My Indirect Painting Instructional Video discs are in house and ready to ship!
Nowell and I were thrilled to pick them up from the printer this morning. It’s been a huge project and we are thrilled to hold the final product in our hands.
The video is 3 hours long, and is on DVD and Blu-ray all in one box. In it I share the entire process of creating my painting “Anchor in the Gale”. I also include all my handouts and materials lists on the disc.
For more information and to order please visit:
Over the last decade this blog has become a resource for a lot of information and I’m happy to continue to make it available, even though the blog is not updated as often. Announcements and news are now posted on our Events Page, Facebook account, and Instagram account.
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My instructional painting DVD is DONE! As of last night, my editor/composer/husband Nowell finished putting all the music into the edit, and this morning he finished up a few final tweaks upgrading some still images of my handouts.
As of now we are rendering the master copy, then it’s off to the duplicator, and then SHIPPING to all those who have participated in the Pre-Sale!
Want to hear a clip of Nowell’s custom score he wrote for the DVD? He made a whole album of 10 songs and wrote different themes for different phases, transitions, and time-lapse pacing etc. This is just 1 of the 10 tracks.
Pre-sale is still ON until we have the physical copies to ship out, here is the link to watch a preview and purchase:
Quick tour of the students hard at work this morning on their cast drawings and paintings. Beginning students work with artificial light, advanced students create their cast drawings and paintings under natural north light. When students complete their cast work successfully they move on to live figure drawing and painting.
We are now accepting applications to the Full Time and Part Time Atelier programs, click here for more info
We are hard at work finishing up the final details for my first feature length instructional painting video!
Nowell has been editing and composing music day and night for weeks, and we are both really excited about how it is all coming together, we can’t wait for you all to see it.
Just a few more days of editing and putting in the music, and we will be sending the disk off to the duplicator. If all goes well we are hoping to ship in mid-September, we will keep you posted!
The Pre-Sale has been extended! Last chance to get my feature-length painting at the Pre-Sale price:
To watch a preview and order your Pre-Sale copy please go to our Videos page
I’m thrilled to have my artwork featured in this month’s issue of International Artist Magazine! They did a nice six-page spread, including a step-by-step painting demo of my Indirect Method.
My husband Nowell and I are working hard to finish my instructional Indirect Painting DVD! Thanks to all those who have already ordered a copy, we expect to ship out the first batch of orders by the end of August.
You can see a preview and order a pre-sale copy here
Here’s a screenshot of Nowell’s editing process:
We get a lot of questions about our studio setup, so I thought I’d compile the most frequently asked questions into one blog post. Everything we have set up came with a LOT of research, but lucky blog reader you get it all in one post!
What color are your walls? (And why are your walls gray?)
Benjamin Moore Sparrow AF-720, Flat. It’s a cool neutral gray, but tends slightly more towards green than some grays which can look blue. I think the slight green looks better with skintones. Depending on the light, the wall can look warmer or cooler. I loved the color in my 500 sq foot studio, and so I used the same color when we moved into our 2,000 sq ft studio.
Why not white walls? Before the 20th century, art studio walls were not white, they were dark! The invention of the “white cube” studio space is a 20th century idea. I believe it’s because in the 20th century the focus was moved off the subject and onto to the canvas. White walls put maximum light on the easel, but white walls bounce far too much light into shadows on the subject. Contemporary Classical Ateliers try to control the light of the subject and keep the shadows dark, so three-dimensional form is more clearly revealed.
Where do you get your plaster casts?
Giust Gallery is the best place I have found to buy plaster casts of antique and 19th century sculpture in the US. Good casts are very difficult to find because most museums no longer allow new moulds to be made of the collections, so the moulds are generally at least 100 years old and highly coveted. You can google search “Winged Victory” and find LOTS of plaster versions of the statue, but they are usually just inferior copies sculpted by modern artists. If you have ever drawn a particular cast and learned what it really looks like, you will cringe to see the terrible modern copies being sold as “casts”.
Where do you get human skulls and skeletons?
China and India rightly banned the export of human remains recently (to stop a very exploitative market), so in the last few years it has become extremely expensive and difficult to buy human skulls and skeletons. I bought one real human skull from The Bone Room in Berkeley California (a great place to visit, it’s like a Natural History museum where you can buy the exhibits) and I also bought a couple excellent reproductions from Bone Clones, which makes medical-grade casts of skulls and skeletons. Just as with casts, you can find cheap versions online, but a $60 plastic skull is so far from plausible human proportions as to be worthless for artistic study. Bone Clones is the only brand I have found to be good enough quality for artists.
How do you light your studio?
Our studio has north light windows, but in the evenings we light our studio with artificial daylight bulbs bright enough to be suitable for drawing and painting.
We did a lot of research before we installed our overhead lighting, and we have been really happy with the setup: Strong, white, full-spectrum bulbs that light up the room for our evening classes.
We were originally considering Kino Flo bulbs at about $22/bulb, but after looking at all the options we realized that Philips sells a tube fluorescent that has equally good ratings for $4 a bulb.
We wanted a Color Rendering Index (CRI) to be higher than 90, and the Philips bulbs were rated 92 CRI.
We wanted 6 bulbs in 4 housings, so buying 24 bulbs at only $4 each was a huge savings. These are the bulbs we bought:
Philips 40-Watt 4 ft. T12 Natural Supreme 5000K Linear Fluorescent Light Bulb
The other problem with Kino Flos is the housing fixtures for the bulbs are also really expensive. So instead, we mounted the Philips bulbs in these 6-bulb housings from Home Depot:
Lithonia Lighting Industrial 6-Light High Bay Hanging Fixture
The specs say the housings are for T8, 32 watt, but the T12, 40 watt Philips bulbs fit just fine with no heat increase.
In fact the lights generate no discernable heat, and no sound at all. I find the flicker and hum of bad florescents very distracting, so this was really important to me.
The housings do not come with plugs so we purchased a 14 gauge grounded extension cord and my husband Nowell joined the wires.
The hardest part was getting the lights hung from our 18 foot cement ceiling! After lots of hassle we finally found a hourly-rate handyman with a scaffold who could hang them from chains drilled into the ceiling, but that was after we rejected a $3000 installation-only bid from an electrician.
When more light is needed on an easel we attach a Daylight Easel Lamp from Dick Blick. It has by far the best designed clamp I have ever seen on a clamp light, and comes with an excellent daylight bulb.I recommend these often to students for their home studios.
Matte Black Cinefoil attached with gaff tape helps control the light so it does not spill onto the subject.
Lighting the Model
Finally, we needed a better setup for lighting the model. We have a set of theater Arii fresnel lights from Nowell’s filmmaking days, but those lights are warm in color, run hot enough to burn a bare hand, and are heavy and prone to tip their stand the second the sandbags are removed.
I asked around and got the excellent recommendation from Susan Lyon for the Tabletop Kühl Lites. We bought a set of 2 and we love them!
We have them mounted on a better quality c-stand so they can be mounted on a boom arm for greater flexibility over the model, but the stand they come with would work fine too.
Finally, sandbags are important to keep them from tipping on any stand. The shipping fees for a full sandbag are outrageous, so we buy the sandbags empty and fill them with sand bought from the local hardware store.
How do you set up your Cast Drawing Stations and Still Life Stands?
IKEA! For cast drawing, each student gets their own dedicated Ikea BESTA Shelf 401.021.29, which they light with daylight or with a clamplight.
For my still life classes we have Ikea BESTA Shelf101.021.35 on castor wheels which we roll out for each still life class, and we keep the still life setups on the shelves below for safe storage between classes. These are a good height for still life and I recommend my students buy these for their home studios. I make shadow boxes from black foam core and gaff tape which are set on top the stands.
Setting up our teaching studio has been an enormous labor of love, and we have worked hard to get everything just right for our students and instructors.
I feel grateful to all the artist studios and ateliers I have visited to get ideas for mine, and grateful to be an artist in an era where this kind of information is freely exchanged between artists.
We don’t get any compensation for endorsing the products we list here, it’s just honestly what we use and like, so if you feel so inclined, buy a video to say thanks for the free info!
I recorded many of my paintings and compressed these 40-80 hour paintings into time lapse videos only a few minutes long so you can see the whole process start to finish.
These videos are free, but have no instruction or narration.
I also have made a detailed 3-hour DVD video for sale, complete with voiceover narration instruction, notes and printable handouts:
To order the DVD visit my Videos Page
Carl now teaches in LA, but we offer part time and full time classical atelier study here in San Francisco.
Click to see all our classes here:
We are thrilled to announce that Carl Dobsky has moved his fulltime program, The Safehouse Atelier, into our studio!
Carl and his 9 students moved their studio equipment in last week, and they have already gotten set up and are working every day on their drawings of plaster casts.
Safehouse students study 5 days a week: Cast drawing, perspective, long pose figure drawing, alla prima portrait painting and short pose gesture drawing. They also study computer-based graphics, illustration and concept art at another location.
Each student has their own Cast Station where they choose a plaster cast and control the light to create a detailed graphite pencil drawing.
I am thrilled Carl and his students have moved in and we look forward to a wonderful collaboration of classical art education.
Carl studied with Jacob Collins at Water Street Atelier and shows his work at John Pence Gallery.
Carl’s bio and artwork on John Pence Gallery website
Safehouse Atelier Blog with student work
Gallery 1261 in Denver, CO has arranged an impressive roster of artists for their upcoming Contemporary Realism show. Many of these artists are my longtime art heroes, so I am just thrilled to be included in the show.
The opening is this Friday!
Gregory Block, Scott Fraser, Mikel Glass, Robert C. Jackson, Andrea T. Kemp, Lucong, Alyssa Monks, Heather Neill, Kate Sammons, Daniel Sprick, Jeff Uffelman, Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen, Sadie Valeri, Anthony Waichulis
Come help us celebrate our 1-year anniversary of being in our beautiful new studio!
Saturday February 2
6:00 - 10 pm
We hope you can join us!
- Sadie, Nowell, Justin, and Felicia
I am trying a technique that is different from my other paintings. I usually work in the Indirect Flemish Method: Many thin layers on wood panel to get a very high level of realism, without texture, for an almost enamel-like finish. It can take 4-6 weeks to complete a very small 9x12 inch painting.
In contrast, this painting is done with a Direct Method: Only 2 layers (the umber underpainting and one pass of full color), painted with thick, loose paint, on stretched linen support. At 18x24 inches it is larger than most my work, and it took less than 2 weeks to complete.
I am finding what I have long suspected to be true: Working precisely and with great control in my more detailed work is teaching me to see better and make better decisions when I work faster and more loosely.
With this more direct method, this is how I think about painting:
The strokes are applied slowly: I look at my subject, decide what is the ONE stroke I want to make. I load up my brush with the correct color, and then very, very slowly make ONE mark. Then I look at it, and decide if it is right or wrong. Sometimes I need to wipe it off and try again if it is wrong. Then I decide what my next stroke will be.
I start slow, but during the session I naturally speed up, keeping this same level of attention on every stroke. I stop thinking and it starts to feel like the brush is painting on its own.
I use a very light touch, only touching the paint to the canvas, not the bristles. In addition to swiping the brush, I also might push, twist, or wiggle the brush to make the stroke needed. The light touch lays the paint on the canvas, and might leave some broken scumbling drags, without pushing the paint flat.
When loading the brush: To get thicker paint, I push the brush forward into the paint puddle on the palette, not a just a back swipe. I build up a nice glob of paint, with even maybe with a string of peaked paint at the tip.
Every stroke should make the painting feel like it is developing and getting better. If it starts to feel like I am “fixing”, and the painting feels like a struggle, and the painting gets worse even though I am trying to make it better…. I stop painting. I wipe or scrape anything unsuccessful, I breathe, slow down, take a break, and try again.
While painting this I was thinking about how I would teach it as a class or workshop, and realized the only way I could teach it is to teach the Indirect, Flemish method I already teach. For every Direct stroke one must think about drawing, value, color, and edges, all at once. The way I would teach this is to practice each of these skills in isolation until each is mastered, before trying them all at once.
The Flemish Indirect method separates these steps and is an excellent way to learn all of this.
For me, working in this more Direct manner is emerging naturally from my Indirect method of study.
WORKSHOP: Still Life Drawing and Painting in the Flemish Method, January 2013, San Francisco
Pulling the drawing out of the Valley, and learning how to do this over and over, is the key to drawing well.
Whenever we get frustrated or discouraged, I have found it helpful to have a few mantras and a list of STEPS to follow to re-focus the mind and get the drawing back on track.
These steps help me, and I have found they help my students as well:
- Breathe. You can’t draw if your brain thinks you are dying.
- Look. Drawings fail when we forget to look at the subject.
- Mark. Make ONE mark. Stop your hand. Put your pencil down if you need to.
- Check. Look at the subject again, look at your mark again, and correct it.
- Repeat. Do this 10 times. Then do it 10 more times.
P.S. It works for painting, too!
WORKSHOP: Drawing the Figure in Chalk and Charcoal on Toned Paper: January 2013, San Francisco
My husband Nowell and I spent this week at a country retreat a couple hours north of San Francisco, in Lake County. We rent a little house there that is on 80 fences acres, with private hiking trains and gorgeous views to rival the Hudson River Valley… although quite a bit drier and hotter this time of year.
I LOVE working with my Open Box M palette, Manfrotto tripod, and Manfrotto arm with the Julian Umbrella.
I looked at my old post about this and realized a lot of the links are broken, so here it is updated:
- Open Box M pochade box 10x12
(no need to buy the whol boxy kit, just get the panel holder)
- Julienne painter’s umbrella (they now show a horrible red/white/blue version… just get WHITE).
- Manfrotto tripod and joystick head
- Manfrotto jointed arm is THE BEST way to attach your umbrella. I use it to attach the umbrella to the tripod right beneath the pochade box.
- Clamps: The arm above does NOT come with the CLAMPS which are very important. You will need 2.
- Seal-able solvent can
Extra tip: Carry most the items to your painting site in a backpack. Then, when you are set up and the backpack is empty, fill it with a couple hefty ROCKS and hang it from a clamp on the tripod. It makes your whole setup very stable even in a swift breeze.
I decided ahead of time to try for some discipline on my plein air studies by focusing on value, and painting with only monochromatic colors. So I did not even pack any colored paint, and tried to see how much I could get out of just Transparent Oxide Brown, Ultramarine Blue, and Titanium white.
My first painting was supposed to be a “simple” tree study. Of course, trees are very, very hard to capture the drawing issues of gesture and structure, much like painting the human figure. I spent so much time trying to draw the sahpes of the branches that I had a hard time trying to get the feeling of the filtered backlit sunlight through the leaves.
Having a dog for company is the best way to paint outdoors! Ripley is used to hanging out with me at the studio, and so she was happy to settle down to hang out with me. It was hot though, and even in the shade she panted and could not get comfortable. So one day I decided to leave her back at the house… but Nowell said she cried and whined at the door while I was gone. So from now on she gets to come along no matter the weather.
For my second painting I decided to stand further back and try to capture the overall shape of a different tree and its environment and lighting.
The midafternoon sun was hidden by hazey clouds by the time I took a ohoto of the scene, but I was done with the sketch.
I felt like that painting got too opaque, so for my 3rd painting I painted with very thin, dry, brown paint, and used white only minimally.
I thought that would be my last painting of the trip, but at the end of the day I was inspired to try a quick sketch of a little grove of trees lit from the front by the late afternoon sun.
The previous paintings took 2-3 hours each, but in this scene the shadows shifted quickly and I only had about 30 minutes before the effect was lost completely, but it was fun to try to capture the feeling of the late-day summer light.
My setup on the last day of our trip. I’m looking forward to coming back with colors on another trip!
Thank you to everyone who was able to come out to our Open Studio Party last Friday, it was a fantastic event with inspiring demos and a wonderful atmosphere you all helped create!
We have just posted NEW classes taught by Justin this fall, and there are still 1-2 spots left in Felicia and Sadie’s classes starting in September.
We are also now offering YOUTH CLASSES for students ages 12-18, please share with local students and their parents!
We hope you can join us at the studio soon, it’s going to be an amazing season for the study of Realism.
Please visit our Classes page to see everything we have scheduled for this fall and beyond!
Tour the studio, enjoy some refreshments, and witness artmaking in progress!
Felicia Forte teaches alla prima (single session) painting and drawing. She will be working from a live model during the event so you can watch how she creates a painting from start to finish.
Justin Hess teaches painting and drawing, and he is also an expert on materials. He will demonstrate making oil paint from dry pigment, which he explains in his book ”Controlling the Creative Process, A Painter’s Guide to Methods & Materials”
We will have a selection of framed art work for sale. See our recent oil sketches and drawings and maybe take home an originl piece of art!
We hope you can join us!
-Sadie, Nowell, Felicia, and Justin
Opening Friday, April 13th, 2012 from 6:30-9:00pm
208 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Women Painting Women: The Expedition and Beyond is a show of work by 13 artists who rented a house and painted together for a week in Charleston, SC, in November 2010, in conjunction with the Robert Lange show Women Painting Women.
I’ll have 3 paintings in the show, including Undersea, pictured in the American Art Collector ad above, and also my Self Portrait at 39, as well as a small sketch I did in Charleston. I am also one of the subjects of Terry Strickland’s The Three Fates also shown in the ad, along with Diane and Alia.
I am currently in New York, and I’ll be driving down for the opening in Alexandria VA on Friday, I hope to see you there!
Last summer while in France my husband Nowell and I filmed interviews with two American artists living there for American Painting Video Magazine: Ted Seth Jacobs, and Richard Thomas Scott. Both issues have since been released and are available for download.
Ted Seth Jacobs gave us a tour of his home in a small town in France: A lovely collection of cozy rooms which unfold one after another though an interior courtyard, up and down twisting stairs, all filled with murals, paintings, and treasures tucked into nooks and crannies. He discusses art, education, and his philosophies as a painter.
Watch a short preview of the issue here:
Download and watch the whole interview here: APVM Volume II, Fall Issue
Richard Thomas Scott’s stunning paintings first attracted my attention on FaceBook, and I was thrilled to meet him in Paris. Richard is a former student of Odd Nerdrum, and recently had his first solo show at L’Oeil du Prince gallery in Paris. We ended up having a wonderful conversation about philosophy and culture at an outdoor cafe around the corner from his gallery, and later visited his studio located just outside Paris.
Watch a short preview of the issue here:
Download and watch the whole interview here: APVM Volume II, Winter Issue
I was interviewed by Michael Klein for APVM in last summer’s issue, you can watch a short preview of the issue here:
Download and watch the whole interview here: APVM Volume II, Summer Issue
679 Boston Post Road Madison, Connecticut 06443
2011 was an exciting year for me in terms of getting published! My work was published in American Art Collector, Artist’s Magazine, International Artist, Southwest Art Magazine, and I was also featured in American Painting Video Magazine.
In addition, I wrote a “how-to” article for Artist’s Magazine’s Drawing Board column, on “Constructing Vessels”. In upcoming issues of Artist’s Magazine I’ll have two more Drawing Board column how-to articles published: One on blocking in the figure, and one on modeling form with chalk and charcoal on toned paper.
I’ve recently updated my Publications page with images and PDF’s of recent magazine articles profiling my artwork. You can also find links to order back issues of many of the publications, and watch the American Painting Video Magazine.