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  • Demo at Tree’s Place, February 4th

     

    This past Saturday I drove down the Cape to do a two hour demo at Tree’s Place gallery in Orleans.  It was a very interested group, and I had a great model.  Unfortunately I have been sick for nearly a week-and was totally not feeling great during the demo.  Though I’ve done lots of demos and talks, I’d never done one with a fever, but thankfully I think it all went OK.

    If you’re on the South Shore or nearby, my next event will be another 2-day portrait class at North River Art Society in Marshfield, MA on March 18th and 19th

     

    above, talking with some of the group, and below a shot of my setup.

     

    And here is a final image of the demo:

     

  • Materials Class, Florence Academy of Art US

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    I spent last weekend with the students and faculty of The Florence Academy of Art’s US branch, in Jersey City.  The school is set up in the Mana Contemporary complex, click here for an interesting article from the New York Times on the history of the Mana complex.  It’s an interesting place to run an atelier-modeled school- not only because of nearby NYC’s endless galleries and museums, but also what’s going on in the building at any time.  Right now, there’s a show of Andy Warhol’s silkscreens in the building, as well the Mana Urban Arts Project showing work by Shepard Fairey, Adam COST, a RIME tribute to NACE, and any number of specifically not-traditional-painting-related-things.  Clearly the students of the FAA NJ branch will not be able to convince themselves that they are at the forefront of the art world, but in a new niche existing in parallel with the greater art scene, vying for attention.  This is probably a healthy bubble for an art student to be developing in, plus- Newark Ave in Jersey City has the best Indian food in the States.

     

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    grinding yellow ocher

     

    This branch of the school is new, they’re in their second year.  The director of the school, Jordan Sokol had asked me to come to help get the student body started in making their own materials, as many are now beginning to paint after finishing with their Bargues, casts and figure studies, and it seemed to me that I came at the right time.  Everyone had lots of questions, and we talked about everything from grinding paint, to oiling out and sinking in.

    It’s always nice to have a large group of students that are really hungry for information- they ask such a variety of questions  that I don’t really need to ‘lecture’, it’s more like a two day workshop.  Here are some photos from the weekend.

     

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    talking with the students about different supports, rigid and flexible

     

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    sizing linen with rabbit skin glue

     

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    mounting raw linen to panel with Rabbit Skin Glue

     

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    cooking gesso ground with the students for their panels

     

     

    We covered a lot- we talked extensively about paint rheology, ground 15 tubes of yellow ocher, around 10 tubes of ultramarine blue, made 17-20 stretched linen canvases with oil ground applied, mounted linen to wood panel with animal hide glue, mounted pre primed linen to aluminum composite material with BEVA 371, cooked and tested rabbit skin glue, cooked a gesso ground, and made 30-odd gesso wood panels.  I hope the students enjoy using all the handmade stuff that we made together.

     

    My next weekend materials class will be at the studio in Waltham, on January 21-22nd 2017.  Email me if you are interested in joining.

    click here to read a blog post on my materials class last year at The Florence Academy of Art branch in Gothenburg, Sweden

     

  • Ben Fenske Landscape Class August 2016

    Last weekend was our summer guest landscape course taught by Ben Fenske.  The last courses that Ben had taught through my studio were centered on structural concepts in figure and portrait drawing (click here to read about his last class).  Like his approach to the human form, Fenske’s method of teaching Landscape Painting is based on structure, theory, and preconceived tonal hierarchies to have in mind.  Through rigorous study and thorough understanding one can achieve free, fluid painting.

     

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    Like always, our landscape class was at the whim of the weather, and the forecast was somewhat grim.  We completely lucked out, though from one day to the next we had somewhat drastic changes in light- the first day was overcast, quite cold and humid like a fall morning, and by the second day we were in the high 90’s, a total scorcher. Luckily, our hosts have a beautiful farm with plenty of shade and all sorts of animals to keep us entertained.

     

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    Laying in the scene as a linear drawing

     

    Ben Fenske did a series of demonstrations throughout the class- on the first day, he talked through first setting up your scene as a linear drawing- designing each shape, carefully measuring the proportions to make sure to have not only accuracy, but a pleasing sense of scale on the canvas, and then checking each of your objects in linear perspective.  Ben explained that the more confident one is in their drawing’s accuracy, the more free and interpretive they can be with their painting.  He also took some time to do a simple 6-value representation of the scene, to set up the tonal hierarchy that he would use to paint that light effect. Unfortunately I don’t have an image of his large demo after the first day. •edit 8/23/16 thanks to student Mike Rohner for sending me the below image-demo at the end of Ben’s first session.

     

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    Surprising no one (this is New England after all), by the second day the weather had entirely shifted, and we had a sunny, hot morning.  Rather than starting over, Ben decided to talk everyone through how he would go about changing his grey day picture to a sunny effect, scrambling to change the color/tonal structure of the painting.  One of the students mentioned that this was particularly helpful, to watch how quickly the decision making process had to happen, and that he clearly had a mental image of what he wanted it to look like before he put the changes to the canvas.  Fenske also talked at length about how to keep your painting ‘open’, to not lose freshness and how to delicately balance in the painterly space between unity and variety, and in his words ‘to keep a lively surface’.

     

    Ben Demoing

     

    Below is Fenske’s demo after the second day, having rapidly changed his painting from an overcast effect, to a backlit sunny day.

     

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    finished demo, sunlit effect ~24×28″ 60x70cm

     

    Ben then spent the rest of each day critiquing the students working on their individual paintings, here are some images:

    Fenske Carmody

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    ben and hal

     

     

    On the last day of the class Fenske gave a different demonstration, during which he did not paint from a scene in front of him, but painted instead a series of small scenes from imagination.  During the first demo (top right on the below canvas) he first went through describing the division of structural planes in the landscape, whether a building, tree, cloud or road.  Then, after setting up the painting he was able to demonstrate how color and tonal modulations, however slight, can give the effect of depth in your canvas.  I have seen Ben give versions of this demo over the years, and I would rank the talk he gave on the last day as one of his best.

     

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    Ben Fenske explaining two separate techniques for controlling and modulating greens

     

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    Ben’s initial demo, top right was about color value divisions in the landscape.  Same scene, top left moonlit effect and bottom right “golden hour” effect, with a dark post storm sky

    Our visiting artist continued to paint for much of the morning.  After doing a small talk on application techniques, Ben spoke about at length about controlling your painting’s surface and a variety of different techniques to achieve color vibration.  I agreed with Ben when he said that color vibration is a huge part of painting that is now rarely talked about.  Not only did Ben give effective examples for keeping color vibration, he showed how one would lose color vibration as well, showing us how one might kill an area, create a dead spot in the painting.

     

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    Ben continued paint different effects of the same view, showing how the same 6-color approach could represent any number of different atmospheric light effects, times of day and moods.  In my opinion, this was a particularly instructive part of the class for the students, I got the feeling they would have been content to have Ben continue to paint out of his head for the rest of the day…. and Ben nearly did.

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    Clockwise from top right: Front-Lit Sunlit effect, Backlit ‘Silouhette’ effect, overcast ‘Grey Day’ effect (with added reds to liven up the view) and Sunset effect (which he started adding a body of water to)

    Ben Gray Demo

    Fenske’s initial 6-color black and white representation of the grey day effect, from the first day

     

     

    And here’s a few of our friends from the class:

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    Pigs

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    Ben’s suggested Reading List for this Class:

    John Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting, amazon link to the most inexpensive and complete text on landscape painting 

    The Art of Landscape Painting in Oil Color by Sir Alfred East, the book that Edward Seago would reference that Ben and I mentioned

    Birge Harrison, Landscape Painting (this edition includes Asher Durand’s text on the landscape which admittedly I have not read-leo)

    a few artist’s monographs:

    Arthur Streeton 1867-1943 by Geoffrey Smith (other monographs on Streeton are great too, but this happens to be the one I have in the studio)

    Isaac Levitan: Lyrical Landscape 

    Hidden Treasures: Russian and Soviet Impressionism 1930-1970s

    Edward Seago (price has been rising on this monograph, but still reasonable)

    Soviet Impressionist Painting by Vern Swanson

    Masters of Russian impressionism: Sergei Petrovich Tkachev & Aleksei Petrovich Tkachev

  • Adrian Gottlieb Class, July 2016

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    I had the pleasure of sharing my studio at the end of last month with an old friend from our Florence Academy days, Adrian Gottlieb.  Though Adrian and I hadn’t gotten together since somewhere around 2002, over the years we’ve kept in touch over the internet, and I was very happy to have the chance to get us together again for a 5 day portrait painting intensive at my studio.  Additionally, we went and painted copies together at the MFA, and had some fantastic meals together.

     

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    Starting the first morning, Adrian gave an extended talk and demo, running through comparative proportional measurement tools, 3D structural plane concepts (Ben Fenske’s sculpted planes of the head models came in very handy), and a thorough talk on the materials list.  As far as it pertains to demonstrations,  the studios in Italy that Adrian and I trained at do hardly any teaching through demonstration, rather pure theory and discussion on the students’ individual paintings.  Here in the states, there tends to be a large amount of requested demonstration in workshops, and often the demonstration is a central portion of the class: there’s just less time to impart information from an instructor in a few days than there is in 3 years.  This leaves students hungry to get an overview of each artist’s process, and a demo may be the fastest way to achieve that.   As I’ve become accustomed to the demo-centric model I’ve really come to appreciate instructors who during their demonstrations paint slowly and deliberately, as they would in their own studio, rather than rushing through the steps in a slapdash manner, a sort of performance art that may be entertaining to watch but may often be a less-than-solid example.

    Gottlieb is a very thorough instructor, each morning he took time going through not only what he was doing in his demonstration, but also why he would go through each step, down to changing mediums for different layers of the painting, and a bit on paint rheology.  Adrian and I did a bit of back and forth during the class on materials (both of us were resident materials geeks at The Florence Academy during our respective times there).  Personally, it’s nice having someone around that I can get lost in a discussion about the advantages of one oil over another.

    Here are a few progress shots I took of Adrian’s demo over the course of the week:

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    Also, a not-so-secret part of me running these guest workshops out of my studio is to bring people to the Boston area that have a style or aesthetic that is parallel but markedly different than my own; to give people a chance that study here with me to hear the perhaps same things I am talking about when teaching, but from a slightly different perspective. Same prism, but through a different facet.   Gottlieb’s class has been a great example of that.  Adrian works up very finely painted, subtle heads, far more refined than my more blocky, broken brush approach, but through the class I overheard him telling my weekly students the exact same working methods and ways to streamline their process than I teach, whether it applied to drawing, tonal comparison, or simple color mixing.  When those things echo through the studio it makes running these workshops and demos very gratifying.

     

    Here are a few more photos from the course- Adrian should be back again to teach out of my studio in 2017, so sign up for the mailing list if you want a spot in that class.

     

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    Here are some shopping links that came up during the class:

    A link to Adrian’s new favorite arm palette, the portrait society’s John Sargent replica palette

    Here is an Amazon link to one of the plaster planes of the head casts we used during the class

    Here is another Amazon link of planar features, based on Michelangelo’s David

    This is a link to John Asaro’s planes of the head, one of Adrian’s preferred structural teaching examples (N.B., original head only)

    This is a link to Solomon J Solomon’s Practice of Painting and Drawing

    Another book link, Harold Speed’s Oil Painting Techniques

     

  • Teresa Oaxaca Class June 2016

     

    End of June was Teresa Oaxaca’s second class in the studio, click here to read a blog post on her class last year.  

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    Last year’s course at my studio was a portrait drawing class, this time, one-shot portrait painting.  We had a great group, and many returning students from 2015’s class.  The group seemed very happy, Teresa runs her class with a lot of good energy, she’s as passionate about painting as she is talented.

     

     

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    Oaxaca demonstrated at length, and worked with everyone individually as they worked up their ~6 hour paintings. The students did well, and I think overall showed quite a bit of improvement.  I spent some time sketching with the group which was a lot of fun.

     

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    It seems like every workshop something fun food related happens, this time was no exception- this time, student Jay Wee (pictured above with Teresa) brought a big bag of Island Creek oysters up from Duxbury, which I opened for everyone at lunch over the weekend.  Definitely an extra perk, who else runs art workshops with a raw bar at lunch?  huge shoutout to Jay 😉

     

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    Extracurricular activities brought Teresa another commission while she was in Boston, and a bit of time drawing with my son in the evening while waiting for me to get the grill going.  Look forward to the next time Teresa will come teach, she is off to Europe for the summer.   Image of her portrait commission below:

     

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  • Ben Fenske Figure Construction Class, March 2016

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    Ben Fenske taught an stunningly informative class earlier this month in my studio.  It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to call his courses ‘drawing classes’, although most of the time is spent drawing: either Ben demonstrating while lecturing, or the group drawing from the live model.  We advertise Ben’s courses as ‘construction’ courses, ways to study building the figure, with the goal being the ability to draw with or without the live model.  Perhaps more accurately, we could say that these are courses in theory and abstract conception of the figure through the memorization of specific anatomical points and surface references.  But it’s easier to say ‘Construction’.

     

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    Ben puts a huge amount of effort into these classes (see above two of Ben’s life-size sculpted examples for this class,  two different constructions of the core of the body, ribcage and pelvis, with anatomical references marked).  For those who don’t know Ben and his work, he is a painter who uses a fast and loose impressionistic technique, and as the history of representational painting has shown us, the best ‘loose’ painting requires a huge amount of theoretical and academic understanding.

    Each day Ben would lecture on anatomy and draw examples, the class drawing along with him and taking notes.

     

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    Below, see a few of Ben’s boards from his morning lectures.  The top image is on proportions of the figure and begins outlining Ben’s system of points which are to be mapped out on the figure.  This technique is an amalgam of what Fenske studied at the Russian school in Florence, and his own studies on artistic anatomy.

     

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    Then, each afternoon we had a model, male and female.  The students were all very ready to draw after spending the morning taking notes and drawing from Ben’s sculpted models.

     

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    Here’s one of the students, Vaijayanti Meweda at work, and below, her drawing.  I think it was a nice example of some of the concepts Ben was trying to trying to have the students work with, hatching and directional modeling rather than value-based modeling- especially since she had a backlit view of the model.

     

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    Additionally, Vaijayanti gets an extra-special shout-out for helping to organize our pot-luck lunch on the last day.  The food was great, and while everyone ate, Ben gave a lecture on the computer on some of the art that inspires him.  All in all, the class was amazing, just overflowing with practical information, and I’m glad to say Ben will be back to teach this August.

     

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    Ben’s Recommended Book List:

    Gottfried Bammes (in english, but not complete) http://amzn.to/1Um4hvp
    Gottfried Bammes Die Gestalt des Menshen (this is the more complete book, all images) http://amzn.to/1RoKWtc
    The other Bammes Figure book, also in German and excellent http://amzn.to/1UaJ4oQ
    Nikolai Li’s figure drawing book (in russian, great images) http://amzn.to/1Me4luK
    Nikolai Li book on the Portrait (in Russian, great price right now) http://amzn.to/1RqFEr2
    ‘Struttura Uomo’ Pozza book volume one http://amzn.to/1Me3r1n  (I can’t currently find easily volume two, ebb and flow of book availability)
    Richer’s Artistic Anatomy http://amzn.to/1Me3GcD
    Hatton’s Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide http://amzn.to/1RT84uj
    Russian Fundamentals of Drawing Textbook (in english, not as extensive as the Li books, but very good) http://amzn.to/258GMK9
    Russian Academy books on alumni and teachers, these are all paperback and in chinese:
  • Snow Painting at Drumlin Farm

    I really look forward to painting the snow each year.

     

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    Last weekend I ran my yearly snow painting course at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln- I almost always run it during the last week of January, a period during which New England typically has plenty of snow.  This year, the weather has been weird to say the least- yesterday was over 60 degrees, and currently there is up to 8 inches of snow coming down outside the studio window.   We have not had much snow yet to speak of this year, this is only the second small storm, so I am working on still life in the studio and taking my snow paintings very slow- trying to really make them count.

    I have been thinking a lot on process and am preparing another blog post on this topic: that when approaching nature, the obvious truth is that representing something exactly as it is in front of you, however ‘correct’ it may be, will at times make a boring painting.  You may find a view outside that composes perfectly from time to time but that’s the exception, not the rule: the truth is that typically some editing needs to happen to arrive at a strong design that pleases the eye.  Lately, I’ve started to edit more and more, to figure out what each individual picture needs to create a satisfying image, not just chase the tactile minutiae of the scene.

     

    Here’s a few shots from this weekend’s demo, with broad strokes of what we discussed- I painted much slower than usual, spending a lot of time working in monochrome, moving the drawing around and talking about why I made each choice:

     

     

    initial composition

     

    I approached this weekend’s class from a more advanced level- each of the students in my winter painting class had also done Stape’s marathon painting class back in November, and one of them had previously attended my landscape classes.   So, rather than talking about the basics I wanted to spend a lot of time discussing composition- since we didn’t have tons of snow to speak about the opalescent color shifts within it, I instead tried to paint simplified examples of both what would and would not work into my painting.  In the above image I am laying out the painting in a very simplified design, outlaying the big rhythms and proportions- notice on the left centre canvas I have started to place the very large horizontal barn that in nature competed with the barn in the center- potentially destroying my focal point, through the competing nature of its scale.

     

     

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    You can see in the above and below image I have scaled down the barn on the center left, sent it from foreground to middle ground/background, and reduced the pine tree line which meets the sky.  Both of these were moved to give proportional interest to the central barn- and especially the central tower.  Additionally, I painted examples of the road in incorrect perspective (so that it looked uphill) and moved the road’s design and fence around until it gave interesting lead in to the picture.

     

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    So- now that we have plenty of fresh snow outside (it’s really coming down out there), I should be able to take this painting out again and finish it, as my intention is more of a winter view than autumn scene.  Below is the way the painting looked at the end of the workshop- still quite unresolved, with a lot of that cobalt violet underdrawing still coming through, but the scale of the barn and design of the sky are starting to work well.  There is still lots left to do in that foreground, though.  I’ll add it to this post whenever (and if) I finish it.

     

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    *edit April 26th 2016* finally did finish this piece

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    Drumlin Farm 22×28″

  • 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.

     

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    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.

     

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    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.

     

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    Above is Rob’s demo halfway through the week 

     

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    A few shots of the students at work

     

    Robert Bodem

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    And below, a few shots of the final sculptures:

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    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.

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