What's a Mudhead?
Over one hundred years ago, Charles W. Hawthorne devised a unique way to teach his own method of painting. Instead of focusing on line and form when composing a painting, Hawthorne stressed the importance of carefully observing "color spots" and the representation of light and shadow. To help his students understand this concept, Hawthorne posed models with their backs to the bright sun, often wearing hats or beneath umbrellas. As their faces fell into deep shadow, students were unable to see the model's features clearly, and were forced to focus on broad areas of color rather than details. The featureless faces became known as "mudheads". Of this approach Hawthorne said, "My artist friends are surprised at my having students paint a model out-of-doors, something which they consider extremely difficult. But I consider it the quickest way to get under your skin the idea of the way to paint everything."
-- Provincetown Art Association and Museum
The quote from Hawthorne I shared yesterday got me thinking more about his teaching and what I do with my own work (and plan to share at our workshop.)
The idea is to focus on the big shapes of color/value and paint those. Rather than going into the landscape or a city scene and trying to depict every tree, shrub, bench, lamppost, etc. we learn to focus on big blocks of color and not end up with a patchwork of complicated material to force into one cohesive design. Get the big masses right and then you can begin to further divide, as Henry Hensche taught, expanding on Hawthorne's instruction.
Use the big shapes to create an interesting pattern of light and dark. Compose and plan the balance of your painting with the big masses and then go into details. Or not.
A Painter's Journal
Chasing the light. Capturing life.
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