I was fortunate enough to be invited back to the Buffalo Bill Whitney Museum for another two week residency this year! I had opportunity to paint in the museum amongst outstanding historic and contemporary works of art, studying by copying and visiting with museum visitors from all over the world. I also got to spend a few days in the classroom, teaching students, which is always insightful. I am honored and grateful for such an experience!
The first piece that I chose to study was Maynard Dixon's 'Medicine Robe'. I do not have much experience painting portraits, but could not pass up an opportunity to really look closely at a Dixon painting! I decided to paint parts of each painting rather than entire pieces, so I could then focus on specifics that were particularly educational to me. In this case, I was interested in the focal area of the figure, where the shapes were strongly defined. The brushstroke defining the light on the opening of the robe was exhilarating and BOLD! The simplicity and effectiveness of these shapes is fabulous!
The next painting I copied was to study the shadows that were used in falling water. There were many gorgeous paintings of the lower falls on the Yellowstone River, but I wanted to study how Thomas Moran had established so much depth in the falls. It was subtle and effective. The style of this painting is very different from my own work and I thought that it would be interesting for me to attempt to copy what he had accomplished. I did not have time to let the painting dry in order to get some of the incredible textures that Moran had laid over a dry surface... but I certainly had a chance to study his style. When copying a masterpiece, you become aware of so many intensional acts in composing and painting... it is so inspirational!
At his point, I spent a few days teaching students age 7-14 in the museum classroom. We worked on atmospheric perspective by layering tissue paper, form and texture of trees using cardboard as a printing tool, symmetry, cityscapes and even a little felting project to understand the unique qualities of sheep's wool. The students were attentive and FUN!
Upon returning upstairs to the museum, I chose a Frank Tenney Johnson nocturnal painting to study. I was intrigued to see what, exactly, the value range was in his nocturnal piece and was BLOWN AWAY with how dark the entire painting was! When I looked through a red filter, there was very little definition other than the horses flank, front shoulder and left side of the head... and when I went to mix the color of these 'lighter' moonlit areas, I was astounded at how neutralized and dark they actually were! So much to learn... and so little time!!!! The museum was busy and I ended up short of time to finish this study, but am thrilled that I got to look at it as long as I did!
I often end up spending extra time at the museum painting because it is just too difficult to stop! I always want more time! But I also feel as if I need to 'pinch' myself to remind me that I really have had these incredible opportunities at the Buffalo Bill Whitney Museum! The staff, students and visitors all make it relaxing and fun... but more than anything, I get to learn so much!
Thank you to everyone involved in helping me to return for these artist residencies. I appreciate the efforts and support... every minute of it!