Saturday, October 11, 2008


This quote is by Frank Vincent Dumond, who taught painting at the Art Students League in New York for nearly 60 years, and it should be the motto of every realist painter who paints from life.  He taught my teacher, Frank Mason, how to mass, and Frank Mason taught me.  I now teach it to my students.  Massing is the underlying structure that every good painting should have to make it read as an illusion of light, form, and depth.  Massing is learning to simplify and let go of the outline, and instead, think in terms of bulk, weight and advancing or receding in space.  

I have this quote taped to the top of my easel as a reminder.  Every painting is problem solving, and learning to solve your masses is key.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Priming Linen

We paint on various surfaces:  canvas, panel and paper.  Here are a couple of shots of Jack priming the linen.  He usually does this in the summer and in the driveway.  The linen is tacked to a large board.  Later, when this is dry, he stores it to let it cure.  Then, he can cut it (or keep it large for a big painting) for various size canvases.  


Although most of the students in my workshop were working in oils, Priscilla chose to work with pastel pencils.  The principles are the same.  Mass your shadows, mass your lights relative to your shadows, and you will create an illusion of light every time.  Pastel pencils are a great medium.  They are forgiving and can be erased.  They are easy to store, and the clean up is a snap.  It is a great alternative for moms with little kids and limited time for painting.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


My first weekend workshop was an intensive that touched on:  still life, landscape (plein air) and portrait.  All of the disciplines are connected.  They all feature problem solving with light, form, depth and movement, and one discipline helps the other.  The portrait segment was on the last day, and we had a spectacular model.  In this photo, she is taking a break, but you can see the skull and the "planes" head that I always use to help students analyze the form and structure on the model.   Future workshops, as well as weekly classes and "Open" sessions (no instruction) will focus on portrait/figure painting.

First Workshop

This past weekend, I taught my first workshop in the studio.  I limit my classes to 8 students, and I had 7 in this class.  We all fit in pretty well.  Six still lifes were set up around the room, so the students are facing in various directions.  Squinting is a big part of learning to simplify and mass.  The student on the left is squinting and using her brush to measure.  A workshop format is very intense, and we are using comparative relationships to gage space and value.  All painting is from life and done in alla prima, or one shot.  So, we are drawing and painting simultaneously.

Using Both Tables at Once

In this photo, I am painting 2 still life paintings.  You can see both set-ups.  The still life table with the brass and flowers has had the backdrop removed, so that I am using just the wall color for my background. 
Everything in the studio is movable.  Different configurations can be quickly arranged to best suit my needs, or get the desired light effect.  In this photos, you can see 2 still life tables.  The one with the cast also serves as a storage unit for new canvases or panels.  The top is painted in a faux marble, and the whole thing is on casters so it can be moved around the room.  The other table is his new invention.  I can change the height of my still life by moving the table to a different position on the black blocks, which you can see under the table.  This is very handy because I am a foot shorter than Jack!  Along the sides of the table, and behind my set up, are 2 slots in which different colored backdrops can be placed.  Again, the whole thing is on casters.

Studio Interior

Here I am in the studio.  Behind me, you can see the model stand, an adjustable still life table that Jack made and a large canvas on Jack's easel.  He plans on painting a large landscape, over the winter, from one of his smaller plein air studies (and drawings) that he did this summer.

Studio Sign

The sign went up over the front door.  2009 marks our 30th year in Vermont.  
Over the last 6 months, we have been building a studio.  The skylights face north, so the light is cool and consistent.  It measures 24'x28', and it is large enough so I can teach.  Prior to this, most of my teaching was done out of state and in the form of "workshops".  Now, with the studio, I can set up a weekly schedule, as well as workshops for serious students who want to learn to paint in a realistic manner from life.