July, 2013

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  • Landscape Course at Weir Farm

     Landscape Course at Weir Farm


    Last week I was lucky enough to teach a landscape course at Weir Farm in Wilton, CT.  Besides being a beautiful national park it was also the summer home of Julian Alden Weir- a fine painter, a founding member of ‘The Ten’, and in his day, a very popular guy.


    julian alden weir pasture Landscape Course at Weir Farm

    Here’s a Weir.


    Seems every book you pick up on American painters of his generation talk about their friendship with Weir- sometimes mentioning that he was too social and should paint more.  Twachtman and Weir were so close he named his son J Alden Twachtman.


    J Alden Weir and Sargent Landscape Course at Weir Farm

    Here’s John Sargent hanging out with Weir


    The restoration of the property is nearing completion- Weir’s studio opened to the public for the first time on July 4th this year, and Weir’s son-in-law Mahonri Young‘s studio next door has been open to visitors for some time.


     Landscape Course at Weir Farm

    Weir’s studio on the left, Young’s on the right.


    It was a great location for the course, even with spotty New England weather somehow we didn’t get rained out.  The park rangers give organized tours of the studios a few days a week, so we were able to see them as they were.


     Landscape Course at Weir Farm

    The park ranger giving the tour of the grounds


     Landscape Course at Weir Farm

    Weir’s studio was filled with his paint boxes, palettes, brushes and casts


     Landscape Course at Weir Farm

    The Young studio had one of the most amazing light wells, incredible studio.


    All in all, it was sort of a perfect location to run a landscape course- besides having interesting views, rock dry walls and architecture, being able to take a break from painting to see some of the spaces, it was just very inspiring to be surrounded by Weir’s things.  Beautiful location, and you can only imagine the visitors that had come to the farm over the years.



    For artists interested, they run a continuing artist in residence program, where they give you room, board and studio on the grounds for a month (though sadly, not in Weir or Young’s studio).


  • Materials Course

    Last weekend I taught a workshop on traditional artist materials at the Academy of Realist Art in downtown Boston.  I also gave a similar course at Jesus Villarreal’s studio back in February.


     Materials Course

    We began each day with a lecture


    This year I’ve been trying a new format for my materials courses.   I used to teach them as I was taught at The Florence Academy of Art;  a series of 2-3 hour lectures spread out over a few months.  We would do a lecture on pigments and oils, one on supports, and another on mediums and varnishes.  Although I can go into great depth afforded that much time, I never much liked watching the students fall asleep.  Materials theory some people find… well, boring.


     Materials Course

    Here we are discussing the rheological characteristics of a variety of whites


    So I’ve started teaching these courses instead as a hands-on workshop.  People seem to be able to digest a greater amount of material by actually preparing materials themselves- and more importantly, can ask questions and troubleshoot as they work with this stuff for the first time.


     Materials Course

    Everyone got to experience grinding a couple of pigments


    Compared to holding lectures over the course of a semester it’s a mountain of material to cover in so little time, but I’m really happy with this format.  In essence, I’ve found that students learn through practical experience more expeditiously than theory alone.  No big surprise there- Getting your hands dirty is more fun than taking notes, as well.


     Materials Course

    Cooking a gesso ground for the students to use


    We covered some big issues- why some paints ‘feel’ different than others, what’s desirable (and undesirable) in a painting support, why traditional materials are still so useful for the artist, and how to sand gesso panels extremely quickly.


     Materials Course

    students applying their first coat of gesso to their panels


    People come to workshops with a wide variety of experience, so we had some very interesting discussions.  We had a couple people in the course who had studied restoration/conservation, so it was interesting to have a bit of their perspective as well.


     Materials Course

    Just enough time at the end to mull up a bit of Ultramarine Blue together as well


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    On the left are the students’ linen canvases drying


    All in all it was a successful (and exhausting) weekend.  The students left happy though – each of them had a tube of hand-ground paint, a couple gesso panels and a linen canvas by the end of the course.

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