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Mitch Waite demonstrations

Nov. 2009 Back to History Page Nov. 2011

For this year's holidays visit him at www.mitchwaitepaintingholidays.com
email: info@mitchwaitepaintingholidays.com


Chroma Atelier Interactive Acrylics, 4/11/2011
It was good to see Mitch again. He had arrived in England on Wednesday, done one demo then, two on Thursday, ours today and is set for another tomorrow. Obviously a man with enviable energy. He is only in England for about 10 days this time - the work involved in painting for (and manning) his gallery in Vence means that the time he can give to demonstrations and holidays has had to be cut.
These are the results of his earlier demos this week
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Mitch again offered us a choice out of some 15 or 20 full size (30" x 40" ?) prints from photos he'd taken. We chose a view up the Quai des Etats-Unis in Nice and he clipped this to a board on one of his easels.

Mitch repeated his 2009 description of Interactive Acrylics (see below). Since he likes to paint wet-into-wet, their slower drying and revivability are invaluable.

He has two separate pots of water, one for brush-cleaning and one for painting - although he dilutes the paint hardly at all. He keeps his palette wet while he's working (and the painting as well, most of the time).
For brushes he uses the best quality hogs' hair, mostly filberts - from size #12 down to about #4.

His palette had been pre-loaded with enough fairly warm colour (two blues, two reds and two yellows) to last the evening, and titanium white which would need topping up more than once.

Before putting brush to canvas it's essential to decide what you are trying to do, what emotions you have about the scene. If you can't paint en plein air a little of this has been done for you by the photographer but, especially if the canvas is not the same shape as the photo, you still have to decide about cropping or adding extra space.
Here he cropped a little (top and left). Because there was no central point of interest he wanted to keep the eye circling clockwise round the picture, landing on the headland, on the people on the beach, on the walkers and back along the promenade to the starting point.

With a big brush and thin yellow paint Mitch very quickly dashed in the outlines (above). Then he started really scrubbing in an ultramarine blue sky (lots of white, of course), introducing more and more red and yellow as he got to the horizon.

In the area of green trees he added some ochre to the sky blue, plus burnt sienna in the darker parts.
The palette may look a mess but it shows him the colours he has been using and he is usually able to pick up a mix that is just right if something needs moving a little.

Relative colour matters much more than absolute (think how the eye copes with different coloured lighting). In these early stages Mitch gets the colour he wants by looking at what is on the palette and deciding what needs to be added.
Although it inevitably leads to greys, this use of the colour circle is a vital skill.

Greys are really needed here because once you have strong colours it is very difficult to adjust anything. So he added different amounts of red and yellow for the beach and the pavement and adjusted further for the hotels.

Once the white of the canvas is completely covered Mitch starts to look at smaller areas (not forgetting to keep spraying the canvas and the palette to keep it wet). This included putting some richer blue/white into the sky, pushing it down to define the tree-tops better and then immediately, with a smaller brush, blue, ochre and red, brightening and pushing the trees up again.
Before the interval was too early to get really specific, but it was necessary to start thinking seriously about relations between different objects, the perspective, how vertical and horizontals relate, pulling (still wet) background in as negative space to define objects, dots for heads and quick slashes for bodies and legs and using cloth or brush to lift out lighter areas (better than piling white on top).

Notice here, after the coffee break, how both the foreground figures were raised, how a tree trunk was moved so it didn't grow out of the man's head, how the sand colour was reddened (temporarily removing some figures), how shadows were strengthened and how colours became brighter (frequent rinsing and wiping of the brush and less use of the mud on the palette).
He advises that when you look at work in progress you should deal with "errors" only in order of severity. Some are so unimportant that the viewer just wouldn't see them.

Only hint at people, unless you're doing a portrait. Think back to what the picture was for and decide what is actually still needed, really needed.
He makes it look so easy - you couldn't complain at the non-stop flow of information and advice but as he made some of his apparently random dabs with the brush there must have been much more going on in his subconscious.

For a second time he had given us a most inspiring and enjoyable evening. Thank you, Mitch.
They looked fine to me, but Mitch was obviously not happy about some of the colour balances (at the very last minute he'd almost entirely re-glazed the sky, the sea-wall and parts of the beach).

He planned to look at it again before deciding what, if any, extra work was needed.
If he did do more on this one he said he would try to remember to send us a photo.

Nov. 2009 Back to History Page Nov. 2011


Chroma Atelier Interactive Acrylics, 27/11/2009
Mitch Waite's home is in Saint Jeannet, 25 minutes from Nice airport. We were lucky enough to get him to visit us during one of his English demonstration tours.

He set up two easles, each with a 36" x 24" board. To one was clipped a full-size photo chosen by some of the audience from an interesting selection. He had taken it himself when he was out painting (in Nice, 'Rue de la Préfecture').

The woman in white, just to the right of centre, was to be the centre of interest. Everything else does no more than provide a frame.
Atelier "Interactive Acrylics" are "expensive but worth it". They have plenty of pigment, a clotted-creamy texture and drying is slower than ordinary acrylics. But above all they dry through, without forming a skin, and can be revived with a mist of water. If they have set a little too much for that, there is even a proprietary rehydrator. "Use oils if you've ample time, otherwise acrylics".

Mitch's big wooden palette carried enough paint for the whole evening: white; a transparent cadmium yellow; raw and burnt sienna; crimson; blue and burnt umber. He painted throughout with no more water than was necessary to moisten the brush.
Dividing the canvas mentally into rectangles he started drawing raw sienna lines to take the eye around the picture and focus attention on the centre of interest (roughly, with quite a big brush).
Then he began to put in blocks of tone and colour, drawing fresh paint into the centre of the palette so that he could always see the relationship between what he was about to use and what he had just been using. "Don't even consider, at this stage, what the blocks of colour represent".

Mitch uses good quality hog's hair brushes (filberts by the look of it) but he rarely rinsed or changed them until he needed a really clean one (for example for the very dark darks when the mixture in his original brush was loaded with too much white).

He frequently misted the painting and the palette with a spray to stop them drying.
Mitch stood well back, gripping the brush well away from the bristle end. He was softening edges all the while, not just to avoid being committed to detail too soon but also to eliminate hard edges or physical texture. Nevertheless, he did start dabbing in lights, like the shirts and the dress

He kept "pushing and pulling things around", repeatedly adjusting positions and dimensions and softening edges. All the time he was coming back to the aim of making the girl the main focus. Such adjustment was possible because virtually the whole demo was painted wet-into-wet, "wet" in his context being no wetter than what's in the tub".
To give a feeling of depth, the colours and tones were adjusted, too, quite late on - darker and warmer in the foreground and lighter and cooler in the distance. The street surface was modified with some violet to give it more of a gunmetal look (compare below). A grey-violet bottom left complemented the grey-yellow top right. And he still kept softening edges, especially in areas further from the centre of interest.

Several times we were told not to do detail too soon. It's good practise, anyway, but if you're not working from a photo, people do move and you have to leave fine detail to the end.
Mitch just dabbed apparently random touches into the dark shadows to give an impression of faces in the cafe. The same technique added texture and interest to the buildings

He brought out a smaller brush for the girl at the centre of interest. He used raw white, but its harshness was killed because it picked up the still-wet underpaint.

After the interval came a mass of detail: the man on the right was raised a head-height and defined more; touches were added to all the people . . .
. . . the green canopy was extended to break the distant edge and the red one was strengthened; steps were indicated and street lights hinted at; the man at the back was linked in with a line of dark; extra light was thrown across the street. All done in a few minutes with a few strokes. Easy-peasy!

Mitch said that he would make his mind up about how to finish it when he got home.
As though all this was not enough, Mitch finally produced a laptop and projector and gave us a 20 minute presentation of Vence, the painting courses he gives there and his website.

The combination of the demo, his relaxed but enthusiastic approach and the presentation got several people thinking seriously about signing up for one of his holidays.
Nov. 2009 Back to History Page Nov. 2011


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