Last week I was fortunate enough to monitor Stuart Shils plein air workshop. It began with an hour-long lecture on Thursday night, followed by three very intense days of painting. Stuart began each day with a short lecture/demo on painting, drawing, and color. We would paint, break for lunch, and paint some more while Stuart would offer tips and pointers. He also gave a slide-show presentation to the class taking us from his paintings when he was at the Academy to the work that he is doing today. It was a very informative and inspiring weekend.
Stuart was a very giving teacher and didn’t hesitate to answer any technical or philosophical questions. He spoke about taking the time to look, draw, and understand the big relationships in what you are painting. Getting the relationship of one color note next to another is key. (No pun intended.) He talked about unity above all being the goal in a painting, and how the power of painting is in the abstract narrative. Thanks to Stuart I have a new mantra, and that is “where are my lights, where are my darks, what color are they, and what are the edges like.” It may sound simple, but the best things in life usually are. His recommended readings were Hawthorne’s On Painting, Henri’s The Art Spirit, and Van Gogh’s Letters to his brother. If you have the chance to take this workshop, and are an intermediate to advanced painter, I definitely recommend it. The best thing about the workshop was that he is not interested in giving a step-by-step of “how to paint like Stuart Shils.” Rather, he was interested in providing people with principles that they can take with them, and over time apply to their own work. There are some great interviews with Stuart that are definitely worth checking out here and here.