April 2019: Acrylics with James Tatum - see also
SouthWestArts academician James Tatum, coming from an engineering and design background, retains a focus on how a painting 'works' structurally. He moved from representation to pure abstraction but now focuses mainly on nature and landscape and the  'feel' of fleeting elusive impressions.
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He brought a number of sketchbooks filled to the margins with amazing plein air sketches for potential paintings.
A painting may lie waiting there for weeks, or even years, in gestation but when ready the actual execution is fast and intuitively spontaneous.
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James paints not only with a wide decorator's brush but a squeegee and even a paint-laden paper plate! If the colours are in the painting the result should be harmonious.
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James's first demo of the evening sprang from a moment - captured in his sketches above -  when waters flooded a meadow near the source of the West Dart river after heavy rains when the sky and water were suffused with the same light
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Using acrylics on smooth Sanders Waterford 300lb hot press w/c paper, James uses a big brush to block in the main structural marks of the painting  (effectively a rhythm of black lines angling down from the horizon on the left of the picture) using black, burnt sienna and ultramarine. The marks were quick and bold and then restated. James advises to step back at this point and consider the picture as an abstract composition. Does it work? If not, leave it!
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Some thoughts:
Think in Shapes, not in Words.
I want a painting to aspire to music.
Is there a visceral impact?
If you're going to paint, make it 'interesting' - and make it MORE interesting!
Think about 'flow' -how things move through the painting.
Does it have 'spark' for YOU (the painter)? This is your concern only.
This, this painting, is my story, a story without words.
Left: A squeegee moment! The quick creation of a thin horizon which gives the painting an important marker and depth.
Soon after, James alarmingly took a Stanley knife to the surface to create some high contrast whites of ripped paper. What could possibly go wrong?
The results suggested maybe distant cattle and some tufts of bog cotton. Very effective - if risky!!
Right: A 'squashed paper plate' detail plus 'bog cotton'. Rather exciting!
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James and the finished article - though a painting often needs a further 3 days of studio work before completion.
The dazzle of vertical light on the right was a moment James wished to capture.
James's second demonstration was a semi-abstract picture of grass, riverbank and water, "the objects allowing us to see the light" in a clever reversal of the conventional physics of perception.
He began with some oriental calligraphic marks in Turner's Yellow, broken by black marks smudged with a J-cloth.
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An expressive detail
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"A photo is a dictionary. We want to create a poem"
6th April 2019: Acrylics Workshop with James Tatum
Following the demo, there was a follow-up workshop at Sidbury village hall.
James Tatum led the session with a further demonstration, concentrating on
   the importance of patterns of dark and light,
   thoughts on the painting's structure (meaning the 2-D pattern of the work) and
   various compositional elements and considerations - such as the need for stronger more intense contrasts in the foreground.
James likened the 2-D structure to the design and layout by an architect of the foundations of a building. If this is wrong the picture won't be a success whatever is built on top, whereas a good design can survive superficial changes (the wallpaper).
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James discussed how to turn a photo of a Dartmoor stone circle into a satisfying composition. Penny Lamb, who brought the photo, used these ideas [see right] to produce a cracking painting [see below]
Penny Lamb
Big thanks to Maureen Stone [above] who organised the day.
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A selection of the day's art. And a huge apology that these photos are mostly unfocused and some were too blurry to be used at all. I'm not sure why. Sorry.