Thursday, August 4, 2011

An New View along the Artist Trace

Professor Dongfeng Li paints Ken Macht
 Several days this week, I've headed over to Banana Tree Studios in Flemingsburg, KY to learn something new. En route, I had the benefit of the marvelous scenery, driving through the beautiful Licking River valley and into Flemingsburg with the Appalachian foothills in the distance.  I was accompanied by the excellent Morehead State Public Radio, and the timing was such that I heard The Front Page program coming and going. So, if I don't know how to Turbo Charge my metabolism, it is my fault alone!

But these were all side benefits.  The main purpose of the commute was to learn something new about watercolors and portrait painting from Dongfeng Li.  Kathy Macht, who along with husband Ken, created Banana Tree Studios, took a drawing class with professor Li at Morehead State University. When I saw Kathy in the spring, she was glowing with enthusiasm for what she is learning. I was anxious to take on a little glow for myself and I always enjoy seeing how others approach their art. We were not a large group of students, but a very lucky one. There were more than a few gasps as Li would hurl paint on the paper with abandon, and often a great deal of green! Ken's ear was formed with a single quick swipe of paint. It always seemed as though the paint was way too dark and that this time Li had gone too far. But amazingly, the paint would dry and the image would come together as if by magic.  There were several points that were particularly helpful for me.  One was the concept of Lost and Found areas, sharp edges and soft edges. Another was to remember the roundness of the head.  I have a tendency to paint under the influence of my fashion illustration training; which seems rather flat in comparison. And, it was clear from Li's approach, that he had the whole picture in mind all the time.  He knew that there would be many layers and how the paint would dry, and that a dark color would be joined by many intermediary colors ("Keep changing your color!") Another thing that struck me about Li's work was that he seemed to be brutally honest while painting.  You almost worried that his subject would be offended.  And yet, when the piece was completed, you were astounded by the beauty; grateful, that someone could see such beauty in other people.


My French model
So, once again, I have enjoyed the riches along the Artist Trace.  Thanks to Kathy Macht for coming up with the idea and sharing her inspiring space with us. Professor Li has a contagious enthusiasm, which makes you want to celebrate everyone.  I was painting from a photograph I had taken in France, of a tour guide and I praised the beautiful French women who have a certain, je ne sais quoi. Li, said that he prefers the American women, because they are full of variety, from many places; not so pure. What a breath of fresh air! And that is what we find along the Artist Trace.

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