Thursday, April 8, 2010

In the Studio with Morgan Weistling: Video Review

In the past I have been reluctant to review instruction videos put out by artists because I hate to mess with someone's bread and butter. These artists rely not only the sale of their paintings, but on workshops and videos to supplement their income and pay their mortgages.  So after giving it careful thought I decided, what the heck.

Over the Christmas holidays I had a chance to watch Morgan Weistling's mammoth ten hour video (yes 10 Hours!).  It was so interesting I decided I just had to review it. Someone, somewhere may be thinking of buying or renting it, and before investing that amount of time watching the video, may want to know someone else's opinion.

Mr. Weistling himself will be the first one to admit the video is long -  very long. So long rumour has it he swore never to do another instructional video. In the video he paints a girl aged about twelve sitting at a desk with a forelorn expression on her face. She is placed somewhere in the romantic past of 100 years ago wearing a dress straight out of "Little House on the Prairie". The painting is a large gallery piece and is entitled "Homework".

When thinking about watching this video I was hesitant for two reasons: I'm not much of a fan of Mr. Weistlings paintings or his style of painting. I think it was Ken Auster who said you should try to learn from artists whose work you admire, and whose style of painting is compatible to your own.  Unless of course you want to get out of your comfort zone. That being said, I figured I'd give him a look.

He paints thick, very thick with Langnickels. He doesn't use any thinners, instead rinsing frequently in a container of walnut oil. He places his composition on the surface with charcoal, not bothering about details, then he fixes and tones the canvas. He paints in what I call "The Puzzle Method", that is he works on one section at a time comparing value and color to an adjacent area. There is no overall block-in and development of the painting. Each section is developed to its final form before moving on to the next, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. This makes sense when painting from the live model since areas like the hands and shoulders will move or shift from session to session - no matter how good the model.

As the painting progressed the under-drawing was used as a guide or map, but it wasn't strictly adhered to. Objects were moved, folds were painted over and the composition was refined. The progress was very much like putting together a puzzle with 'little tiles of paint' (his phrase), moving from the face down the figure to the hands and foreground.

So why was this video ten hours, and why did I actually sit there watching it? Because of what Mr. Weistling had to say and how he said it. There is a TON of practical advice here for an artist, and it is the way he explains it that makes the video so valuable. Watching artists work on video can be a bit like watching grass grow (or paint dry). Infinitely boring. But Mr. Weistling keeps up a constant, interesting patter. What I like best is the dude is practical. He tells you stuff you can actually use. Then he shows you. He's the first instructor I've seen who admits painting is mostly boring stuff - and hard work. This video won't appeal to those looking to 'express themselves creatively', or who paint for 'fun'. 

Maybe its because he came from an illustration background, but Weistling is all about getting the job done. There are numerous side-trips away from the main picture where he illustrates and explains shapes (drawing), values, edges, and color. He demonstrates the Five Value Method. He explains and illustrates edge quality in a no-nonsense way. He talks about color temperature without going into the metaphysical properties of light. The guy is all about making a picture.

Negatives? Waay too much time spent with the camera on his palette. Not sure why, but we're forced to watch every, single, little color mixture he makes - this despite him saying repeatedly color is nowhere near as important as shapes, values and edges. Also not enough split screen showing us the model, and how he solves problems on the canvas. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of split-screen, but there could have been more if they'd just broken away from that damn palette.

Bottom line is this: The video is ten hours long. I sat through all of it with no fast-forwarding. I'm still chewing over his teaching three months later, AND trying to use his instruction every day. The link to his website is here
There's an interview with Morgan Weistling where he talks about his influences and training etc. here

1 comment:

  1. To my opinion it is the best video I have ever watched, and showing the palette everytime He mixed a paint to me is a great tool


About Me

My photo
Elmira, New York, United States
In many ways I think like a photographer. The image itself is becoming more and more important to me; the actual application of paint less and less. Blasphemy in some painterly circles. I choose to paint figures and portraits because I consider them the most difficult subject.