23 May 2008

William Wray Demo

Busy with contractors' work at home, a new movie and life in general, I thought I'd just take a break and go see William Wray's demo at the San Gabriel Fine Arts Association. Plus, I am doing the demo next! The AC was humming along in the middle of the heat wave and Mr. Wray delighted us with a rendition of the taco stand in Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles. He brought along some of his "Dirty Beauty" books and some examples of his highly personal style. He used thick paint and a deliberate pace over a tinted canvas. I tend to think the way he paints his skies is too "solid" but , at the same time, they are thick and dark and textured which gives them a certain ominous presence that complements well with his subject matter: urban neglect narrative.

07 May 2008

The moroccan boy

From the fifteen or so studies I did in Scottsdale (and I did swipe quite a few) , for some reason this is my favorite. I did it in Clayton's class . I always pick a "launching" piece when I think I have achieved something different or new . I do not sell that. It serves as a turning point of sorts, a stage below which I am not allowed to slip. There are a couple of other pieces that are also interesting and new to me but I chose this one for the strength of the statement, the lack of detailed distractions and the amount of departure from previous "ways" of mine.

Clayton Beck's workshop

My second week in Scottsdale, AZ, I took a workshop with Clayton Beck. The maestro has absorbed a lot of Richard Schmid's alla prima skills and I was interested even though Ted Nutall was also teaching that week at the same school. My choice was rewarded handsomely as Clayton is a phenomenal teacher. His method is quite different from Sherri's but somehow their respective instruction complemented each other beautifully. Clayton also rejects the "formula" approach but pushed for a "statement" which reminded me of the "concept" from Sherri. As a practical way of bringing the point home , he used exercises in adaptability by encouraging his class to start every painting differently according to whether this was a color study, a tonal study, an anatomical exercise or a drawing.
He droned concepts continuously and arranged for the sessions to constantly change forcing us to reevaluate every brushtroke carefully instead of racing for the finish. I finally took care of m "mass production" tendencies of which I speak in a previous note.
He emphasized good habits of reflection and observation and even about brush care and lighting. He almost paralyzed most of us into a complete overhaul. No one person in the class left shaken and as a result, everybody gained immense insights constantly surprising ourselves.
He was able to read your thinking in every brushstroke. What can I say, my thinking was fuzzy until I endured his scrutiny. From edge finding to squinting to tone and temperature, this was a class to remember .Clayton Beck III figure demo. Reproduced with no explicit permission for education purposes only. All rights belong to Clayton Beck III.

06 May 2008


On my free Sunday I went to visit the town of Superior in Arizona. This was a copper mining town in its heyday but now it is a neglected little town. (With copper prices the way they are today one would think it could make a come back but apparently the company that runs the mines has a history of serious polluting. ) In any case, it was HOT and muggy but the town offered a lot to paint. So much so I settled for the picturesque Main street which was a mistake of sorts since there was not a lot of shadow and I was pretty miserable. I did meet some of the people that live in Superior and its tough economic and environmental climate. Some of them are artists as well. One gentleman invited me to his studio but I had the intention of painting as long as the sun was up. I left for Kearney and saw first hand how whole mountains have been reduced to dust due to massive mining operations. When I came back to visit at 7:30pm it was definitely late but I was newly amazed at the amount of painterly matter in this town. Dilapidated structures and mining chimneys, the magnificence of the "Apache's Leap" peak as a backdrop, small churches by the road...a definite return if I am ever in those parts. And for everybody's information, Geronimo never jumped to his death from any mountain, he died of pneumonia in Oklahoma. Sorry about that.

Sherri McGraw workshop (3)

These pictures are reproduced without explicit permission of the author for educational purposes only and are not to be used or reproduced commercially in any way.

Sherri McGraw's Workshop (2)

I won't enter into specifics about her teaching methods. After all, you really have t take the class to get the benefit. As surface, I used a lead and maroger "priming" over the oil primed smooth linen that required some care in the handling of the brush. The brush should be held away from the ferrule. Whenever I find myself drawing with the brush I remember this is opposed to the language of painting which doesn't rely on line but tone and color shifts. My palette included Vasari colors from New York and Old Master's maroger as a medium. I am not sure I will keep using maroger until I get a really well ventilated studio since its fumes were overwhelming and I'd like to paint for many years.

As for how to approach the painting itself, Sherri emphasizes the importance of the "concept". This sounded like voodoo to me initially but as she explained and demonstrated, it became very tangible and real. And I must say my painting improved despite my stubborn fears. I think when you take a workshop like this you MUST , really MUST feel uncomfortable, do everything possible to question yourself and your "ways", may be fail , may be not finish, may be start again and again. If you come to these workshops to finish a couple of paintings you might as well stay home. Sherri's workshop was splendid but Clayton Beck's would finish what she started and push me over to the twilight zone....

Still life demo by Sherri Mc Graw. Image copyright belongs to S. McGraw.

Sherri McGraw's workshop.(1)

I just came back from attending the Sherri McGraw workshop in Scottsdale . All I can say is that it was amazing. Sherri is an incredibly accomplished artists and a wonderful teacher.
In a previous note I commented on the price of materials. Well, after attending Sherri's class they don't feel so expensive after all. Not because they are so much better but because she (as well as Clayton Beck) use them with such precision and care that they practically remain undisturbed.
Sherri's demos required no correcting, no wild brushing, no more than a couple of filberts. I don't think she even got the pigment too deep towards the brush ferrule! And the results were a gorgeous still life and a very rembrantdesque reclining figure. She did these in less than an hour and while talking and pausing for questions.

She was very patient and gave personalized advice. No wonder her class was full well in advance. Her palette and methods are similar to those of her partner and teacher David Leffel."The Language of Drawing". If you need to rekindle your love for drawing, that is the book for you. It has some great advice. There is no way to boil her class down to a few concepts and she certainly would resent it if anyone ever tried to come up with a "formula". She is the antidote to the formulas we have been fed and was able to convey that as artists, we DO NOT paint what we see or recreate "reality" but edit beauty and re-deliver it to the world . They both have published books and I enjoyed reading hers regarding