Monday, November 29, 2010

Tony Curanaj in SCOPE Miami

Tony Curanaj has several paintings represented by Joshua Liner Gallery in this year's SCOPE Miami Art Show. This event runs from 11/30-12/5 in the Wynwood Art District in Miami, Florida. Look for booth E18 if you are there! For more information click here.

Yorick the Jester by Tony Curanaj, 16 x 14 in. Oil on panel, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Peter Trippi Lecture on 11/30

Painting in England, 1837 - 1901, a lecture by Peter Trippi
You are invited to join us for a free lecture on Nov. 30 at 4:30 PM in the cast hall. As usual, we will be feasting on our trademark lecture snack: red wine and oreo cookies.

Independent scholar Peter Trippi will survey the wide range of paintings made in England during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Although Britain was the world's leading superpower during this period, its art has unfairly been written off by most American scholars as provincial and backward-looking. Rather than providing an in-depth analysis of each movement active during this lively period, Trippi will explain how and why they are interconnected by highlighting their finest examples. Among the topics to be covered are Pre-Raphaelitism, the Aesthetic Movement, the Grand Manner, Landscape, Watercolors, and the varying influences from Paris.

John Everett Millais (1829-1896) Isabella 1848-49, Oil on canvas, 40 ½ x 56 ¼ in. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

When: November, 30, 4:30 - 5:30pm
Where: GCA Cast Hall
Lectures are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
Please RSVP to:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast and Limbo!

(There are many photos of food and limbo antics here, but please scroll down to the previous post and make sure you get to read Scott Waddell's interview!)

There are no starving artists at GCA! Today we had our annual Thanksgiving pot luck FEAST, and I have to say, everyone really put in the effort to bring in some amazing food.

Gregory Mortenson, reigning limbo champion and recent GCA graduate, returned to defend his position. Here he is starting off the limbo competition with a plate of food in hand.

Greg had some stiff competition from new students like Connor DeJong

and Ken Yarus

and our models Dani

and Nate

The crowd goes wild ...

We have some pretty bendy people here!

Liz Beard making it look easy!

Zoe Dufour sticks in until the very end...

Liz feeling the pressure as the limbo stick goes lower...

and she sticks it!

In the end it was Greg Mortenson vs. Liz Beard

And the winner is LIZ!

Nice job Greg, Liz, & Zoe!

Next was the unveiling of a very special cake. Everyone tries to get a closer look at what that image is...

Yes, that is Neal Esplin, and Bob Silverman, in a Waterhouse painting, on a cake. Neal and Bob are both finishing up their studies at GCA this month!

Neal and Bob cut their cake.

After that Ken amazed us all with some of his magic

which we never cease to be amazed by...

And then everyone tried to get back to work. Many thanks to Joy and Justine, seen here working hard in the GCA office, for organizing events like this and motivating everyone to take a break from their easels to enjoy fellowship and friendship! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Interview with Artist Scott Waddell - Part 1

Welcome to the next installment of the GCA interview series! I had the pleasure of sitting down with Scott Waddell, a core teacher in the program and overall fantastic artist. Scott had a lot to say in his responses, and I felt it would be a disservice to pare down his questions, so this interview will be released in two parts. Part 1 will consist of my own interview questions, and Part 2 will consist of responses to the previously submitted reader questions. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight Scott's brand new artist webisodes series. Many months in the making, Scott is beginning to release short video lessons concerning the art and science of drawing. His first webisode has just been released, and it covers the block-in stage of a portrait drawing. You can see this webisode on Scott's blog here:

Could you share a little bit of information on how you made the transition from art student to professional artist?

Yes, that’s a really good question, and I think it’s something that's relevant to all of my students. The expectation here is that you're going to turn this into a profitable business, with the idea that you can continue to do this for the rest of your life. I always thought of it like that; I knew that in order to do art all my life, I would have to find a way to make money doing it.  

In my case, I think that the most depressing or frustrating time was the
first year and a half after I finished studying. I was no longer in an environment where people had the same values I have in art, and it was of course very difficult to hire models to get better at the craft. I had to work a part time job; in fact I was making less money per hour than I was paying my model. There were a lot of sacrifices, and it required a lot of faith. There were periods where that faith waned, and at times I was tempted to do something else. I thought I might find another career in which I could make money more easily and stably, but even though I entertained those thoughts it never really stuck. Art is just too much a part of me; it has been a part of my whole life. I don’t think I could really exist without it. I know that sounds a little corny, but whether it's painting or drawing and telling a story, I compulsively have to do it. 

The transition really began when I was looking at an art magazine, American Art Collector. I opened it up and saw that there was a gallery in Nantucket, where Moby Dick was partially set; at the time I happened to be making whaling paintings, because I live in Mystic, CT, and there was a whaling boat on the water outside my house. I sent them an email in their little inquiry section of their website, and they got back to me. I was really nervous, because there is this feeling coming out of art school  that no one is going to want to represent your work, but they came and took the work, and it just built from there. In retrospect it seems very easy in the manner I’m describing it, but in reality it was a difficult and testing time.

You’re one of the few realist narrative painters working in the States right now; with very few teachers and resources in the art of narrative work, how do you develop and execute your narrative paintings?

Well, I’m incredibly flattered, sincerely flattered, that anyone out there would consider me a narrative painter. Narrative painting is the main reason I  wanted to become a painter; I’ve always been interested in creating beautiful studies and beautiful paintings, but my whole life I’ve been motivated by the desire to tell stories. Painting is the way I want to do that, and the paintings that I connect with most in history are the ones that depict some part of the human experience.

I actually feel that I’m very unsuccessful with my narrative work, but I’m very glad to hear that you and other people feel that I’m getting somewhere with it. However, as you said, without a real group of people working in this manner in a contemporary setting, learning this craft is difficult. Looking back on history, I can only guess and imagine how the artists of the time were working. I look back through art history to aid in handling the understanding of light and form and the scale of figures against each other, and even looking at illustration there are strategies, like those of Loomis, which can be very useful. However, I still feel like I can’t manage putting all of this  information together in a way that I like. My paintings can be described as narrative, but they still have this quality that comes out of this sort of contemporary “atelier” style; they are usually single figures in an environment, and the environment isn’t as lucid or clear as the figure itself. I definitely think that narrative work is something I’m still working on.

I do have to say that I certainly see other painters doing good narrative work, especially some Chinese painters, or my friend Josh LaRock, here at GCA.  He has done some narrative paintings and done quite well with them. I’m optimistic that I’ll get better with time, because narrative pieces are what I want to do, but sometimes I feel at a loss for how to make my work better and more like the paintings in history that I love. Those pieces just look so effortless. If you look at a Caravaggio, it just seems like he decided, “Hmmm, I’ll put a figure here, and a horse here, da da da,” and I mean I’m sure there is much more to it than that, but I’d really love to gain that fluidity.

On top of being an excellent narrative painter, you are also known for your portraits. Would you share your process, from prep work to the final stroke?

Yes, definitely. Essentially, (and it’s not dissimilar to the traditional Water Street/GCA procedure) I begin drawing in graphite on paper, and I try to get it as accurate as possible. I think of shapes on the picture plane, judging height to width proportions, and trying to break them down to smaller shapes; as well as taking comparative measurements. Relatively soon in the drawing process, I shift over to a more conceptual line of thinking. I begin to examine the drawing at a deeper level than the purely optical, asking myself, ”What are these shapes? Oh, this is a nose, let me make it look more like the nose of the model. This is the cheek of the model, now I have to make sure it connects to the nose well.” The shape patterns begin to take on even more meaning, as I begin to deal with terminators of form shadows, the areas where the light is tangent to the form, and cast shadows, as in form blocking light from reaching another form. All this data is refined, and it begins to take on real volume and real form in a linear capacity. 

From there I transfer the drawing to linen, and I create a wash over my conte transfer. I do this monochromatic scrub-in with raw umber and turpentine, and it begins to develop a faint and preliminary impression of the form. None of the values are supposed to one-to-one correspond to the values in life, but they’re supposed to retain a relationship that depicts the effect of the visual phenomena of light on form. Now, this is where the fork in the road is; I have tried a variety of things after this initial stage. The most typical one is a translucent full-color ebauche, where I go over the whole portrait and consider the large planar relationships of the form. Then I mix colors close to the local hue of the model, and the values that I will need to render the model, and I begin my final pass. What people see when they’re looking at a very undeveloped area next to a highly modeled passage is the uncovered ebauche.

I usually try and highly develop one particular area at the beginning of a portrait (I don’t necessarily recommend this particular part of my process to everyone out there), because I need to fall in love with that piece. I need something to feel protective about that will keep me
excited. I know that’s backwards to what some may consider a good working process, but I need to be attached to that initial piece because it helps boost my confidence and it reminds me that I know how to paint somewhat. Ebauches don’t make me feel that way; they make me feel like I’ve been very sloppy. When I initially paint an eye very well, or a nose very well, and the illusion that it is coming off the canvas is very clear and lucid, it also helps me render surrounding areas and build out of that. Capturing that standard of quality from the beginning is very useful to maintain a high level throughout the portrait. For better or for worse, that is essentially why I do that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Emilie Lee in Colorado group show

I will be out in Golden, Colorado this Thursday night for the opening of a group show called "Alpine Styles" The exhibition showcases artwork about the mountain world by five different rock climber artists. I'll be bringing my most recent landscape paintings from my last two summers at the Hudson River Fellowship and some of my older climbing journals. If you're in the front range area, come on out for the reception!

Bark Study by Emilie Lee, oil on linen, 6 3/4" x 9"

Reception is at 6PM on Thursday 11/18
Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum
710 10th St
Golden, CO

Thursday, November 11, 2010

whats happening in the sculpture studio

I've been trying to stick my head in the sculpture studio once in a while to keep up with what everyone is working on in there. At the moment, a lot of students are investing their time in copying casts. This is a really great way to hone one's observation skills and ability to interpret form in the three-dimensional medium of clay. All students are required to copy a certain number of casts before moving on to the live model. Once they have spent some time sculpting from the live model, students are also required to spend time copying casts of ecorche to better understand anatomy.

This is an ecorche copy in an early stage of progress

Sam Hung copying a skull cast

Lauren Sansaricq is learning about let muscles in this ecorche cast copy

Joseph Herrmann copying one of the feature casts - this is one of the first projects students tackle when beginning sculpture

Sculpture teacher Mason Sullivan critiquing a student (who is hiding from the camera) on this project copying a cast of the Belvedere Torso

Charlie Harris copies a skull

Spencer Brainard is copying a life cast of this head. This project is a prerequisite to portrait sculpture

Joseph Herrmann and Shihwen Wu at work on their feature casts

Sculpture teacher Jiwoong Cheh and Spencer Brainard are the only ones not hiding from the camera in this class where 5 people are copying a cast together

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Upcoming Featured Artist: Scott Waddell

Scott Waddell, GCA teacher and professional fine artist, is our next interviewee!

If you are not already familiar with Scott's work, you can browse through a selection of his art at:

If you have any questions you would like Scott to answer, please post them in the comments section. The best questions will be chosen for inclusion in the interview. The deadline for posting questions is midnight this Thursday, November 11th.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Utrecht Contest

The results are in! A committee made up of judges from GCA, Utrecht and American Artist Magazine have awarded Elizabeth Zanzinger the grand prize: six weeks of study at GCA this summer! Congratulations, we can't wait to have you join the fun on w 44th St.

"Permanence" by Elizabeth Zanzinger, willow charcoal on paper, 28x25

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Interview with Artist Will St. John

And thus begins GCA's student and teacher interview series! Every few weeks a student, teacher or alumnus will be featured with their artwork and a one-on-one discussion concerning their life and art. 

This week we sit down with student and part-time teacher Will St. John. Will is an exceptionally talented draftsman, painter and sculptor in his fourth year at the academy. Will also co-instructs the Saturday "Structure Drawing" class with Colleen Barry, which has a focus on understanding anatomy and the workings of the human figure through direct study of the live model, ecorche, the skeleton and master works.

Was art a part of your life when you were growing up? Can you remember your first introduction to art?

My mom is a librarian, so when I was a kid I used to draw after school from these copy books she had in her library; there was a particular one of mythological creatures that I was really obsessed with. Each drawing  was broken down into basic shapes, ovals and squares, and you would elaborate on them until a centaur would appear, or a dragon. It was a bit like the Bargue book come to think of it. I remember copying and drawing out of those books and really enjoying it. After that, I was lucky to have an art teacher in high school who believed that drawing was important, and he introduced me to a local life drawing class, which was extremely helpful.

Did you attend any art schools before GCA?

After high school I went to college; not for art but for creative writing, here in the city at the New School. I took some drawing classes in college but it wasn’t really geared towards what I was interested in, so I started taking classes at the Art Students League. Then I went to Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia briefly and Studio Escalier in France. The level of instruction was really excellent there so when I came back to the States I wanted to find a teacher who had a similar method. That’s when I found Jacob and Water Street Atelier; which then became Grand Central Academy. It has taken a while to end up here, but I’m glad I finally did.

What do you feel has been integral for expanding your understanding of the human figure to a higher level?

Sculpture, more than anything, as well as the study of anatomy. I feel those two go hand in hand. If you’re doing anything for a long period of time, such as drawing the figure, or doing block-ins... you improve, but you also fall into habits. Sometimes you can gloss over things that you are doing wrong, or that you don’t understand. For me, sculpture revealed gaps in my understanding of the figure that I might not have recognized otherwise.
   I feel like it has also helped my understanding of the 2-D concepts taught here at the GCA. Oftentimes Jacob would tell me, “Imagine that your drawing is a sculpture, and you are reaching through the picture plane with your pencil.”  I tried to do that, and I sort of got there, but until I tried sculpting I couldn't really differentiate between the experience of copying patches of light shimmering in front of my eye and building form on the page.

In your opinion, what are the top drawing and painting exercises, besides cast drawing and figure drawing, that students should be investing their time in to improve as Classical artists?

I think making copies of Old Master drawings and paintings has really helped me improve, especially when I took the extra time to analyze them anatomically. Robert Beverly Hale's Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters is really great for that. There is so much complexity to these simple looking drawings, and Hale does a great job of explaining them in ways you would probably never think of. Again it goes back to understanding the thing you are drawing instead of just copying the appearance of things.

I also think that drawing from your imagination can be really helpful, and I don’t just mean dragons or whatever. Think about the pose that you drew from the model all day, and while going home on the train try drawing it from your mind. You can even try rotating it conceptually and visualizing it from different viewpoints and angles. Just see what you can do from imagination or from memory; what you can’t do is usually what you don't understand. It makes the gaps in your knowledge apparent, so you can then focus your attention on those problem areas when you're back in front of the model.

Do you have any last piece of advice for art students reading this interview?

I think it’s really difficult to do but extremely helpful to humble yourself by taking your painting/drawing and putting it next to something really good, something you really admire. Look at it and compare; see what differences there are between what you are doing and what they were doing. It’s really one of the hardest situations to put yourself into as an artist, but it will show you where you need to improve.

You can find more of Will's work at his website: .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

what's happening in still life class

I took some photos of what we are working on in still life class (taught by Tony Curanaj). This class meets every morning, five days a week in the core program. Most of the students are in their 3rd year of studies. One of the things we are learning is the importance of patient preparation before getting into the final painting. A lot of painting problems can be prevented by spending more time on the compositional thumbnails, drawing, wipe-out, value study, and color study. After going through each of these stages with thoughtful consideration, the final painting should go much more smoothly.

These are thumbnails by Neal Esplin. In this stage of the process, he is trying out several different compositions using the same objects.

Neal chose this composition and now he is spending time making a very accurate drawing.

Neal's set-up

For mine, I tried out these three different compositions...

eventually focusing on this one.

After I finished doing a very accurate drawing, I transferred it to this canvas and did a wipe-out using a thin wash, allowing the white of the canvas to show through for the light parts.

next I did this small value study which I will refer to throughout the final painting to keep my value range in check.

the set-up

Here is Victoria Herrera's drawing for the painting she is working on

those are some crazy reflections in the porcelain!

Chris Rigney's drawing

Here, Chris has just transferred his drawing to his canvas. Next he will do a small value study and maybe a color study too.

Tony Curanaj brought in a recently finished still life from his studio for us to check out

this is the painting that Connie Netherton is working on

up close

her set-up
Connie's painting with the color study on the right