What’s been on the table this week…

My discipline has been good lately, though I am torn three days a week when I have to work on my side business that actually brings in a meager amount of money. I will say that it is gratifying to have your own business, but not nearly as gratifying as making art.

Lisa, the Director of the Neoteric Renaissance School of Art and dear friend was over for a visit the other day and looked at some of my recent endeavors in progress. She said the most encouraging thing I have heard in a great while. She said she always recognizes my work. She said that the decisions I make regarding moving light and line through a piece, what I accent and what I down play are delicate and consistent. We talked about how these things happen unconsciously, the real signature of an artist being the little things like where you begin and end a line, the way you choose to accent the light moving through a work, etc. Delicate is not a word that I think of when I think of my work. I constantly struggle with a heavy hand. It was good to hear though, and then to let go of and get back into the learning. If it happened unconsciously then I best just be true my studies and not become too self-conscious of it.

I was quite tired today and found that it actually helped my art work a lot. It slowed my mind and all the thoughts that tend to dart all over the place and tire me out much quicker when I’m working. I put in a good five hours today.


I have made progress on the Varo! It should be done within a couple weeks, definitely by the end of June. I had a great go at it Saturday and made lots of progress. I really just have the table and box to do, the final touches to the cloth and then the face and hands of course. The face and hands will go fast, because it has to be on the money the first pass. I have been working on this one for almost a year, a little at a time.

I work slowly and I still find the act of close comparison fatiguing over time. So I just work on spurts. I generally do not work longer than ½ hour without a break, and around three or four hours before a longer break. Sometimes that is all I can put in for the day. Sometimes I go back to it after a few hours of doing something else. Often I work on my writing or book studies in between painting sessions – or play a computer game – another way I like to take a break. I do not know why I fatigue so quickly, but it does get noticeably better when I consistently work every day.



The less I think about what I’m doing the smoother what I’m doing becomes. It is a luxury to not think about what you’re going to do next, especially when you’re learning because you’ve always got this dialogue running in your mind coaching you, the voices of teachers, of books, instructing you into the correct way to do things. I do my best when I shake all that.

With Josie, I wanted to smooth the effect in this session. I was not happy with the scratchy marks and the cumbersome execution with the charcoal. I wanted something fresher, cleaner. I looked to my right and I saw one of my super soft paint brushes. To my surprise I just took it and I started brushing the charcoal around. That’s a really bold move when you’ve spent a month working on a portrait and have never done the technique before. I could have lost everything but I got lucky. Actually, after so much study, I don’t know if it’s all just luck anymore! I was able to reconcile some problem areas and add some fresh spontaneity to the background and achieve that flat neat black background that I wanted. About three times I should have stopped and I by the end of the session I had created and lost about 3 completely different drawings. Must work on more control.


Getting ready to work the print in the cloth. Right now it appears like a blank canvas but will have a very complex French vine and floral print. The potato came along very easily. The paint tube still needs a lot of work. I am getting faster with my pastels and more confident.



I have been working on my Sadie Valeri Atelier Online projects – more spheres, value strips and a couple block in progression. It was a challenge to get the block in consistent and identical in each stage. What a great exercise, doing each stage from the beginning. I am very much enjoying and learning from Sadie’s curriculum and approach. I also think I finally am happy with my value sphere!

My goal this week is to finish Josie and continue to make progress on the Varo. I have a new block in to do for Sadie and want to start a couple of small graphite drawings as soon as Josie is done. I am not enjoying the charcoal much at all. Also, it poses the same storage and framing challenges as the pastel. I still want to work in oil and graphite primarily. That being said, I am setting up to paint this week so will be focusing on that as well.

A Change of Scenery

Sometimes I need a change, sometimes I get tired of hitting up on my limitations over and over again and I need a shift in scenery, a new direction. I have for the immediate future left studying at the Neoteric, though I will always consider it my art home. Lisa and Matthew are my good friends and said they would continue to come by for the informal crit and coffee. I enjoy that time a lot. They are the first really close artist friends I have made in many years.

That being said, I am now studying remotely/via an online program at Sadie Valerie’s Atelier. It better meets my requirements at this time and the direction is more geared towards still life drawing and painting. The work I have done with Lisa and Matthew has prepared me tremendously for this, though Sadie’s curriculum and methods are QUITE different. I can really see how the Florence Academy of Art informs Lisa’s teaching methods.

The first thing Sadie has me doing is drawing a sphere. I thought that would be easy peasy but she had me redraw it three times. In addition to the sphere beginners in her program start with ellipses, 2D sphere light direction and shadow studies and a variety of value strips using a variety of pencils. After jumping right into figures at the Neoteric this seemed to be going backwards, even basic. I was quite happy though with both the level of personal critique from Sadie and what I learned in the assignments. I am happy to say she let me move on to drawing the steps of a block in and doing one full block in in a simple still life. She did this with the addition that I continue to work on my third sphere and my pencil work on the strips. My pencil work is still a little rough. I blame my camera – heh.This all is preparation for painting in the indirect method that she teaches. It is very much in harmony with how I tend to paint naturally.

So below are my Spheres and misc. work from Sadie’s program. I will post these along the way, and also my own personal work which I am always working on. I want this blog be more about my total art journey and not just the work I do related to an atelier. A little different than the in the past. Cheers!

Summer Break Projects

The school is on break until September and undergoing some super remodeling. I can’t wait to get back to it, it should be fantastic. My health is improving it appears so I should be able to take two classes in the fall and one independent studio day to work at the Studio. I move slowly but I keep on going. I enjoy contributing to the school administratively, doing their newsletter, some social media work and coming soon online galleries where you can purchase original artwork by students and teachers of the school. I also support the Director and teacher Lisa Silas. It keeps me out of trouble when I am not working on my artwork. I’ve been keeping busy over the break too. Making excellent progress on the ongoing Holbein Master’s copy and my Bargue like study of an angel. I have been working on both for a long time but I keep plugging along, always coming back to them like old friends just waiting to talk and catch up. Over the break I have really put in some time on them. Also on two day oil studies of still-lifes. I have never painted from life before and my Teacher Matthew wants me to work this quarter on doing fast studies, working on beginnings and familiarizing myself with putting paint on the canvas. I have always painted indirectly and alla prima or short term is really new to me, it shows but if I do enough I will get better at it. I am also doing short block-ins from a Model book, a few a week, a couple hours each.

I had a discussion with a friend of mine, scholar and curator Joseph Bravo and he encouraged me, making the analogy that my art practice is like playing scales in piano study. To really become a fluent pianist and develop your own voice, and even compose you must first play lots and lots of scales. That is exactly what my practice is. He said “Two years of playing scales and then you can start working on what you really want to paint.” I am already seeking that imagery so when I have the technical skill I will be ready to naturally progress into a more personal expression. I have found a peace of sorts with playing scales, at the moment anyway.

Quote of August:

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Henry James



End of Term Review!

I just had my end of term critique and review with Matthew and Lisa. It is always amazing to put all the work that you have done in a term out there to really look at. I have made up in home work and extra work what I have missed in class due to health struggles and feel very good all in all with my output.

In the figure drawing room I had a number of pretty solid block-in’s and outline drawings. I had a Bargue drawing, a master’s copy and a cast drawing still in progress, some workshop paintings, a homework still life painting and some completed extracurricular pastels all done within the last few months.

I think the thing that disappointed me the most was the Bargue and Cast drawing. Matthew thought they went very well and wants me to call them lessons learned and move on to new projects this coming term. I do not like to not finish things. I know I would have done a better job on it and gotten so much farther if I had been able to get to class more often for critiques. That is where the health stuff gets so frustrating – but I just don’t let myself go there. I do the best I can do with what I got and I work like a banshee, be it at the studio or at home. I do the art because I am compelled by it, I study these techniques because I am compelled to learn. The health stuff is at most a frustrating distraction.

The consensus of the critique was very favorable and they pointed out things that I had done very well, and why they were done well. Regarding general things I can work on in this coming term – I need to stand back more from my work. Make an effort, even though I work at home in a chair… get up and just stand back, use the mirror more often, come to the studio when I am able, off hours and use the studio so I have the space I need to really stand back from my work.

In my drawing and painting, begin to loosen up and try for a quicker understanding of the form while utilizing all of the classical techniques I am learning.

Focus on solid beginnings and let go of the need for clean finishes at this point. With solid beginnings a clean finish will just be that much more powerful. There is much wisdom in this… it is one of those teachings that apply to both art and life.

The critique led into the plan for next quarter. I am very excited because there is a huge difference in the basic approach I have been taking to my work! I cannot wait to get started.

Plan for next quarter –

Classes and objectives:
Figure Drawing Wednesday 9-12pm – Focus on three day block-ins, then move to another position. Take the block-ins to a generalized understanding of correct form and relationships. Not going for a finish.

Cast Drawing Wednesdays 1-4pm – Start a new cast <old man>. Focus on getting to where I left the last one quicker. Maybe do some simple cast painting projects for a portion of the class.

Independent Projects Fridays – Work on cast, cast painting, some still life painting.

  • Weekly Homework: Try for five figure block-ins of no more than 1 – 1 ½ hour per drawing per week.
    Use pose book or magazines for model.
  • Paint from LIFE and focus on the block in in a more alla prima application. Use my work shop paintings as an examples.
  • Begin drawing without the use of grids.
  • Apply energy that would be directed into pastel work into the painting exercises. Let go of needing to get to the finish of things.
  • August – Make use of the studio space and set up a little space to paint/draw.

Art School Growing Pains

Time flies! It’s been way too long since last I checked in. First off, I want to send a shout out to fellow artist and former Neoteric student Dan – This post is for you , finally!

Each student that studies with us, even for a short time brings with them their unique contribution to the group as a whole and leaves there mark with every one of us. As the school has grown I have been able to watch the growth and shifts of this dynamic group of learning artists. I see how the school itself responds to the needs of the group and the needs of the individual at the same time. We are such a small school right now, an intimate gathering of artists working with a shared goal to elevate our understanding and ability to draw and express our thoughts through the language of classical realism. It is that common ground that unifies the different personalities and individual needs into the vision that is our school.

I see Lisa, Matthew and Jonathan working hard to formulate a fresh teaching philosophy and curriculum that embraces not only their roots in traditional classical realism at the Florence Academy, but also the needs of their students as artists in the here and now. They try new things, and some stick… and some don’t. They go back to their roots, and then stretch their understanding of those roots some more. In it all they are building the teaching style and core philosophy that the Neoteric will eventually be known for. This is such a special time and the core of the teaching remains constant, though sometimes it can be a little unpredictable when you come in the morning ready for a three hour sitting only to find out that you’re having a plein air day or a gesture drawing warm up. I have learned to just go with it… because in it all these young teachers will find through trial and error what works best, what really takes the student where the student wants to go in the shortest time possible. Many of our students are part time or less than part time students but have the expectation of full time results. How will the school meet those expectations? Only by stretching their own understanding of curriculum a little bit.

I find all of this fascinating and I really believe that I am watching a little history in the making when I see this very talented and sincere group of artist/educators making the map as they drive the roads. And it is all for us… the students. This special crew that stands easel to easel and does the hard work of learning the form together.

This is an incredibly exciting time for us as we venture into the role of a cooperative, elevating the importance and functionality of the “group” and the individual to a new level. I feel so much connection to each one of my fellow students and it is my honor to draw with each one of them.


Technical Difficulties

I ran into some things this week in the drawing room that I thought might be interesting to illustrate. It was by no means a great week of drawing, but it was a solid week where I learned a lot and felt like I made it past a couple walls. I still really need one of those weeks where you stand back and go “wow – I did that!” but for now “wow – I learned that!” must suffice.


My best efforts this week were with the live figure. After adjustment after drastic adjustment I really got past a struggle I was having to have the chest carry the height that the model had. As you an see, it is a proud pose, great pose.  By the time I got to blocking in the head it was flowing and I was really enjoying the work.

However, I learned some frustrating but important technical lessons. I was using a soft paper with a hard H lead. I didn’t know that was what I was doing but it became clear later. It was a new setup for me because I was feeling a little heavy handed with the HB lead. The Canson paper I used last time didn’t hold up to the erasure as much as I would have liked so I tried out some Stonehenge paper. Variables, variables.

I found that the H lead on the Stonehenge paper lightly indented the paper because I had to press a little harder to get a legible mark. Then when I went to erase and make adjustments the paper started to fuzz. The white tuff stuff erasure I was using grabbed the already fuzzed paper and marred it even more. Result…  a lesson learned and some ugly areas that will stay with the drawing forever but will greatly inform my next drawing.

The second technical lesson I learned had to do with paper again, and my inexperience with charcoal. The cast drawing is really hard for me right now. I began once but the paper was not in great shape so I got another sheet of Canson paper. I began again on this paper; it was not Canson Mi Tiennes paper I discovered.  Wow… Because I am having such a hard time locking in the shadow shapes of the cast I had to make lots of adjustments to the placement of the eyebrow. I was using a bit of a harder touch than I should with the charcoal but even still, the paper just would not let it go when I was trying to erase. By the time I got the eyebrow moved to where I wanted it there was this terrible, really bad ghost mark from where the charcoal would not erase.

Matthew and I looked at it and decided to keep working and get my placement where I wanted it. He then instructed me on how to do a very careful transfer of the drawing onto a new and better sheet of paper. A transfer is rather tricky because we are doing sight size measurement with the cast so I have to transfer the plumb line exactly, etc. Learning how to do the transfer is really interesting but this is the second time I started this freeking cast over.

Here is the deal. The solution to each of these is technical and materials related… change the lead to HB, get another sheet of paper. Simple. But I think that you can adjust tools over and over and that some combinations are just bad, but the really important adjustment is to adjust yourself… adjust the marks you make, heavier or lighter depending on the materials at hand. Personally, if I can do this I will save a lot of money because I can use the materials I have instead of chasing the perfect paper or charcoal. So yes, the problem really was a combination of materials… but the solution is found in knowing all the materials well enough to be able to anticipate and control the results.

So, there is a whole lot of technical mumbo jumbo for you, but it really was good experience for me and I know my tools that much better. The cast thing is so frustrating to me right now, but I know I will have a good run of it this time, right? They say the third time is the charm.

1on1 Studio Time Tue 7/16

Every Tuesday and Thursdays I draw in the studio while Lisa is working on her art. She spends a lot of time with me, especially right now as I am just starting out. This time is invaluable to me and I learn so much from her thoughts and input.

Today I finished up my Brague eye #2 and started a Brague figure which will take a week, I hope. They eye took a week so this might take a little longer.  Major victory with the eye! I finally groked what Lisa was looking for. It was not just correct angles, and lengths but to replicate the drawing exactly – line thickness, line endings, curves – exactly, using only lines and my pencil. She said I could use charcoal to get a stronger line but I fought with the charcoal and it became more of a distraction from the study. I will save charcoal for when I am a little more fluent with my eye and hand.

I am pleased with the eye but that confidence did not last long as I started in on the figure. Again the struggle set in early as I tried to find my orientation on the page. Everything I have ever learned about drawing is like in a separate box in my head right now. I all am dots and lines. I barely felt like I was drawing. I had good results from this effort, the measured dots and lines, thoughtful results.

But noooo, I wanted to “draw” so I rushed into the chest chanting in my head “trust your eye, trust your eye, use the force Luke,” ya something like that…” Stepping back, to my amazement I got a couple of the lines close to correct and the chest looked like a chest.  But this is the point of it all… it did not look like the chest I was trying to draw and I could not tell you why.

This is why we learn this stuff – measure, why take our time, connect the dots, measure, connect – so we learn to see and to draw what we see. We are not simply ‘drawing’, we are studying. Lisa explained that is why what we do is called a ‘study’. We are looking, and looking again, exploring relationships in space, learning to memorize what we see so that we can translate it into marks.

Now if I can get to the drawing as well as I get to the thinking… I will make some real progress.

Thursday Night

I’m home from a really long day of drawing and helping out at the studio. I got a couple hours of Bargue in this morning and Lisa had me switch from the pencil to charcoal because I was working in very thin marks and some of the Bargue lines are quite thick in some places.  I made very, VERY little progress but I was less than focused, tuning into all of the exciting energy in the studio. Note to self – make myself focus more when I am there in the mornings drawing. Tonight was the drawing guild. My second live figure drawing ever and the start of a five week pose. It was by far the hardest night of drawing that I have had. For a while there I just kept drawing my center line with the plumb because it was the only thing that seemed to not move around and be in the same place after I looked away for a second. I struggled with which eye to close, when to look over my glasses, where to stand, how to stand, how far away to stand from the easel. How to make marks lighter, how to make marks at all. Everything was a struggle tonight and at one point I just wanted to give it up. I won’t of course and I consider the fact that I felt that much struggle a sure sign of growth, but my goodness. In the last fifteen minutes I actually got some stuff on the paper but a lot of it felt like it was fiction and I wasn’t really “seeing” it. When I double checked and re-measured, a few of those lines were actually spot on. This made me happy and I left with a glimmer of encouragement.  So, this weekend it is daily Bargue for me. To bed now…


First One on One with Lisa Silas

In exchange for administration work I am doing for the school I am able to receive some one on one teaching from Lisa for three hours two or three times a week. We are starting where most traditional atelier educations in drawing start – with the Bargue Drawing system. I did my first Bargue drawing plate and it took me three hours. By the end of it I was able to somewhat see a line a millimeter off it’s true path.  My weary head would say “wow, that is really close” and my eye would say “something is not exactly right”. There is a larger lesson in that little fight between the eye and the weary mind. I expect many larger lessons in the grand journey that I am so blessed to be able to be on. PS. I have already made minute corrections to this drawing… maybe it is time to start a new plate!


First Post, First Night at the Guild

Drawing Guild work at the Neoteric Rennassance School of Art. First night. Three hours, a model and six other drawers. First figure drawing and preliminary introduction to the classical sight-size method with walk around feedback and critique from teachers Lisa Silas and Jonathan Chorn from the Florence Academy of Art. This is my first entry in the journal and as you can see I have a long, long way to go. I feel excited and very fortunate to be able to embark on this journey with Lisa and Jonathan at their school!