2020 Plein air workshop schedule
Harbor Springs, Michigan August 4 - 6. We will paint in beautiful Harbor Springs, Michigan, on Little Traverse Bay. Attendees see to their own lodging and transportation; we take orders on daily lunches, tally payable at the end of the workshop. Limited to 12 artists. Workshop fee is $575
New Harbor, Maine August 17 - 21. This is my place and I know it well. Here is where to read all about it and sign up: https://www.pleinairholidays.com/
In the meantime, here's what we have to look forward to:
Taos, NM September 22-25. This is a Plein Air Painters of America event where, aside from me, members Lorenzo Chavez, Jill Carver, Ron Rencher, Dan Young, and Skip Whitcomb will be teaching. Details will be posted on p-a-p-a.com
These workshops are meant to be intensive hands-on learning experiences: they are a chance to build or reinforce skills and try new things without the pressure of having to make "finished" paintings that you have to sign. Have you always wanted to make painterly pictures with big fat brushstrokes but couldn't quite bring yourself to carry it through? Would you like to be able to draw a bit better, make things look their proper sizes, but can't always figure out why things don't look quite right? Maybe practice mixing colors from a limited palette? We can do any of these things -- I'm there to give you ideas, technical advice, moral support, demonstrations -- whatever insight I've accrued from more than 20 years of full-time painting.
My workshops are pretty informal and open to improvisation. We meet in the morning at the predetermined location, or somewhere convenient to it; lunch is bring-your-own (except for France); I do plenty of off-the-cuff individual demos or extended explanations, exhortations, etc, as needed. If everyone likes a particular spot, we'll stay there, and if not, we go. It's lots of painting and usually plenty of fun.
The day starts when we meet at the location at 9:30 am. I will do a demonstration painting on the first day until lunchtime, generally about noon. After that everyone picks a spot and starts painting. I work with attendees individually to help them bring about their own visions in their paintings. The following days incorporate more painting by workshoppers, sometimes on approaches or exercises that I assign. The workshop-day ends at 4 pm. This holds for my local workshops - the France routine is different, and can be reviewed on the www.pleinairfrance.com website.
Tom Hughes Plein Air Painting Workshops on Yelp
Here is a list of the materials I usually use.
Easel for painting outdoors - examples include:
French easel - I use either one of these or a gloucester easel (particularly good for larger paintings). As far as I can tell, the best french easels currently generally available are made by Mabef.
Soltek easel - a variation on the french box easel; many of my workshop attendees use these.
Pochade box - very compact and convenient option for outdoor painting. Off the top of my head, brands include: Open Box M, EasyL, Guerrilla
A web search will display plenty of other outdoor easels.
Palette - most plein air easels come with a palette. I favor a wooden palette, or, for acrylic, a glass palette.
Rags, paper towels, or kleenex - for wiping brushes, general cleanup.
Something to paint on - stretched canvas, canvas board, primed masonite, primed paper, etc. Panels (masonite or mdf), either commercially prepared or prepared by the artist are what I prefer for smallish paintings. Preparations include: acrylic gesso application, an alkyd or oil ground, canvas glued to the panel. There are other preparations, but these will do fine. Commercially prepared panels are available at any art materials supplier.
Brushes - a selection of a few hog bristle brushes: chiefly a large bright (size 10 or higher), some rounds, filberts, flats - whatever you prefer. I use soft brushes as well, chiefly cheap synthetic watercolor rounds, though they are unnecessary for workshops.
Palette knife - you realize how important this is when you forget to pack it.
Paint thinner - I get what they call "odorless" mineral spirits from the hardware store. Art materials manufacturers make their own versions - touted to be safer, less toxic, etc - Gamsol and Turpenoid are popular varieties. ( If you get it from the hardware store, make sure it's not labelled "green" or "safer"- one of Kleen-Strip's thinners is labelled thus: it seems to contain some percentage of water and will not work for us.) I use the thinner for cleanup; it's perfectly good for use in painting as well, though I go the old-fashioned route and use artists' turpentine in a palette cup for that, chiefly because it feels better to me in the paint. Acrylic painters don't need any thinner but water.
Cans - I clamp (spring clamps) a coffee or soup can on either side of the drawer of my easel; one to hold brushes, the other to hold thinner. I also use spring clamps to hold my palette steady.
Here's a fairly good picture of my french rig, showing cans, palette, clamps, kleenex, etc.
Crab Cove, Alameda photograph by Oliver Sin
Umbrella - an umbrella that you can attach to your easel is very nice; keeps the sun off of your painting and your palette. However, I have yet to get one that can stand up to more than a lively breeze and so usually do without.
Sketchbook and pencil/charcoal - please bring one.
Trash bag - for your used kleenex or paper towels, miscellaneous rubbish.
Paints - I vary my palette from time to time, but these are the usual colors:
White, cadmium yellow lemon or light, cadmium yellow medium or deep, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, quinacridone red, ultramarine blue, phthalo or prussian blue, sap green, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre.
The core of this palette is a warm and cool of each of the primary colors, plus a few earth colors and convenience colors. I will be going over use of color, relative warm and cool colors, limited palettes, pigments off the beaten path, tonal values, plus anything else we can think of.
Painting medium - we won't really need anything but thinner for oils, though if you are particularly fond of this or that, by all means bring it along. For acrylics, I like to have some gel or gloss medium handy, but don't find it necessary.
I carry paint and brushes in and under the drawer of the french easel. Everything else I put in a small backpack.