Monday, March 26, 2012

Do Re Mi

I have been thinking about the importance of the basics, and how we practice them here at Incamminati over and over. A level one student does one-minute gestures all first semester and even into the second. Second year students do a ton of black and white studies, and a gazillion color studies. I have to say that I was starting to wonder if we were beating a dead horse.....but then.......I got invited to a Halloween karaoke party last fall.....
I chose to sing two fairly difficult songs, and decided that the only way to do this was to take voice lessons.....I hadn't really sung in about 30 years.....and girl oh girl was that first lesson ever painful...more for the teacher than me!!
I actually had two teachers, which meant two lessons a week...I had limited time to get ready for the party.....6 weeks if I remember correctly. Both teachers focused on getting me to relax my vocal cords, and how to breathe correctly. This was not an easy task, I had to think about what I was doing. The lessons revolved around exercises designed to help relax my vocal cords. For an hour twice a week, and with practice in between, I ran (sang)up and down scales, practiced catching and holding my breath in my abdomen...not my throat (news to me!! and not so easy to do at first!), practiced singing different vowels and simple sounds....all these exercises over and over.....then I would practice my selected songs.
The whole time that I was taking these lessons I was reminded constantly of how we practice here at Incamminati. Gestures over and over, 10 minute block-ins...grisailles...and then into actual paintings using these building blocks,
The political satirist Stephen Colbert was cast in Stephen Sondheim's 2011 production of Company, and commenced taking voice lessons. Here is what he had to say about the experience: "What I rediscovered was the therapeutic nature of singing lessons," he says. "They're like doing yoga but for [the] inside of your body. You open up and use muscles that you don't think of as malleable. ... You can turn your head into a bell. ... That's what we kept working on: resonance and projection and relaxation and just remembering or relearning how to breathe through a phrase. The technical aspects of it are fascinating to go through in the lessons. And then you have to forget all of it, and sing." Just liking painting....the technical aspects of drawing and painting are in and of themselves fascinating.......but are in no way the end result. At some point you have to forget all of it and just paint. The exercises and the drawing lessons ultimately give us the ability to express ourselves from our inner being.
We are not taught to paint like Nelson Shanks at Incamminati.......he has never wanted that, but for each of us to be our own authentic artist, and you get there from repetition, and then more repetition, and then some more repetition.

By the way, I won best performance at that party.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The sweet sounds of artistic success


Recently, Studio Incamminati and the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra celebrated another successful year filled with visual arts creation and education and musical education and performance. They joined forces at the orchestra's annual gala at The Union League of Philadelphia. These two organizations, the orchestra in existence for 72 years and the school celebrating its 10th birthday, share a common commitment. Both provide students with the highest levels of education so that their  students in turn will carry on the artistry and education they have experienced. We at Studio Incamminati thank everyone who made this grand evening possible.

The evening gala began with demonstrations by studio artists (from right) Alisyn Kuntz, an  accomplished artist who holds an MFA and BFA; Jason Espey, a fourth-year artist at the school who has widely exhibited and John Flavin, a third-year artist who previously worked as an interior designer. Their commitment to realist painting at a high level was evident as they interpreted a still life of a series of Philadelphia Youth Orchestra instruments. Their work was warmly received by artists and music aficionados alike.

The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra also demonstrated its skill with an impressive orchestral performance. With a team of professional musicians and educators serving as faculty, this organization educates, trains and fosters the talent of nearly 400 students from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware area.
The young musicians offered an impressive performance of Antonin Dvorak's  popular “Symphony No. 9 in E minor "From The New World.”

In this partnership, all proceeds from the sale of Studio Incamminati art benefits the orchestra and the studio artists. The remaining unsold artwork is now available online for a limited time at

In truth, this is just one of the outreach efforts we undertake to make a truly meaningful contribution to others. Another example is our groundbreaking partnership with The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Face to Face: The Craniofacial Portrait Project.
Here, our award-winning instructors paint portraits of children facing a variety of craniofacial issues. For children who often experience poor self-esteem, social stigma and rejection, the act of painting their portrait helped them see themselves in a positive light.

Studio Incamminati believes that great art, whether visual, musical or otherwise, brings purpose in our lives. Through teaching and creating, we attempt to bring joy. Through partnerships with organizations such as the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and our participation in the Craniofacial Program Portrait Project, we seek to share our gifts, as well as raise money and awareness of what great art can contribute to our community and our world.

We welcome visitors to Studio Incamminati, as well as ideas for new partnerships  with others who share our commitment to our community and to producing skilled and creative artists.