Sunday, September 7, 2014

New YouTube video! "What to expect at your portrait commission photo shoot"

I often get inquiries from people who haven't ever commissioned a portrait before, so I created a short slide show/video to help my clients know what to expect.

This is one of several little videos I plan to make ove the next few months - I hope you enjoy this and as always, I really appreciate your sharing it through your social media networks!

My thanks to my little subject and her family and to Ori Galili ( for his help in creating the video!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gamblin Dedicated Workshop Instructor

I am so honored to join the Gamblin Company as a Dedicated Workshop Instructor! As my students and artist friends, know, I have used and loved Gamblin's materials for many years and am now able to offer even more to my students - through free samples, in-depth information and new products as they come on the market. Recently I wrote an article for Artists' Magazine (April 2014) on Gamblins' new Solvent-free Gel Medium - which has now become the only medium I use.

If I can help answer any questions for you, please just contact me!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Painting the Lovely Julie - Six step all prima portrait study

How lucky was I this morning to find that Julie was modeling at the Mountain Artists' Guild Open Studio!?
Julie modeled for my recent Prescott workshop and although I didn't get to paint her, I did have benefit of studying her face from many angles, over many hours' time. Below is my morning study.

Step 1: Size and place the head. Drawn with Raw Umber, thinned with a bit of Gamblin's Solvent-free Gel Medium.

Step 2: Separate light and shadow; commit to the background.

Step 3: Block in general skin tones, one for light and one for shadow.

Step 4: Add some detail to the features.

Step 5:  Develop the forms of the face and hair, and continue with detail.

Step 6: Refine transitions, correct drawing mistakes, run out of time:)

Julie, oil, 20 x 16

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Burton Silverman: American Artist

With my most heartfelt thanks to Michael Gormley, Julia Baughman and everyone at Portraits, Inc. for making this wonderful article a reality!

The third in my series of portraits of my mentors and artist friends who have made a positive impact in my art life - Burt Silverman is truly my view of an American icon in the art world, and a man who embodies authenticity in every aspect of what he does.


American Artist Project: How to Paint the Master

By Michael Gormley

 Portrait of Burton Silverman, oil, 28" x 28"

Like an exploding universe in a creationist narrative, our rapidly expanding and fragmenting contemporary art world has birthed an array of focused constellations comprising like-minded souls connected by a shared singleness of purpose. Painters and patrons primarily interested in realist representation and the human form comprise one such magnetic grouping. Like an actual solar system (metaphorically speaking), this mass of independent bodies seeks out and encircles radiant energy sources--the rare stars that shine brightly in the darkness.
Imagine now (in living color) the concentric rings and artistic circles buzzing around Burton Silverman-- the ever wise master artist and attentive mentor to countless hopeful painters.  Can you further imagine expressing the essence of that guiding light in a painting?  Chris Saper has; she has just completed a stunning portrait of her beloved Silverman—the third work in a series of portraits she has painted of artist colleagues and mentors that have had a significant impact on her artistic life.  Saper remarks, “How better to express my appreciation and gratitude to these artists than to paint them.”

A tall order indeed, yet if Silverman’s portrait is any indication, Saper’s subjects are in for a big treat and not a few surprises.  Right off, she gets high marks for nailing Silverman’s knowing wit and peerless gaze.  Yup, it’s Silverman all right-- looking straight at you and through you as only Silverman can.  Saper adds, “I first met Burt Silverman nearly 20 years ago and subsequently studied with him at the Scottsdale Artists School. He remains a daily inspiration, both for his work and for the man he is.  The challenge of painting Burt was managing the insecurity that he would find the work lacking.  It was a real struggle to keep the creation of the work separate from his response to it.  But that’s the inherent risk in painting my mentors – with whom I’ve shared the paintings – is to be able to take in any insights they might have without subjugating the portraits to their opinions. They are my mentors – I am not theirs. I have described Burt as brilliant, charming and delightfully irreverent.  I trust him to be direct about his response.”

One such response Silverman made about his portrait is testament to his keen sensitivity in regards to aesthetic choices, the chase after verisimilitude, and genuine plastic expression. Saper notes that Silverman (quoting the great John Sloan) questioned the painting's compositional value range.  She adds, “He asked me if the work had an underlying design scheme and if that painterly expression was dynamic enough to support my intention for the work to have life.”  I applaud the question and I’ll risk stating that Saper rises to the occasion.  The work offers a wonderful play of light and dark passages which focuses Silverman’s head and tilts it forward into the picture plane and (symbolically) the viewer’s space.  This ‘leaning in’ gesture is intimate – perhaps too intimate.  Saper guesses correctly that some viewers (like her) may find this full frontal engagement with the Sage a little invasive.  Our eyes need a place to wander—or we’ll abandon the work.  So Saper situates Silverman within a compositional scheme that keeps our eyes moving within the picture frame.  But be forewarned-- the lighted window situated in the rear is but a temporary repose as the march of paintings up the far wall are meant to bring our eyes back in lock with Silverman’s.

Hence, there is a larger narrative being worked out with the Silverman painting than employing portraiture as a genuine means to pay homage to an adored master (though at first glance it is certainly that). The Silverman portrait demonstrates that the student has gone beyond learning the master’s lessons--she has made them her own.  How does that idea get translated pictorially?  In this instance Saper offers an optical pathway that tames the master’s gaze and thereby neutralizes his critique.

The artist is now free.  Well not really; the ascending challenge now shifts to the artist assuming a self-imposed responsibility to hold culture’s course and advance the practice of excellence—be that painting or portraiture or any expressive art form. Saper concludes, “Painting Burt carried for me both challenge and freedom. Certainly freedom, because my goal was not to please him with a commission, where my ability to pay my Visa bill hangs in the balance…but precisely because it does not.  My freedom lay in envisioning, designing and executing a piece that caused me to stretch artistically, and to convey what was in my heart and mind.”

Notes on the American Artist Project:
Burt Silverman's portrait is the third piece in Saper's American Artists series.  She expects there will be 7 or 8 paintings in the series.  Most of the portraits are of colleagues who are also mentors, but will also include artists who have had a non-mentoring but positive impact on her art life.  They are all entitled, "XXX: American Artist."  To date Saper has painted portraits of Kirk Larsen and William Whitaker, and has reference photos ready to go for portraits of Ann Manry Kenyon, John Howard Sanden and Jamie Lee McMahan.  For more information about Chris Saper, contact Portraits, Inc. by phone at 800-476-1223 or by e-mail at
Michael Gormley is a painter, writer, curator and regular contributor to the Portraits, Inc. blog.  Gormley was the editor of American Artist magazine and most recently created the fine art catalog for Craftsy--an online education platform.

Portraits, Inc. was founded in 1942 in New York on Park Avenue. Over its 70-year history, Portraits, Inc. has carefully assembled a select group of the world’s foremost portrait artists offering a range of styles and prices. Recognized as the industry leader, Portraits, Inc. provides expert guidance for discerning clients interested in commissioning fine art portraits.

Open Studio, Mountain Artists Guild, Prescott, AZ

Some quick steps from yesterday's session - a warm light source underscored our model's strong Hispanic features, oil, 20 x 16

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prescott Workshop - great fun!

I had a wonderful group of students last week for my annual summer workshop in the mountains of Arizona "For Love or Money: Portraiture and the Pursuit of Excellence" - the best part is that I can't tell you much I learned.

We had live models on Monday and Wednesday, Julie under a warm light, and Percy under a cool light - I wanted everyone to have the chance to explore ways paint extreme differences in skin tones.

Above, Anne, who came all the way from New Zealand for my class, lays in her portrait of Percy.

On Tuesday and Thursday we completed the previous day's portraits from photos - understanding how to get excellent photo references is a key part of this course.  Below, Bonny works from her monitor and Patty checks her work by viewing both photo and painting upside down.

Below, some of my students' wonderful work!

 During the last hour of each day, discussions and visual presentations focused on the business aspects of portrait painting.

And of course our week's end group photo - thank you all for being part of this class!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Great Big Spider!! Soon:)

This is definitely not an art related post  - BUT.....I've lived in AZ since 1977, and in all those years have only seen one tarantula in the wild...and that was in about 1985, on a hiking expedition to AZ Four Peaks area - that spider was the size of a dinner plate. Today, this little creature showed up in Prescott, looking for a drink of water.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eye Candy! Bennington Center for the Arts - Oil Painters of America!

Last weekend, the OPA held its 23rd Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils - and Wow! what a world class show! Of the approximately 2500 entries, 200 paintings were selected, and every one of them was a delight. My first time in Vermont, it looked  actually as I pictured - beautiful weather and a marvelous setting.

 Charles Movalli's charming and very entertaining demo. This man is a seriously funny storyteller. One of the numerous quotes he shared. Artist 1 says: "Why in the world did you ever decide not to 'finish' this painting?' Artist 2: "Why in the world did you decide to even START that painting?"

Derek Penix's demonstration:

Some of the many raffle baskets, of which I won NONE.

Artist Lori Mcnee demonstrated with water-soluble oils - she also gave an excellent presentation on using social media.

Mary Qian's fresh and painterly demonstration below.

The Friday evening gala was held in the Carriage house on the grounds of the historic McCullough House estate...

Portraits Inc.'s Executive Partner Ruth Reeves and me below:

Photos below are of the McCullough mansion itself - beautiful museum!

 Kevin Beilfuss's entry - I am more than tickled to own a small study of Kevin's - same model!

 Below, artist Susan Blackman Abma and Kyle from New Wave Art Palettes.

...and Susan and I working on getting "The Pose" right for our pic in front of my entry, "Kirk Larsen: American Artist".

Landscape artist Roger Dale Brown gave a really informative demonstration: 

Aaron Thompson shows Gamblin's products to artists:

And check out this outrageously fun display from Michael Harding!

The show runs through July if you are in the area, stop in!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Workshop Syllabus - 4 days

I had a request to repost the syllabus for my upcoming workshops:)

“For Love or Money: Portraiture and the Pursuit of Excellence” Four-day Syllabus
Chris Saper copyright 2003-2014

Day 1:     A.    Overview of Course
1. Introduction to your Business Plan
2. Introduction to Kelvin temperatures: tungsten, regular incandescent, fluorescent, and natural light options
3. Likeness and accuracy – The relative or brush- sizing method
4. Posing the model           
Instructor demonstration: Beginning the portrait –the seven-inch head- seeing  and mixing color; photographing the model
6. Painting the model in cool light
7. Photographing the model in cool light
8. Color, value and edge notes
Student painting – beginning the portrait - mixing and painting color notes; photographing the model
9. Preparing the photo reference: Sizing, scaling and proportion
                 B.    Business lab: Determining your business identity

Day 2:    A.    Painting lab: Morning session (Instructor demo optional)
1.     Photographing the model in warm light
2.     Beginning the portrait , making color notes
B.             Business lab:
1.     Developing your portfolio
2.     Pricing your work
3.     Presenting and showing your original work

Day 3:    A.    Painting Lab: Morning session
                                1. Power Point: Breaking the Chains of Photo Slavery
2. Painting from photographs, cool light- continuing Monday’s portrait
                 B.    Business lab:
1. Presenting your artwork effectively in visual media and shows
                                                Photographing your artwork; Preparing slides for shows and competitions
                                                Submitting your original artwork to shows and competitions
2.     Preparing your resource photographs
Adjusting photo size; Making the print
Day 4:    A. Painting lab: continue portrait from Tuesday – interpreting the photograph
1.     Composition and Value Massing
2.     Designing and Executing the multiple subject portrait

B.     Business lab:     Copyright & documentation; client relations; marketing

Monday, May 26, 2014

How to create a unified gallery wall of art in your home

Most artists I know (including me) are their own biggest collectors. Although I try to purge my studio periodically, there are still some pieces that are my favorites for one reason or another, so it's always a challenge to make myself  hang, arrange, and rotate art.

As part of my workshop, "For Love or Money", the framing and presentation of original work is a formal part of the discussions surrounding the business aspects of portrait painting. Selecting and buying frames makes the  most sense to me when it is done thoughtfully, so that several things are accomplished.

1. Standard sized art and frames creates maximum flexibility. I don't seal up the backs of my framed art with paper as many pro framers do - because I want to be able to easily and quickly pop pieces in and out of their frames.

2. Color and style of frames - consistent within groups. I have a batch of gold-hued frames, silver-hued frames and black frames. I also have these frames in simple plein-aire styles, simply designed frames and ornate Baroque style frames. But having a group of frames in similar color and/or style allows you to combine them indifferent ways to promote unity.

Other things I consider include: the scale of both the wall and the art; the color of the wall; and the type of lighting a wall will receive.

Below, this wall is painted a soft white and flanks a large window on the left - my friends Marlene and Eric Slayton came to help me hang the wall. (OK, actually I healed THEM hang the wall by holding the hammer and nails). This is the way the wall looks in natural daylight. You can see that there are a variety of different styles of frame, but they are all unified by their gold-hued color. Despite the face that there are quite a lot of different categories (several nudes, a large central print, some portraits and a landscape) - and media - (charcoal, pen and ink, oil, conte) the wall still holds together in a pleasing fashion. Most are mine, but the central print and landscape are by other artists.

 The opposing wall in this room is painted a bold and well-named color, Begonia (Sherwin Williams) and tends to bounce lots of strong ambient color around the space, much more pronounced at night when the overhead incandescent lights replace the natural daylight.The photo below is also taken under natural light. The frames on this wall are all very similar, a cool gold or warm silver in color.

And here are the two walls under the artificial incandescent ceiling lights in conjunction with the natural window light. This room has very high walls so the overhead lights are more evenly distributed than would be the case with walls that aren't so high.On the Begonia wall, the difference in the color temperatures of  the artificial (about 3500 degrees Kelvin) and natural light (about 6000 degrees Kelvin) are very obvious.

In my studio, though, the walls are painted a very desaturated cool greenish grey, middle value (Sherwin Williams, Anonymous) - they keep my studio from getting too much bright light bouncing about and also look great with portraits, since the wall color is a good approximation of the complement to skin tones. I'll add more on Studio color in a future Blog  post.

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23, 2014 Demo, Mountain Artists' Guild, Prescott AZ

More details after the demo...but in the meantime, for those in attendance who did not get a handout, here it is:

Key Steps to Painting the Portrait from Life

1.      Define the color of light
2.      Pose and Light the model
3.      Place the subject on the canvas
4.      Size the head
5.      Establish vertical relationships
6.      Establish horizontal relationships
7.      Separate light from shadow
8.      Commit to the background
9.      Paint the darks as a value layer
10.   Paint the lights and middle values
11.   Refine the details and state the edges

Here is the quick - and wow! do I mean quick! demo - my beautiful subject gave me modeling time on her birthday!