Choosing the right course: how to pick the classes and instructors that will best meet your needs

July 31, 2010

Market Study, pastel and acrylic on corrugated cardboard, experimental techniques on alternative surfaces will be the focus of "Works on Paper", a new course I am offering this Fall at NJ Visual Arts Center

It’s that time again–time to register for fall classes. With limited time and money, no one wants to invest in a class that does not give them the type of content and instruction they are looking for. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your fall courses:

Read the Brochure! – Make sure you understand the course description and only sign up for the class if the content appeals to you. If you’re not sure, call the art center and ask a few questions, or see if you can contact the instructor directly. Don’t sign up for something simply because it fits into your schedule–taking a class purely for convenience is risky and a waste of your time if the subject, medium or instructor are not right for you.

Research the Instructor – Be sure to look at some examples of their work online or better still, in person at a gallery if you have the chance. Does their work appeal to you? It should, otherwise it is likely that the concepts and demos they present won’t be of much use to you. Your goal should not be to learn to paint the way they do, but to learn their approach and see how techniques they use may apply in your own work. A good instructor will teach concepts and leave interpretation and application of those concepts up to the individual.

Be Honest with Yourself – If you are a beginner, don’t sign up for an intermediate or advanced level course! Likewise, if you are an experienced painter, sign up for a course that is directed toward artists of your skill level. Beginners in intermediate/advanced classes often get frustrated because they are not familiar with basic concepts and medium-specific techniques that may not be covered in an advanced course. Conversely, an intermediate or advanced painter in a beginner level course might excel in the class, but they will likely not be challenged or learn anything new.

Register Now for FALL 2010 at NJ Visual Arts Center…Save $5 if You Sign Up by August 5

Registration is now open for Fall classes and workshop at NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit. I will be offering 6 courses, 2 of which are brand new: “The Big Picture”, which will focus on large scale painting, and “Works on Paper” a class which focuses on experimentation with a variety of paper surfaces using pastel and acrylic. Additionally, I am offering the same medium-specific and conceptual classes I taught last spring. Click here to register, sign up by August 5 and save $5 on registration!


Cafe Society, oil on board, final version

July 24, 2010

Cafe Society, oil on gessobord, 30x40 in.

This is the final version of the work-in-progress I’ve been posting. It will be available for sale shortly.

Details, details: a bit more done on this work-in-progress…

July 21, 2010

work-in-progress, 30x40 oil on gessoboard, about 75% done

detail, figures at left

detail, figures at right

This is moving along at a nice pace. The thing I enjoy most about a busy painting like this is that there are so many small details that you don’t realize are there until you start to paint it. For example, I did not notice the 2 little dogs under the table at right until I began the underpainting. At first glance, they are barely noticeable in the reference photo, but in the painting, they fit in as a unique part of the crowd at the cafe, and play a big part in what will ultimately help to make this piece unique, along with the hat on the young girl on the right, her big shoulder bag, the lunching  ladies on the left, the red bag on the ground, etc. All those little things that you would walk by and never notice, or look at a photo and never notice, are what will join together to hopefully make this interesting to look at in the context of a painting.

Muted palette

July 18, 2010

beginning to add color to this work-in-progress, oil on gessobord, 30x40 in.

close up of figures

As I continue to work on this one, I’m finding a muted palette to be appropriate. Muted in the sense that the colors I’m choosing are more earthy rather than highly saturated with jewel tones. I’ve used a lot of earth colors: raw sienna, burnt sienna, burnt umber, yellow ochre and naples yellow. These earth colors combined with the rest of the palette (ultramarine, alizarin, cadmium red, cobalt, king’s blue and titanium white) create a look that suggests a color scheme from an earlier time period, almost a sepia quality. I think this color harmony works well with the subject and helps to keep it from becoming “what you might expect”.

Work-in-progress, Philadelphia cafe

July 17, 2010

underpainting, burnt sienna on blue-toned gessobord, 30x40 in.

underpainting with darkest values added

This is a new work-in-progress, a 30×40 in. oil painting of a Philadelphia cafe. The top image is of the underpainting stage which was done in burnt sienna on a blue-toned gessobord. To tint the board, I used cerulean blue acrylic added into some gesso. The second image shows the painting with the darkest values added in on top of the underpainting. It’s always important to map in the darkest values when you begin working the color layer(s). Here I’ve chosen ultramarine blue mixed with burnt umber. This creates a beautiful dark neutral shade that has depth and variation in color.

The next step will be to begin working on the middle values in color. I plan to use lots of earth tones combined with primaries on this one to create a vibrant, high contrast image. The figures will remain loose and gestural to keep the feeling on this semi-abstract.

Plein Air studies from France

July 7, 2010

Garden, Virieu, France - plein air, acrylic & pastel on paper, 9x7 in.

Guest House Garden Shed, Chelieu, France - plein air, acrylic & pastel on paper, 5x7in.

Most of what I painted in France stayed there and did not get photographed, but I do have these 2 little studies done on the few sunny days we had to paint outside. Both are acrylic and pastel on paper.  I don’t think I will do many more paintings of subjects from my trip. France is a beautiful country to see in person and to photograph, but I have a bit of a hard time with it as a painting subject as many things translate as trite when painted. I thought I could get past that by abstracting things, but I can’t–everything I’ve attempted to paint from the trip seems cliche to me. Although colorful, even the markets don’t have enough “grit” to them, they are too quaint. Again, I think they are lovely to look at when visiting, but I don’t want to create post card images in my paintings, so I think I will move on to something else.


July 5, 2010

work-in-progress, oil on canvas, 20x16 in.

detail of chairs and figures

This is a painting I am currently working on, a cafe in Annecy. The red chairs and awning will make a bold impression when they are done. I love the repeating shapes of the chairs in the strong red, they create such rhythm and movement. Notice the angularity of the brush strokes, one of the things I find key in making figures and other objects work without too much detail is to use the brush strokes to block in shapes without consciously “drawing” figures or chairs. The result is a more natural, confident painting, rather than one that looks fussed over, or like it was difficult to do. To me, a subject like this begs for spontaneity and energy, not fussy detail. It’s important to pay attention to the big issues in a piece like this, perspective, proportion and form/value need to be correct in the under painting. After that, it’s easy to add color with confidence in the manner described above.