By Bob Bahr
Thomas Caleb Goggans attended the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, in Connecticut, and he currently teaches at the Townsend Atelier, in Chattanooga, Tennessee … which is to say he has classically trained drawing and painting chops. After attending the SKB Dubois workshop for several years, Goggans was asked to be a featured instructor for the 2017 edition. But how will he translate his more formal approach to a workshop that is known for being freewheeling, in which participants drift in and out of rooms by the day or even by the hour?
“I thought about different ways of making what I’m teaching accessible to someone who hadn’t come the previous days or previous several days, because I know that’s going to happen,” says Goggans. “That’s difficult, to make each day autonomous, to make it so each day could stand alone. In fact, it may not be possible. But I’ll try to work around that by having the first part of each day focus on one aspect of the process. I’ll still reference or talk about the other principles I’ve covered, when appropriate, but if someone comes in on a given day, they will get that day’s one principle. Every day I plan on talking in the mornings and going out painting in the afternoons. Those mornings indoors will be accessible to beginning and aspiring artists, but outdoors in the afternoons will be when I can help individuals, where I can reframe an individual conversation for each person. I’ll paint demos on some days outside as well.”
Goggans will emphasize the importance of fundamentals, and essentially give people a crash course on drawing, painting, and working outdoors. “I’ll leave it slightly open because of the nature of the SKB workshop—it has a natural and organic flow to it,” he says. “But whether I’m painting or leading a drawing exercise, I will emphasize accuracy in drawing, upon which accuracy in painting depends. All will revolve around that to a certain extent.”
The painter will introduce the group’s goals for the week in the morning of the first day, and look at past and present art and artists to nail down each person’s inspiration. “There is a natural and innate inspiration, things we respond to, but it takes a great deal of refining to go from there to having a clarified voice in a painting style. So we will talk about what one wants to accomplish in painting.”
Composition will be a major topic, from Day One and on through the rest of the week. “I’ll go through accurate placement of shapes and proficient drawing,” Goggans says. “We’ll talk about how you want the painting to look, and achieving the accurate and correct proportional relationship of all the elements. Once you struggle through that, it frees up the artist for effective color, and strong value structure. All this leads to the statement that is compelling, which comes from the artist’s vision.”
Like many artists, Goggans acknowledges the importance of color theory and good paint mixing, but he always returns to value. “The value structure drives how the painting reads, and functions above everything else,” says the artist. “If the values are right, you can shift hues fairly dramatically. Even color temperature can be played with and it will still read if the values are right. That is how to make a strong, intentional composition.”
Goggans got involved in SKB through the recommendation of art industry legend Steve Doherty, the editor of American Artist for decades and the current editor of PleinAir magazine. “I first got involved because a friend and someone I admire—Steve—said, ‘You need to go to this conference’,” Goggans recalls. “I went out to Dubois, and immediately it struck me as so different than any other workshop or event I went to. Everyone was so personable and loose and down to earth. And at the SKB Dubois workshop every single day you can do something different and do what you want to, and that doesn’t negatively affect your experience. The people and the feeling and the place all make me come back every year. And the location! From south of town with the Wind River Range, to north of town into the Shoshone National Forest, it’s all very very different. I immediately connected with many people, from the instructors to the people making the event happen. It wasn’t an event that existed solely or primarily for puffing up a bunch of egos, but for the benefit of the attendees and furthering understanding and craft to create better artwork.”
Some paintings from his past trips to Wyoming will be on view at a solo show he will enjoy in October and November at The Gallery at Firehouse Square, in New London, Connecticut. The title of the exhibition is “Passage of Being.”
“It’s about how as we move through life, spending time in different places. Our geographic location has an unavoidable influence on a person,” Goggans says. “Whether it is consciously understood or not, it still has an impact, sometimes very profound. It’s about the wave of emotion and memory and the effect that the place had on you, and sometimes the impact you had on the place and the people there. These paintings attempt to grasp and communicate my affection for place, and the quality of a place, and how that has affected me.” In addition to Wyoming paintings, there will also be scenes from the coastline of Connecticut, harkening back to his days at the Lyme Academy, and some pieces featuring the landscape around his current home in the Chattanooga area.
And there will be figures in the landscape—a genre Goggans will be exploring with participants at SKB Dubois. “Yes, I will incorporate the portrait or the figure into the landscape during the week,” he confirms. “We will have a model one or more days, and work from them some indoors and some outdoors.
And then Goggans will scurry home to finish up work for his solo show and to prepare for another masterpiece: his second child. Ω