Thursday, July 17, 2014

Huang Workshop Study

Huang Workshop Study, 8x10" oil/linen, ©Diane Mannion
SOLD
My Review of Huang's workshop!!!  It's long, grab a cup of tea.
This is my second study painted during Qiang's workshop.  He put a few strokes in the flower but I later scraped it off about five times attempting to get it right.  Darn flower!  Hydrangea shouldn't be green.  

An Enlightening Qiang Huang Workshop
by
Diane Mannion  
 
Selfie with Qiang!
  
It was an honor learning from master painter, Qiang Huang in his Jacksonville, Florida workshop at the Corse Gallery!  

Someone asked me, "But you already know how to paint, why are you taking a workshop?" 

I believe an artist should never stop learning.  If you stop growing as an artist... you're dead in the water!  Work gets stale and stylized; energy stagnates.  And how boring would it be if you thought you knew everything?  If an artist is bored with the work, it will be boring for the viewer to look at.  This workshop allowed me to view my own work from a different perspective... a RE VISION.

I have tremendous respect for Qiang's work; which is why I wanted to study with him.  Some people are born with a singing voice; I can't sing... but I can draw.  So I was pleased to tell Qiang that he is an opera singer of an artist!

"GET OBSESSED AND STAY OBSESSED" - John Irving
I'm obsessed with painting, take great joy in the visual world and hope it shines through my work. 

"But you have your own style, do you want to paint like Qiang Huang?"

Even if I could to paint like Qiang it still would not look like his work.  Every artist has a unique "style" just as everyone has different handwriting.  Part of the beauty of Qiang's work is his signature, musical and calligraphic style.  Every stroke is carefully considered... a choreographed dance of brushwork!  What a pleasure it was to watch this in progress where it was also simultaneously projected on the wall.

I've taken workshops with many different artists, not that I want to paint like them, but simply to learn something new.  With each artist I study, some small bit may or may not show up in my work later.  As Qiang so elegantly put it, "We're searching for the missing puzzle piece."   We study with different artists searching for those elusive secrets; those clues that will unlock the mysteries of painting. 

"When you study, study.  When you paint, paint."  -Dreama Tolle Perry

As I grow as an artist my work changes and evolves.  Qiang Huang's work will also change because he's constantly striving to understand this magical miracle that painting is.   It will be fascinating to follow the trail of his creative metamorphosis... a beautiful journey.   As he said, "I don't hold back any secrets...  I put it all out there."  And he did!

Qiang talked about active and passive learning.  Passive learning can be watching demos, videos, reading books.  Active learning is practice!  Paint, paint, paint.  His workshop allowed for both types of learning.   The techniques he teaches are not only useful for still lifes, but can be applied equally as well to landscape and figurative works.  Classic knowledge.

If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Qiang Huang... DO IT.



This workshop took place at the Eileen Corse Gallery, Jacksonville, FL.  7/14

About fifteen artists of all levels from beginner to advanced, gathered around as Qiang began his workshop.  Introductions... illustrators, professional artists, retired architect, hobbyists, several nurses, teachers, and other assorted Qiang Huang groupies, had traveled great distances to attend.  Notebooks rustled, cell phone ringers silenced, cameras were readied (permission was granted to use them) as our eager group waited to capture every tidbit of knowledge from this amazing artist.  

Qiang had his Coulter easel set up, palette loaded and ready, lights adjusted and aimed.  A projected image of his canvas glowed on the wall.  He had a simple still life set up at eye level.  He explained why he had blue film over the lights shining on his palette and canvas and not on the still life.  When he removed the blue film, the canvas looked yellow, the blue film adjusted this effect.

He described his color choices, paints, and brushes.  I was thrilled to learn he uses inexpensive synthetic watercolor brushes along with regular artist quality bristle brushes.  He used bits of torn paper towel, folded origami style, to wipe and smear, a tool just as important as brushes.  Used a palette knife to apply, delineate, and adjust areas almost as often as brushes.  Used his finger once in a while to smear (I try to wear gloves for this). 

He wiped his canvas (actually linen) with a small amount of linseed oil before starting.  This allowed the paint to flow smoothly, rather than the dry brush effect, although some dry areas can be left for effect.  Linseed oil must be rubbed thin and not left too thick, a problem a few artists encountered.  It's a method that needs to be adjusted according to taste and experience.  This also works well on Arches Oil Paper. 

Qiang then toned his canvas with transparent red iron oxide (burnt sienna works just as well but is a bit more opaque) and ultramarine blue, rubbing it with a paper towel.  This creates a mid-value underpainting.  He creates a mess first!

While a lot of artists think in terms of 5-10 values from dark to light... I love the way he simply thinks in 3... light, middle, and dark.  This value scale is what makes the painting work and his paintings prove it.  Value does the work while color takes the credit!

Qiang removes his glasses because it gives a squint effect without squinting.  This blurs the still life because he's near-sighted and doesn't need glasses to see what was happening on the canvas.  I'm farsighted and need glasses to see the canvas, so I have to squint!  A few women grumbled about crow's feet and wrinkles (how we suffer for our art).  Qiang told a story about studying with Richard Schmid and how SQUINT! was stressed a lot.  Squinting simplifies vision... allows the artist to see values, shapes, and masses without the details.  I have SQUINT! etched in my paintbox but still forget.  Also have Paint Faster, Stupid!  But that's another story...

(Intermission:  I'm aching to paint after this inspiring experience... painful having to writing, instead.  But I want to capture my thoughts while still fresh.)

Qiang's a realist painter, not photo-realistic which he considers dead.   (Oh, how I agree!  Tried it for a while; boring way to paint.) A painting should look like a painting, not a reproduction of a photo... artists are not giant copy machines!  Painting from life is the only way to accumulate a visual vocabulary and memory.  Only then should the photo be used for reference, but interpreted, not copied.  It's a useful tool that too many artists, especially beginners, over use.  Too many beginners want to skip learning how to draw; it shows in what they produce.  Drawing and learning to see are the bones of painting. 

"It's not the object, but the light on the surface that's important," Qiang explained.   It's the rhythm of how the light moves around.  It's the mystery what's left undefined.  It's the play of the objects against the background.  He orchestrates light, reflections, and shadows to make a beautiful story.  The main character is the center of focus.  Everything in the painting is NOT treated equally.  Most of the light shines on the center of focus... other elements support this.

He notes the direction, rhythm, and movement of light and objects.  We usually read from left to right so he arranges his composition with that in mind.  He orchestrates the painting like a piece of music, quiet to loud, interesting variations, and above all... contrasts!!!
Like music, the painting builds from quiet to the grande finale. 

Low key paintings have large dark areas and a much smaller percentage of light for the focal point.  High key paintings are the opposite.  The darks are what make the lights, light!  Grays and muted color makes bright colors sing. 

Qiang looks for harmony and contrasts, directing them for drama.  Warm/cool.  Red/blue.  Yin/Yang.  One supports the other.  Dark/light.  Natural/machine made.  Soft/hard edges.  Metal/glass.  Transparent/opaque.  Thick/thin paint.  Curved/straight.  Muted/bright.  Quiet/loud.  Busy/plain.  All are CONTRASTS helping to create strong, dramatic paintings.

The 5 steps of his painting process:
1. Placement
2. Value
3. Color
4. Modeling
5. Consolidation

Qiang explained his thinking while painting, a skill not all artists are capable of.  He organized this process into 5 steps... placement, value, color, modeling, and consolidation.  This is the roadmap he follows, signposts for his own work and for explaining the process to students.  He slows down his work while demoing, but on his own, these steps may overlap.  Rather than rendering the subject, he strives for the illusion of reality.

Tools:
-Synthetic sable watercolor brushes, flat/wide (Creative Mark, 3/4" about $3!) for transparent areas, sharp lines and edges.  Finished with tiny brushes for details.
-Artist quality bristle brushes, 2,4,6,8,10 for soft edges and opaque areas where he wanted brushstrokes to show.
-Palette knife
-Paper towels
-Scraper

Paints:
Qiang's palette changes but it's basically a warm and cool of each color plus earth colors.  The palette I had ready was slightly different than the one he used.  Artist quality paints (likes Gamblin), yet there are a few colors in the Winton line he likes.
Qiang's palette

These are the colors he used during this workshop:
-Titanium white, regular and slow dry.
-Naples yellow light.  Used to lighten without cooling.
-Yellow ochre (likes Winton)
-Cad Yellow light (used in center of focus)
-Cad yellow deep
-Cad orange (mixed with ultramarine blue makes great gray)
-Cad red light (warmest red)
-Permanent alizarin (likes Winton)
-Transparent oxide red
-Ultramarine blue deep (makes good black mixed with T oxide red)
-Thalo blue (like a wild animal that need to be controlled)
-Manganese violet/purple
-Thalo green light, or Cad green pale
-Viridian

Medium:  Sometimes a mixture of linseed oil and Gamblin, half and half.

Prefers to work alla prima, all at once, wet into wet.  For longer term paintings, will use retouch varnish or glaze with linseed oil/Gamblin before painting next layer.

1. PLACEMENT
 Qiang during placement stage.

He used a small synthetic brush to indicate proportions and placement of objects on his canvas.  Looked for abstract geometry where triangles of composition formed.  Measured height, width, and center of objects using straight lines, not drawing curves.  NOT rendering at this stage, only indicating placement.  This is the stage where he makes a mess... well, first mess was toning the canvas. 

(I read somewhere that a painting may look like a mess until the last 10% before it's finished.  There's a writers expression: You have to make a mess so you can clean it up.  Spill those words, splash that paint!  A useful bit of knowledge for beginners to understand... paintings don't happen automatically.) 

-Qiang looks for objects, tall, long, round that form a triangle of composition.
-Considers the ratio occupied by background and foreground. 
-Avoids painting objects right in the corners. 
-Looks for positive and negative spaces. 
-Notes where the shadows will fall. 
-Takes care to leave enough space, above, below, and between objects. 
-Notes where object's location, their size and proportions with dots, dashes, and straight lines. 
-Groups small objects as one mass by their outside shape.
-Notices symmetry and changes arrangements for balance. 
-Considers outside shapes of negative and positive space.
-Notes how objects overlap.  (No kissing!  Yes, this is an artistic term.  Objects should overlap, not simply touch.)


2. VALUE

Qiang's value stage for both demos

Qiang thinks in only three values, dark, medium, and light.  This stage is the "grayscale" that sets the values for the work.  It helps later when color value is matched to this value roadmap.  For example, a background color should not be darker or lighter than this underpainting value.   Qiang considers the percentage of value distribution, how much space to allow for dark, light, medium areas. 
He ignores color at this stage!  This is the map/underpainting, a layout of what goes where and how they flow together.

-Works with synthetic sable flats, palette knife, and paper towels.
-Uses ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide undiluted or with Gamsol. 
-Both colors are warm/cool and are placed according to warm/cool areas.
-Middle value has already been set as the toned canvas.
-Masses in dark areas with undiluted paint.
-Creates lights by wiping with Gamsol and paper towel or scraper.
-Both colors are TRANSPARENT, this is a transparent only stage. 
-Keeps paint thin during this stage, like watercolor.
- NO WHITE PAINT OR OPAQUE PAINT USED AT THIS STAGE!
-Wipes bits of light, and adds darks for visual movement.
-Manipulates value to tell a story.

When Qiang completed this value stage, several artists commented that it looked ready to frame.

3. COLOR

 Qiang's color stage.

With a solid value stage achieved, it was easy to see the strength of the painting coming into focus. 
Qiang continued...
"At this stage, color is not rendered, simply blocked in, still almost abstract.  This is the roadmap for color placement." 
Rendering in color does not happen until the Modeling stage; it helps to keep these two stages separate.

-Opaque color is used for the first time in the painting. 
-Once an opaque color is added to a transparent color... it cannot be transparent again.  Think milk in tea.
-Cads are opaque.
-Uses large size bristles.
-Mixes a gray with cad orange and ultramarine blue for background and shadow areas.
-Lightens this mixture with Naples yellow light, or yellow ochre and a bit of white.
-Lightening a color with white will cool it. Over use causes the dreaded chalky effect.
-Like building a house... don't lose the structure of each stage.  Try not to destroy each floor of your structure.
-Thinks of color in four ways: Hue, value, chroma (intensity), and opacity (transparent/opaque).
-Rule of thumb: Background is opaque.  Shadows are transparent.
-Does NOT worry about exact color.
-Thinks in warm/cool colors as another "layer" of contrast. 
-Works transparent colors with flat, soft brush.
-PAINTS IN STROKES WITHOUT RENDERING.  Keeps all fairly abstract.
-Colors move from dull to bright.
-Prefers flats rather than filberts for his calligraphic-personality style.
-Lays out color in wide strokes... not thinking about edges at this stage, although some happen subconsciously.
-Puts strokes down and leaves them alone as much as  possible!
-Works with contrasts of transparent/opaque, warm/cool, color/no color.
-Dark glass/metal mostly transparent darks.
-After background... works on center of interest. 
-DRAMA IS RELATED TO CONTRADICTION.  Translating three dimension into two dimension is DRAMA.
-For something juicy, like an orange, will use white rather than Naples yellow, which looks dry... to lighten.
-Likes the thalo colors, blue, green, rose, although they are wild animals.

4. MODELING


 Qiang's modeling and consolidation stage.  
(Sorry for bad IPhone photos throughout!  Didn't realize I would be writing this article.)
This is the painterly stage!  Qiang worked on edges, a few details, and let happy accidents be.  Switched to smallest brushes.

"Begin with a broom, end with a needle." - John Singer Sargent

-Works on center of interest.
-Details objects for visual movement throughout painting.
-Adds debris!  Small bits to strengthen color and composition flow.
-Works on each object to read more realistically or in or out of focus.
-Softens edges, sometimes with energetic flourishes! 
(The only time he touched my painting, Pandora's Box, was a finger swish on the left top of the box.  I left it there!)
-Adds and strengthens highlights (which he also adds in earlier stages to judge values).
-Adds small bits of highlights to aid visual flow.
-Smears, pushes and pulls areas together. 
-Softens shadows with dry brush or adds a third color.
-Does not overwork or render too much.  Leaves lots of abstraction and mystery.
-May redistribute color.

Qiang's painting looked finished after this stage.  Lots of sighs and gasps from the observers! 

5. CONSOLIDATION
Qiang's consolidated finish.
  
After giving the painting time to rest, Qiang considers what would make it complete.  Instead of looking at each object, how can these objects work together as a painting?  This is the stage where all is pulled together... nipped, tucked, and polished.
Holding the painting up to a mirror or turning it (or you) upside down gives a fresh perspective, as if seeing it through another's eyes.

-Can anything be changed to make a stronger statement?
-Does anything stop the light flow?
-Does anything look awkward?
-Is the composition working?
-Is it finished?
-Does it work?
-Wipeout or keeper?

On the last afternoon of the workshop, Qiang gave an art business lecture covering everything from photographing artwork, online and gallery sales, to shipping.  Qiang's extremely well organized, thoughtful and sharing.

Another benefit of workshops is the artistic camaraderie.  Artists love talking art and exchanging ideas.  Bonding and friendships happen, new connections are made.  I have a wish list of artists that I would love to study with... maybe one workshop a year.  I'm thankful for the knowledge gained from Qiang Huang!

Eve
Kendell
Martha
Diane
(I'll be adding links to these artists later!)

A few reviews of this article that I'm quite proud of!
"Wow!  What an article.  I think you know me better than myself." -Qiang Huang

"Holy moley... this is wonderful!" -Eileen Corse

"Your article is just outstanding and really invaluable!" -Michele Karahalios
"Kept my interest throughout!" -Kathleen Kelly 
"This is a fantastic article and I will be sharing it with others." -Eve Wheeler 
"Your article was very well written, and enjoyable to read." - Christine Debrosky




Again... If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Qiang Huang... DO IT.

16 comments:

martine paquet said...

Thank you Dianne for such an interesting article

Diane Mannion said...

Thank you, Martine... I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Kathleen E Kelly said...

Diane, you are a generous soul to share so much of what you learned at this workshop with all of us and with such detail! I'm going to read this over and over again. I loved the group photo and how you're right in the middle of it, that's so you! Thank you for this post, you're amazing, simply amazing. I can't wait to be able to paint with you again...and see the important changes you've made that you just learned in this workshop! You know I've always enjoyed your work, and it sounds like this was a life changing workshop for you! I will admit, I'm quite envious! XX

Diane Mannion said...

Thank you so much, Kathleen. I appreciate your comment a lot!

Kathleen E Kelly said...

Diane, simply put, I think you should write an instructional book! Your writing skills are fantastic! Kept my interest throughout!
We move second week of August. Perhaps in September we can reconnect! I miss you so much!
Kathleen

carol edan said...

Thank you Diane for your description of the work shop and posting the article by Eileen Corse. I doubt I will ever be able to take his workshop, I live on the other side of the world, so I am glad to get your tips and impressions.

Eve said...

Hi Diane,
It was a great experience being a part of Qiang's amazing workshop and to see you again! Watching your beautiful still life paintings come to life was an extra bonus :)
This is a fantastic article and I will be sharing it with others!
Best wishes ~ Eve

Diane Mannion said...

Kathleen... we'll paint together soon! Glad you will still be in the area. Thank you for your really nice comment.

Diane Mannion said...

Eve! Was such a treat seeing you again and I think your paintings looked terrific. You have your own style. Thank you for your comment.

Diane Mannion said...

Carol Edan... when I read your comment I quickly updated the post and put a by-line in. I wrote the article, not Eileen Corse. Eileen was the gracious host at her gallery.
I am glad you found my writing useful! Thank you for commenting and let me know if you have any questions. Diane

Rita said...

Thank you for this in depth and invaluable article. I will be attending one of QIang Huang's workshops soon and now I am even more anxious for the time to come to work with him.

Diane Mannion said...

Rita! Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed my article. You will LOVE Qiang's workshop.

Johnna Schelling said...

Diane - I am thrilled to see this part of your blog! I am heading out tomorrow to Qiang's workshop in Easton MD. I am definitely getting a cup of tea and reading every word! Thank you ahead of time for the info - today has been too crazy getting all my gear together! You know how it is - sign up months ago, forget about it and then suddenly it's time. fingers crossed! You're an inspiration in more ways than one.

Diane Mannion said...

Johnna! You will LOVE Qiang's workshop! And I love your work, too. So good to hear my article is useful. I appreciate artist's reviews of workshops and have read many that I'm thankful for. Wanted my review to do the same for others.

Carol Josefiak said...

Thank you so much for this outstanding summary and description of your workshop. Your enthusiasm and love for art was also inspiring.

Diane Mannion said...

Carol Joseflak, thank you so much! I've read many art workshop reviews that I've found useful (can't afford to take them all and don't have the time)... so I wanted to share my experience for others, too. Thank you for the feedback!