The end of August was action packed here in the studio in Waltham. After we spent time painting together in Maine and Canada, Marc Dalessio and Ben Fenske came down to Boston to teach 3 workshops; Marc taught two 3-day courses in Landscape Painting on the Charles River Esplanade, and Ben taught a 5-day Constructive Portrait Drawing course in the north lit studio.
We also had a little welcome party/get together here, so we could all have a relaxed drink and show the students some of our work from Nova Scotia and Marc’s Cape Cod pictures in the studio. As an added bonus, Michael and Karyn Harding from Michael Harding Artists Oil Colors were kind enough to come out to speak and show off their wares to our group of students as well. I hope to have Michael back sometime soon to do a proper talk and demonstration here in the studio. His colors are great, and I finally picked up a couple tubes of his lead tin yellow, a color I haven’t been able to find for a few years.
Here’s a few notes on each of the classes, and how they were structured:
Ben Fenske’s portrait course was divided into two- a morning and afternoon session. Each morning, Ben would give a talk and demonstration of exercises in conceptualizing forms, and schematic drawings of the simplified structure of the head and its features. On the first day, he began with a long talk on perspective and the basic forms we are confronted with: Cubes, Spheres and Cylinders. Every morning afterwards, he would apply these shapes and concepts to the features- a day on the nose, one on the eye, one on the mouth and ear, and a final day tying it all together. After Ben’s demo, the students spent the remainder of each morning working one the exercises, referencing 3D sculptures that Ben had made for the course, or casts from my collection here in the studio.
Here is the planes of the nose in perspective
Ben’s Planar Head Demo
and Ben’s more advanced planar head 3d demo
Here are a few of Fenske’s boards from his talks:
Then, each afternoon, after a short demonstration by Fenske, the students would work from the live model, applying the planar construction concepts to their specific facial structure.
Here’s one of the demonstration paintings Fenske did for the group:
Marc Dalessio‘s classes began with the best demonstrations I’ve seen him do. Often in workshops, the instructor will knock out a quick sketch, almost like performance art, brush moving at a speed much faster than they would normally paint, and certainly faster than a student should try to paint during a course. A quick demo has a certain ‘wow’ factor, but is counterproductive, in that it sets the students pace much faster than it should.
Marc likes his students to devote as much time to their painting as possible, working on the same sketch over a number of days rather than working only an hour or two- so he didn’t paint quickly to give them the wrong idea; instead, Marc spoke at length and painted more or less at his normal pace. In both the morning and afternoon, his demo lasted about two hours, and there was still white canvas. That set the pace for his class, and was a great example in helping the students slow down.
If there was a single concept from Marc’s class that seemed to stand out, it was the reminder that if you are able to paint precisely, though slow, you will get faster while maintaining precision. If you paint quickly, but imprecise, that does not lead to eventually increasing your accuracy, only your speed. Most of the students worked three solid days on their landscapes.
Here are Marc’s demo paintings after touching them up throughout the course-
I am hoping to have Ben come back this winter for another construction class, next time focusing on the full figure- and Marc and I are talking about when to schedule his next landscape course in New England. Head over to the classes tab on my website and join my mailing list to find out first about these upcoming courses (get to it early though, as Marc’s first landscape course filled in under 24 hours)