Spotlight on PACE Faculty: W. Truman Hosner and a Serious Plein Air Challenge

Plein air painting can be a challenge, but even changing light and other environmental conditions aren’t enough for some folks. Like W. Truman Hosner, a member of the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) faculty, who ups the ante considerably with his subject matter.

Hosner likes to paint the figure at the beach, and he prefers his models to wear flowing clothes that move in the wind. “Drawing and painting the figure is complex enough, but add changing light and the movement of a costume in the wind and it is an even greater challenge,” says the Detroit artist. He has a system to deal with this challenge, one he learned from Max Altekruse, a student of the legendary Frank J. Reilly at the Art Students League of New York. It’s referred to as the System of Six Lines, and it focuses on nailing down the gesture of the torso, and the head as it relates to the torso. “It allows you to get an organic feel to your figure, a living feel,” says Hosner. “Max would say that it creates a connectivity to the figure.”

Hosner hurries to explain that the lines are not a hard-and-fast diagram, but merely guidelines that can even be visualized in the artist’s head to govern the figure’s rough drawing. “You incorporate it into your subconscious. If I can get the figure down in a gestural way that solves some of the problems, then go in and paint in a direct way, it alleviates the worry of measuring and proportion.”

“The Arch at Point Lobos,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26 in.
“The Arch at Point Lobos,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26 in.

Hosner works exclusively in pastel. At PACE, he plans on painting a demo and making himself available for advice and guidance at the outdoor painting locations around San Diego. The painter says that he hopes to work from a model lighted as if they were outside. “I’ll talk about color and temperature when painting outdoors, like how the deepest creases in flesh tones are dark and very hot,” says Hosner. “You have to work with a lot of confidence outdoors. I discovered while painting outdoors that I was often in a hurry and made mistakes. Speed is the key, but the real key is accuracy. You want to avoid correcting and changing what you put down. Practice leads to skill, skill to confidence, confidence leads to freedom. That confidence comes from accuracy.”

“The Silver Surfer Slipped Her Heel,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26 in.
“The Silver Surfer Slipped Her Heel,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26 in.

His work has rich color, but this approach developed over the years. “Color for me has been completely intuitive,” says Hosner. “I was previously a slave to the colors I saw. I would look hard and work at presenting accurately what I saw in front of me. At first the observations were inaccurate. They became closer and closer over the years. But now I am very much a person who paints what I feel and think about what I see. Early on I painted just what I saw. I had to go through that, but it led me to the path I’m on now, painting what I feel. Picasso said painting is a blind man’s profession, that an artist paints not what he sees but what he thinks and feels about what he sees. But for me, it still needs to be tied into observation. Otherwise, why be out in the cold Michigan winter, if I am going to make colors up?”

“Jenevieve,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26 in.
“Jenevieve,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26 in.

Hosner feels like events such as PACE are crucial to an artist’s development, and he cites his mentor Max Altekruse when discussing how. Hosner spent one Monday of every month with Altekruse for 10 years. “Early on, Max said, ‘You can learn pretty much everything I can teach you on your own, but it will take a long time. Working with me will really shorten that up.’ So will the insights delivered directly to attendees at the convention.”

“Morning Coffee,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 8 x 10 in.
“Morning Coffee,” by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 8 x 10 in.

Hosner will be teaching at the Plein Air Convention & Expo, which will be held April 24-28 in San Diego, California. Have you seen the list of faculty members that will be instructing participants? It also includes Jeremy Lipking, Quang Ho, James Gurney, Charlie Hunter, and dozens more. The convention is already almost 90 percent filled. Go here to learn more and to register for PACE.