Thursday, May 22, 2014

Interview with Gregory Mortenson

Self-Portrait in Russian Hat, Oil on Linen, 16" x 14", 2012
by Gregory Mortenson
Leeanna: You were one of the first students to enroll and graduate from The Water Street Atelier in its current location in NYC. Can you tell me about your history and growth as an artist here?

Yeah, I was in that first group that started studying at the Grand Central Academy.  I remember being a little star struck.  I had been following the work that was coming out of the Water Street Atelier for years.  Suddenly I was studying with the superstars of that group.   My growth as an artist has been immense.  I think the most measurable take away has been adding theory and understanding to my method.  Before studying here, art making seemed somewhat magical to me.  I sometimes would look at my own work and wonder, “how did I do that?”  Now I have a very specific method where I know A+B gets me to C.

Orveda, 20" x 16", Oil On Linen, 2012
by Gregory Mortenson
Leeanna: Looks like you travel a lot. Your portraits for your Haiti series are beautiful. Can you tell me a little more about what prompted your study and series in Haiti and what some of your future plans are?

Gregory My first trip to Haiti was shortly after the earthquake of 2010.  When I saw the devastation on TV I wanted to help somehow.  I got the opportunity to go with a friend who was building an orphanage and schoolhouse for children who lost their homes in the quake.  I helped with some manual labor and did a few sketches on that trip.   I really wanted to be more involved with the kids but I just didn’t know what I could do to help.  Last year I was able to return to Haiti where I taught some drawing classes.  The children range from K-12 so I broke it down into three different age groups and taught them still life and portrait drawing.  They loved it and I found it very rewarding.  I plan on returning this summer and teaching more classes and sketching as much as I can.  In 2015, I plan on having a fund-raising show at Arcadia Gallery.  The show will be built around the orphanage and children there.

Leeanna: That's wonderful Gregory! I look forward to seeing your show at Arcadia. I hope more artists become inspired by how you've helped a community and do the same. Another painting that caught my eye was one titled "Underground Busk" of a young accordion player. Can you tell me what inspired this piece?

Underground Busk, 40x22", Oil on Linen with Gold and Silver Guilding, 2013
by Gregory Mortenson

Gregory Melissa is the model that I used for that painting.  I drew and painted her several times here at the GCA.  She came to New York to get her MFA in classical piano at NYU.  While here, she picked up the accordion and joined several bands.   On occasion, I would hang out with her outside of the studio.  Often she would play on the street as we waited for a bus or a subway.  She always attracted a crowd and start an instant party. Years later I got the idea to paint her as a street performer.  She came to my studio, and as we got caught up, I found out she was actually making a living “busking” on the subway.  In fact, she was planning on performing immediately after our modeling session.  I accompanied her to the subway to get a feel for what it was like.   It took about a year of working on again, off again but I finally got her in my studio enough to finish the painting.  The subway platform I used in the background is a mosaic at the Bryant Park subway stop not far from the GCA.

Leeanna: Gregory, as a student of yours in the past for your figure class, I can attest to your patience and kindness as a teacher. Can you tell us a little more about your technique and what your students can expect to achieve in your portrait workshop?

Gregory In the workshop we’ll do a detailed block-in with graphite on paper, working out the perspective, anatomy, and structure of the portrait.  Then we’ll transfer that drawing onto a canvas.  The next step will be the imprimatura, where we will do a monochromatic wipe-out, effectively focusing on establishing a hierarchy of value and strengthening the drawing.  The next stage will focus on turning the form.  There will be emphasis on the physics of light, as well as discussions around hue, chroma, value and some Munsell basics. Of course every student will have different experience levels and goals.  I’ll work with each student individually to help them achieve those goals.

Gregory will be teaching a Portrait Drawing and Painting Workshop  June 2nd - 6th

$625 (deposit $325)
10am - 5pm (lunch: 1-2pm) • Monday - Friday
Full payment due upon registration.
Class open, limit is 14 students.

To register now and save your seat, click here!

Click here to view our Summer Workshop Schedule.

No comments: