Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Carol Shelkin Mosaic Workshop at MAANZ 2013

I had the privilege recently of attending a workshop with US mosaic artist Carol Shelkin.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone.  Not only does Carol work using sheet glass, which I rarely use, but to add to the challenge she is a portraitist.  Definitely not my thing so I was ready for anything and expecting everything. 

Either way 4 and a half hours flew by.  With this course generally taught over a number of weeks we were all happy to gain so much knowledge from Carol, who was more than prepared to share her expertise with us.  As a tutor she was great, and she achieved much with great forbearance in what must have been difficult circumstances.  So, my overview of what I took away from the session goes like this!

Carol showed us ways of looking at shapes, planes, and shadows on the face and how to teach ourselves to actually see them.  To see the face in terms of light and dark, black and white.  Quite a challenge, but it made so much sense to hear how she looked at work.  It also put into context for me why as an artist, Carol produces a black and white painting, a colour painting and a sketch before she touches a piece of glass when starting out on a new mosaic artwork.

Carol talked a lot about hills and valleys ie the contours, become the face, with the more drastic the value or shading, the more contours  will be revealed. 

Carol's philosophy being "if you can capture the shapes of the shadows, these become the face."  Easier said than done, but we all tried as hard as we could!

She shared too a couple of tricks with us - using a "viewfinder" to trick the eye and identify shadows.  Who would have thought a piece of card with a square hole cut into it would be such an effective tool.  As for the colour wheel she gave each of us - I don’t think I have put it down since I got it.  While a wrote a paper on colour theory many years ago I had never really utilised this tool in my practice.  Wow, what a mistake.  These things are awesome!

Colour is an incredible thing so being reminded that cool colours recede and warm colours stand out wasn’t a bad thing.  According to Carol, in general the warm colours are the hills (orange, yellow, red) and the cool colours (blue, purple, green) are the valleys.  I like simple connections that have a visual link.  They make sense to my way of thinking so I liked this thought from Carol very much.

The other concept Carol shared with us was the 60:30:10 rule.  Again, a general rule, excluding eyes, hair, teeth etc it works like this.  60% of the flesh area should be one colour in a range of shades. "Flesh" can be blue!  So long as you use shades and link tones using your colour wheel.  30% of the work is the secondary colour and all its shades which leaves 10% of one other colour and its shades.  I am sure this isn’t a new idea, but for this portrait novice it was a great way of understanding what we were being taught.

More tips included the secret that eyeballs are not really round, and the "whites" of the eye are rarely ever white.  Who would have thought.  As for me, I have certainly started seeing things differently.  I have been busily "squinting" to identify the shadows and contours ever since I got home. My portrait, which was the proud bearer of one eyeball on my departure from Melbourne, now has an eyeball and some surrounding skin.  Biggest progress made however is the mental leap and I think I do "get" this.  Time will tell.

My workshop buddy Kym and I agreed with our new South Australian friend Elaine's comment that she needed to "paint by numbers".  I could certainly see the connection!

Best thing is I now have two new FaceBook friends.


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