June 11, 2007
Subject: Oil Painting, Instructional
Bottom Line: Must have, five stars, two thumbs way up!
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Full Disclosure: I've been aware of Auster's work for three or four years and admire it greatly. I paid full retail for my copy of this set. I'm not being compensated in any way for this review.
Almost like actually being there, except you have a much better view... "brings to his fans and aspiring artists his exclusive, first-ever comprehensive workshop video." Auster explains the intellect and the passion that must go into a successful painting and when to focus on each. He explains his limited palette (red, yellow, blue, black, white), his brushes (doesn't clean them), the panels he paints on (house paint gesso), how he decides what to paint and his complete painting process.
His is a three part process.
1. Line - the road map, intellect - thinner black paint is used to divide up the panel with a broad, messy line into interlocking shapes. He says if you're not supposed to use black paint why do they sell it in the art stores. Good point. Decide on the focal point, all roads should lead you there. The rest is paint by number.
2. Shapes - passion - thick paint is used to fill in the shapes one "animal" at a time; trees first, then grass, road, etc. Are all animals; each one is given the atmospheric effect consistent with it's own DNA. This was a new idea for me. I thought atmospheric perspective should just be applied to things in the background like distant mountains and trees. Auster applies the effect to everything. As much paint as possible as quickly as you can. If it doesn't work at this stage scrape it off.
3. Focal Point - intellect - developed in more detail, but not rendered, and implied lines are added to guide the viewer's eye to the FP.
The first two parts are done with a dirty, large bristle round bent at an angle from sitting in the thinner can. The last part makes use of a rigger type brush, combined with the right touch allowing more paint to be applied wet over wet. Didn't expect to laugh out loud, but I did when he showed his palette. It looks to be a card table with two or three inches of dried paint and wax paper build up! Unconventional, but Auster makes magic happen.
His intention is to help the viewer reach his potential as a painter. Main points and important quotes are overlaid on the screen. "Paint what you know, not what you see." That means don't paint like a human camera. Pick a focal point, put more detail there, all else will be out of focus or more abstract. Take a few moments to understand what makes you want to paint a scene, then design for that purpose in the road map part. Design and composition are the most important thing in painting. Be sure you get everything in the painting that makes it work before you start painting. Ninety per cent of student paintings have no chance at all because they picked the wrong thing to paint.
WARNING: There is so much good info here that you may not want to start another painting until you have absorbed and digested it all. I've watched it four times now and the last time I took many pages of notes. Would love to have had this thirty years ago.
Scroll down to see a painting I did recently - my attempt to apply Auster's system.
It's a little hard to follow because it is a live lecture without a carefully thought out script. Auster is lecturing using his visual aids which show lists of his main points and those lists are superimposed on the screen. There is a certain amount of extraneous fluff. On the other hand, this format gives a very good idea of how his mind works and why he paints the way he does. He doesn't pretend to be an organized person and he isn't. I'd like to see an insert with an outline of the lecture and the many pithy quotes that appear every few minutes. Even with that you would still be well advised to pause and take notes.
At one point Auster uses a jigsaw puzzle analogy to explain how all the elements of his picture fit together. To make this clear jigsaw pieces are superimposed over the painting. Once was helpful, perhaps. This special effect became mildly annoying after half a dozen times.
The back cover misleads slightly. It suggests you'll learn "(h)ow to use Ken's easy-to-learn system of composition, color and technique". In the lecture he says composition and design can't be taught, you have to feel it and that comes from experience.
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Learn from an Auster Painting
I have a ways to go.