I found the focus of the class for me was to "draw what you see." This may seem obvious, but I tend to draw what I see blended with what I assume is there. Every time I would come up against perspective or other measurements being off. This would skew the whole painting and even in an abstract painting, having the perspective and sense of space correctly laid out makes a huge difference. Funny enough, it actually connects quite literally to the figure drawing sessions I have been sitting in on lately. Measuring out what you see and where it goes on the canvas or paper using a view finder or other tool to measure is critical. "That's no fun" you say? Well, I used to think that too. I love the abstract landscape (and there is more on that to come for me I am sure of it), but it really hit home for me that in order to make a successful abstract landscape or figure drawing you have to know how to paint it realistically (-ish) in the first place.
Another challenge was color. Instructor and artist Sue Charles (please, stop now and click on her link... her work is GORGEOUS) recommended a set of colors which did not include black or gray-Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian Green, Sap Green. We were reminded that complimentary colors will get you the grays you are looking for with a tint of color that will bring energy into the piece. Each week I wished I had taken the time to make swatches of the colors, but I never did. As a result, I was really challenged to get the colors that I wanted out in the field. There was a lot of green (duh) and I wasn't falling in love with the greens I was mixing. I still need to sit down and swatch out these paints.
Composition also presented some challenges. The first few classes I plopped my pile of stuff (there is lots of 'stuff') right down and focused on the first scene I saw. By the fourth class I realized a few things; 1) I need to sketch out a few composition options before I set up easel (etc) so I know that is the place I will enjoy painting for 2+ hours and 2) I like a man made focal point in the painting (not all trees).
It was HARD and took a lot of brain cells and I needed a nap after each class to recover. But I felt that I was learning something new and that was exciting. The instructor let me borrow her old french easel. The thing was a beast to carry, but she saved me some $$ and let me borrow it for the summer!. Other materials included oil paints, soft vine charcoal, Gamblin Mineral Spirits, Paint brushes, Palette Knives, Palette, rags/paper towels, snacks, water, bug spray and a hat.