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Friend of Chroma Mitch Waite recently took a break from his burgeoning business in the South of France ( www.mitch-waite.com ) to undertake a tour of many Art Societies around the UK. Here is a report from one such venue, the Frimley & Camberley Society of Arts.
It was good to see Mitch again. He had arrived in England on Wednesday, done one demo then, two on Thursday, ours today and is set for another tomorrow. Obviously a man with enviable energy. He is only in England for about 10 days this time - the work involved in painting for (and manning) his gallery in Vence means that the time he can give to demonstrations and holidays has had to be cut.
Mitch again offered us a choice out of some 15 or 20 full size (30" x 40" ) prints from photos he'd taken. We chose a view up the Quai des Etats-Unis in Nice and he clipped this to a board on one of his easels.
Mitch repeated his 2009 description of Interactive Acrylics (see here). Since he likes to paint wet-into-wet, their slower drying and revivability are invaluable.
He has two separate pots of water, one for brush-cleaning and one for painting - although he dilutes the paint hardly at all. He keeps his palette wet while he's working (and the painting as well, most of the time). For brushes he uses the best quality hogs' hair, mostly filberts - from size #12 down to about #4. His palette had been pre-loaded with enough fairly warm colour (two blues, two reds and two yellows) to last the evening, and titanium white which would need topping up more than once.
Before putting brush to canvas it's essential to decide what you are trying to do, what emotions you have about the scene. If you can't paint en plein air a little of this has been done for you by the photographer but, especially if the canvas is not the same shape as the photo, you still have to decide about cropping or adding extra space.
Here he cropped a little (top and left). Because there was no central point of interest he wanted to keep the eye circling clockwise round the picture, landing on the headland, on the people on the beach, on the walkers and back along the promenade to the starting point.
With a big brush and thin yellow paint Mitch very quickly dashed in the outlines. Then he started really scrubbing in an ultramarine blue sky (lots of white, of course), introducing more and more red and yellow as he got to the horizon.In the area of green trees he added some ochre to the sky blue, plus burnt sienna in the darker parts.
The palette may look a mess but it shows him the colours he has been using and he is usually able to pick up a mix that is just right if something needs moving a little.
Relative colour matters much more than absolute (think how the eye copes with different coloured lighting). In these early stages Mitch gets the colour he wants by looking at what is on the palette and deciding what needs to be added.
Although it inevitably leads to greys, this use of the colour circle is a vital skill.Greys are really needed here because once you have strong colours it is very difficult to adjust anything. So he added different amounts of red and yellow for the beach and the pavement and adjusted further for the hotels.
Once the white of the canvas is completely covered Mitch starts to look at smaller areas (not forgetting to keep spraying the canvas and the palette to keep it wet). This included putting some richer blue/white into the sky, pushing it down to define the tree-tops better and then immediately, with a smaller brush, blue, ochre and red, brightening and pushing the trees up again.
Although too early to get really specific, it was necessary to start thinking seriously about relations between different objects, the perspective, how vertical and horizontals relate, pulling (still wet) background in as negative space to define objects, dots for heads and quick slashes for bodies and legs and using cloth or brush to lift out lighter areas (better than piling white on top).
Notice here, after the coffee break, how both the foreground figures were raised, how a tree trunk was moved so it didn't grow out of the man's head, how the sand colour was reddened (temporarily removing some figures), how shadows were strengthened and how colours became brighter (frequent rinsing and wiping of the brush and less use of the mud on the palette).
He advises that when you look at work in progress you should deal with "errors" only in order of severity. Some are so unimportant that the viewer just wouldn't see them.Only hint at people, unless you're doing a portrait. Think back to what the picture was for and decide what is actually still needed, really needed.
He makes it look so easy - you couldn't complain at the non-stop flow of information and advice but as he made some of his apparently random dabs with the brush there must have been much more going on in his subconscious.
The painting looked fine to me, but Mitch was obviously not happy about some of the colour balances (at the very last minute he'd almost entirely re-glazed the sky, the sea-wall and parts of the beach).He planned to look at it again before deciding what, if any, extra work was needed.
For a second time he had given us a most inspiring and enjoyable evening. Thank you, Mitch!
To learn more about the Frimley & Camberley Society of Arts, please visit their website .