Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Patrick Saunders Painting Workshop - Marshfield, Missouri

"The Baked Potato" at the Young's Farm. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

In mid May, we were invited to Marshfield, Missouri, where I was asked to teach a workshop on a private farm by my friend Desiree Young. The weather was perfect, we were surrounded by a beautiful landscape, and at every turn, inspiration beckoned to both of us.

Every morning we were greeted by a naturally occurring alarm clock. It seems the baby lambs had learned to climb into a food trough directly outside our Airstream window and start dancing (demanding food) at dawn. This went on until Mark, our host, showed up with their breakfast. We didn't mind one bit. It was actually an awesome view stepping out of the trailer door and finding the entire herd staring at us.

"Well...we're waiting." Our morning greeting from the sheep.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
One of our "alarm clocks." Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

After Mark and Desiree treated us to a wonderful breakfast, it was time to get to work. I set up in the shade of a large tree (both for me and everyone watching) to paint my first demo. I always start with a materials review and a full demo to give everyone a chance to see how I work and to get the group talking. I get an idea of what everyone is hoping to achieve, and then I can tailor the workshop for each artist. I really love to talk to others while I'm working. I find that it keeps me more relaxed, and I don't get caught up in unnecessary details. I also learn more about my own painting habits when someone asks me to explain my choices regarding my approach.

The group gathers for the first demo. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

The light moves fast that early in the day, so the demo had to be quick. I chose a small garage near the house as it had a number of elements for a good demo - clear light and dark patterns, architecture and lots of "stuff" (giving me the chance to demonstrate simplification).

Patrick Saunders' "Young's Garage" (oil on panel, 12"x16"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

After the demo, all of the artists had the opportunity to choose a spot and start their own paintings. There were so many great subjects to choose from, and the group spread out across the property. No matter where they set up, the view was beautiful, and I found myself inspired by the subjects others chose to paint. Some of them even painted or Airstream - something I have yet to do, although this is definitely going to happen soon. I got my exercise that day, not just from walking around to work with each painter, but also from crawling under electrified fences. Kimberly had accidentally touched one the evening we arrived, and I did not want to experience that surprise myself.

I think everyone was inspired by the variety of scenes available on the farm, and we had a great time painting. The day ended with a group critique. We chatted about what we learned that day - insights, breakthroughs and mistakes, and what we all wanted from the following day.

That evening, Kimberly and I climbed up into the barn. Desiree brought us to this lovely sight the evening before, and Kimberly wanted to try to catch it before we left. She was able to get this great shot just as the sun was setting outside. It was kind of a magical scene, like a field of stars inside the barn.

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

The next day, I had the students paint in the morning (this forced them to work faster in the rapidly changing light), and I gave a second demo in the afternoon at the back of the barn. With the sun almost directly overhead, this demo had a completely different set of conditions. A few of the students set their easels up right beside me. We painted and chatted the entire time. Once again, this kept us all relaxed as we discussed our different approaches to the same subject before us.

"Young's Barn" (oil on panel, 12"x16"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

We ended the day with another group critique. After only two days, we were surrounded by paintings, and the improvements in the work from one day to the next was clear.  Everyone had a great time, and all of us left inspired, including Kimberly and I.

Workshops are the highlight of everything I do in my career. Since I began teaching in 2002, I've learned more from my students than anything else. It's a two-way conversation, and I get as much as I give. Not only do we trade tips, but their questions force me to analyze everything that I do. I learn to explain my actions to myself as much as I do to them. This all goes to working smart. We have to focus on recognizing and fixing our mistakes, but also improving on what we're doing right. As artists, we are all better together.

Thank you to Desiree and Mark Young for hosting this wonderful event. - Patrick

Susan takes home "Young's Garage." Photo by Desiree Young.

© Patrick & Kimberly Saunders, Plein Air Streaming, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Saunders Fine Arts for photographs, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Great post. Thank you for sharing. Question: I can't get the video to play. Would love to see the video, but it appears to be just a photo?

    1. Sorry about that Guy. It should be working now. It's just a very short work in progress shot.