Online Course vs. DVD: Interaction Makes the Difference!

January 13, 2014
Bridge in 2-point perspective, watercolor & ink

Bridge in 2-point perspective, watercolor & ink – Learn one, two and three point perspective in my online course, as well as atmospheric perspective, details below.

Over and over I have been asked “When are you going to make some DVDs of your drawing and painting courses?” After much consideration, I have decided that instead of DVD, I am going to begin offering some courses online. I have always felt that DVD was too one-sided, lacking the interaction needed to understand the concepts of drawing and painting. I don’t talk “at” my students in class, I would be very uncomfortable with the idea of presenting to an audience that could not ask me questions or let me know whether the concepts are clear or not. Hence, I think online long-distance learning is the right path for me to take in offering my courses to a broader audience.

1, 2, 3 Perspective is now Available Online

I decided to start my venture into online course offerings with a mini version of a course I teach at the Visual Arts Center of NJ, “1, 2, 3 Perspective”. Many artists struggle with the concepts of perspective or are afraid of it. Anyone who wishes to paint effective representational paintings, particularly landscapes, needs to have a thorough grasp on all forms of perspective. I teach the course from an artist’s point of view rather than an engineering approach, focusing on understanding the gestural properties of each type of perspective and how they can be used to create accurate, bold compositions that draw the viewer into the painting.

The course consists of 4 lessons that contain an introduction to each concept: one-, two-, three-point perspective, and atmospheric perspective. After reading the text, the student completes 2 exercises designed to reinforce the concepts presented. Once completed, the student takes a photo of the work done in the exercises and emails it to me for personalized critique. I actually make a print out of their images and mark the corrections right on the copy so they can see EXACTLY where their drawings are off and how to fix them! No DVD will do that. Additionally, I provide feedback to them on how to make their drawings  more confident and graceful.

The materials used in the course are minimal: vine charcoal, compressed charcoal and a stick of white pastel on newsprint (or any other paper suitable for charcoal that you happen to have on hand). The photos taken can be iPhone photos, as long as I can see the drawing, I can critique it. Students are encouraged to email any questions they have along the way as they are doing the exercises. I reply to all emails within 24 hours of receipt.

Privacy and Convenience

One of the best aspects of online learning is the fact that you do it in your own home/studio and at your convenience. There’s no driving to class or carting supplies, plus, if you feel intimidated working in front of other artists, working independently may help to build your confidence. This is especially true for beginners!

You also are free to learn at your own pace. We work on one concept at a time, so when you finish the first lesson and have an understanding of the concepts taught in it, you then move on to Lesson 2. Some students take longer than others due to busy schedule or they just like to take their time, that’s totally fine. Take as long as you need, I provide the critiques within 24 hours of submission and then forward the next Lesson which is completed in your own time frame.

How to Sign Up

This course is affordably priced and there are several payment options, if you are interested in finding out more details, or have questions about the content, please email me at


Urban Plein Air – Keep it Simple

March 26, 2012

View from the South Balcony, Salmagundi Club, 47 5th Avenue, NYC - acrylic, 8x10 in.

If you are going to paint in the city, whether it’s NY, Boston, Philadelphia or even London or Paris, you need to be organized, plan ahead and take a minimal amount of supplies. I am fortunate that the Salmagundi Club, the oldest arts club in the US, allows me to paint on their balcony–giving me access to water, bathrooms and when the dining room is open, coffee and snacks! However, on days that I have painted in the parks or other areas of the city, I have to plan my route and research the place I will be painting ahead of time to ensure that I will be able to work comfortably and for the most part, undisturbed.

What Makes an Ideal Location

Well, besides having a view of something you really want to paint, simple things like shelter, access to a bathroom and close proximity to public transportation. By shelter, I mean a place where you can paint with your back to something like a wall or tree, so that you don’t have an audience of onlookers lingering while you work. I teach and do lots of demos, having people watch when I’m doing a demo is fine, but when I’m painting, that’s my time and I don’t want to be disturbed. If people have to approach you head on, they are less likely to stand there and expect to chat. I also use the direct approach, if I see someone coming who looks like they are interested in what I am doing, I smile at them say hello and wish them a good day. I will give them a glimpse of what I am doing and then excuse  myself to get back to it before the light changes, most people will move on.  I also keep a stack of business cards with me and direct them to the galleries I work with to see more of my paintings if they are located near where I am painting.

What Makes an Ideal Kit

For me, the simpler the better. I am used to working with a very limited palette, so I try to limit the number of colors I take with me regardless of medium. For oils or acrylics I try to limit it to about 6 or 7 tubes of paint, I can actually get by with 4 if I have to (3 primaries and a tube of white).  I select the colors based on the type of landscape I will be painting. For example, if I am going to be painting in a city park, I’ll take 2 yellows and 2 blues so I can get a nice range and variety of greens. If I’m in an area with a lot of brick buildings, I’ll take 2 reds and 2 yellows so I can make interesting terra cotta type colors. For example, the palette I used on the painting above was: Prussian blue, ultramarine, alizarin, cadmium red, cad yellow medium, cad yellow light and titanium white. I selected it ahead of time because I know the area and knew which colors I would need for some of the main elements–the green awnings, the greys of the stonework and the pinks of the flowering trees.

What About an Easel?

If I am sketching in pastel, I usually don’t bother with an easel. I just use an old canvas board (with one of my oil or acrylic demos on one side) and tape my paper to the back. This works well if you really want to travel light. If I am actually using paint (oil  or acrylic), then I like to have an easel. I have used both French easels and aluminum types. The French easels are nice and stable but way too heavy to carry around the city. Aluminum is ok, but a little shaky on uneven ground or if it is windy. I just ordered a new plein air system from Coulter, I will write a review of it after it arrives and I’ve had time to try it out.

Meanwhile, take advantage of the spring weather and get outside to paint whenever you can. Don’t be shy, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Hopefully the tips above will make it a little less stressful.


Don’t be in such a hurry…

March 12, 2012

7th Avenue, NYC (across from Penn Station) - acrylic on canvas, 12x12 in.

The title of this post does not refer to how quickly you paint, many artists (myself included) are not slow painters. I do my best work when I use quick, confident brush strokes and a limited number of colors. The application of the paint itself is not a drawn-out, labor-intensive process. It’s energetic and fun, but that’s because by the time I am doing a real painting (as opposed to a study), I’ve already done 2 or 3 studies of the subject in preparation for the final. In other words, I’ve done the homework and studied the subject before taking the test. Does this cut into my ability to be spontaneous? NO! It gives me the confidence and familiarity with the subject (and I use this term loosely since I approach all subjects in a similar manner from the start) so that I can be expressive when painting the piece on canvas.

In addition to doing studies in pastel or charcoal before starting a piece on canvas, I also carefully select a palette that suits whatever “mission” I have in creating a particular piece. Which reds, blues and yellows will work best in this particular painting? What are the colors present in the subject and which ones in my box will get the job done most efficiently? Do I need to introduce secondaries from the tube for a bolder look, or do I want to go in the opposite direction and stay with an extremely limited palette? Do I even want to use color at all?

I do the same thing when deciding what medium to use? Will acrylics or oils be better suited? Do I want a more graphic and contemporary feeling, or a softer more impressionistic look? We all have a range when it comes to style, but our work should look consistent when multiple pieces are displayed together. Keeping a consistent color palette, subject or theme is good idea in general, and key to a successful exhibit of multiple works.

If you are frustrated with your paintings more often than not, I would highly recommend taking the time before hand to do studies, plan your color palette, choose your subject and medium. Do this in an unhurried, relaxed manner. Think logically, not emotionally, and explore all the possibilities. Your studies are the time you take before hand to learn about the painting you are going to paint, so in a way, you are learning about something that does not yet exist. Explore all possibilities and don’t be afraid to fail, if you try something and it doesn’t work, take a different approach. Stay off the negative track and don’t start second guessing your skill, that is unproductive and won’t give you any answers. The answers are found in practice and planning, take the time to work out the idea in sketches, studies, color and compositional planning. Choose your medium carefully and have a clear understanding of what you want your painting to say. You’ll enjoy the process of putting the paint on the canvas, and can paint quickly and confidently, if you’ve done your homework first!

First Auction was a Buyers’ Market, What Will the Second Bring?

March 5, 2012

"Work Horse" oil, 8x10 in. - available in the March 11 Salmagundi Auction

The first of the Salmagundi Auctions, held last Friday, was definitely a buyer’s market! Many excellent works went for the minimum bid, and many others did not sell at all. Why? Well I’m sure the economy had something to do with it, also, having watched the process online (this year they have a live audio visual feed, which is really great!), it was obvious that attendance was down.

As an artist, it is always a risk to put your work in a fundraiser auction. I only participate in the Salmagundi Auctions and in the Blank Canvas Event at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. I choose these venues because they are highly curated, and therefore I can be assured that my work is hanging next to other works of professional quality. I also firmly believe in the mission of both of these venues and want to support them in whatever way I can.

So, from a collector’s perspective, these events can be an opportunity to acquire a favorite artist’s work at a below market price. For new collectors, or collectors who find themselves on a budget these days, it’s the perfect way to acquire pieces that might otherwise be out of range. If you are thinking about bidding, don’t hesitate! Offer an amount that you feel comfortable paying if you win, don’t over stretch your budget, but don’t not bid because you think you won’t win. As noted, professional artists don’t take these auctions lightly and don’t offer their work at below retail value very often. Not bidding is like not signing up for a workshop because you are not sure it will run, if everyone takes that attitude, it won’t, just as the painting won’t sell and it turns out to be everyone’s loss.

My painting, “Work Horse”, is offered in the second auction which takes place on Sunday, March 11 at 2 p.m., click here to bid online, or join in the fun live at the Club. They have a fabulous Sunday brunch before hand, visit their web site at or call 212-255-7740 for more information.

The Salmagundi Spring Auctions are Here!

February 27, 2012

Kullaf_Anne_3_Twilight, Central Park South

“Twilight, Central Park South”, oil on canvas is available in the first auction which will be held on March 2 at 8 p.m., click on the image to bid online.

The Club’s auctions, held in the fall and in the spring, are its primary fund raisers. The historic brownstone which houses the Club is currently undergoing a large renovation project–the main gallery is being restored to its original design complete with domed skylight! As the oldest arts club in the US, it is important that the Club retain its status as a center for American art, remaining true to its historic roots in the 19th and 20th century.

The auctions are a great way for collectors to acquire quality art by some of New York’s popular artist members. Opening bids begin at 1/3 the retail value of the artwork. For example, my painting featured in the first auction, “Twilight, Central Park South” will have an opening bid of $375. I would not offer this piece in a gallery for less than $1200! Depending on the auction traffic and popularity of the artist, sometimes it is possible to acquire a piece for less than retail value. So why do artists participate in these auctions?

For me, it is an opportunity to introduce my work to new collectors while supporting an institution that I am proud to be a member of. I don’t do charity auctions on a regular basis, and I only do them if they are curated and for an art-related organization. In doing so, I know my work is hanging next to work of the same professional quality. Also, it is important to note that the Club shares the profit from the sales with the artists on a 50-50 basis. This ensures that professional artists, who rely on the income from selling their paintings, will participate.

The Club’s online bidding system allows collectors to place bids in advance or to bid live as the auction takes place. If you are going to bid in advance and cannot bid during the auction either online or in person because of other commitments, it is wise to offer the amount you are comfortable paying for the piece, rather than to just offer the minimum bid. If you prefer to bid live, you can do so at the Club or online from the comfort of your home.

Here are links to the 2 pieces I have in the second and third auctions, I hope you will take the opportunity to support the Club and to acquire some new artwork for your collection!

Second Auction, March 11 at 2 p.m. features “Work Horse”

Third Auction, March 16 at 8 p.m. features “Into the Park”

Next week I will have an update on the first auction!

Capturing Form and Translucency

February 6, 2012

Clementines - demo in oil, 8x10 in.

There are 2 important things to remember when painting translucent objects that have textured surfaces such as clementines, oranges or lemons:

Form takes precedence over pattern; and don’t confuse bright with light.

When rendering a spherical or rounded object such as a piece of fruit, you need to make it appear 3 dimensional by focusing on the values that create its form, rather than any patterns that create texture on the surface. With a clementine, you simply ignore the dimpling in the skin and paint the shadow areas first, followed by the middle value sections and on into the lights. Block this in during the under painting stage and ignore the surface texture completely. When you are ready to go to color, you begin the same way, working from your shadow areas through the mid tones all the way through the lightest areas. This is where the light versus bright concept comes into play.

To make the shadow colors on the fruit above, first I mixed ultramarine and alizarin to create a violet-blue. I then mixed cadmium red light and cadmium yellow medium to make an orange the correct color of the medium value of the celmentine’s skin color. I mixed these two together (the violet-blue and the middle value orange) to create the shadow color, which I then blocked in. Next I took the middle value orange by itself and laid it in on the areas that were in the middle value range on the fruit, with a slight overlap where they met the shadows already blocked in. To create the lightest areas of the fruit, I simply added more cadmium yellow to the middle value orange. I did not add any white to the orange color of the skin, doing so would have made it lighter and duller, rather than brighter and more vibrant. White dulls colors down and can make them appear chalky, always ask yourself is it lighter or is it brighter, if it’s brighter, avoid the white!

To add a suggestion of the surface texture on the skin, I implied a few of the dimples with a few small brush strokes of middle value color into the shadow areas and few strokes of shadow color in the mid tones. You don’t need to paint every little dimple on the skin! Doing so would just cause confusion and probably diminish the 3 dimensional form you just worked so hard to create! Also, when applying the highlights, remember to add a little bit of yellow to the warm ones and some blue to the cool ones, rather than just white by itself, temperature is important. If you apply the highlights with a brush that is a little bit “beat up” you can actually imply even more of the skin texture, but don’t overdo it.

For the peeled segments of the fruit, you take the same approach as for the skin. Block in the forms first, work through the shadow areas and ignore the surface texture of the white membrane. When you are ready to paint the membrane (I’m told it is called “pith”), remember to only add the most prominent strands of it, just as with the skin, you don’t want to to overdo the surface texture. Keep the parts of the pith in the shadow areas cool in tone by adding some blue violets in the white, and the parts in light warm with some yellows added into the white.

Translucent objects are a challenge to paint, others you might enjoy trying include lemons, limes,  or onions (especially the skins). If you remember to focus on form and value and brights vs. lights, your fruit will look naturally translucent and appealing, good enough to eat!

Still Life from the Pantry

January 16, 2012
Still life demo of pantry items, acrylic on canvas, 10x7 in.

Still life demo of pantry items, acrylic on canvas, 10x7 in.

A still life does not need to contain elaborate items to be interesting. In fact, items from around the house can often be used to create dynamic, colorful still life compositions. I particularly like using items from the pantry, commercial packaging typically contains vibrant graphics and recognizable brand labels that can make an interesting, playful design.

The objects themselves are great for practicing your drawing skills: cylinders (cans), rectangular cubes (bread, boxes) and a variety of surface textures (metal, plastic and glass) are all represented in the goods stocked in the average pantry. Want to practice drawing ellipses? Do a still life of cans! The plastic on a bread bag contains wonderful contrasts and bright highlights. Glass and metal on jars and cans is always a challenge, painting them from life is the best way to improve your observational skills.

The geometric forms of the packaging also lend themselves to interesting, contemporary compositions. Use the geometrics to break up the space in a balanced manner.  Repeating shapes, colors and graphics are a great way to keep the eye moving and to prevent the viewer from becoming stuck or bored.

A still life does not always need to contain fruit and flowers! Be creative, there are items all around you that can make a unique and compelling set up.