I did a couple of workshops a few years back with Californian artist, Susan Sarback, (www.lightandcolor.com). Susan studied for many years with Provincetown-based artist Henry Hensche and was one of the people originally involved in the Hensche Foundation (http://www.thehenschefoundation.org/index.html), a website dedicated to his legacy and teaching approaches.
In many ways Hensche is still a controversial figure, arousing equal extremes of passion in both his students and detractors. By all accounts he was a much better painter than teacher, who put his students through possibly unnecessary gruelling, repetitive exercises, which, in turn, perhaps coloured the judgement of some of them because of the sheer time invested over the years.
Without getting into it too much, Hensche's core painting philosophy involved a new way of seeing rather than a painting methodology. This required his students to "forget" everything they had learnt in art college and begin to trust their own vision. The resulting paintings, which may appear a little "garish" in his early years are undoubtedly, to my eyes anyway, imbued with a light quality reminiscent of the work of Claude Monet in the 1880's and early 90's. I do however feel than many of them, other than the very latest works, lack subtlety in both colour variation and the treatment of edges.
Hensche would be labled today as a colourist, but he never labelled himself as anything other than someone responding honestly to what he saw within the limit of his painting skills. When it comes to colourist vs tonalist, I like to think of them as different painting "languages", neither one being right or wrong. But then again some languages sound more poetic than others, so perhaps depending on the subject matter one or other approaches is most appropriate!
Have a look at the Hensche Foundation site (there are some really good large images there - Sarback's images are very small and don't really do her justice) and let me know what you think.
If anyone else has some interesting links on colourist/tonalist approaches to plein air painting, please share them here.
It was interesting to me that Lois' name is not listed on the HH Facebook student list--I wondered if there was some philosophical divergence. There is depth to the discussion, but in many ways it is cryptic to me. The thing that stood out to me was the description of the difference between a value approach and a color approach. That made a lot of sense. I also remembered this statement about current HH teachers from reading it before: "In many cases these personal styles are a reflection of what he taught as beginning lessons of over coloring and exaggeration of color to get the impact of light on the eye and break peoples habits of looking at values instead of colors and these are important lessons and it is a beautiful stage of development but is not the end but is the beginning of color study.
If Ken Massey believes Lois went in her own direction away from what HH taught, I'm really curious if he said more specifically what he meant by that. I don't pretend to know anything about what HH taught--but I find that the approach speaks to me and the description in Lois' book was at least a big clue about what it all meant.