Rose Irelan, June 4-7, 2015, Plein Air Workshop

Plein Air Workshop

still life set up still life painting cieli ink studies charcoal

Rose Irelan returned for her second workshop at the Ranch in June, and her color intuition was on really on display.   Late spring is one of the loveliest times to visit the Ranch, and the weather never disappoints. Long, warm days and cool nights allow plenty of time to work in our studio or in the landscape. We did a bit of each during our stay.

Rose’s group brought mixed levels of experience to the workshop, so she made an excellent choice by starting our instruction Friday morning with a still life session, working with gouache. Still life refers to painting or drawing a group of objects which do not move, thereby giving the artist plenty of time to study form, light, and color. We set up a charming group of items from around the Ranch – a cowboy hat, some boots and spurs, a coffee pot with mug, and a canteen. These were arranged in the sun on a colorful blanket to give great color and shadow to the scene.

Gouache is an opaque water-based painting medium, similar to very heavily pigmented watercolor or tempera paint.   It is very forgiving, allowing you to mix wet-into-wet, and paint over anything you might wish to change. I had never used this medium before, so I was intrigued along with our guests. Rose’s background in commercial illustration had taught her the versatility of gouache, which dries quickly and stays true to its color.

Rose had us sketch with charcoal to observe the shadow patterns in another still life, then, comfortable with the composition, we started on a new sheet in color. The buttery smoothness of the paint was instantly appealing. Within just a couple of hours we had some great little paintings of the ranch inspired scene.

After lunch we took our guests to the wine country, and visited two of our favorite wineries, Tres Mujeres and Mogor Badan, then decided to take a chance on a new operation. I’d been hearing lately about the upsurge in interest in micro-brewed beer in the Valle, but had yet to sample any. Why wait? Don Cieli, owner of Bodegas Cieli Winery & Brewery, has built a property that includes a vineyard, a separate brewing facility, a tasting room, and his personal residence. Beautiful valley views complete the setting on the east side of the Valle.

We had a great time sampling the wines and beers on his large covered patio. He is not the first to brew in the Valle, but I feel his will be one of the more popular “pubs” in the Valle very soon.

Back at the Ranch Saturday morning, we worked on the sunny patio a bit with pen and ink, blocking in some small compositions. I really respect Rose’s approach to media – it’s all the same really, because the art is in the scene. It’s about the shapes, the colors, the composition, and the shadows that tie it all together.

Saturday afternoon we enjoyed a horseback ride, and this group was comprised of some experienced riders, so we rode further and in a bit more challenging area of the 2,800 acre ranch. Raul can always find the right horse and the right ride for the group. By late Saturday, we were feeling relaxed, creative, and full of potential. We looked forward to hearing Rose’s critique of our accomplishments during the weekend.

Before we sat down for brunch on Sunday, Rose gathered us all under the palapa to review and share or work. Her notes were spot on as she acknowledged each person’s strengths and areas they could work on. Overall, we were thrilled with our results, knowing we could continue to work from her advice and teaching. Rose’s upbeat attitude had helped us meet the artist within ourselves.


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