Sunday, March 30, 2014

Workshop! August 19-22, Longmont,CO

Come to Longmont this summer for my 4-day workshop, "For Love or Money: Portraiture & the Pursuit of Excellence", focusing on both painting skills and business skills in the world of portrait art.

Located outside Boulder, Longmont is a beautiful mountain community; the workshop will be hosted by Gary Markowitz in his newly-renovated studio and gallery, Gallery aHa! in the historic downtown area.

To register, please contact Ani Espriella, at, or at 305-772-7783.

Here is the formal class description:

This four-day workshop is designed to provide hands-on skills necessary to paint portraits successfully. The course is focused on gaining painting skills by working from life with a special emphasis on seeing, mixing and painting color in light, and in shadow.  Drawing skills and specific portrait measuring techniques will be emphasized to achieve likeness, giving students a solid plan to continue to work on improving their results.
Because so many portrait painters must rely on photographs to execute portraits, I will address the specific set of skills painters need to produce excellent resource material. Included are topics of lighting and dressing the model, selection and application of various light sources, conducting the photo shoot, and how to secure the best possible printed resource material.
Additionally, this workshop focuses on the challenges of becoming a successful commission portrait artist, which involves much more than just painting well. Topics include: presenting yourself and your work effectively, client relations, understanding your market, embracing and sifting through social media and the Internet presence, and developing your own business plan.

Artists are welcome in any medium. However because my work has included significant past pastel and charcoal experience, and has evolved to exclusively oil painting,  please note that  I will not be well-suited to assist students working in acrylic or watercolors, in techniques in those mediums.  However, the principles of likeness, color theory and photographic reference transcend any medium and you are most welcome to attend.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Travel updates

Here is what's on my calendar - if you have been planning a commission, it is a cinch to piggyback onto an existing trip! Just let me know:)

April 18-28, 2014: Washington DC
June  4-9, 2014:  Bennington,VT
June  26-29: New York City
October 8-13 Grand Rapids area, Michigan

Oil Painters of America 2014 National Juried Exhibition: Kirk Larsen: American Artist

I am really thrilled that my portrait of plein-aire painter Kirk Larsen has been selected for the upcoming OPA Exhibition in Bennington, VT, this coming June. The Bennington Center  for the Arts has become quite iconic for representational fine art painters, hosting shows and exhibits for some of the most respected artists working today.

While images from the participating artists aren't yet available, I've seen some of the work that was accepted, and the show promises to be a "Wow". Last year's exhibit at the Insight Gallery in Fredericksburg, TX was the first I've attended, and I have to say I enjoyed not only seeing some of my old (meaning not recent, LOL) artist friends, but also making some really wonderful men and women whose friendships will, I  know continue to grow.

I'll post more photos of the Exhibition after the June event!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Three Days in Manhattan

Early Sunday morning after the CSOPA event, I was rescued from the confusion of public transit by Joel Spector, who was leaving CT at the crack of dawn to travel to the Art Student's League of New York, where he paints each week with Max Ginsburg. I kind of elbowed my way in and was lucky enough to  find an empty easel and Max's OK to paint with the group.  My life study of Rachel ...

My artist friend Kerri Gibbs graciously welcomed me into her home and we had couple of days to play in the big first trip to the Frick Museum (wow), and I was so completely delighted to spend a couple of hours in the studio of one one my lifetime heroes, Burton Silverman - as direct and elegant as the man himself. Burt will be one of the artists I will paint as part of my Artists Portrait Project.

Connecticut Society of Portrait Artists' Faces of Winter 2014 Symposium

Earlier this month, I was privileged to join the CSOPA members and faculty at what can only be described as a world class event. CSOPA founder and President Jeanine Jackson and her staff put together an amazing event with 83 portraits exhibited, and a faculty/content that knocked my socks off.

Below the opening night - the theme was Valentine's Day so you'll see lots of red:) The opening reception was packed, despite near zero temps, icy streets and lots of snow. Jurors Robert Alexander Anderson and Lea Colie Wight judged an extraordinary show...artist Harry Burman took a prize for his excellent self portrait.

 Below, one of my entries, "Kirk Larsen: American Artist"; I am flanked by portraits of living greats Nelson Shanks and MaxGinsburg, both of whom were present this weekend.

 Below, Leo Mancin-Hresko - seriously he gave a lecture on the nature of white paints and it was spellbinding. Hard to understand if you're not an oil-painter, but it was riveting.
 Below, sculptor Oscar Garcia's amazing life sculpture of Joel Spector. The crowd was on its feet!

The event continued...demos and lectures by painters Max Ginsburg, Igor Babailov, Lea Colie Wight..Peter Trippi (Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine), Fred Ross (Art Renewal Center) John Howard Sanden, and the recipient of the Society's Lifetime Achievement Award, Nelson Shanks.

On the opening night, artists GraceDeVito, Joel Spector and Jesus Villarreal painted from the live model, beautiful demos, all!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Percy, life study, oil 18 x 14

Have I mentioned lately how much I love painting at the Mountain Artists' Guild Open Studios?

Dorothy Ray brought in another wonderful model, Percy, who is a portrait/figurative painter himself.

Here are the in-process step pics I took during the session.

Ignore the color notes on the lower left - I painted over a previous demo, having reconditioned the canvas with a fairly thick layer of Holbein's Foundation Greenish. While it covered the underlying paint, the surface was very slick, so that getting the paint, especially the first layer to stick was a challenge. And of course in a 3 hour session, nothing dries so I had to fight my 'direct' tendencies - light touch isn't something that comes naturally to me at the easel.

Percy was lit from the upper right with a color-corrected (probably 5500 K) artificial light, augmented by a very delicate natural blue light coming in from our left.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Painting Whit: Step by step in open studio

My friend Whit modeled one day at the Prescott Mountain Artists' Guild Gallery while I was in the process of writing "Classic Portrait Painting in Oils". Recently, he reminded me  to send him some of the pics taken that day, and I thought I'd also share them here.

Below, one of the images of Whit from my book, showing how I evaluated my skin tone mixture by comparing it right against his skin.

Here is the studio set -up:

I took several in-process photos during our model breaks to show progress. Below, Step 1, placing and measuring to begin the drawing; separating light from shadow; and committing to the background.

Step 2: covering the canvas, roughing in skin tones in both light and shadow.

Step 3: building up paint; refining the drawing (always); and setting up the surface to accept Whit's beard.

Whit, final.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Open Studio: Every Portrait and Figurative Artist's Best Friend

Open studios happen every day, everywhere more than one artist gathers. It's just a shared environment where artists bring their materials, and jointly share the cost of a model, who will sit for usually 3 hours (although many open studios are offering longer sittings,,which I personally love) The 3- hour sitting usually offers about 2+ hours of actual painting time, after model breaks.

There are a number of artists I can think of  who regularly produce spectacular works in the 3 hr time slot (for example, Harley Brown, Mary Whyte, Shane Neal, John Howard Sanden, Michael Carter - I could go on and on...) , but most artists need more time, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact it is a  liberating experiences to say to yourself:,  "I have three hours, to work on doing one thing really well." It might be just working on drawing, or on color, or on values. Doesn't matter. What does matters is that your time at the easel is productively spent, so that when you pack up, you can say that you did just one thing just a bit better. The result on your canvas has nothing to do with the value of your time in open studio.

And no matter how frequently or well an artist paints from photographs, without refreshing your eye and brain by working from life,you'll get rusty. So in any case, when I am able, I paint with a great group of artists in Prescott on Friday mornings. This is from this morning, Carl. Terrific model, gentlemanly and at home in his wintry western garb, with a hat rivaling the Canadian Mounties.I took photos at three different point.

Step 1 Drawing and measuring. I will usually devote the first 20 minute sitting to simply placing marks, and developing a visual road map.

Step 2. Laying in color. My goal for this morning was to experiment with more dramatically pushing cools and warms in the skin tones.

Step 3. Modeling the color patches into shapes. Then I ran out of time. But man, was this ever fun.

and below, BTW was last week's model Kelsey. Both are 20 x 16, oil on Fredrix Blue Label Polyflax canvas. I used Gamblin's new Solvent-free Gel Medium on both paintings as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plein Aire with Dave Santillanes in Sedona, AZ October 2013

Three days of excellent instruction, followed by the Sedona Plein Aire Arts Festival's opening paint-out made me one lucky painter. Although arrival day found me in a seedy motel (looked OK on the internet), I was treated to an almost-full moonrise and a gorgeous sunrise.

Day 1. Dave Santillanes's workshop 
I had the good fortune to meet Dave last spring at the Oil Painters of America show - he is a terrific painter, a lovely man, and, as I quickly discovered, a superb instructor.  For a portrait painter to tackle an open landscape is kind of overwhelming, but Dave was able to present a structured and logical approach that was both simple and sophisticated, if that makes sense. Our first afternoon out was at a location known as Schnebly Hill Road (which, BTW, is a glorious way to travel the Sedona-Flagstaff route, if you have a 4- wheel vehicle and a bit of nerve).

Days 2 and 3. Return to Schnebly Hill Road in the morning, then to Dry Creek Vista for the afternoon/next  am sessions.

Both locations are within about 10 minutes of downtown Sedona, and very easily accessible. Below, Dave doing another beautiful demo and working with one of the students.

It's impossible to imagine the beauty of this AZ mountain town if you haven't been there in person.

Saturday, Plein Aire paint-out, scattered along Sedona's Main Street

Below, Artists Josh Been and Bill Cramer knocking out fabulous demos; in my role as umbrella holder; and artist Brad Holt enjoying Dave's demo.

Above, our group, sitting on what, according to a guide with two tourists, insisted was The. Most.Amazing. Vortex. If you have your crystal with you. (I think the tour runs some $295 per couple.) Really.

Lest anyone worry that the event was too relaxing, it was, as you can see, essential  to closely review the principles of atmospheric perspective from the viewpoint of the not-seedy hotel into which I moved right after that sunrise. My college roommate dashed over from the coast to hang out in Sedona for a few days and she insisted that I do this homework. It was not my idea.


And, artist friends, did you realize that absinthe is now legal again? We had to taste it to be sure, and I can see how it might have made Hemingway crazy (rumored to have started each day with a glassful of absinthe and a champagne chaser, and you can see how well that ended for him)  This pretty little decanter (more info here for the inquiring mind ) seems to be an essential part of the process.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC, and a trip to the Eastern Market

Despite fairly constant rain and the government shutdown, the Corcoran Gallery stood out as a jewel among a weekend of wonderful events. This smallish gallery has an exquisite American/European collection of paintings and sculpture. I'd have to say that while I was wowed with so many of the paintings, my jaw just dropped when I turned to see the Veiled Nun (Giuseppi Croff), which is sculpted from marble. I can't describe how much I wanted to touch this piece, and I am mesmerized wondering how in the world this was created. I'll have to ask my sculptor friends for some input. Seriously,  LOOK at this.

One of my all-time favorite painters is Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; this tiny gem, "A Difficult Line from Horace" was a sparkler; you can see the painting's scale in comparison to my hand.

The two matching portraits of George Washington (flanking the larger painting) were both painted by Gilbert Stuart, who painted the original, from-life portrait -which itself is in the National Portrait Gallery (closed this weekend due to the government shut-down). There were two of the perhaps 75? replicas Stuart painted from his original, which  remained undelivered past his deadline (when George and Martha were still  alive), past the Washingtons' deaths, and even past his own death. He used his 'delayed delivery' time wisely, selling off the other 73 or so to finance a lush lifestyle. I'll have to fact check all of these details when I review my September notes from John  Howard Sanden's fabulous lecture on the Presidential  Portraits).

No trip to DC would be complete without protesters along the fences facing the White House. Sign painters always planning ahead.

...and finally, barbarians at the gate.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Checking out the Value Viewer App

At the Oil Painters of America meeting last spring, I met artist Lori Putnam (whose work, BTW, is fabulous and light-filled) - she and her husband Mark have developed an IPhone app called the Value Viewer. It is a tool designed to assist artists in composition, allowing both gray-scale and notan options. The gray-scale option lets the user consider different compositional patterns by the collapsing and redistribution of light and dark values in a given scene; the notan option forces all into shapes into black and white without middle values.

So, equipped with some brand new hiking sneakers - which I bought to augment my pretty much non-existing plein-air wardrobe*, preparing for Dave Santillanes's plein air workshop in Sedona - and my phone, here are some pics and what I played with...

First, the vertical shot...

 Then a horizontal pic:

Here is the Notan (B/W) version:

 I have a LOT to learn about how to use this app, but I think it is fun, and should be a good adjunct to the classic and always reliable pencil thumbnail sketch.

My little walk didn't include a trail, but I could see where I wanted to get, so a little bit of baby bushwhacking let me cross the creek and here was the reward:)

This was in the same Prescott area as the hike I took with my bridge buddies a few weeks ago..I am including this video just because it reminds me of a very funny and fun excursion. Thanks to Suzanne for
 your funny video:)


*I think that this might be a fashion joke, ie the notion of plein-air wardrobe, but it will require much more research on my part - I'll get back to you on that . And a PS, Lori is teaching in Sedona the same days as my workshop with Dave - wish I could attend both:)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Soraya" : accepted into "Women Painting Women (R)evolution 2013 Juried Exhibition" .


It's really an honor to be included in this show - there were over 520 submissions representing 26 states across the US, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

From Townsend Atlelier, Chatanooga, TN:

"Juror Ellen Simak conducted a blind jury (i.e. all artists/images were presented to her numerically without artist names) and she selected a show of 36 incredibly strong works from all over the world."

The opening reception is September 7, 2013, from 2:00-8:00 p.m. with a live painting demonstration "Art Throw Down" between artists Cindy Procious and Mia Bergeron. The show runs through September 28.