Workshop Wednesday: Rick Weaver's Abstraction for Realists
I've had the pleasure of taking two workshops from the artist, Rick Weaver. Rick has extremely impressive credentials having received his formal art training in New York at the National Academy of Design, the New York Academy (now known as the Graduate School for Figurative Art), and the Art Students League. He studied painting and drawing with a number of notable art instructors, including Robert Beverly Hale, Ted Seth Jacobs, Ron Sherr, Harvey Dinnerstein and he earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he was influenced by the sculptor Billy Lee.
I can tell you from experience that he is a deep thinker who stretches your mind alongside your skills. He seems to come at things always from a new angle and perhaps this is because he is both a sculptor and a painter, and extremely accomplished at both. I've discovered that the best teachers show you how they think which is much more powerful than learning someone's style. Rick is definitely that kind of teacher. If you ever have the opportunity to take one of his workshops, I would strongly encourage that you do so.
Below are my notes and photos I took during his workshop this past July which was hosted in the beautiful studio of Francie Freitas. Thank you Francie for having included me in this wonderful workshop.
Rick Weaver Workshop Abstraction for Realists July 22 2014
[Rick began Day 1 of his workshop by having us look at prints of masterpieces he intentionally distorted digitally (using filters) to better show us the degree of abstraction underpinning the work.]
When you look at a great masterpiece in a museum, if you pay attention you will always notice an emphasis on composition.
"Ask yourself why an artist did things. Why a cloud there? Why that shape?"
Great painting is a combination of formal elements; line, shape, color & value organization.
Space is not a formal element but it collects form together for us. So does rhythm, so does light. Visual weight etc.
"There is a natural trade off between the amount of resolution (finish) you want and the base abstract power of the painting."
"Making a painting is not copying nature. Old masters made significant changes to what they observed in making their paintings. Be aware of this and be sensitive to it in your work."
"Make yourself make changes for the better in your work."
There are 3 main elements of painting 1. Subject Matter, what you see in the painting, direction of etc. 2. Form= line, shape, color (value) 3. Content
The early stages in a painting are an opportunity to give your painting a strong abstract power to build upon.
Don't think of objects as separate. Think of them as joined, like in their shadows & forms, color.
If you think in terms of object you are ultimately separating. If you think inclusively you will see all kinds of connections.
Like in figure, the shadow is often indicative of the color of the drapery.
Show those connections.
Rounded lines are organic.
Angled lines are inorganic.
There should be a strong connection between form & subject matter.
Square, is a non directional shape, neutral. Look at Lincoln Perry. Be wary of putting something right in the middle because it will be weak.
Look at subject matter and see it as pattern within the rectangle. (Matisse)
There aren't really any definitive books on composition out there that I am aware of but these books are a start:
-Andrew Loomis' book on perfect mean
Things you can physically do at the start of a painting to think formally:
Connectivity/Unity-literally make things connect in the beginning.
Always make a rectangle on your page to set up your boundary, picture plane.
"As soon as you put a silhouette you are making an object". Draw a two dimensional shape showing how the subjects link into each other from edge to edge, line to line. Work from the edge of the picture plane in. You can get in touch very quickly with the whole thing this way. Picture remains open, promotes flexibility.
You can use a more organic or architectural line.
No line has anything to do with the object. It functions just form connectivity. Same thing with tone, divide the subject into 2 or 3 values.
"If I can't get a preliminary sketch to say/do what I want it to in 3 values, I never go further with it."
What seems to visually connect to you? You got to want it. Make it connect. Be on the hunt for those 3 values and only those values.
Vertical spacing pushes things towards you.
Horizontal spacing pushes things away.
Pay attention to your "sit down" (object touches plane) spacing will give you the horizontal space.
Paying attention to negative space will give you the vertical spacing.
Ideally make your circuit within a minute round the entire drawing for that first exploratory line.
Exercise to just allow things to connect more than anything else (mine was too slow).
Am I able to move into the picture? Is there ground plane? Foreground, middle ground, back ground?
Demo 4 color palette, primaries + white Permanent rose, Ultramarine blue (or thalo blue), cad lemon
Subject of demo: Hue-the most problematic issue of color.
Gestural start, linking forms. One continuous line.
Thinned down ultramarine
Uses a brush larger than he's comfortable with to keep him from drawing objects.
Holds brush perpendicular to surface, carving shapes as he masses in.
Tries to think in terms of three values, light, dark mid tone.
When he starts adding local color he looks to see where else it shows up, shadows, reflections etc.
"As I am working I am trying to reinforce my idea (initial gesture/approach) with the way I paint. Being consistent with the same approach through out the painting."
"The last thing I want to do is complete an object with this approach. I want to keep things open."
"I am starting to think about the quality of lights anything in the light has both yellow and red to it. You must use both."
"I really try to keep it formal, stay away from object making as much as possible."
"With the figure, I approach the same way but if I want a more traditional approach I take more care with the drawing. "
I will go back and introduce the (unifying) line in drawing while painting (as many times as needed).
On a personal note I want to thank Rick for helping me to stretch both my thinking and my technique. I will be back for more workshops. You can count on that!