Subject: Plein air
Bottom Line: Five
Stars, Two Thumbs Way Up!
Full Disclosure: I’ve been an admirer of Schmid’s work for about twenty years. I have met him, his wife Nancy and Kristen Thies at a recent gallery opening. We are not friends and I doubt they remember the meeting. I paid retail for my copy of the DVD.
Schmid’s landscapes have a quiet drama all their own. Each one carefully orchestrated to support its central idea with never a false note. Every stroke, color, value, shape and edge is laid down with precision. It may look loose, but it is controlled. You feel drawn into a Schmid painting. And I think you will be drawn into this video as well. It is one of the best available. We knew Schmid was a remarkable painter. Now add to that “remarkable teacher”. His easy manner, pleasant voice, clear and detailed explanations make learning the secrets to his magic most enjoyable.
It’s a sunny Vermont morning in June. We come upon Schmid sitting in a field below a red barn with a gambrel roof and a stone foundation. Sheets hang from a line on the right. A few potted plants are in view. A stone retaining wall extends to the left toward a partly visible shed, a row of trees in the background. He has just finished applying a yellowish turpentine wash that he admits was actually done with mineral spirits. He adds a bit of green to the wash and starts in with the shadow side of the barn. Explaining as he goes, we come to understand the importance of the palette knife. Knife strokes may occupy less than five per cent of the painting surface, but they account for most of the impact. The knife is perhaps the most important single element in his technique and he wields it like a surgeon. When the painting is done he can point to the knife stroke that pulled everything together and made it sing. No doubt he had planned it all along. Now we know what is meant by “master stroke”.
Part 2 is called “Second Look” and takes place back in the studio. The red barn is on the easel. It appears to be night time. Schmid begins by answering a written list of questions from off screen people who watched him paint the picture. He talks about what he did and why he did it. One question is about how he chooses the colors to use. In answer he shows a set of twelve charts he has made, one for each color on his palette. In the upper left hand corner is a square of pure color from the tube. Each of the other squares across the top row is that color mixed with one of the others in a set order. The columns have four additional squares showing what happens as he adds more and more white. On location Schmid compares the scene colors with his charts. It becomes obvious what colors to use. He puts a second picture on the easel for analysis.
Next he lays out on a blank canvas an invented scene with a small shed. He demonstrates exactly how to use the palette knife to depict edges and stresses how important they are to the success of the painting. Schmid also identifies four groups and their methods for blending two areas of color: Impressionist, Brushmen like Sargent, Pointalist, and Salon painters.
Finally, he leaves us with best wishes and a slide show of landscapes. Don’t turn it off just yet because you will find a list of the colors in his palette, the brushes he uses and who makes them.
Schmid shows only the bottom two-thirds of the barn and leaves out the large second story window. Conspicuously absent is the reasoning behind these decisions. Perhaps he discusses composition in “November”, the first in this series. A continuity issue is noticeable as the shadow line creeps down the face of the barn and suddenly jumps back up three or four feet. No doubt the shoot spanned two days. Ok, this is nit-picking.
If you are a painter and you want to improve, get this DVD right away. I also highly recommend Schmid’s latest edition of Alla Prima, Everything I Know About Painting, both available on line: www.richardschmid.com. Then do one or two hundred plein air paintings. Schmid has set the bar high and you may not reach it, but your picture making skills will benefit greatly.
Robert Bissett lives and paints in north Idaho. He was a featured artist in the North Light book Acrylic Painting Techniques. Website: www.buildart.com.
Robert Bissett is
MEMBER OF ASOPA