This past weekend I attended a plein air painting workshop with Eric Jacobsen in Hood River OR. I’ve known of Eric for a number of years and admired his work greatly. It’s always interesting meeting someone you’ve looked up to for a long time and it was a real joy to meet Eric. He turned out to be a very friendly and down to earth guy who welcomed us all with a big smile.
Although I think sometimes that there is no substitute for just putting time in at the easel, this was a great opportunity to watch a masterful painter work and then to be able to step immediately to an easel and practice what I just observed, while it’s still fresh.
On a side note, I hadn’t been to Hood River in about 10 years and it’s really grown into an international windsurfer mecca since then. It’s in the incredible Columbia River Gorge and at the foot of both Mt Hood and Mt Adams of the Cascade range. It’s kind of a cross between a surfer tourist spot and college town (without the college) with meditation centers and fabulous restaurants. I recommend the house martini and Brian’s Pourhouse, btw.
I arrived Friday night to attend the opening of the Plein Air Paint Out show sponsored by the Columbia Art Gallery which included work by some artists I’ve met or workshopped with recently. After that I painted during the day, at the workshop, and dined at the great spots in Hood River and sketched around town in the eveining.
The weather was perfect – clear blue skies and two snow capped volcanoes close enough that it seemed you could reach out and touch them.
Hood River is also surrounded by apple and pear orchards, which are coming into harvest time, and is very scenic.
Eric did three demos during the two day workshop, explaining his decisions as he made them and talking about his training and the personal preferences that he’s developed. He was extremely generous spending a lot of time with each participant answering questions, making suggestions and even critiquing paintings brought from home. I know that one of the hardest things to come by is honest and informed constructive criticism and Eric was really terrific at making astute suggestions in an encouraging way.
I took some snapshots of one of the demonstrations and Eric agreed to allow me to post them here. Click on the pictures for a larger view.
Because of a back injury, Eric was sitting down to paint although he prefers to stand.
the canvas was first toned with a very light wash of Burnt Sienna and an underdrawing was done with the same color
he starts laying in local color
the sky was put in rather late in the process and the mountain really jumped out at that point
We unceremoniously threw his completed work on the ground to photograph it but still failed to avoid the glare.
This demo took about an hour and he talked his way through it and answered questions so it probably took 4 times as long as if we hadn’t been there.
What did I learn? Two things come to mind immediately:
1. Don’t try to paint with worn brushes. Duh! Eric did his demos with a single brush, a brand new #6 flat. He said that with that brush he can make marks any size between #1 and #6 depending on how he holds the brush.
2. To determine the color of a mass in a landscape, rather than look directly at it, look at the adjacent mass and use your peripheral vision to see the color you’re after.
It was well worth it and if you ever have the opportunity to study with Eric, I recommend it. Although he demonstrated painting close to life, some of his work is more interpretive and pushes past traditional landscape painting, check out his website.