Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Follow me through Level 3

by Wendy Wagner
Level Three

Welcome to Tuesday in Level Three.

Figure Painting One is a two-day class. On Tuesdays, we study under Lea Colie Wight. On Thursdays, we work on the same pose under Jafang Lu.

Tuesdays are a bit groggy because I have the portrait marathon on Mondays but I'll do my best.  
Tip: Do not volunteer to monitor a class the day after you take an evening class.

7:50 am I walk in to see the coffee pot started and am glad it is not my morning to set up the model stands. Instead I chat with fellow students as we lament about needing caffeine.
Coffee brewing

8:30 am Set up palette for the day ahead.

9 am We are finishing a 6 day exercise. We spent two days on a value study, one on a color study and three on full color. To make it "simpler," the instructors decided to have us crop a small area. Sounds easy enough, right? We start the first 20 minutes of the day with gestures to warm up.

9:30 am After speaking to a student, Lea decides to demo on his painting. Since this is the last day, we are to turn form by paying close attention to the colors between light and shadow.
I took two and a half pages of notes. One of the things I like about Lea is that, besides giving great technical advice, she also gives tips on how to deal with learning the process.
Lea giving advice

11am  We start back on our own canvases with a fresh perspective.

Lunchtime. Level Three's are discussing our progress with "Mentorship Fridays." Some of us are at the Philadelphia Museum of Art making a master copy (as am I during this cycle), some us are in the studio painting alongside an artist, and some of us are copying a Nelson Shanks painting. This rotates periodically and we have just received our assignments for the next round. All in different directions, we share tips.

12:30 pm A few of us are still tired so we make a latte run
Works in progress

12:45 pm The final three hours of the pose. It feels like we make one step forward, two back. Lea assures us that this is normal.
This is the pinnacle of combining all the aspects we have been learning these past two years - there are no specific rules because each pose and set up is different, with it's own unique light conditions. It IS hard.

3:45 pm Whew! Day is over.

Here are shots of our final pieces.
Close-up exercise
Close-up exercise

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Planar Head with Dan Thompson

by Michela Mansuino
Third-year Student

It's 6:45 a.m. Wednesday and I'm radiantly happy as I climb out of bed realizing that Dan Thompson is probably, at this very minute, already driving down from New York to teach his now notoriously famous class at Studio Incamminati - THE PLANAR HEAD IN CLAY

I don't know how he does it, driving down to Philly, a three-hour trip, teaching for seven hours at Studio Incamminati, and then driving all the way back to New York - 13 hours of non stop energy... I find myself saying a prayer under my breath that he is okay as I drink my coffee and get ready to be the monitor for the class. 

We begin with a homemade armature and around 30 lbs. of Chavant Professional Plastelline.

For future heads, I make a detailed study of the Home Depot parts and other materials needed to make the armature.

We start by going to our armature and begin massing in clay, the “light bulb” shape, thinking about the carrying angle of the head and how the pole of the armature will be offset by it.
The size of the ball and egg shape is calculated to be a bit bigger than the skull we are working from, which is life size, so as to have room to make the planes a little exaggerated. We exaggerate them in order to learn from them.
                                                                   Our skull

Dan Thompson lectures on the mother planes of the head, following drawings by John H. Vanderpoel, in his book "The Human Figure."

From these Vanderpoel drawings, Dan instructs us where to make our first cuts on the mass of clay we have shaped on our armatures.

These diagrams are a decoded version of the planar head, step by step. This is where we start.

Dan models the mother planes in this manner:

Once we have accomplished this on our sculptures, Dan moves on to demonstrate the carving out of the tilt line - he uses a "dough cutter"  to make the cuts. He recalls where he found the thing, having thought it had looked like an amputation tool from the Civil War. If you see a painting of a nude in the background, that's Kathleen Moore's black and white form study from another class, hanging on the wall. We surround ourselves with our best work so that we may learn from each other.

Intermittently, between carving the planes of the planar head in clay, we draw and paint from the model. We have done two other exercises to further re-enforce our structural understanding  of the planar head.  These are:
1. Drawing the head two ways, side by side, one intuitively and the other structurally.

2). Painting the head two ways, side by side, one intuitively and the other structurally.

After a what seems to be five minutes, the day is over and I look forward to next Wednesday.  I'm worried Dan has a long trip home still. It's all going to be alright, so look for my blog on Dan Thompson next month for the continuation of the planar head in clay.  We will be carving and attaching the staple of the jaw that is the cheekbone, and the ear.

Yours Truly, Michela

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Variety is the spice of art in Level Two

by Chris Brizzard
Second-year Student

Having gone through Level One, it seemed that the charcoal would never end. But now that we’re in Level Two, there is more variety and the classes are getting more interesting. Below I will give a brief description of our classes this term and show some demos that the instructors have done so far.

Mondays: Color Study

On Mondays, we have color study with Natalie Italiano and Katya Held. This is a continuation of color study from Level One, but in addition to painting boxes, they have now added simple organic objects, such as fruit, and cylindrical forms, such as tea kettles and vases, to the setups. The objective is to try and capture the overall effect of light falling on the forms. We are not to concern ourselves with reflected light or any subtle nuances of form at this point, just focusing on the large, abstract shapes. It’s a two-dimensional kind of thinking and showing form doesn’t really have a place at this point. We are supposed to do two color studies per day, and I’ve heard it takes doing hundreds to really get it under your belt. It feels to me like learning to ride a bike, and I’m still crashing regularly. Below are some demos from Natalie and Katya.

Tuesdays: Figure in Graphite

On Tuesdays, we have figure drawing in graphite with Robin Frey and Joseph Dolderer. We started the class doing one-minute to five-minute gestures, just like what we did in charcoal and paint last term. We have started getting into half-day drawings now, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Graphite handles differently in that it is more linear and builds more slowly than charcoal or paint, which are both more mass-oriented. Graphite therefore requires more precision and it is good for getting very specific about the forms that you build. 

One thing that Joe continually stresses is the importance of placing the center-line in the figure. Doing this allows you to be in control when the figure shifts slightly from pose to pose (which is inevitable) and it also puts you in control of building your forms. Below are some short demos from Robin and Joe.

5-minute block-in from Joe

40-minute block-in from Joe

40-minute block-in from Robin

Wednesdays: Structure with Dan Thompson

On Wednesdays, we have our structure class with Dan Thompson. He really gets deep into it, and his course is fascinating. We started the course by drawing and dissecting the planes of a pepper as a way to get into a “structural” state of mind.

One of our major tasks in his class to build our own planar head from the ground up. We have now put our basic planes in place and will use this to add the features as the course progresses. We are continually referencing our constructions to the skull and always making sure the core landmarks of the head are symmetrical. A huge help to me personally was when we cut out the eye socket from the basic planar construction and then added the zygomatic arch (cheekbone) on top. I’m really enjoying how Dan breaks down the forms into logical chunks. I will never look at a head in the same way again.

Why are we spending so much time on structure, though? Focusing on structure alone will not give you much of a likeness, and it doesn’t look all that organic. The purpose, I think, is to ultimately be able to combine an optical way of seeing with one’s structural knowledge. In other words, structure is there to enhance what you see, and this is where you enter the realm of interpretation, of poetry. As Dan has said throughout the course, “The finer the relationships, the finer the art.”

In his demo below, you can see this approach to the portrait in action. On the left side is his optical “interpretation” of the model. On the right, he has simplified the pose into a box with its relevant planes. The progression of this demo is important to note. First he started on the left side with a purely optical approach for 10 minutes or so. Then he stopped and went to the right side and built the box/planar construction for another 10. Then he went to the optical side and incorporated some of the planar information back into the painting. So we can see that the structural information is ultimately used to inform the optical, and that this is where the “poetry” emerges from, in the merging of the optical and the structural.

Thursdays: Figure in Black and White

On Thursdays, we have figure painting in black and white with Darren Kingsley. The focus of this class is on portraying the forms of the figure. At this point, we are doing lots of 40-minute poses, but will we be getting into multi-day poses by the end of the course. One of the most important things I have gotten from this class has been from watching Darren’s demos, especially when he told us that it doesn’t have to be "correct" from the beginning. In fact, you don’t want it to be correct from the beginning, because you’ll have nothing to work with and develop in a long pose. This somehow relieved some kind of anxiety in me, the anxiety that “it has to be right from the start.” I’m not sure where this came from, but I think many students feel it. With this awareness in mind, I am really enjoying building the figure starting with a strong, loose gesture (the whole point of Level One) and then having the time to start putting in bony landmarks and basic anatomy. As Darren has said,  the beginning stages are when you are “collecting information” about what you see. Below is a short sequence from one of Darren’s demos that illustrates how loosely one can start and then begin to  refine and add information as the pose progresses. (Note: This is only the beginning phases of the painting.)

Fridays: More figure painting and cast drawing

On Fridays, our day is divided in two. In the mornings, we continue the figure in black and white from Thursday’s class with Peter Kelsey, and in the afternoons we work on a semester-long cast drawing in graphite with Darren Kingsley.

For the cast drawing, you really have to change gears and slow down because it takes the entire semester to finish. We were able to choose from casts of the eye, ear, nose or mouth and each of us has the cast hanging in a dedicated booth that we can use throughout the term. When it is finished, Darren has told us that you shouldn’t be able to tell who did the drawing - no personal style should show because the goal is to make the drawing look exactly like the cast, period. A tall order, indeed.

We work on thick four-ply Bristol paper and use soft pencils in the beginning to block in the drawing. Below are some pictures of Darren’s demos up to this point, about six weeks in.

Overall, the variety of Level Two has been very enjoyable so far, but many challenges still lie ahead. It’s good to feel growth though, even ever so slightly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A day in the life of a third year student

by Wendy Wagner
Third-year Student

Welcome back, as you shadow me through level three.
Returned to see our names by this

I will continue to write about my days as a student in the Advanced Fine Art program. For continuity, I'm starting with my first Monday class, however because of the holiday, school has been in session for almost two weeks.
Today is Portrait day with Kerry Dunn, and we are eager to get to work.

8 am: Arrive at school early to relax before setting up.

9 am: We jump right in the a 20-minute pose. Kerry walks around and evaluates what we are doing, giving corrections. His advice is for us to consider the gesture, tip, and tilt of the head. This continues for most of the morning, until we are allowed one 40-minute pose, which takes us right up to lunch. With the longer pose, we are instructed to add a value for the light.

Here are examples from the class:

Examples from students

Examples from students

Noon: Lunch is taken outside to enjoy the fall sunlight. Today is a Kerry-thon for some of us who are also taking his evening class, so I use the rest of my lunchtime to make a latte run. I will need the energy!
Lunchtime pick-me-up

12:45 pm: Kerry sets up the model to do a four-pose demo. Below are some observations from each pose.

Pose 1: 
Starts out with large shape; Divides one area for head, one for neck. If he starts in with an angle, he takes through head to see where it intersects on other side.
Look back and forth quickly between painting and model - in doing this, an error will jump out.
He adds no features in this pose.

Pose 2:
Always compare parts to the whole. If you compare the nose to the mouth, they may work together, but not with the whole. This will throw off your likeness. If you find yourself getting stuck in one area, move on. You will see the problem clearer when you go back to it.

Kerry's Class Demo

Pose 3:
Kerry adds the light on the ball of the nose. This aids in evaluating the turn, tip and tilt of the head.

This is basically form painting, but using a generic flesh tone for the light masses. We are to mix up one tone to represent the middle value in light, and apply it thinly.  To make a lighter value, the paint is applied opaquely. A darker value is achieved by thinning, thus letting more grey ground show through.
He drops in the highlight.

Pose 4:
Continuing to model towards the light, then switching to shadow, he addresses the half tone by mixing blue/green into the flesh color. 
He also adds a touch of cad scarlet to the mixture to address the ruddy areas of the face, such as cheeks or an ear.

We end the class with our own 40-minute pose.

4-6 pm: We have two hours before the evening portrait class begins, so its time to eat dinner. After, I mosey in to level two to see the students who are working overtime, do some sketching, and check social media. Do you know that we are now on Instagram? Follow us! Studio_Incamminati.

6 pm: The evening portrait class begins. Anyone can sign up for an evening class but many students also take them also to get extra practice. This class has five students who are from the Advanced Fine Art program and six who are not. Reminiscent of a workshop, it's nice to mix it up with new people.

Kerry begins with a demo and explains how we will be using a limited palette for our one-night pose (to be detailed in a later post).

7 pm: We start working on our portrait

Students working in the evening Portrait Class
9 pm: Whew! Class is over for the day. In 12 hours, I'll be at my easel for Tuesday's class, so I gotta go.  See you soon!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Advanced Portrait Workshop - Kerry Dunn

by Lynn Snyder
Third-year Student

Recently, we wrapped up the summer season of workshops with Advanced Portrait Painting by Kerry Dunn assisted by Robin Frey. 

The steps we follow in the Advanced Fine Art Program at Studio Incamminati covered in the workshop are taught to third-year students during an entire year.  It's a great way to get a glimpse into what we do but at warp speed!  

The first two hours of class were spent watching Kerry and Robin demo. Then we get to our easels and apply what we watched them do. Below are step photos of Kerry and Robin's demos showcasing their approach to building a portrait.  What a great week...I can't wait  for full curriculum this fall!

Step Photos of Kerry's Demo

Step Photos of Robin's Demo