– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –

Brad Holt, a field instructor at the upcoming Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE), has much he could share with participants, but you can bet that one piece of advice he will likely offer is, keep it fresh and be bold.

Lead Image: “Kanarraville Scarp 7JUN15,” by J. Brad Holt, 2015, oil, 9 x 12 in.

“You can look at a painting and tell if it is tentative and halting, or bold and confident. It is translated through the mark,” says Holt. “The application of it is sort of a zen thing. Let the hand show, the calligraphy, the confident mark. You get that by thinking about it and being confident about it and making a brushstroke. Stop and think about the marks you make, then when you decide what you are going to do, do it, and be free about it. It comes down to insecurity. We feel like if we get in there and really work it, it will come out right. But the more we push the paint around, the more the life comes out of it. Oil paint looks fresher when you put it down. I tell my students something I heard someone once say: The first mark is just a mark. The second is tired. The third is dead.”

It’s hard to take this advice. Artists can be perfectionists. Every stroke isn’t going to be perfect. Holt understands. He still preaches restraint in overly modifying what one lays down on canvas. “A painting that’s a little bit under-finished is better than an over-finished painting any day,” asserts Holt. “Take it home and live with it for a day or two and then you will see what needs to be done to fix it or complete it. Or you may decide to leave it. Even tonalists have to take care not to overwork things. It can just get murky, not mysterious.”

“Buttress of South Fork — Kolob,” by J. Brad Holt, 2014, oil, 9 x 12 in.

One way Holt keeps things fresh is by doing all his mixing on his palette — not on his painting. “When I mix on my palette, I try to come up with as close to the right color as possible before I lay it down,” says the Utah artist. “That’s why I don’t work in pastel, because I can’t lay down the exact right color.”

Holt will be a field instructor at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE), a five-day gathering of more than 800 plein air painters in a resort, featuring artists at the top of the field offering demos, lectures, and instruction. This year’s event will be held April 15-19 at El Conquistador Resort in Tucson. To see the faculty lined up for this year’s PACE, and to get more information, go here.


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