I have just returned from a much anticipated trip to sunny Northland to paint with the highly successful and experienced New Zealand artist, Richard Robinson. I have been looking for something to nudge me forward with my painting...there has been an echo in my head about how I want to paint but I have been unable to put my finger on what it was, exactly, and how to proceed. I hoped a day painting with him would be the nudge I needed....and Boy, I was not disappointed.
I drove up from Hamilton( about a 5 hour drive) the day before and checked into a local beachfront motel. I threw my gear in the room and went for a walk.....2 minutes from my room , over the dunes and there it was, Bream bay in all it's splendour. Is this not an amazing place ?!
1December traditionally heralds the start of summer and there were quite a few hardy souls in the water. The lifeguards were in action, flags up and patrolling in their quad bike.
The next day saw me wake at 6.30 am( yes, AM!!!) to be on Richards doorstep at 7 am to go painting.
I was very nervous.....what if I was an idiot and painted like a chimp all day?! Best I concentrate and focus on what he had to teach me.
Well, what a lovely and generous teacher he is! He is a gentle spoken man with an easy manner and a great way of teaching. In fact, I did not feel he was teaching me but that we were having a conversation about painting and he said many a thing that made lightbulbs go off in my head like paparazzi on the red carpet.
We started painting at Waipu, a place he has painted many times, in the shade of Pohutakawa trees with a view over the sandy shadows out across the sea to Bream Bay beach. We set up our easels alongside so I could watch him and so we could paint a similar scene.
Whilst I had paint smeared on my face before I had even started, Richard is amazingly tidy. His easel is pristine, his tubes of paint organised and all had lids( some of mine are wrapped in tinfoil, the lids lost somewhere else a long time ago..o the shame) his brushes look new.....all his paint is on the palette in ordered blobs and even his puddles of colour were ordered. I felt wildly out of control!
We started, chatted a bit about composition, colour, shadows and how the eye is fooled by light and shade etc. He spoke of his painting experience outdoors and with other eminent painters....it was heady stuff. Then he dropped his first bombshell statement. I paraphrase this, but what he said was to this effect: at any stage of the painting, the abstract shapes should be beautiful . The abstract shapes should render the subject. A painting should read well at all stages. BOOM! it does not matter if you have not drawn a tree and a beach and a river, but if you have rendered the shape abstractly with attention placed on the values(the lightness or darkness), the painting should read as a tree,beach and river. I don't explain well, but he sure did! I got it!....now, how do I make that happen....
We had blocked in the abstract shapes( well, he had, I was still trying to get my head around some stuff) and we stood back to eat a banana and look at the paintings from a distance when a freak wind mini tornado- ed towards us...and tipped his whole easel over. My old Grumbacher stayed put ( possibly due to all the crap I had in it) but his easel ,palette, brushes and canvas were planted in the sand.
Cool as a cucumber, he took this as an opportunity to try something different. He was using the Holbein water soluble oils, so went off to find a tap, washed most of the sand and some of the paint off and attacked the canvas with new vigour and less inhibition...because what did he have to loose? and man, it was a fabulous result!!!
I could see how pleased he was with this effort and just watching him and the energy he used when painting it was a masterclass in itself. To see his final effort click here. Go, do it now!
We then stopped for a bite to eat and a coffee at a lovely local cafe, right opposite the beach where we sat and critiqued the works. He gave great, constructive feedback and, once again, some lightbulb moments with regards values and composition. I was having such a good time I did not notice if anyone looked at us or the paintings.
I will continue with my story tomorrow.