Monday, May 30, 2011

Words of Wisdom: Sir Joshua Reynolds

To preserve the colors fresh and clean in painting ;  it must be done by laying in more colors, and not by rubbing them in when they are once laid ;  and if it can be done they should be laid just in their proper places first, and not be touched again because the freshness of the colors is tarnished and lost, by mixing and jumbling them together ; for there are certain colors which destroy each other by the motion of the pencil when mixed to excess.

For it may be observed that not only is the brilliancy as well as freshness of tints considerably impaired by indiscriminate mixing and softening ; but if colors be too much worked about with the brush, the oil will always rise to the surface and the performance will turn comparatively yellow in consequence.

Never give the least touch with your pencil until you have present in your mind a perfect idea of your future work.

Paint at the greatest distance from your sitter, and place your picture occasionally near to the sitter, or sometimes under him so as to see both together.

In beautiful faces keep the whole circumference about the eye in mezzotinto, as seen in the works of Guido and the best of Carlo Maratti.

Endeavor to look at the subject or sitter before you, as if it was a picture ; this will in some degree render it more easy to be copied.

In painting, consider the object before you, whatever it may be, as made out more by light and shadow, than by lines.

A student should begin his career by a careful finishing and making out of the parts, as practice will give him freedom and facility of hand ; a bold and unfinished manner is generally the habit of old age.

Let those parts which turn or retire from the eye be of broken or mixed colors, as being less distinguished and nearer the borders.

Let all your shadows be of one color;  glaze them till they are so.

Use red colors in the shadows of the most delicate complexions, but with discretion.

Contrive to have a screen with red or yellow color on it to reflect the light in the sitter's face.

Avoid the chalk, the brickdust, and the charcoal, and think on a pearl, and a ripe peach.

Avoid long continued lines in the eyes, and too many sharp ones.

Take care to give your figure a sweep or sway, with the outlines in waves, soft and almost imperceptible against the background.

Never make the contour too coarse.

Avoid also those outlines and lines which are equal, which make parallels, triangles, &c.

The parts which are nearest to the eye appear most enlightened, deeper shadowed, and better seen.

Keep broad lights and shadows, and also principal lights and shadows.

Where there is the deepest shadow, it is accompanied by the brightest light.

Let nothing start out or be too strong for its place.

Squareness has grandeur;  it gives firmness to the forms, a serpentine line in comparison appears feeble and tottering.

Anonymous, The Hand-Book of the Elements of Painting in Oil, 1842, (Clarke and Wilson, London), pp. 49 - 53.

Friday, May 27, 2011

2011 PSoA Conference - Thomas Nash, "What it Takes"


More than a decade ago, artist Thomas Nash gave a presentation in Chicago at the Art of the Portrait® Conference which was very well-received.   So many people who had missed that lecture were still regretting it these many years later, that Nash felt obligated to add a lecture and slideshow to his painting demonstration for the 2011 Annual Conference in Atlanta.  Unfortunately, Nash only had an hour-and-a-half of allotted time to fit everything which he wished to share with the audience.  The plan to include so much in so little time was, as Nash puts it, like "putting four elephants in a Volkswagon;  SIMPLE, but not EASY."

Each time I have seen Tom Nash give a presentation - including musical performances - he has made sure to have printouts of his message available to everyone in attendance.  Below is Nash's outline of his lecture, What it Takes, which he presented on the second day of the 2011 Art of the Portrait® Conference in Atlanta.  Most of this information is exactly as it appeared in the handout Nash made for his audience, but for a few topics, Tom was kind enough to expound upon his ideas specifically for this blog.  Thanks, Tom!

“WHAT IT TAKES-  Combining What We See
 with What We Know and Feel."


How 'what we KNOW', 'what we SEE', and 'what we FEEL', should work in harmony to reinforce each other.

Thomas Nash  -  Dr. Raymond Morrissey  -  36 X 28 in.


This is what we bring to the easel even before we observe our subject-
Knowledge of our portrait subject - their “reality,” both personal and physical;
Knowledge of our craft - how to get our materials to do what we want them to do;
Knowledge of the physics of light - understanding of color and of vision;
Knowledge of the principles of perspective - how our point of view affects the appearance of our subject.

Thomas Nash  -  Mr. Lloyd Whitaker, President Newleaf Corp.  -  24 X 20 in.


The OPTICAL, or two-dimensional approach is one way we OBSERVE our subject once we get to our easel (while still keeping in mind what we KNOW and FEEL).
Elements of the OPTICAL approach: For DRAWING it means looking at the subject as if there was a sheet of glass between us and it, perpendicular to our line of sight. Looking for, shapes, angles, slants, referring to a plumb line. For COLOR, seeing the subject strictly as a mosaic made of “spots” of individual colors next to each other is the “optical” or purely visual way of thinking.
For both DRAWING and using COLOR while focusing on the optical it is preferable if the model AND the artist can hold very still and maintain their original position. Any change of either will effect the shapes presented for drawing, and, strictly speaking, will present a completely new set of color sensations to the eye.

Thomas Nash  -  Tyler  -  52 X 28 in.


A “catch-all” category that includes WHY we paint, what our goals are for the work, how we feel about our subject, and what we are trying to say. This is the MOST important of the three, and steers and influences all others. Without a strong purpose, concept, idea, or reason to paint the picture, we may wander without focus.

The KNOWLEDGE part could be called the “WHY” part.  Both DRAWING and COLOR can and should be approached, studied and executed by asking ourselves about what we SEE and WHY it appears as it does?  Either what we SEE or what we KNOW can help compensate for any shortcomings in the other.


Keep all your horses pulling together.
Take self-inventory;  know your strengths and weaknesses.
Be honest with yourself.
Practice with a purpose; paint on purpose.
Tom’s “Wondering principle”¹ of study.
Isolate a problem to study it.
Monitor your work’s progress, keeping in mind your original goal/intent.
Remember “Little Johnny” drawing a can.²  He was on the right track, he just lacked some KNOWLEDGE.
Putting four elephants in a Volkswagen;  Simple but not easy.³
There is a vast difference between basic recognition and a comprehensive grasp of FORM.
Understanding PERSPECTIVE is the key to our ability to translate our knowledge of form into images.
Perspective has a direct relationship to light and shade and color, not just drawing.
Lines are more sensitive and “organic" if drawn over perceived form.
The “REALITY” of your portrait subject concerns both their personal character and their physical character.
A better grasp of your subject's total “reality” will make it easier to accurately and sensitively portray them.

Thomas Nash  -  Dodie  -  48 X 40 in.


Learn the anatomical language and the actions of the body to make your study of anatomy easier.
Look up “Frankfort Line and Reid’s Base Line” as part of study of anatomy.
Look up Tyndall Effect as part of your study of PHYSICS, the scientific, or “WHY,” approach to COLOR.

¹Tom’s WONDERING Principle:

Some of my earliest teachers commented that I “soaked up information like a sponge”. To the extent that this was true, I attribute it to the fact that I spent a lot of time as a child with my brushes and paint trying to figure out stuff on my own. I did a lot of WONDERING. I think that if we make an effort, perhaps beat our heads against the wall a little bit, we will arrive at a point where we have some very specific “blanks” in our understanding and we will be very hungry and ready to have theses blanks filled in. When we finally run across the teacher or the book that has the information we are seeking, we not only absorb it like a sponge, but will retain that knowledge better than if we had never struggled.

Today I wear both the teacher’s hat and the lifetime student hat. For my own study I invent exercises and routines where I first “wonder” about something and attempt to figure it out before getting the answer. Here are some examples:


I draw my portrait subjects from memory before they arrive for their sitting (assuming I have seen them at least once) By doing this my mind is primed to soak up a lot more information as soon as I do see them.

To study how light and shade worked, I set up a still life in flat light in the studio and arranged a more intense spectral light near it, but did NOT turn it on. I then drew the main contours of the forms and also tried to predict and draw what I THOUGHT the shadow patterns WOULD be when I turned the light on. Once I had struggled with it a bit and “wondered” about what I would see, I turned on the light and checked my assumptions. These exercises forced me to wonder about why things appear as they do. I have learned much more about the nature of light on form, and the perspective of shadows, than if all I had ever done was to copy the shapes and colors I saw in front of me as if I were a human scanner.

I put an X on a table some distance from my easel and invent a composition of items I know I have in my house somewhere. I try to picture one main object sitting on the X and the rest arranged around it. When I have taken the drawing as far as I reasonably can, I go get the items and set them up in the same composition that I had invented.  Then, sitting in the same place at my easel, I compare that arrangement to my drawing. I instantly learn if I have misjudged the proportions or relative sizes of the objects, but, probably of greater use, is the gaining of a clearer grasp of how perspective affects the shapes of the forms as seen at that specific distance and angle.


Maybe he is not always called “Johnny,” but we have all heard how a young artist will draw a can or other cylindrical shape from a view that shows both the side, and the top plane, the latter which he has drawn round like a circle. We are told that this is because little Johnny “knew” that the can was round, and that knowledge hampered his ability to “see like an artist” and draw the shape correctly. Some will explain that Johnny is relying too much on the tactile qualities of the can, the roundness that he feels and knows, and that “if only he could return to the innocent eye “ like he had when he was an infant and before he learned that the can was round, he would be much more successful at drawing it. His knowledge of the form is almost viewed as a bad thing.

My take on this is slightly different. I think it’s great that little Johnny is aware that his subject, the can, is in fact round. I think it’s fine that he consciously chose to draw a form that he was familiar with and was trying to somehow establish it’s reality as best he could in his drawing. The problem was NOT that he knew too much. It wasn’t that his awareness of the can’s true form was impeding his ability to accurately draw it; the problem was that he simply lacked some information about perspective. In this case no one had yet taught Johnny that circles when seen at an angle turn into ellipses. The assumption that drawing problems are caused by allowing ourselves to draw what we know RATHER than what we see does have some validity, but the response to the suggestion that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is not to curse that knowledge, but to gain more.  In “Little Johnny’s” case, he needed to gain more knowledge of perspective.


The answer to the question “How do you get four elephants in a Volkswagen?” is “You put two in the front, two in the back." The point of this being that some things are SIMPLE, but that does not mean they are EASY. Drawing and painting could be thought of that way.

The answer to the question “How do you paint your mother (or spouse or child or friend) without them posing?” could be “All you have to do is... have a comprehensive knowledge of your subjects form and physical reality, master the principles of perspective, know everything there is to know about the physics of light and shade and color, and of the physiology of the human eye and brain, and master the use of your tools and materials, and it should be no problem!" Simple but not easy! I should add that mastery of the principles of design, and a good concept and reason to paint, are necessary to make the work an “interesting “ one, but you get the idea.

To see more of Thomas Nash's paintings, please visit his website. There you can also find a detailed listing of his upcoming teaching schedule.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Video Tour of Daniel Greene's House & Studio


Everyone who has ever told me about their workshop experiences in Daniel Greene's North Salem, New York studio have always commented on what a wonderful and creative space Greene has.  Unfortunately, Greene and his wife, fellow-artist Wende Caporale, have decided to put their beautifully-restored 1920's carriage house and 6000 square foot barn/studio up for sale.  If you've not had the opportunity to study in Greene's barn, time may be running out, as a property like this doesn't come along too often.  In the meantime, enjoy this video tour of Caporale and Greene's Studio Hill Farm as it appeared on NBC New York's Open House last November.  If I could, I'd buy it!

To see more pictures of the property, visit Sotheby's real estate listing here.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alyssa Monks Art Book from Blurb


$30.00 for the softcover version;  30 pages


Words of Wisdom: Charles Courtney Curran


Artists should endeavor to express their ideas in terms easily understandable to others.  The Old Masters built up a tradition that there is first of all such a thing as good composition; that good drawing is not necessarily slavish and stupid imitation of nature;  that color and tone while being in general founded on the character of nature can be treated in a wide variety of manners;  that a full understanding of the qualities and possibilities of the many mediums at the disposal of the artist is of utmost importance;  that technical skill must be at the command of the artist and that an understanding of and sympathy with humanity must be his guide as to what beauty is.¹

~ from a letter by Curran to a "Mr. Frager," dated August 18, 1939.

To see more work by Charles Courtney Curran, please visit my earlier post on the artist.

The above quote is from American Arts Quarterly, a magazine which "supports today’s burgeoning cultural revival by championing creative individuals in a variety of artistic disciplines." Its authors "explore the legacy and current practice of figurative painting and sculpture, the civic and symbolic ideal in architecture and memorials, formal and narrative poetry, structural melody and tonality in music, and demonstrable standards in arts education."

The journal is available free of charge to artists, scholars and related professionals. For a complimentary one-year subscription, send your request to:


¹James Lancel McElhinney, "Charles Courtney Curran", in American Arts Quarterly, Vol. 28, Number 1 (Winter 2011), Newington-Cropsey Cultural Studies Center, p. 43.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Almost Like Being in Love


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres  -  La Grande Odalisque  -  1814

The term "art-lover" suddenly has a deeper and more significant meaning.

Claude Monet  -  Bathing at La Grnouillere  -  1869

A recent study in neuroaesthetics conducted by Professor Semir Zeki of England, gives scientific validity to an idea which artists have subscribed to for centuries:  looking at beautiful art creates as much delight as being in love.  In a series of pioneering brain-mapping experiments, Zeki, a Professor of Neurobiology and the Chair of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, concluded that viewing beautiful art releases a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain, stimulating the same 'feel-good' centers of the brain as are affected by romantic love.  "What we found," said Zeki, "is when you look at art - whether it is a landscape, a still life, an abstract, or a portrait - there is strong activity in that part of the brain related to pleasure."

John Constable  -  Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds  -  c. 1825

Dozens of volunteers with little art knowledge were selected for the experiment.  Each subject was placed inside an MRI scanner, in which blood flow in the medial orbito-frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with pleasure and desire, was measured while the volunteer looked at paintings.  Twenty eight paintings were shown, each for ten seconds, and according to the scans, the positive response to the artwork was immediate.

"The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as it increases when you look at someone you love.  It tells us art induces a feel-good sensation direct to the brain," said Professor Zeki.

Sandro Botticelli  -  The Birth of Venus  -  c. 1486

Among the artists whose work was shown were Sandro Botticelli, John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Hieronymous Bosch, Honoré Daumier, Guido Reni, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Quentin Massys.  Ingres, Reni, and Constable produced the most powerful response in the brain, while the 'ugliest' works in the study - those by Bosch, Daumier, and Massys- had the least affect on bloodflow.

Quentin Massys  -  A Grotesque Old Woman / The Ugly Dutchess  -  c. 1525-1530

Currently, Zeki's research is in peer review, with his findings scheduled to be published later this year.  It should be interesting to see if the results of this study have any positive influence on the funding and display of public art.  Already, research into the world's 'Blue Zones,' those regions where life expectancy significantly exceeds the average, shows that beauty and an easy access to the arts greatly benefits society. Perhaps with a scientific method for quantifying beauty in art, the ideas of "form follows function," and "everything is art," will play a lesser role in the culture of our society.

Paul Cézanne  -  Monte Sainte-Victoire  -  1902-1904


Alleyne, Richard (2011). Viewing Art Gives the Same Pleasure as Being in Love.  Retrieved May 23, 2011 from The Telegraph {}. 

Mendick, Robert (2011).  The Joy of Art:  Why Love is not Blind.  Retrieved May 23, 2011 from The Sydney Morning Herald {}.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 PSoA Conference - Frantzen Demo


Artist Tony Pro introducing Rose Frantzen

Frantzen using an oil stick to quickly establish tone and placement

Michael Mentier

Another demonstration sample by Frantzen

Tom Donahue at the podium announcing Frantzen's segment is over


Friday, May 20, 2011



Jonathan Linton  -  Emily  -  30 X 48 in., oil on linen

During the 2011 Art of the Portrait® Conference, I offered free copies of the Spring and Summer issues of American Painting Video Magazine on DVD to the first person who came up to me and said, "MK is the MVP of APVM."  I would like to congratulate Jonathan Linton of Virginia for being the first to say the phrase, and for also having the good taste to have already purchased and downloaded those issues online.  He was kind enough to give his duplicates to fellow-artist Timothy Jahn.  I would also like to congratulate Peter Hemmer and Natasha Kinnari who were the next two to approach me with the correct saying.  As it happened, I had three sets of the DVDs with me, so Linton, Hemmer, and Kinnari were all winners.  My apologies to everyone who approached me after I had run out of copies;  I wish I could have brought enough for all of you!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 PSoA Conference ReCap - Day 2


Gordon Wetmore giving the convocation speech

On Friday, April 29th, the 2011 Art of the Portrait® conference officially began when the Portrait Society of America's Chairman, Gordon Wetmore, welcomed attendees to the event from his podium in the Grand Hyatt's ballroom.  To the cheers of the crowd, Wetmore announced the record-breaking attendance at this year's gathering, and then yielded the stage for another of Tony Pro's animated introductions of the conference's faculty members, award winners, and competition finalists.  This opening ceremony was brief in order to facilitate the use of the main stage for the many events planned for the day, and it was in no time at all that David Leffel, the first of the faculty demonstrators, took to the stage.

David Leffel

I had never before had the opportunity to watch a demonstration by David Leffel, and within only a few minutes of his presentation on Edges:  The Soul of Painting, I was able to see why his students are so steadfast in their adherence to this master's lessons.  The man was funny and charismatic, and his approach to teaching was filled with philosophy more than technique, a characteristic needed to elevate a student's work from fine craftsmanship to fine art.  In support of this point, a gentlemen in the audience, whom I was sitting near, related to me that the greatest influence on his art, at least in recent years, was the instruction he received through Leffel and his book, An Artist Teaches;  this was saying much, as the person giving this praise was already a well-respected and very accomplished artist, well before Leffel's book was published.  Throughout the presentation, Leffel offered various pieces of advice, including his thoughts on why artists should not squint when looking at their subject, all while painting one of his renowned self-portraits.

Jack Richeson

Rosemary & Co. Brushes

Natural Pigments

Studio Incamminati

Michael Balsley of Turtlewood Palettes and Don Andrews of Hughes Easels sharing a laugh

H.K. Holbein

Silver Brush Ltd.

There was a fifteen minute break after David Leffel's demonstration during which I made my first visit to the vendor and exhibitors' room.  Many familiar companies from previous conferences were there, including Silver Brush Ltd., H.K. Holbein, Jack Richeson & Co., Turtlewood Palettes, Hughes Easels, A Stroke of Genius, Baumgaertner Instructional DVDs, General Pencil Company, Studio Incamminati, Martin / F. Weber Co., and Signilar Art Videos.  ColorFin LLC and Natural Pigments returned for a second year, and there were new faces there too, including Dick Bell Book Maven from Wisconsin, and Rosemary & Co. Brushes who came all the way from England to participate in the event.  In this environment, it is so refreshing to see the company owners selling their own products and personally making sure their customers are satisfied.  I told myself that I would not make any purchases this year, and I almost listened to myself.

Dean Mitchell

After the break, artist Dean Mitchell took the main stage to explain how Everything is a Portrait.  A man of very humble beginnings, Mitchell beat the odds and built for himself a successful career as an artist best known for his emotional watercolors of African-American culture.  In a slideshow exploring paintings of the artist's family and friends, Mitchell gave to the audience a self-portrait expressed through his portrayals of those people most important in his life.

Dean Mitchell

During the next hour and forty-five minutes, participants had a free period, but this did not mean there was nothing left for them to do.  In addition to grabbing lunch,  attendees could peruse the vendor area,  have their art books autographed by the authors, or have their portfolios personally critiqued by leading artists.  And in the middle of this, Art of the Portrait® alumni, those who have attended three or more conferences, gathered to have a group photograph taken by the event's official photographer, Steve Smith.  There never seemed to be a pause in the activity.

Michael Shane Neal

Dr. Sylvia Yount, Curator of American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art

At 2:00 PM, the first breakout session began, in which registrants could build their own schedule by choosing from a list of five different courses.  The five options from which to choose were:  Lost & Found, a painting demonstration by Rose Frantzen;  Balancing the Business and Artistic Side of Art with Michael Shane Neal;  Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, and Thomas Eakins:  The Politics of Portraiture, a lecture by Dr. Sylvia Yount;  Creating Timeless Portrait Compositions with Bart Lindstrom;  and a drawing workshop co-taught by Nancy Guzik and Sherrie McGraw.  It was a difficult choice, but I decided to return to the ballroom and watch Frantzen, who is always entertaining, paint a portrait.

Bart Lindstrom

Rose Frantzen

Rose Frantzen

Frantzen's completed portrait demo of artist Michael Mentier

To allow participants the opportunity to better organize their afternoon, certain choices were offered in both breakout sessions. This reduced the number of conflicts when someone was torn between simultaneously-running options in a single presentation period.

Michael Shane Neal

Bart Lindstrom

Lea Colie Wight speaking with workshop participants

Those returning in the second session were Michael Shane Neal and Bart Lindstrom who each repeated their lectures from earlier, and Nancy Guzik who taught another packed roomful in the drawing workshop, this time, however, working alongside Lea Colie Wight instead of Sherrie McGraw.  McGraw alternatively gave a lecture on Abstract Realism:  The Artist's Secret, while Thomas Nash rounded out the selections with his demonstration on the main stage titled What it Takes.  I stayed to watch Nash, who began a portrait of his wife only after dismissing her from the stage.  Unfortunately, Nash, who spent the first part of his presentation speaking with the audience, found himself up against the wire when he began painting, and the organizers were forced to halt his progress to ready for the next event (Nash continued painting, however, and brought his remarkable finished portrait out to lobby later that evening).

Thomas Nash

This is about as far as Nash got before his segment came to an end

Next on the schedule was the return of 6 X 9:  Limited Size - Unlimited Talent, a popular event only in its second year at the conference.  In this sale, dozens of small-sized paintings and sculptures created by current and former award winners and faculty members are offered for purchase at a flat rate of $250.  Potential buyers are given a short time to view all of the works up for sale, and then the art is covered up, and the buyers are asked to leave the display floor until the sale is ready to begin.  When the chime sounds, everyone makes a mad dash to the place they last remember seeing the work they wanted, and the art is sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.  If more than one person claims a painting or sculpture  simultaneously, their ID badges are thrown in a basket, and the lucky name chosen at random wins the opportunity to buy the artwork.

The 6 X 9 Sale

Katherine Stone

Marina Dieul

Joseph Todorovitch (photo:  G. Herrick)

Last year, the sale was held outdoors, but this year it was held in a large room adjacent to the ballroom.   With so many people clamoring to get the work of a famous living artists for such a reasonable price, the space, at times, felt claustrophobic.  It may be time for the Association to think about restructuring the sale to accommodate the number of excited buyers.  When next the event is held, I'd like to see it handled with ballots, where each work has a box, and each buyer deposits their ID for a chance at purchasing the art they want.  Of course, this may also be the view of a biased person-  I've missed out on the paintings I wanted to buy each of the past two years, and I'm hoping for a system that improves my chances for next time!

Joseph Daily

Adrian Gottlieb (photo: G. Herrick)

Amy Kann and Leslie Adams with their new purchases (photo:  G. Herrick)

Ellen Cooper (photo:  G. Herrick)

Susan Lyon (who purchased my 6 X 9 entry), Rob Rey, and me (photo:  G. Herrick)

After an hour break for dinner, everyone returned to the ballroom for the final segment of the evening, Spectrum of Light and Color in the Human Form.  In this demonstration, Californian realist Jeremy Lipking painted, in his signature style, a reclining nude on the main stage.  For the many people who have been shut out of his popular workshops, this was a great chance to learn from this highly-respected modern master.

Jeremy Lipking's finished demonstration piece

 Artists often spend long hours working alone, so when they are given the opportunity to socialize with their peers, they eagerly jump at the chance.

(l. to r.) Nancy Guzik, Casey Baugh, and Amy Kann

Closing down the bar

The late night gang

Teresa Oaxaca and Evert Ploeg


Nash, after his demo ended, continued to work on the portrait of his wife

Nash's completed portrait of his wife Donna