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

09-21-2005, 10:05 PM
Here we are at day three. Day One was about the PUZZLE pieces, Day Two was about establishing the most interesting part of the painting and Edges--Today...Day Three is about Color Temperature and Value. He begins by explaining that he wants us to stop thinking so much about things "being" yellow or green or brown or whatever!...He wants us to think of value and temperature FIRST and local (body) color 2nd....in order to get us in this frame of mind he is going to take colors away from us! (wha.....??? but we already have so few colors as it is!!...but wait..he will prove to us that value is more important than colors!)

We met at the Columbia Gorge Hotel (beautiful place! do visit..or get married there, it's fancy!) Kenn decides that it will be quieter around the back of the Hotel. Quiet is important to him, since he talks continually while he is demonstrating. He THOUGHT the back of the hotel would be quiet, but instead a big air conditioning unit kept starting up and stopping..so he would have to yell to be heard over it. Here is the back side of the Hotel.

09-21-2005, 10:06 PM
He begins by toning the canvas with a warm color and putting in a grid shape (He wants to make sure he puts the most interesting area somewhere within the rule of thirds). He never really uses this grid, he doesn't have to because he is so accustomed to being able to see it without putting it in..it is just for our benefit).

He roughs in the scene with paint. Today, because we are going to be thinking MORE about temperature and value than color, we will only use FOUR COLORS. All he is going to use for the demonstration is Ivory Black, Titanium White, Permanent Rose and Yellow! Lots of us want to know how we are going to paint blue without blue....! Interestingly, he "lowers" the spanish roof from where it is in real life, since it will benefit the painting.

He decides that the most important part of this scene is a very distinct shadow next to the yellow of the building. (My photo of the actual hotel in the first post above was taken later, when the shadow changes). Remember from the lesson yesterday that this "most interesting" area will recieve the most crisp and distinct edge. He also decides to use an arched shape for a doorway (that isn't *really* there)..he improvises this because it is a more pleasing shape than what is actually there.


09-21-2005, 10:15 PM
He begins blocking in all the "puzzle" shapes in their appropriate value. The painting now has recognizable shapes, the light source and its direction is beginning to take shape. He evaluates EACH brush stroke, Should I make this warm? Should I make it cool?? One would think that this careful "weighing" of each stroke would make this painting a very long ordeal...on the contrary--the painting is progressing quickly.

09-21-2005, 10:16 PM
Not only did he "judge" each stroke (determining if it should be warm or cool and what value it should be) he cleaned off his brush after practically each and every stroke. No wonder the painting winds up looking so confident and assured----what a contrast to how I generally work...where I just sort of push paint around "hoping" it will all make sense later. lol. Watching this was like watching a master chess player at work.
The most thrilling part was seeing what he used for the blue--the blue is white and black!!!! No kidding! The reason it looks blue is because black and white are cool next to warm tone he gave the canvas in the beginning. We were all incredulous that white and black looked like THIS!

09-21-2005, 10:19 PM
As long as you are coming along on the workshop--you may as well see some of the participants (who were as dumbfounded by the "blue" thing as I was)

09-21-2005, 10:20 PM
Here he decides that the shadow has gotten more interesting as a full diagonal and he changes it. He is always on the lookout for what will benefit the painting most.

09-21-2005, 10:26 PM
Have you been a little worried about that odd shape in the path? Here he uses he brush to soften it so that it looks like shadow.
final painting...the back of the hotel:

Check how warm (brownish) the path is where it is nearest to you the viewer--and how grayish blue it is where it is farthest away. Check how warm green the closest greens are versus how cool green the greens are that are farthest away. Kenn tells us that the benchmark of a plein air artist is in being able to make these distinctions so that our work will have aerial perspective and read properly. It is temperature and value.....MORE THAN COLOR that will make the viewer believe what you have painted.

09-21-2005, 10:52 PM
So! after this demonstration we found scenes of our own around the Columbia Gorge Hotel to paint a painting using Kenn's "limited-limited" palette--- My results from this day actually "read" quite properly! Maybe you would like to try this lesson...if you do you'll only need Ivory black, Titanium White, Permanent Rose and lemon yellow, and to place value and temperature above "local" color in importance as you consider each stroke.

Sarah Judson
09-21-2005, 11:48 PM
Amazing! Thanks so much, Celestia...five stars!

09-22-2005, 12:54 AM
Awesome,thanks again for posting this incredible workshop. I am waiting for day 4.

09-22-2005, 12:58 AM
Thanks, again! Wow, I'll try all these out tomorrow!

Wonderful of you to do this and for Ken to agree for us all to have access!

09-22-2005, 01:39 AM
thanks!! very helpful. ok. post yours and we will post ours. "experiments"

09-22-2005, 04:04 AM
thank you for posting this interesting demonstration. What a great opportunity to study with Ken Backhaus.

09-22-2005, 05:56 AM
:clap: :clap: inspiring and enlightening, the photos are good and the text is well-written. you are so nice and so is ken!

Tony Perrotta
09-22-2005, 07:06 AM
Hi Celestia, Wow he makes it look easy Huh. So loose and free. Wish I could....

Tony :clap:

09-22-2005, 07:43 AM
Oh, Celestia, BRAVO!!! This is wonderful! Love what he does with the black. It's so important to keep those brushes clean when using black because of the way it will migrate through the painting if you don't. Ask me how I know. hahaha! He is truly a master. Gorgeous painting. It's funny, because in your shot of the participants, I see that gorgeous view behind them of the water and distant mountains. Yet he decided to paint the back of the hotel, and came away with a beauty.

You do such a great job of recreating the lessons and emotions for us. I feel like I'm there. Hopefully, someday I will be. :)


09-22-2005, 09:23 AM
Thank you again, Celeste!!!

I think I'll be doing a little experimenting soon :)


09-22-2005, 09:42 AM

What about a blue? You listed 2 colors, red, yellow, plus white and black.

PS: He is a good artist! I'll remember the tip, "Look for values and color temps first, then colors."

09-22-2005, 10:01 AM
This is wonderful. Thank you both so much.

Bill Foehringer
09-22-2005, 10:16 AM
Thanks Celestia! and Thank Kenn for me too. BillF

09-22-2005, 11:22 AM
Hi Cel,

Yes, many thanks for all these wonderful recaps of the workshop. You have done a great job documenting the steps.

I am fascinated by the use of black here. That sky color is very natural and very hard to believe there is no blue used in it!! I'm gonna have to try this one, too.

BTW, can you give us an idea of the "warm" tone he used in the beginning stage. It looks to be a mauve-like color in the photo. Did he use the rose?

Thanks, again!!


09-22-2005, 11:41 AM

What about a blue? You listed 2 colors, red, yellow, plus white and black.

PS: He is a good artist! I'll remember the tip, "Look for values and color temps first, then colors."
donald, this is the grabber---he did not use blue! the blue of the sky was accomplished with Ivory black and white. It is a phenonenom of sorts...because white and Ivory black are both cool, and next to the ground of the canvas (warm) the mix of white and black appears as blue! We are usually compelled to apply the "local" color of blue for sky, but his black and white sky proves that if value and temperature are correct, the painting will read correctly. The inference was that any cool color in the right value would have provided an acceptable sky ...but he only gave us two cools to work with (black and white)...the other two colors (permanent rose and yellow) are warm.

Thanks everyone for following along!...Canvas, I will check my notes to see if I wrote down his combination for toning this canvas. He sometimes would tell us and other times not...but I might have watched closely and jotted it down. It is probably Permanent rose and black. It must've been sort of funny for him to have such eager students. ....This is our first visit to Oregon from someone of Backhaus' stature. Lots of us took extensive notes and photos.

11-03-2009, 06:17 AM
Any chance of seeing Kenn Backhaus Workshop, Days 1 & 2 please?

07-06-2011, 05:55 AM
Very interesting, Celeste. Thank you for sharing your workshop notes with us.
I am curious, now since some time has passed do you still use his limited palette? Did he recommend certain brands of paint? How many tubes of each color did you use?
Seems like it was a wonderful workshop.

03-25-2012, 01:41 PM
what a gifted person.. pretty amazing!