Mary and Liz picking up some Gamblin paints at the Milwaukee Blick store, a couple of days before the workshop.

Madison Wisconsin Workshop

When my daughter Liz was growing up, she was my regular art buddy. I miss going outside to paint with her. So I jumped at the chance to travel up to Madison, Wisconsin to take out a small group of her artist friends from her company, Raven Software, a gaming studio, for a workshop weekend of plein air painting. These artists work full time creating realistic concepts and environments for computer games. Their daily painting media is photoshop and advanced computer-based animation tools.

They all went to art school and are masters in computer art. Of course that means the basics – drawing, composition, value, and lighting/shadow are impeccable. They certainly didn’t need me to teach them art.

But most haven’t picked up an old-fashioned brush and canvas in years.

They wanted to get back to why they went to art school in the first place – the joy of painting. Outdoors, the way the impressionists did it.

Challenges in the Sun

This home-spun bee apparatus apparently helps keep bees busy with beer, and away from people.

Plein air is always brutal – the artists juggled wind, bugs, dust, gawkers, and sunburn. They wrestled with the shifting shadows and light. Jeff’s acrylics dried too fast, and he and Eric sported amazing bright sunburns. Oil paints decorated Liz’s face and teeth. Nicki ducked from curious wasps. Chaos. This was the best happiness.

Location helped. We painted on the grounds of a lovely beer garden. Location, location, location. We swayed to background music while spouses brought brats, beers, and ice cream. We painted. Perfection.

Smiles, finished paintings, and tired at the end of the day.

Pros are pros

They proved that professional artists create great work, no matter what the media. With a few sputters and hick-ups early on, they completed their first plein paintings in years with strong composition, brushwork, and depth. Of course, they ARE professional artists – creating fantasy worlds with computers; the Van Goghs and Frazettas of today. And of course, it was amazing to paint again with daughter Liz.

I’m honored to be have shared just a few days with these young talents in their art path.