Watching a BBC programme on British landscape painting at the weekend I came across a new word. Well, new to me...."Stoffage".
Rather like 'en plein air' these things sound much grander in French, don't they?
- or should that be 'en francais'?
Anyway, it turns out 'stoff-ah -je' is what landscape painters call figures in a landscape going about their ordinary daily business - usually that is to say peasants dressed in peasant garb and doing peasant stuff - as opposed to symbolising Bacchus and Ariadne, or cheering on a bare-chested Liberty over the barricades of the Bastille.
But anyone who has ever attempted to paint a market-place or a street scene will know how vitally important yet just how tricky 'stoffage' can be. Urban landscapes especially, unless striving for that melancholic 'Sunday morning' atmosphere, cry out for people to populate them. Yet that can often be the demise of a carefully established space and the ruination of an otherwise satisfactory painting.
Which brings me to one of the Art in the Open workshops to be held on Monday 1st August, as UK-based artist, Michael Richardson will show you how to build figures into your compositions so they look as if they belong there and could move about there. Richardson will explain how to relate your figures to the space and to each other so they appear natural and interesting. No more 'carrots' or cut-outs, giants or midgets.
Illustrating his topic with reference to his own confident compositions of London or Venice, busy train stations or Trafalgar Square, Michael will share expert tips on how to suggest figures and crowds to make them appear natural and convincing.
John Dinan 'How to create a great focal point'.
Michael Richardson 'Figures in the Landscape'.
Michael Drury 'Building bigger paintings outdoors'.
Each workshop costs €15 and places can shortly be reserved online at www.artintheopen.org or by posting a cheque payable to 'Art in the Open' accompanied by the completed brochure form to:
Art in the Open, 13, Selskar Street, Wexford.
(Above) "Under Hungerford Bridge" by Michael Richardson.
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