View Full Version : Kenn Backhaus Workshop...Day ONE

09-19-2005, 09:59 PM
Hi everyone,
It has taken me a little while to learn how to resize my photos from my new camera, so I am "late" bringing you information from my workshop two weeks ago with Kenn Backhaus.

All the information I will include here is with Kenn's permission. Although this is my first workshop ever I came away from the experience knowing that Kenn Backhaus is a generous, forthcoming dynamic teacher...and he gets my *highest recommendation* (especially if you enjoy "classic" plein air), his balliwick! Leave that cadminum orange behind, he only lets you work with Aliz Crimson, permanent rose, Ultramarine Blue, Lemon Yellow, Raw Sienna and Ivory Black! Amazingly, he proved to us on day two that he can indeed make all the most beautiful umbers, siennas and anything else you want from this palette. But Let's just talk about Day one for now.

We spent five days in Hood River, Oregon. Each day Kenn started by giving us a demonstration and then asking us to essentially repeat his lesson for the day, twice or three times if possible. (We would chose a different scene than he did, this is Oregon..plenty of beautiful vistas everywhere)

He uses an EasyL on a tripod, but he also works with a 1/2 size julian easel. He uses a photographic shield clipped to his set up so that all his work and his palette are in shadow. It is important to either have your canvas and palette in full sun or both in shadow. Don't let it be where the canvas is in sun and the palette in shade, or visa versa. His palette is Lexon plexiglass, strong as regular glass, he cleans it often with a razor blade.


09-19-2005, 10:00 PM
He tones his canvas lightly. He tones it with whatever the scene seems to dictate. So here he said it was a warm scene, hence a warm tone on the canvas. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Sep-2005/33531-c.jpg

09-19-2005, 10:00 PM
The BIG LESSON for day one is to think of PUZZLE SHAPES. When you look out onto the scene, check what is the biggest shapes and determine also the darkest shapes. Do a thumbnail sketch (preferrably three in different formats) and then draw the scene onto your support.

09-19-2005, 10:01 PM
This time he uses a pencil to show us how he divided the scene into a foreground, middle ground background and sky. (He often paints directly with no pencil, but he wanted to be clear about assigning 4 distinct "layers" to the support). He told us to think about those puzzles that we had in elementary school. The simpler the shape the better. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Sep-2005/33531-g.jpg

09-19-2005, 10:01 PM
He puts in the darkest dark first. He wouldn't really tell us what colors he mixes for the paintings since he doesn't want to "methodize" and he wants us as students to determine what colors put together look best for each puzzle piece. He uses Black and yellow for greens with other colors mixed in. He puts in his darkest dark with thinned paint. He told us that many painters make the error of wanting to add decorations before establishing the big shapes--resist this! Reserve the small details for the end.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Sep-2005/33531-i.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Sep-2005/33531-j.jpg

09-19-2005, 10:02 PM
All paintings are illusisons that require depth and dimension. If all the temperature and edges are the same the painting will compete with itself, so you have to be careful to provide different temperatures and a variety of edges. Think only of masses, not trees.
Here he establishes the foreground, keeping his puzzle shapes in mind.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Sep-2005/33531-m.jpg

09-19-2005, 10:03 PM
He continues to add to the puzzle with differing greens. Note how "elementary" his shapes.
He prefers natural looking greens and doesn't use much blue.

09-19-2005, 10:04 PM
adding the distant hills careful to provide both a cooler and a slightly warmer hill (same value but differing temperature create recession)

09-19-2005, 10:04 PM
at this time, after the entire panel is covered you can make adjustments in edges and add small touches. He will add the little "town" off in the distance by only suggesting with bits of color.

09-19-2005, 10:05 PM
adding details of light in darkest trees

09-19-2005, 10:05 PM
Final piece, The view from Sakura Bed and Breakfast.

09-19-2005, 10:17 PM
Hmmm. Very interesting. Everything made sense to me until the word "final". It looks like one step beyond the block in, but one step short of completion. Perhaps it is because it's in the shade.

09-19-2005, 10:22 PM
Thank you, thank you!!! :clap: :clap:
Please keep on posting!!! (if you can/allowed to)
I can afford to attend a workshop right now, I am green w/envy :D
Thanks for posting these great pics, and info.

09-19-2005, 10:26 PM
Hmmm. Very interesting. Everything made sense to me until the word "final". It looks like one step beyond the block in, but one step short of completion. Perhaps it is because it's in the shade.
True enough, my photos are not the best.
and this IS the puzzle piece demonstration..he probably didn't want us to get overwhelmed. Believe me, this fellow can paint a very detailed scene. If there is enough interest I might put up information about the subsequent days.

It was really different for me to think about "natural" colors..since I have always used alot of oranges and violets. I am still struggling with not reaching for a bright color (especially when things aren't going all that well)--but I confess, I went away really LOVING the muted natural colors he employs! Most of my paintings from the workshop are so gray it looks like I need an antidepressant! lol--but I couldn't be happier that I took this workshop..and I am glad to be able to share it with you!

09-19-2005, 10:35 PM
So would you recommend his workshop?

How many students were there?

Did he have a large palette of colors? I can only see a few in the pics...

Any other comments about his painting and teaching style would be appreciated.

09-19-2005, 10:36 PM
If there is enough interest I might put up information about the subsequent days.

I think there will be plenty of interest. Thank you so much and thanks to Kenn for allowing this to be posted.

Do we get to see your puzzle painting?

09-19-2005, 10:51 PM
coh asked:

So would you recommend his workshop? ---absolutely

How many students were there? -----around 18

Did he have a large palette of colors? I can only see a few in the pics...

very limited palette, you are asked to paint only with them...Aliz crimson, permanent rose, lemon yellow, raw sienna, ultramarine blue and ivory black.

Any other comments about his painting and teaching style would be appreciated.

Well, I could not have been more impressed, actually. He talked non stop from day one to the last day without repeating himself. He gave each student LOTS of time. He was personable and serious. His own work is exquisite. He had a lesson "plan" for each day. He did not coddle anyone. He wasn't mean. He graciously oked my writing about the workshop here. He gets five stars from me.

09-19-2005, 11:14 PM
Yes, Please keep posting more of the workshop. I am a fan of his work. Interesting that he uses two similar reds in his palette.

09-20-2005, 07:06 AM
Celestia, WONDERFUL posts and description of the workshop. Yes, by all means, please tell us the rest! All of it! LOL

Like Linda, I was very surprised that he uses two reds so similar, and no warm red. Interesting.

What fantastic scenery you had to work with. Geez...stunning.


09-20-2005, 08:33 AM
thanks Celestia....you rank him five, and I credit you the same for sharing and memory. Its been said that folks retain about 15% of what they hear, so you are to be commended for paying attention above and beyond!

Its always a service when an instructor simplifies. Its a two part process...one learning to paint in simplified methods...two, learning to get things across to your students in a simplified manner so as to be understood.

Main thing is discovering a manageable routine for yourself that gets you on top of the moment. One hopes the "routine" is not so rigid (or "methodized" as Kenn said) that one's look (because of the steps) predetermines the outcome and makes seeing for the first time redundant. By that I mean...we want a handle of approach, but we want a measure of ourselves to be yet as a child. We all know how amazing and wonderful the world appears to a young child, filled with awe and exploring...so part of us wants to live dangerously without full preconceptions so that we might take something fresh in each time we are seeing and responding.

While Kenn's steps would appear pretty regimented..."do this...then this" I can see where this childlike wonderment has room to be fresh. Very cool...enjoyed this, thanks much for your time and hope you find the energy/time to share more!

I'm going to rate this thread with some stars here! :clap:


09-20-2005, 08:38 AM
Thanks sooo much for taking the time/effort to post all this !! Very kind of you . I like Kenn's work and really enjoyed seeing the demo. :wave:

09-20-2005, 09:10 AM

Thank you so much for posting this! Yes, please post more information about the subsequent days :) I'm sure we'd all love to pore over it!

I'm liking his muted palette too. I did a little experimenting with Christensen's approach to plein air last week, and kinda like the results. So I'm also intrigued by Kenn's approach.

I'm guessing that the "finished" product in this post is actually just his completed "block in." I like that approach to teaching...truly showing you the basics and making sure you understand them before moving on. I personally got overwhelmed by the demos in my first couple of workshops, because the instructors always took each demo to full completion...that's a LOT for a newbie to absorb.

I'm looking forward to more posts ;)


09-20-2005, 11:00 AM
Ahhh ha! Perfect. Thanks for reading the camera manual for two weeks so you could size all these photos. I like that... thinking of the shapes as 'Puzzel Pieces' interlocking but overlapping. I could look at more of his stuff.


09-20-2005, 11:17 AM
thanks everyone! I sort of knew you'd like all this. Everyone is always surprised by the two reds he uses, but he showed us how he mixes a cad red, and I'll show you his color chart in day two. His thinking is if he can mix it why not do that instead of lug it around. Plus there is the added feature of color harmony when you use so few colors. Because he "allows" us to use black (I've never done that before!) I was theavyhanded with it. lol. I think he wants you to use black judiciously! It certainly will take me awhile to digest everything he taught. Hey Larry...thanks for thinking I retain information well---lol...I just took good notes and referred to them to write this thread :) (several of the participants took notes and photos). We were careful to ask him if photos were alright and he said yes. I also wrote to him specifically about my desire to share what I learned with you all here, including photos, and he said yes!
Alright..so I will be back with day two. stay tuned :)

09-20-2005, 04:33 PM
ok i'll be waiting.....
thanks for taking the time for all this
very informative
looking forward to your next works.
(no presure!)

James or Jimmy Jim
09-20-2005, 08:43 PM
Well, I have to say that WC! is amazing. Where else could we get all this info? This is truly the internet age.

09-20-2005, 09:55 PM
Simply amazing !.....to take the time to to put together that which you have done. I commend and thank you for sharing. :) This is very informative and refreshing and I anxiously await your next instalment...... :D (please ?).. :) ..

Do take care,
Frank A.

Doug Jones
09-20-2005, 10:33 PM
Thanks for sharing this with us. I found his website... his paintings are great!
I'm looking forward to the next installment. Still a bit dubious about using black.
I always thought it was a no no. :)


09-21-2005, 08:35 PM
frapp, he is *careful* about his use of black, seems to me he didn't use it much, mostly just for greens :)

09-22-2005, 12:15 PM
this is great thanks for sharing!