December, 2015

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  • Robert Bodem Sculpture Class

    Last week I had the pleasure of having Robert Bodem, Director of The Florence Academy of Art’s sculpture program, come teach a week long portrait sculpting workshop out of my studio.  The class was a whirlwind, five short days in which my painting studio was transformed entirely into a sculpture studio.




    I knew long before scheduling this class that it would be full, successful and dynamic- it’s just plain hard to find really solid information on figurative sculpture.  I’d wager that these days, you can find some version of atelier-styled traditional painting/drawing education in nearly every major city- the same is just not true for sculpture.  There are very few institutions, professionals and studios that teach figurative sculpture today at the level that Rob does.

    Besides the fact that the program Robert Bodem’s developed has a particularly good reputation, I know his teaching style- I taught with him in Florence and ran his drawing program for years while I as over there; and on top of that, our wives are first cousins.  We personally know each other very well, and I know the program he developed in Florence intimately.





    This class was different than what Rob does at the FAA.  His program typically accepts people for three years, and once a year he hold a 4-week sculpture class- so a five-day, 20-hour portrait sculpture class is a fraction of the time he runs his courses for; this was a sort of ‘overview’.  Having seen the work he does with students in Italy over that period of time, I think this first short course was wildly successful.  Everyone did a great job (whether they had previous experience or this was their first sculpture), and by keeping the class size small everyone got a lot of individual attention.

    The first day, Rob gave a short talk and introduction and quickly started a demonstration illustrating his technique for building a portrait from the profile out, outlining the nine points in space he works from.  He worked on his demo intermittently throughout the week, though spent the bulk of his time working with the students individually on their portraits.




    Above is Rob’s demo halfway through the week 






    A few shots of the students at work


    Robert Bodem





    And below, a few shots of the final sculptures:







    In 2016 Rob will be back to teach at my studio again, and during the next course we run he’d like to focus on sculpting the full figure.  To find out first about that when I announce it, sign up for my mailing list on the classes tab above.  For those interested in Rob’s techniques, he has a manual he sells privately.  To order a copy, drop Bodem an email at [email protected]

    This will be my last post of 2015.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.

  • Copying at the MFA

    The other day I went to critique one of my painting students, Nadine Geller, at the Museum of Fine Arts as she worked up her copy of Werner van den Valckert’s ‘Portrait of a Man with Ruff” (click here to be taken to a link on the MFA’s website).  She’s been doing a great job and  I thought I would share a few images of her at work here.






    I’m a very big believer in copying pictures as part of the process of painting, in fact periodically I still do copies myself (I’ll be doing a master copy next month).  Copying was once an integral portion of a painter’s course of study, a window into the process of your heroes.

    Logistically, copying is difficult- it takes a lot to figure out permits, one has to develop a bit of a thick skin to the audience you attract (notice Nadine’s headphones to politely block out the passers-by) and in simple terms, copying is humbling.  Spending that much time with a picture, you see it in a different way.  One makes realizations that you can’t by simple observation.

    Incidentally, you can find copies that were made by the masters themselves.  One of my favourite still life painters, Fantin-Latour, cut his teeth in paris as a young man copying every day at the Louvre, and selling his copies- I’ve always thought that the copying informed the varied techniques of layering, impasto and glazing that he would utilize in his later works.



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