. The decalcomania is a great technique that naturally creates very organic textures and patterns which proved suitable for my considered piece.
Once the decalcomania was dry, I started to transfer my considered piece to my panel with carbon paper, this was a new insight for me as I didn’t realise how easy it was to transfer imagery traditionally. To finish the first day I started blocking in my design with paynes grey and adding highlights with the egg tempera.
The second day consisted of a brief run down of the oil paint pigments, I never realised how in-depth the oil paints were, from my experience as a digital painter I just simply select the colours I want without thinking of their unique properties and origins. So this really was an eye opener for me. Most of this day was spent rendering and blocking in the values of my piece, but at the end of the day I got to apply a yellow glaze to the piece. Learning how to glaze properly was another exciting process and witnessing the huge difference it made to my work was inspiring.
The first weekend was an awesome experience, Judith and Daniel were amazing teachers and the collective creative experience was something I had never experienced before, I really felt a synergy with my prior digital painting knowledge and the mische technique process, it sparked many ideas for future experimentation. Below is an iPad painting I made during the evenings to reflect this feeling of synergy.
The final weekend started with a circular discussion where we once again talked about our pieces and how we wanted to develop them over the final days. First we warmed up with some crystal still life painting which was a challenging but fun exercise.
I realised my main piece was in need of some major changes, so I performed a pentimento to restructure the face and hair of my character, Daniel and Judith provided much needed vision and technical advice to help strengthen my piece.
The second weekend seemed to fly by as I was so deeply engrossed with my painting, I initially just wanted to learn about the mische technique and the basics of oil painting and didn’t expect to care about the result my first oil painting… but I couldn’t help getting attached to my work. I think it was because I had spent at least 20-30 hours on the piece already and I saw the piece transform so much from my original sketch.
My painting needed another yellow glaze applied to soften the pentimento and once again unify the piece.
At this stage in the workshop you could really feel that everyone was immersed in their work, it was exciting to see everyone’s unique technique and vision start to shine through. Again Daniel and Judith were constantly doing the rounds and giving insight and support where needed.
So after 4 days of painting this is where I got to with my piece, I am just about ready to start applying local glazes and refining areas along the way. I wish I had taken more initial care with the proportions and structure of the anatomy but I think this piece will still shine through once completed. It’s amazing to see how the idea has developed over just two weekends. The theme of this workshop was ‘The cosmic sun’ …my piece initially didn’t really reflect this theme but as the piece stands now I can see it’s representing two characteristics of the sun. The lower half is burning, chaotic and spilling with violent energy, the top half is more harmonic, organized, meditative and open.
What I have taken from the workshop
I saw my painting progress in ways I did not initially plan for and could feel myself getting slightly converted to oil painting, the sensory experience of using actual paint is much more rewarding than manipulating pixels on a screen. Digital painting is great for quick mock ups, manipulations and editing, but I rarely feel the same steady meditative state that I entered while using oil paints.
I have been in a creative limbo the past few months, but taking a step back and studying the traditional painting process has really been an eye-opener… I think my work can only improve and get deeper from here on out. Being in an environment with other creatives has really been healthy as well, normally am I hiding away in my flat working on my own…so the input of other artists is something I never normally experience and I am seeing its value.
I am hoping to move into a new place soon that will have a workshop where I can practice my oil painting skills, hopefully within a year I will have the main technique down and will be moving onto some semi-serious paintings!
There were also numerous handouts to study that contained much of the information and teachings, so that we could refer to them in the future.
It was such an amazing workshop that answered many of my questions and mysteries surrounding oil painting. I can now see how some of my favorite paintings were created and it’s made the process seem much more feasible.
Daniel and Judith’s efforts were fully appreciated by all, they were the teachers I had been searching for, providing extensive insight and wisdom in oil painting and the mische technique.
Thanks for reading, you can find out more information about the nextCreativity: Navigating the Sacred Sphere workshop starting in 2014 here.
Louis Dyer digital visionary artist | http://www.louisdyer.com/ | firstname.lastname@example.org