Painting Workshop in the Anza-Borrego Desert

I've just returned from a week of painting and teaching in California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This was the second 3-day workshop I've taught there, and was excited to return. I love this part of the desert, and this trip afforded me a little more time to explore and paint a few new locations. I also painted a few more nocturnes on location, something that has to be experienced. Even with less than a quarter moon, color temperatures and shapes are apparent, and there is also starlight to see by. NOTE: If you missed this trip, I'll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013.

Each day began with the importance of using your sketchbook - finding what your piece will be about, drawing thumbnail sketches and writing about them. I'm not interested in copying the landscape, but rather finding what it is that excites me about the location. I see painting as a way to dig a little deeper, to try a little harder.

I began with a demo in the morning and did another after lunch. I want everyone in the workshop to come away with a structure or process that they can use to interpret the landscape when they're working on their own. We talked about color, value, shapes, materials, umbrellas, and many other items of concern to artists working outdoors.

We started early each morning while it was still cool, painting until 1 pm or so, and then took a 2-hour lunch and siesta. After the rest, we'd get back out on location for the afternoon. For most folks who haven't painted on location before, one thing they don't realize is how physically and mentally demanding it is. This trip also sprouted a new tradition of starting the afternoon session with ice cream. At the end of a full day of painting, we'd gather for a good dinner at a local restaurant to relax and discuss painting.

I selected three different locations around the park that provided three different types of landscape, with a variety of underbrush, cacti, and change in elevation.

On the last day we created a little shade and held a critique to talk about the work everyone had produced. I'm always glad when I see such a sharp improvement over a short period of time, and there was a notable jump in seeing and painting color in each student's work over the three days. Though we were pretty tired when we departed at the end of the workshop, I think everyone seemed pleased with their efforts and had a sketchbook full of new ideas to put into practice in their own future work.

If you're interested in learning to see and paint color on location, I'll be teaching another 3-day workshop in Joshua Tree next month, April 19-21, 2013. Sign up here: http://ericmerrell.com/workshops.html