Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Cast Drawing Class at Columbia University

Several months ago, Columbia University approached Jacob Collins and the GCA with an interest in establishing a cast drawing class in its art program. This interest has materialized in the form of "Academic Cast Drawing", a course taught by GCA instructor Edward Minoff. The class meets every Tuesday evening at Dodge Hall on the beautiful Columbia campus.
The Columbia University class at work

Course Description: Academic Cast Drawing

Students will connect with the very heart of the Western Art tradition, engaging in this critical activity that was the pillar of draftsmanship training from the Rennaissance on through the early Modern Era. This pursuit is the common thread that links artists from Michelangelo and Rubens to Van Gogh and Picasso. Rigorous studies will be executed from plaster casts of antique sculptures and pedagogical engravings. Students will confront foundational issues of academic training; assessing proportion and tonal value, structure and form. Hours will be spent on a single drawing pushing to the highest degree of accuracy in order develop a means for looking at nature. There is a focus on precision and gaining a thorough understanding of the interaction between light and a surface. This approach emphasizes drawing by understanding the subject and the physical world that defines it. While this training has allowed great representational artists of the past to unlock the poetry from the world around them and continues to inspire a surging new realist movement, it can also serve as a new way of seeing and a launching point for achieving creative goals.

Instructor Edward Minoff's demo sphere drawing
I managed to make it over to the most recent session to take a look at the class's work and see their progress. Adapting classical cast drawing to fit into a collegiate structure has been an interesting challenge for Edward Minoff, but I was impressed by the class's focus and interest in the classical methods.
The class runs through the entire semester, from February to April. The students began with the basics of measuring and shape relationships through copies of the block-in Bargue feature plates, soon moving on to the figure plates. They then switched to block-ins from the actual feature casts; while becoming introduced to form concepts by rendering spheres in graphite. When I visited, the class was just beginning to render their block-ins, which they will continue to do for the rest of the semester. We look forward to their continued progress!

Columbia University student drawing

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lecture: Golden Ratio

Ryan Brooker will be here to give a lecture on the golden ratio. Please join us! March 29, 4:00 PM

In his lecture, Ryan will cover many facets of this often neglected area of the painter’s craft. His lecture will include a brief description of the Golden Ratio’s mathematical properties, with an emphasis on its role in geometry. Ryan will illustrate that arguments regarding the Golden Ratio as more pleasing than any other actually hinder the painter’s ability to use it effectively, and lack legitimate empirical evidence. Using preliminary drawings produced by famous artists that display use of the Golden Ratio as his examples, Ryan will show how these painters have used Golden Ratio grids successfully as well as unsuccessfully. Ryan will then discuss how a firm understanding of the Laws of Gestalt psychology and human perception assist the painter in effectively using grids for composition. Finally, Ryan will illustrate how painters have made use of the Golden Ratio in their working process and show several examples of his own preliminary studies employing the methods discussed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Joshua LaRock - New Paintings and Interview Part 2

Josh is teaching a workshop on portrait drawing and painting this summer, as well as giving weekly figure and cast demonstrations in the summer intensive course. Find more information about that here.

See Part 1

How did you come to hear about Water Street Atelier, and what was its pull for you?

  I was doing a whole different career; I went to college for music business. Actually, I started out as a musician and then it just became apparent that I wasn’t going to become a performer - it wasn’t my calling in life, so I transferred into the business side of music for a little while, and it that wasn’t for me either. So, I did a huge amount of soul-searching, dealing with an inner existential angst about purpose and meaning in life.  I thought about and researched a number of careers; law, psychology, non-profits, even the seminary. There were previous times in my life I had thought about trying to be an artist as I had showed some aptitude, but I hadn’t been exposed to many of the artists that I revere now and I wasn’t drawn to contemporary art (which is all that was really being taught in the Universities), so I didn’t even know there were people out there still doing work like the Old Masters or the 19th century French Academy.  I tried at one point to change my major. I went to Art 101 and they sat me down with a lump of clay, and said, “Sculpt your favorite food.” We did that for three hours, and I was done.
The Grape Harvest
  Anyway, somewhere along the way I stumbled across John Singer Sargent. I remember being just enthralled that someone could paint like this. Through researching his life and education, I came across the word “atelier”. I did a Google search on the word and the Art Renewal Center came up, where I looked through their list of approved ateliers. I scanned through there, picked a few that I liked and made plans to visit them. I think that Water Street ended up winning out because of the locality; New York City is amazing, Jacob’s work is really compelling, and there seemed to be a good record of transmitting skill and technique apparent in the work of his students.  I also had the sense that Jacob was very hands-on and involved.  So I gave it a shot, it seemed to click and now I’m here.

During the transition from student at Water Street to a professional artist in NYC, what were the bumps and trials of that phase for you?

  I’m still transitioning; it’s a long road to building your name. I certainly benefited from those who have come before me and the relationships they had built, friends like Scott Waddell. Obviously Jacob has connections and being associated with him is valuable - so that helped just in terms of getting into a gallery, breaking into that world and getting advice. Of course you need to do good work to get into a gallery, making work that is saleable, but the relationships were helpful. 
It’s slow trying to figure out how to make a body of work that you’re proud of and finding a studio to accommodate that can also be difficult. Teaching has been a big help because it levels things out financially so that I can be a little more ambitious in my studio work.  But I would say that staying a part of the community here has been the biggest help, even though New York can be an expensive place to live and try to launch a career.  Being around other working artists and students, as well as a rich culture with museums and auction houses really keeps me going and inspired.  There is an ease to making and building business relationship that I think the city offers, too.  Everything is so concentrated here and so much is constantly happening.  Some people can do without it, they can leave and still thrive, but I think that I’ve really benefited from staying in NYC.

What do you attribute to aiding your rapid improvement during your student years at Water Street Atelier?

  I was really dedicated to the method that the school had set up. It was structured so that you do “this” on your cast drawing, so that it sets you up to do “this” on your block-ins, etc. I certainly was never perfect at any one of those things before I moved onto the next step, but I felt like I had gotten to a place where I could move onto the next task with a base of understanding, which was confirmed by my teachers. I was trying to make sure that I wasn’t running down the hill faster than my legs could carry me. I think that really helped.
Ale and Oysters
  On top of that, problem solving was also very important. A link I can see through the successful artists who have come out of the school is this common ability to take all of the information that they’re receiving from various people and whittle it down to its basic concepts - and then it’s just problem solving. Troubleshoot your problems; if something isn’t working, you have to sit down and figure out how to do it differently to make it work. As silly as it sounds, I think a lot of people try to do the same thing that isn’t working again and again and again. I think that I had some sort of ability to distill those ideas into their basic concepts and utilize the information effectively.    Different people explain things in different ways, even if they are all trying to say the same thing. I remember a time in cast painting when something clicked, and I don’t even know if there was a particular reason why. I just understood light in a more concrete way, the idea that if this plane is turning toward the light it must be brighter than the one that is facing farther away and so on. However, I really think that problem solving is the most important thing.  As a part of that, having a foundational understanding of the science and physics of light really helps.  I continue to rely on the idea that as long as I can understand more and more of what is actually going on in reality then I can always use it to problem solve and create the illusion of that effect in painting or drawing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

landscape painting exhibitions to see

Spring is here and it's time to get excited for another great summer of lansdscape painting! Here are two exhibitions that look inspiring:
George Inness in Italy at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (feb 19-may 15), and Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. (Feb 20 - May 30)

"Twilight on the Campagna" by George Inness

The Square of Saint Mark's, Venice, 1742/1744

Monday, March 14, 2011

Joshua LaRock - New Paintings and Interview Part 1

"Woe" by Joshua LaRock
Click for Hi-Res
I was lucky enough to sit down with Josh in his studio last week and talk to him about the making of his new painting, "Woe", as well as hear a little bit about his time before, during and after Water Street Atelier/GCA (included in part two of the interview.) Josh teaches in the core program, the cast night class, and the long pose portrait night class. This summer Josh will also be teaching a 10-day portrait drawing and painting workshop at GCA, as well as performing weekly cast and figure drawing demonstrations in the summer one-month drawing intensive (you can find more information about these workshops here.) 

As an artist so inspired by the greats of the 19th century, how do you channel their ideas and aesthetic into your own work while remaining original?

Waiting to Cross
  I try to study them, imbibe their character and learn as much about their lives and culture as I can. I try to read the things they read, study what they studied. I’ve done some paintings that were copies, essentially - at least of their compositions. I tried to set up the live model in front of me how the original artist would have, while at the same time examining the original.  In a way, I was trying to reverse engineer their work.  I would look at the way Bouguereau painted an ear, and then I would go paint an ear, and compare and think back, and learn a little more. Then I’d do it again and learn something else. There are a thousand little lessons in their works that start to influence you via the image library in your mind. I think that was really helpful in terms of supplementing my working method and, after all, executing copies was always a part of the 19th century training, too.  So I simply try to look at their work a lot, examining technique and compositions. I have been reading through some compositional theory and analyzing different paintings I like to see if they fit with the ideas.  For me, its a matter of understanding the basic character and taste of what they were doing as best as I can discern it, and loving what they loved - the pursuit of truth and beauty. I have that reverence and awe of nature they shared, and I want to connect with it in the same way.

Could you explain your process on your new painting, “Woe”, from start to finish?

Portrait of the Artist
  This is related to what I was saying before; as I’ve been studying the 19th century, I am trying to follow what they did as closely as possible, piecing together what I can from the various sources. I started with the basic idea; I wanted to do an emotion and chose “anguish”.  But then I was able to hire John Forkner, who is a great model, so I thought we should do something a bit more difficult in terms of a pose.  To prepare, I filled up a page of my sketchbook with little thumbnails of the basic gesture, and I picked a few that I liked. During my first session with John, we tried out these poses, seeing what would work compositionally and gesturally concerning the lines and shapes, and what was possible under the limitations of the live model. From that I saw some different things that I liked which I chose to include in the final drawing. I used toned paper with graphite and a little bit of white chalk to help suggest the form. I worked out all the different proportion and anatomy problems there, and then had to do some drapery studies. I did the drapery over the top of the final drawing on tracing paper, so I didn’t have to deal with proportion or scale and could focus solely on the beautiful folds that wouldn’t last. I did a number of those and picked out my favorite “pieces”. Then I projected the figure study onto a large sheet of paper making a cartoon at the actual size I wanted the finished painting to be.  I made any corrections that I needed to at this stage because, at this larger size, things can become apparent that may not have been as obvious before, such as a hand being slightly too big, for example.  I then drew the drapery onto the cartoon from the studies, piecing them together.  I had John back in for a final drawing session to make sure it all worked together, and once I was satisfied I transferred the cartoon onto the final canvas with graphite and finally ink. In between there I did a few compositional studies in oil trying to see where I wanted the patches of light and dark to fall, and the different colors, as well as what I was going to use for the background.
  The background idea actually changed; I was going to put him in a throne-like chair but it seemed better to have him in a more natural setting, so I figured that out afterward. I decided on an arid climate, which dictated some of the earth colors I would be using. For reference, I was looking at different paintings that I liked and had a similar setting, trying to get a sense of their character. I love the Hudson River School, so I was looking at their work a lot to see how to describe hills and far-off distances, adapting it to the piece. Specifically, I was looking at a fantastic work by Frederic Church called “Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.” I did the background in a layered approach as well, so the first layer told me if it was achieving the desired effect and whether it was working with the lighting of the already finished figure.

You can see more of Josh's work at :  http://www.joshualarock.com/Welcome.html

Friday, March 11, 2011

Take Portrait Sketch with Ted & Travis!

by Travis Schlaht

Ted Minoff
and Travis Schlaht , who co-teach the popular monthly (60 hr) Figure Drawing and Painting class at GCA known as TNT, are expanding the reach of their co-teaching empire this August. Sign up for their summer workshop: Portrait Sketch, August 1 – 5, 2011!

Spots are flying like hot cakes!
To sign up, email Joy at: gcaclasses@gmail.com

Course Description:

Each day will bring a new pose, building towards painting convincing and lifelike portrait sketches. We will approach the portrait sketch through a series of pedagogical steps beginning with portrait drawing in pencil, then charcoal, grisaille and finally we will spend the concluding days on portrait sketches in oil using a full color palette. There will be an emphasis on drawing throughout, discussing concepts of flat shape block-in, anatomy, structure and perspective as they relate to the portrait. Paint handling and color mixing will be discussed as the workshop graduates to oils. The class will employ a combination of demonstrations by the instructors and individual critiques to guide students to meet individual goals.

To sign up, email Joy at: gcaclasses@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Live music series, right here!

While on the website for the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen this morning, I noticed there will be some live music here in the library this Thursday night. Christopher Paul Stelling will be the first musician in their new 10-month series "Muse and Music." His music is highly recommended by Colleen Barry, and Will St John, who (total coincidence!) live with him in Brooklyn. Head over to the General Society website to read more about this event and to RSVP. Show is at 7 PM this thursday march 10th.

We have a window!

Check out our new window display at 20 West 44th St! (between 5th & 6th Aves). This is the first time we've had a window, and we would like to thank the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen for generously donating one for us to use. Artwork featured in the window is by Lauren Sansaricq, Edward Minoff, Victoria Herrera, Carla Crawford, and Emilie Lee. (if anyone can identify the artist who painted the griffin cast painting, please let me know!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Study Landscape in the Catskills this July!

by Thomas Kegler

by Erik Koeppel

Along with the Hudson River Fellowship this year, GCA will be running two landscape painting workshops taught by Senior Fellows Erik Koeppel and Thomas Kegler. Workshop students (instructed daily) and Fellows (studying independently) will tread the same paths, and choose their subjects from among the same streams, root systems and sunsets (and downpours!)

To see examples of pencil drawings, tonal studies and plein air oil sketches by Fellows in previous years, search the blog archives under July/August of 2009 and 2010. While workshop instructors will teach from their experience as individual artists, they will both address the three primary components of the Hudson River Fellowship curriculum: field studies, theory and studio painting.

Click here for Fellowship information.
Click here for workshop details.
If you have questions about either program, email Stephanie Young at: school@hudsonriverlandscape.com