Friday, January 13, 2012

A Workshop by any Other Name

Inspiration and fun highlighted a demonstration by the renowned artist Art B. Cunanan, a water colorist from the Philippines who lives in Ontario Canada. Once longing to be a comedian, Art’s wife, Lu, suggested he stick to painting. A professional oil and acrylic painter at the time, Art moved into watercolor for the freedom it provided for spontaneity. His secret? “You must plan ahead!” He paints for the “light,” which requires leaving areas of the canvas unpainted where you want and need the most light.

“Loose” is his watchword and Art slathered watercolor paints on a dry canvas with vigor and imagination. Using plenty of water and a mop brush or “rigger,” Art places color first in sky areas, using his favorite cobalt blue wash, but only in certain areas. He leaves some white spaces for clouds or light.

Working his way down the canvas, Art splashed in some yellow near the “eye line” Art prefers to paint plein air and from his imagination. For our demo he worked from a photograph so we could see how he applied his interpretation of what he saw to the canvas. Using only a few light pencil marks to define negative space and light, he worked loosely around those parameters.

The rigger brush provided a point when he needed detail, but mostly he washed many different colors over areas of the canvas, leaving them unblended; a splash of alizarin here, a touch of yellow ochre there. He never uses green, but prefers to add cerulean blue to areas of yellow mixing them on canvas to make green. He stressed that too much time on a canvas produces overworking and “tightness.”

Masterful at what he does, he wrapped up a beautiful finished painting in about 40 minutes as we sat with our mouths hanging open. For a beach painting, he also spattered some droplets of color to add texture to the sand and some finer shadows. He stressed that colors should appear in different areas all over the canvas to provide continuity.

Cunanan added people to scenes with simple shapes and the stroke of a brush tip. Two legs were single strokes of a different color (no feet or detail). A head was a simple dab of paint. What brings the people out and makes them viable along wiith other details? Art uses a touch of white gouache on the shoulders and head. His people look realistic and add to the energy and interest of the painting.

I will be taking a full day workshop from Art next week while he is here in Fort Myers. In the Spring he has workshops in Spain and Italy. In the summer, Cunanan teaches workshops in France. Of course, he teaches in his beloved Ontario where he is more familiar with painting snow scenes than beach scenes and pine trees more than palm trees.

Please go to Art’s web site and enjoy his wonderful energetic portfolio