Lynn Maderich here. I just taught my first workshop for The American Academy of Equine Art and I am officially giving the AAEA a very large Thank You. This had to be one of the best workshops I’ve been privileged to teach. Part of it is that I keep working to improve and revise how I present the principles of this classic instruction and it keeps getting better. The rest was the merry band of talented, engaged artist-students who decided to take a chance on a workshop “newbie.” This great group ranged from accomplished, selling artists to one remarkable woman who had never drawn a horse in her life. We had plenty of fun but they also asked challenging questions that really stretched me and kept me on my toes. Thanks!
There is no one right way to make a picture. What counts is the finished product. But the intensive training I received at The Atelier art school in Minneapolis transformed the approach I use. My workshops are not about asking people to paint like me. They’re about explaining these classic ways of picture-making and letting each artist take home a little or a lot of what will help their own art journey. I’m pleased that all my students found the week to be valuable for them. Several are even thinking of repeating next year and I’d love to see them again.
So just what is this training about? In school I drew and painted the figure, portraits, still lifes and cast studies. No horses until after I graduated, so this instruction applies to any subject. The approach is to establish light and form very early in the drawing or painting by carving out areas of similar value and treating them as almost abstract shapes with no details. That’s important because so many of us dive into the details first, then try to stitch them together into a coherent whole. Now I create the “big look” first before finding the details but those details must serve to define the complete form and never interfere with the flow of light. Trust me, it makes more sense when I can show you some demos.
Students in The Atelier always spend at least their first year working only in black and white. The beginning of my workshop is also in black and white because to create light and dimension, value is more important than color. Yet it’s common to get carried away with color and then wonder why the picture doesn’t look more “real.” Try this tip: take a photo of one of your pieces and convert it to gray scale. If your values are in balance, it will look great but if it goes flat or splotchy or jumpy, it’s the values that aren’t working.
During the week we also looked at how to find subtle colors as well as what edge variety can do to add atmosphere and the illusion of that third dimension. All of our projects were done studio-style from photo references and we spent time looking at examples I’ve found of mistakes in paintings that can happen if you’re not aware of how badly photos can mislead you. Most of us need and use photos but they will always be flawed substitutes for the master teacher, Nature.
Again, thank you AAEA. It was a fine experience.