Colors and their relationship to each other. That was the theme of my workshop this past week, my fourth at this beautiful estate close to the city of Haarlem in The Netherlands. Forests, a small lake, fields with horses, a huge vegetable and flower garden, a large barn-like structure which served both as base camp for the students and as fallout basis for the occasional rain shower, made this an ideal location for excursions into color and composition. .
The daily sessions were originally divided into: black & white composition; composing the landscape in cool colors; composing the landscape in warm colors; composing the landscape in simple color planes and a final session which was originally conceived as a ‘putting it all together’ day but instead shifted into an indoor event. The intermittent rain showers demanded flexibility and so in addition to the sessions named above we also had a portrait sitting as well as a still life as inspiration. This abandoning of carefully laid plans is all too often reflected in the act of creating art as well. When something is not working, push it as far as it can go and be willing to let it go, hopefully initiating a new, fresh direction.
As a painter who has been working for more than fifty years, I am well aware of the struggle involved in developing a visual language that conveys your unique experience to the viewer. I implore my students to keep it simple, hammering away at the necessity of not affixing labels to what is observed: no apples, jugs, oak trees, mountains or anemones… only colors placed on a two-dimensional surface, in the right place, in the right relationship, doing the right thing.
It’s very simple once you decide to not make it difficult.