Abstract Painting Workshop, Day 1

On this unseasonably  warm and beautiful February Friday the 24th, Ann and I began our participation in the three-day BRAA Abstract Painting Workshop, taught by Rita Montrose, at the delightful Peggy Lee Hahn Garden Pavilion, on the Virginia Tech campus. Though I have done a good bit of sculpture painting–of 3D works and relief panels–with acrylics, over the years, and have done a few abstract sculptures (in both metal and wood, some of which were painted), I have never actually tried a 2D painting on canvas, or on any other surface. So this was a new experience, and I enjoyed it very much. I have already begun to think of sculptural applications.

Anyway, in the course of this workshop, Ms. Montrose will be guiding us through the process of making three abstract paintings, using three different techniques. In the morning of this first day, after saying that abstract painting depends upon “good design,” she laid out her four principles for good design, as follows:

  1. The Center of Interest should not be the center of the composition;
  2. The Secondary Center of Interest can be anywhere, so long as it directs the eye to the Center of Interest;
  3. Do not emphasize corners;
  4. You need Direction Finders–‘lead-ins’ to the Center of Interest and ‘lead-outs’ from the C. of I.;
  5. Do not divide your composition in half.

After demonstrating these principles in a water color painting she developed for the purpose, she led us through a clever method of arriving at our first design. Basically, this involved drawing, on a single sheet of paper, multiple images, in three sizes (small/medium/large), of various tools. The result is a paper cluttered with many rough tool drawings, randomly arranged. Then, using an old-fashioned Kodak  slide as a guide, we penciled a frame around eight areas of our drawing of particular visual interest. We then traced these eight areas onto tracing paper, choose out one, transferred this freehand to a larger piece of paper, then transferred it again to our canvas, or other paintable surface. Then at last, we got out our paints and brushes. The result, for me, was this:


Tomorrow, hopefully, I can do some shading/layering/”scrumbling”/ or in Ms. Montrose’s words, enhancing the “color values.”