Monday, March 28, 2016

The Women of Studio Incamminati

by Wendy Wagner
Level Three student

March has been Women's History month. In light of this, I thought I would highlight the women of Incamminati.

As a female, I look up to the instructors as examples of where my own career can go. I asked some of them about the women to whom they look for inspiration.
I did not give parameters, because, as you know, inspiration can come from anywhere - from someone's work, words, or examples. It does not mean one who paints as you do. And, of course, your taste may change with whatever phase you are in at the time.

Instructor Lea Colie Wight listed women such as Rosa Bonheur, and generally all the work by Helene Schjerfbeck, contemporary painters Kouta Sasai, and our own Jafang Lu. She added Cecelia Beaux, and Mary Cassatt from her earlier days.
To view Lea's work, go to
Examples of Lea's Inspiration
Instructor Robin Frey cited Florida artist Nike Parton, who taught her the importance of painting every day and following your heart.
Her website is:

Fellow, and recent SI grad Shira Friedman mentioned influences such as Cecelia Beaux, Kathe Kollwitz, Elizabeth Eakins, Mary Cassatt and Minerva Chapman.
To view Shira's work, go to:
Examples of Shira's Inspiration
Instructor Natalie Italiano mentioned that early on Cecelia Beaux was an inspiration, but currently she is enjoying the work of Margaret Bowland.
Natalie's page is

To learn about the work of our other female instructors and fellows, click on the links below.

Instructor Alisyn Blake
Instructor Katya Held
School co-founder/Instructor Leona Shanks:

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Modeling the Mouth in Plasteline, a Structural Analysis with Instructor Dan Thompson

by Michela Mansuino
Level Three student

Let's start with the muzzle, which is a platform for the mouth. The muzzle starts at the tear duct, called the infraorbital furrow. It descends upon the associated substructures, the cheek pad fat, the masseter muscle (a muscle that runs through the rear part of the cheek from the temporal bone to the lower jaw on each side and closes the jaw in chewing), then down and over the submental triangle at the bottom, below the chin. 

These drawings illustrate the artistic form of the muzzle.

Modeling the muzzle was attaching a thin strip of clay in a sling-like manner.

Once the muzzle sling was in place, we turned to a giant mouth Dan had modeled for us.  The toothpicks indicate the direction of the planes.

Notice the nodes, they are sizeable. They have a quality that point upwards, and give the face a pleasant look.


To make the mouth on our planar head, we started with the nodes. We attached them first, like two buttons, halfway between the bottom of the chin and the top of the philtrum, (the vertical groove between the base of the nose and the border of the upper lip). Then we dug out the sulcus for depth.

Here is how mine started, with the nodes and tubercles in place. And that dip is the beginning of the sulcus, which I then dug out much deeper.

Next, we dug deeply right next to the nodes, to create the corners of the mouth.

Here is a profile of it.

Here is a detail of it. I didn't like mine, I thought I should have made the wings of the lips much thicker.

Dan's was beautiful.  He always makes his aesthetically pleasing.

The most striking concept was that of the "Y" making the "shield" shape in the center of the upper lip.  Dan drew this out for us in de-coded form. When you think of the structure in this way, you leave out lines around the apex of the upper lip, and you model the form, whether in clay or in paint.

Under the sulcus, we added the mentalis muscle, like a large button in the center, under the bottom lip, and the tubercles, marking the width of the ramus in front.  Let's take another look at Dan's giant mouth.

Painting a mouth will never be the same again.  Now we have a sound concept working from the live model. Dan was very persuasive when he said that first you had to have the center of the mouth marked, then the wings and pillows of the form would be worked out in perspective from there. Great advice, now to put it in practice.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mentoring Level Three

by Wendy Wagner
Level Three Student

Friday's in Level three are my favorite. I hate to pick one day over another, because I learn a lot in each, but the concept of Mentorship is a program component which excites me.

We rotate seven-week cycles, which consist of:
  • One rotation making a museum copy at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Two rotations of working on a personal still life alongside a teacher or fellow
  • One rotation copying a Nelson Shanks painting

Usually in the sixth week of each cycle, we all gather and walk from space to space to see how each student's piece is developing, discussing the challenges we have faced. This gives us one more week to make adjustments based on feedback received.
Today, you will shadow such a day.

8:30 a.m. I arrive at school on a 19-degree day to continue on my Nelson copy.
Instructor Robin Frey paints alongside us in the studio, working on her own piece. She dispenses advice as needed to move us along. Students Lynn Snyder and Linda Dennin are there as well.

12:15 p.m. We meet in Instructor Peter Kelsey's studio to see the progress of David Clark.
Then, we enter teacher Natalie Italiano's space to see the work of Tom Plassa. Next door is Paul Worley, who discusses his approach while working under Fellow Shira Friedman.
Students working on personal still life paintings
We then travel to the Mentorship room, where four original Nelson Shanks paintings hang. Lynn, Linda and I speak of our experiences copying the work of our school founder, an inspiration to all of us.
Students copying a Nelson Shanks original
After that, we visit our lecture space to see what Kathleen Moore and Angelique Benrahou were working on at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Student copies from the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Finally we enter the studio of Instructor Alisyn Blake, to see the development of student Michela Mansuino's painting.
Original student still life
By 2:00 pm, we head back to our easels to continue.
Another day in the life of a Level Three student.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Lea Colie Wight Demo

by Lynn Snyder
Level Three Student

Lea Colie Wight demoed over the course of several sessions to Level Three students in the figure painting class. I thought I would share the process.  

Lea pointed out the first tool to utilize is stepping back. It is the most unused habit and crucial for detecting errors. The second tool is working all around the canvas, which blocks you from seeing the whole picture.  

It was wonderful to see her work and the class learned a lot from watching her process. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed her demo. Please note, each photo was taken after a 20-minute painting session.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day Four in Level Three of the Advanced Fine Art Program

by Wendy Wagner
Level Three student

Advancing through the semester, welcome to Thursday's class - though, it is actually taught twice weekly. On Tuesdays, we are led by Lea Colie Wight, on Thursdays, our instructor is JaFang Lu.

Disclaimer: Let me start by saying this is not a biased post. Before enrolling as a full-time student, I took charcoal drawing with JaFang through the school's Continuing Education program, and loved it. She is an amazing teacher, and one day a week was not enough. Flash forward a few years, and now I attend full time.

8:00 a.m. It's cold  in Philadelphia. The thermometer reads 29 degrees, as I arrive at school.
This is my view (sans model)

8:30 a.m. Today is my day to monitor the class, so I set up the model stand with help from classmate Kathleen Moore. Since our class has 12 students, we have two models. It's wonderful to have lots of space around the model stand.

9:00 a.m. Class begins with a warm-up gestures consisting of four five-minute poses.

9:26 a.m. We are on day three of this seven-day pose. What I appreciate about this class is that the instructor adjust it based on individual needs.

In other words, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Students are working on individual weaknesses, at the same time. The teachers guide us based on how we are progressing. If you need more time in a particular area, you take the time to work it out.

At times, they will demo on our work. Other times they make a small color note. Or maybe they will paint alongside us, calling the class to watch when necessary. Whatever it takes to forge ahead.

JaFang has this wonderful ability to show you how little you know. You may think you have pushed your color relationships, and she will come by, adjust a note to show you how it could really be. Sigh.

3:45 p.m. Class is over.

I snapped some pics so you can see how we are advancing. We have four days left to build the final painting. Taken with my iPhone, they are not in the best light, but you get the idea.
Progress of Level Three students

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dan Thompson, The Planar Head, Modeling The Nose in Clay

by Michela Mansuino
Level Three student

One of the most beautiful drawings of the nose, and something many artists aspire to, is that of Stephen Rogers Peck, from his "Atlas of Human Anatomy." After modeling this in clay and drawing it from life, I think about the nose in a very different way. I see it structurally in my mind's eye and see it organically in front of me. And, it's all thanks to our instructor, Dan Thompson.

To help us, Dan started with a giant nose. This has a straight mast in the center, representing the columella.

To this structure, then, two strips of clay are added, representing the wings of the nostrils - the alar. Dan uses toothpicks to hold it all in place.

Two more strips are added, representing the alar cartilage.

Four small cones are added, filling the negative spaces in between these strips.

Dan demonstrates the attachments one more time on his planar head. He starts by adding clay around the base of the nose like this:

He works the clay into place, making a platform on which the nose will be built.

On top of this shaped platform, Dan adds a slab of clay, a triangular wedge, which represents the "mast" of the nose, or the columella.

To the mast, then, Dan adds the two strips of clay that represent the wings of the nostrils.

Emanating from the tear duct, traveling down the length of the nose and tucking under the wings, are the two strips representing the alar cartilage. Notice how these strips start by twisting and then meet at the tip of the nose before they dive under the wings.

The negative spaces are then filled with four small cones.

This what my own planar head looked like when I attached the slab  representing the mast of the nose.

When I added the strips representing the wings and the alar or wing, I had attached them too low. See here how Dan corrected my attachment on the right, making the wing much higher in relation to the tip of the nose, where the alar meets in front and creates the "ball" of the nose.

I also started to attach the "sling of the muzzle. This is a thin strip of clay going on either side of the face, starting at the tear duct and wrapping around and under the jaw, making "the canopy of the jaw."

 Thanks to Dan Thompson, I know I see the nose much better now.