Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Workshop Highlight: Self-Portrait with Gregory Mortenson and Patrick Byrnes

For the first time at GCA, we're offering a Self-Portrait workshop. One of the instructors, Gregory Mortenson, sat down to talk about what inspired this new workshop and offered some insights into his own work and process.

Most Saturdays after teaching my weekly portrait class, I found myself in Patrick's studio to see what he's working on. I stay way too long, and my wife is always upset because I get home 2-3 hours after I finish teaching. Patrick always has some beautiful painting that grabs my attention because of the bold brush work and riveting likeness. We start bouncing ideas off of one another about current paintings or future paintings and the next thing I know my wife is calling to ask why I'm still at the GCA hours after I should be home.

Self-Portrait by Patrick Byrnes, 2016
This workshop offers an interesting perspective not just for the students, but for myself. I started teaching at the GCA in 2010 and I really haven't heard another teacher's perspective since my days as a student. Since I'll be demoing while Patrick is teaching, I'll be able to hear his take on a lot of the technical points of drawing and painting that I'm so interested in. On the flip side, while I'm teaching I'll be able to see his masterful demo.
Self-Portrait by Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, 1867
Which artists' self-portraits are you drawn to and why?

You can't have this conversation without Rembrandt. The texture and soulfulness of his paintings has inspired generations. 19th century artist such as Bouguereau, Kramskoi, and Henri Fantin-Latour come to mind for their academic prowess. But I also love a good Van Gogh or Egon Schiele self-portrait.  They all seem to pull me into a time machine of sorts. I feel like I'm sitting across from them, sharing our inner most thoughts over a beer.

Self-Portrait at 34

For the past several years, you've been painting a self-portrait almost every year. Talk about what inspired this and the discoveries you've made along the way.

I didn't start that series with the intention of doing a series, in fact the first one was a beard study for a biblical painting. I liked how it was turning out so I pushed it further than just a study. The next year someone commissioned me to do a self-portrait. The third year I did an article on the steps of painting a classical self-portrait for American Artist Magazine. Suddenly I was three paintings in on a series. When you lined them all up I could slowly see myself aging as well as my technical abilities improving. I decided to keep the series going.
Self-Portrait at 35

In your series, environment, gaze and wardrobe also play a large role. What informs your choices?

I've done all of them for different reasons.  The first one, as I mentioned earlier, I did for a beard study.  Later I was getting into genealogy and I liked the idea of doing a self-portrait depicting each of my ancestral roots.  The first was my Russian heritage where I depicted myself with a Russian fur hat.  I still need to do one for my Swedish, Scottish, and English roots.
Self-Portrait at 36 in Fur Hat
I was also interested in using two mirrors to paint myself from a profile or 3/4 view where the painting wouldn't be looking directly at the viewer. That was an interesting exercise because it felt like I was painting myself from a stranger's vantage point. Outside looking in. 

Self-portrait drawn with colored pencils and white charcoal
Just as you have done, your students will sit down at an easel and face themselves in the mirror. Give us a hint to some of the advice you will give as they stare and start to work...

I've done so many self-portraits that everyone calls out my narcissism, but keep in mind, this isn't vanity, this is a free, reliable model.

To view more of Gregory Mortenson's Self-Portraits and artwork, visit his website: gregorymortenson.com

There's a few remaining spots in the workshop he's teaching with Patrick Byrnes this Friday - Monday, September 9 - 12 from 10am - 5pm every day. To Register, visit our our website here.

Greg also teaches weekly Long Pose Portrait Drawing and Painting classes in the mornings and afternoons on Saturdays. Patrick teaches Portrait Sketch on Sunday afternoons and Long Pose Portrait Drawing and Painting in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Kathryn Engberg. Fall classes start the week of September 12th and registration is open. View more about our weekly afternoon, evening and weekend classes.

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