On a Lighter Note

Fun Times At The Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop! A Personal Album

The annual exercise in cat-herding....the official SKB group photo

The annual exercise in cat-herding….the official SKB group photo. I’m somewhere towards the back on the right. (Photo by Anthony Cannata)

The main reason for my road trip to Wyoming at the beginning of last month was to attend the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop for the first time in too many years. My travels to Mongolia have often gone into September and the workshop is always the second week so that it will be right after the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival. But this year I was home by the end of July.

In every good way, nothing had really changed and the welcome I got was touchingly warm. What sets this workshop apart is that there are always a number of instructors and one can bounce around between them as one wishes. You can learn from painters in oil, acrylic and watercolor. Plus, this year, sculptors. Even better, anyone who has been an instructor is permanently invited to come back every year and many do, so it’s equal parts workshop, a reunion of artist friends and colleagues and a gathering of the animal art and landscape clans. All in an informal environment with great food and terrific scenery at the Headwaters Arts and Conference Center in Dubois, Wyoming, which is about 90 minutes from Jackson.

There’s always a Special Guest Instructor and this year it was none other than James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. He also presides over one of the most popular art blogs in the internet, Gurney Journey, and has written what has become a standard book on the subject “Color and Light”. His endlessly inventive ways to work on location have been a real inspiration for me personally. So I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to watch him in action.

The  first day

The first day James explained his basic location painting set-up.

We got to see it in action right at the conference center.

We got to see it in action right at the conference center.

He was painting a scene from the kitchen as the staff prepared our meals.

He was painting a scene from the kitchen as the staff prepared our meals.

Saddle study by James Gurney

Saddle study by James Gurney

There were plenty of opportunities to work on location, including a couple of local ranches.

I found a nice spot down by the creek at CM Ranch.

I found a nice spot down by the creek at CM Ranch. (Photo by Anthony Cannata. Thanks!)

Picnic lunch at the Finley ranch.

Picnic lunch at the Finley ranch.

Lee Kromschroeder getting ready to paint.

Lee Kromschroeder getting ready to paint.

Some of the great scenery...

Some of the great scenery with the cottonwoods coming into their fall colors…

James Gurney and his wife, Jeanette, painting on location

James Gurney and his wife, Jeanette, painting on location at the Finley ranch.

In-progress photo

In-progress casein painting of old traps hanging on the wall of the log cabin.

Bob Bahr and Heiner Hertling getting serious.

Bob Bahr and Heiner Hertling getting serious with the scenery.

Our host, John Finley. His ranch has been in his family for over 100 years.

Our host, John Finley. His ranch has been in his family for over 100 years.

One of the best parts of the workshop is the good times with artist friends and colleagues, often in the evening at the local saloon, the Rustic Pine Tavern.

Guy Combes discovered a flyer for the workshop in a local newsletter so of course there had to be a photo. And since we're all animal artists I had to take one of him and his partner Andrew Denman posed under this imposing moose head.

Guy Combes discovered a flyer for the workshop in a local newsletter so of course there had to be a photo. And since we’re all animal artists I had to take one of him and his partner Andrew Denman under this imposing moose head.

Besides working out on location, attendees could also do studio painting.

I spent a day in Greg Beecham's class, getting great tips and advice on wildlife painting.

I spent a day in Greg Beecham’s class, getting useful tips and advice on wildlife painting. I’m in the back on the right. (Photo by, I think, Anthony Cannata)

One of the highlights of the week is the “Quick Draw”, which is actually a “Pretty Quick Paint”. It’s a great chance to watch a lot of very accomplished artists in action at once, creating auction and raffle-worthy work in front of a large crowd, including fellow artists.

John Seerey-Lester bows before Mort Solberg

John Seerey-Lester bows before Mort Solberg, just to make Mort crack up while he’s trying to paint. It worked.

Andrew Denman working on a graphite drawing of an egret.

Andrew Denman working on a graphite drawing of an egret.

David Rankin getting ready to paint.

David Rankin getting ready to paint.

Matthew Hillier hard at work. This was his first Quick Draw.

Matthew Hillier hard at work. This was his first Quick Draw.

But he obviously wasn't fazed.

But he obviously wasn’t fazed.

Christine Knapp worked on a fairly large sculpture.

Christine Knapp worked on a fairly large sculpture.

John Phelps created a small wolf.

John Phelps created a small wolf.

Lee Cable painted a portrait of a horse.

Lee Cable painted a portrait of a horse.

Guy Combes did a lion.

Guy Combes did a lion.

Greg Beecham harassed David Rankinl

Greg Beecham harassed David Rankin.

The final evening was an entertainment-packed extravaganza, starting with two suspiciously familiar faces who introduced themselves as Sir Charles Willoughby, who somehow had to keep order (good luck with that), and Chip Chippington (all the sleazy game show hosts you’ve ever seen rolled into one hilarious package).

Sir Charles Willoughby

Sir Charles Willoughby (aka Guy Combes)

Chip Chippington and his lovely assistant, Suzie Sparkle.

Chip Chippington (aka Andrew Denman) and his lovely assistant, Suzie Sparkle.

The fun started with a quiz to identify which instructor various species of dinosaurs were named after…

instrucasaurasesAnd I’m sorry to say that by this time I was laughing too much to get any pics of the rest of the show.

The night was capped by open mic performances, including one by the awesome kitchen staff.

A certain instructor came in for some ribbing.

A certain instructor (who painted the horse’s portrait for the Quick Draw) came in for some ribbing.

As did a certain well-known tv artist who painted "happy trees".

As did a certain well-known tv artist who painted “happy trees”.

There was a point during the early part of the evening when a slide show was shown of various attendees and instructors sporting a really impressive variety of hats. Getting into the spirit after the lights came up, James Gurney popped one of his Dept. of Art traffic cones (used to create space around where he is working on location in urban areas) on his head…

gurney coneAnd a good time was had by all….

gurney 4

 

 

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