When I learned artist Becky Joy was offering a workshop in nearby Hood River, Oregon, I jumped at the chance and signed up. She is an incredible artist and is reputed to be one of the finest instructors around. Plus, Becky came highly recommended by artist Celeste Bergin.
After a sunrise drive through the Columbia River Gorge,
I arrived at the Columbia Art Center in Hood River just in time to watch dozens of artists drop off their paintings from the previous five-day plein air competition that Becky will be judging.
After drooling over these beautiful paintings, I joined the rest of the class to meet Becky. Instead of providing us with a handout, Becky gifted each workshop participant with her latest e-book, "How to Create Better Paintings" a few days before the workshop began.
We enjoyed an orientation at the art center and then drove off to our destination: Rasmussen Farms in Hood River.
The workshop began with a demo by Becky.
She painted deliberately, emphasizing the importance of understanding how color works in the landscape; warms, cools, how light and shadow affect color, ... And, if you've seen her work, you'll understand when I say it was a thrill to watch her brushwork and to hear her explain how she uses her brushes.
After lunch, we set up our easels for painting. Becky told those of us who were relatively new to plein air to stick around in the same general area so we could all benefit from suggestions she made to each of us.
Becky also approached every student and asked what we hoped to get out of the workshop. That was a first for me.
Then it was time for us to dive in. I wound up with two wipe-outs and two almost finished paintings. Unlike other workshops, I even experienced that special moment when the lightbulb went on. That was worth the trip.
And suddenly, it was over.
So, what did I learn?
1. Practice brushwork. Practice brushwork everyday. Don't worry about doing a finished painting everyday. Just make sure you paint everyday.
2. Texture - put some paint on your painting. She discussed foregrounds / backgrounds / focal points & how to use texture effectively.
3. Provide color and value gauges for yourself somewhere on the painting and use these gauges to guide you through the process.
4. Integrate color throughout your painting.
5. Incorporate hard and soft edges effectively.
6. And much, much more...
What did I like about the workshop?
1. I liked Becky - a lot. She is genuine. She is encouraging. She loves painting, is incredibly knowledgeable, and wants her students to succeed. As a communicator, Becky is really effective.
2. I liked that Becky continually talks about her strategy as she demos.
3. I liked the amount of attention I received in the workshop. I'm not sure how many participants there were (maybe 11), but I never felt neglected. Becky was always accessible and everyone got her undivided attention.
4. I like that she's coming back to Oregon because I'm gonna take another workshop from her!