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My experience taking Mark's class (long post)

rgrrgr -
edited November 2013 in General Discussion
I wanted to relate my experience in taking the class while it's still fresh. I managed to get home a few hours earlier than I expected so I may as well put some effort into this.

First, Mark and David are both a joy to be around and I really had a great time hanging around with those guys. They are each brilliant and I felt completely at home there.

Second, Austin was really nice, although I didn't do much site seeing -- spent a lot of time in the studio.

The class started out with Mark doing a demonstration, talking about the method and the class, and his approach to painting, the setup, etc. Then it was our turn to paint. We selected objects for composing a still life, penciled in the drawing, then started mixing colors and painting.

What I learned about lighting:
My studio is way too dark. I estimated that because my space is very small, I could get away with less light. Big mistake. I need more light, and I need to throw it at my palette and canvass instead of throwing it everywhere evenly, and getting reflections all over the place.

What I learned about balancing whites:
I mis-understood what this was. I treated it as an exercise in getting the color of light to match between my studio and the shadow box. It's not. It's literally getting white paint inside the box to match the exact same white paint on my color checker. This is explained in the videos but I managed to mis-understand it anyway. The studio setup for each student had LED lighting with a sliding dimmer, which I plan to replicate at home since it worked really well.

What I learned about the paint:
We were fortunate to be able to use Geneva paint. It wasn't the final formulation but the covering power (pigment density) was terrific. Also, the medium was already mixed in, which allowed me to really see and feel what the paint should be like. It was like the consistency of butter that's been out all day, or as someone mentioned, like mayonnaise.

At home, I tried making my own version of SDM using bad info from the internet. I wound up making paint that was way too stiff and gloopy. This made it hard (or impossible) to paint wet into wet since the paint was so thick and lumpy on the canvass. Mark's paint was comparatively thinner, but covered really well and leveled out nicely.

What I learned about mixing color:
I learned to mix good steps, which meant the value change was useful, and the *color* was *useful*. I spent the early part of the time mixing steps where I found the color of the step somewhere, but some of the time I really needed to hunt around looking for a match, and when I found one, it was small. Instead I learned to mix the value step first, then look to see if the color matched in a significant way. If not, I tweaked the hue of the step right then and there so that the step I saved off actuality showed up in more than one small spot. It just made it easier to lay paint down later.

Also, I resist adding white for as long as possible. Once I needed to add white to mix a step, I changed brushes to a brush that had white in it already. I basically used 4 brushes to paint with. Two No. 2 bristles for paint that had white in it, and two for paint that didn't. I also used a fine sable for a few strokes, but to be honest, I may have wiped those off. Oh, and i used a large bristle to paint in the background.

What I learned about blending:
At home, before this class, I would blend in a panic to fix things. I resisted this in the class. Instead, I mixed the intermediate color and painted wet into wet. This was something I couldn't easily do at home because of how I was mixing my paint, but in class, this was easy to do. I didn't blend a single stroke the entire week I painted in class! Some blending might be required for some things as some people did different levels of realism, but I didn't blend at all.

What I learned about brush work:
I believe this is orthogonal to the DMP method. We had 10 students each with 10 different brush styles. I think you could use this method with any brush style you want. I also found myself liking the bristle brushes way more than I thought.

About Mark's teaching style:
Unlike some art classes, Mark never walked up to a canvass somebody was working on and painted on it -- ever. The entire time I don't recall seeing him pick up a brush to paint on a student's canvass! Instead, he would ask questions and make comments. The questions were like "why did you put that there?" and stuff like that. Occasionally he would say things like "I'm not saying you need to do this, but if it was me I would just wipe that off and repaint that part keeping all the colors nice and pure." I think once or twice he may have said "if you milk up that shadow you're going to ruin your painting!"

Anyway, it was pretty amazing, very laid back and each student worked at our own pace. He gave different kinds of input to each student based on what we were doing and how we were going about it.

About the class itself:
The group of students I was in there with were amazing. Everybody was so supportive and so nice I almost didn't want to go home (but after 10 days, I really wanted to go home!)

At one point I was having a serious panic attack and wasn't sure how I was going to finish the painting. My neighbor was kind enough to pull me outside and talk me down. How amazing is that? In the end, I finished the painting a day early and was then terrified to go near it for fear I would ruin it trying to fix it.

(I sort of hate my painting while at the same time I feel like it's the best painting I've ever done. I hate it because I see every flaw, but I also see the likeness in there and the proportions are decent. So it's the best drawing I've ever done too, I guess.)

Conclusion:
Before I went down to Austin, and even while I was there, I was so conflicted about doing the class. Now I'm so glad I went I can hardly contain myself. It was worth at least 4 times what it cost and then some. Now I have a list of things I need to sort out so my space at home is better situated and then I can get to painting again! I'm still not really fond of still life in general but I think I have a lot more learning to do before I move on to other subjects. So, I plan on getting my shadow box in order and working on my composition skills. :)

Sorry for such a long and self-indulgent post, but my life gets back to normal in a few hours and I wanted to get this out before that happened.
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