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  • Marc Dalessio Stonington class July 2017


    Earlier this month, Marc Dalessio and I ran a marathon 5-day landscape painting workshop in Stonington, on Deer Isle, one of my favorite places to paint in Maine.  Everyone worked very hard, with some students painting for hours before and after class times each day.  It was a whirlwind week, and I believe everyone got a lot out of it, Marc and I included.

    Marc demonstrating his approach to students on the first day of class at Sand Beach.  Marc talked at length about using sight-size as an effective means to expedite drawing, adjust placement and scale on the canvas, and how he deals with compositional pitfalls as they present themselves throughout the process.

    Marc’s demo on the first morning was about two hours, while Marc’s wife Tina painted with their dog Emma, in the background.


    below, a few images of the students at work throughout the class:

    Paul Sullivan painting on West Main St

    Bob Sullivan painting from the corner of Andy’s Wharf looking towards Green Head

    Sandra Dolan painting the harbor from Church Street


    As is often the case in the northeast, the weather was unpredictable.  Our weather for the course ranged from high 80s with humidity to low 60’s and freezing a-la-San Francisco in August when the fog rolled in.  We had rain, fog, clear skies, puffy clouds, wind, and all that sometimes in the same day; as if traversing the seasons in real time.  It’s a lot of fun- but provides an extra logistical layer to a class like this.  Between the weather, tides rolling in and out, and light changing as usual, there are a ton of variables to deal with.  Our intrepid group of students put up with the fact that neither Marc nor I can control the weather, no matter the app on your phone (we discuss weather apps a lot, here’s a list of Marc’s favorites).


    marc and cooper happily working away in the rain 


    Stonington is such a fantastic place to paint. I invited along a couple of New-England hometown heroes who have been painting the area for decades, Stapleton Kearns and TM Nicholas.  Both did a lot of work during the week.  It was nice to have painters with their experience along, as it adds to the critical mass getting momentum in a class. The students can listen to what Marc or I have to say, and then see entirely ‘similar but different’ approaches on the canvases of others.  I think that’s quite valuable. Additionally, the entire academic method that Marc and I were taught in (by Charles Cecil and Daniel Graves, respectively) came through the studio of RH Ives Gammell, who was Stapleton’s teacher in the 1970s.  Through that common background, we were able to talk a bit about the concept of artistic lineage and heritage as it applies to both 19th-20th century academic painting and american impressionism.


    TM Nicholas (not pictured), my easel, Meghan Weeks, Stape Kearns, Marc and Tina Dalessio all painting in the fog after class

    Stape, Marc and TM chatting on Church Street in the afternoon.


    The one day that rain got real heavy, Stapleton kindly offered to do an indoor demonstration.  An indoor demo during the rain is a total lifesaver for the morale of the class, and Stape does a great one.  He paints entirely out of his head, without reference, and it is always a seascape- not a landscape of the sea, but a big ‘crashing wave’ picture that really couldn’t be done from life.  Towards the end of the demo, Stape, Marc and I all started telling stories a bit, again reinforcing the common themes in what we do, and how we were trained.


    Stape’s demo, above (though I would wager he’s kept working on it since)


    One of the novel aspects of these classes is that they are like little engineering summits for outdoor painters.  Painting outside has become so popular that there are tons of products on the market.  That said, nearly everyone I know uses a unique system, often that they rig up to some degree themselves.  Dalessio was showing off the brand-spanking-new version of his Carbon Fiber homemade ultra-super-light system, I was showing everyone the Viktor Butko rack system in my car for traveling with big paintings. I also spent time plugging the new painting boxes from Mosepi (which are really very similar to the cigar boxes that my friends and I used to paint with, I like them very much), they work well for what we do.  Cooper Dragonette showed everyone his homemade kit which was very fancy, Stapleton Kearns showed the class the many virtues of the Gloucester easel (recommending exclusively the Stapleton Kearns model by take-it easel, of course). We even had an real honest-to-goodness well trained furniture maker in the class that made a homemade box and panel carrier system that literally brought gasps to viewers (peter, you should sell those).


    On the last day of class, Marc gave a demonstration specifically on using indirect painting techniques to strengthen your landscapes: glazing, scumbling, and talked extensively about scraping down and controlling your surface.  Marc uses these tools to strengthen effects of atmospheric perspective, or to add fog and cloud cover, and perhaps most useful, simply correcting areas of color without losing your hard work underneath.



    Many thanks to Marc and all of our students for coming up to Deer Isle to paint for the week.  For 2018, Dalessio and I have begun planning a course in Italy.  If you would like first crack at such an opportunity, sign up for the mailing list at the top of the classes tab.





  • August 2015 Workshops

    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)





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