Tag Archives: TN

Contemporary Figure Painting Part 2: A Painter’s Perspective

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Workshop “Alla Prima” Demo by Felicia Forte

As an artist, learning new techniques and breaking bad habits is a neccessary part of the journey. When one struggles for months or even years to acheive a technical goal, the frustration can settle in like an univited guest who refuses to take leave at a reasonable hour.  When I read that one of my favorite artists, Felicia Forte, was scheduled to teach a workshop at Warehoue 521 in Nashville, TN, I knew that a six hour drive was a minor hurdle and that I must attend despite a busy schedule at home.

During her demos, I began to understand what Forte deems as important, on a technical level, for a successful alla prima figure painting. Pay close attention to drawing the initial large shapes (“one look, one line”), to value, and to color. Think about how to paint each shape with the fewest brushstrokes as possible. As a teacher, Forte uses language with the same rich, saturated economy of her brushstrokes. “When you see someone down the street, you recognize them because of the largest shapes on the face and body, not because you can see the details. Always paint the largest shapes first.”

Best of all, on the first day of the workshop, she demonstrated four specific steps that helped her improve her own paintings. She was quite direct with every purposeful word she spoke and even told us HOW to be students. “Write this down. I want you to take notes. Later you will use the notes when you are painting.” “Take pictures so you can see the steps. I will ask you to use the snaps when you are painting so you can remember the steps while you learn something new.” “Next I will get more quiet. I will be painting. Just watch.” Her blunt language enabled her to do the best job she could while teaching and allowed us to do the best job we could while learning. I was tremendously grateful and impressed early in the first day of the three day workshop.

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As a bonus, Forte allowed me to ask her the same questions about contemporary figure painting I asked gallery owners in the previous post. Talking with several gallery owners last week about contemporary figure painting was exciting and insightful. Now I’d hear the  perspective of a rising star. While Forte’s current body of paintings is not strictly figurative, I wanted to pay attention to the similarities and differences between an artist perspective and that of a gallery.

Do you feel like there is a strong collector’s market for figure painting today? Is there anything specifically challenging about selling figurative work?

“It’s funny because…I have no idea. I mean, I’ve spent most of my time getting good at painting and teaching painting. The show I have now at Adend Gallery is the first big show I’ve done, as far as number of paintings. It is 25 paintings, many of which are not figurative. The gallery does say that since 2008 sales have been twice as difficult as before.”

In your opinion, what is the difference between a figure painting and a portrait?

“Well, I don’t think there is enough information in the question. A portrait can be a figurative painting and a figurative painting can be a portrait. It depends on the artist.”

What about when an art collector is admiring a painting and says something along the lines of not wanting a figure painting in their home unless they know the person in the painting? I hear this type of comment about my own work which makes me curious about the perceived difference between a portrait and a figurative painting. 

“Either the artist is not educated or the collectors are not educated. Your question tells me that people need to be more educated about what’s happening in the art world today.”

Will you name a few contemporary figure painters you admire and tell us what you appreciate about their work?

“I like Emile Joseph Robinson who I wouldn’t call strictly a figurative painter. I’ve watched his progress during the last three or four years. He started with pastels, then went abstract and now he is coming back around and is more representational. He is curious, his work is unique and he is inspiring.”

“Daniel Sprick – he is just a master.  I know that his work is unique and impressive and moving. But not moving in the same way as the first guy I mentioned. Robinson paints more like I like to paint myself. I do not paint like Daniel Sprick, but I admire him.”

Do you have any advice for emerging figure painters?

“Beyond the technical? Make sure you are painting for you first and foremost and not your idea of what the market wants. It will become not fun to do. I’d say, enter contests. It is a good way to thicken your skin, a good thing to do, there is a range of prestige in the available contests. In entering them, look at who the jurors are and see if it is worth your time or entry fee.”

“I’ve been conservative about putting stuff in galleries. I spend my time traveling to teach workshops and am not teaching regularly at home anymore. This gives me more time to paint, thus building the gallery career.”

“It usually takes longer and the path is much windier than you think it will be so be able to adjust.”

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In summary, taking a workshop from an admired artist is an incredible opportunity to push yourself, learn new skills, and gain valuable insight. Thank you to Felicia Forte fstudioblkandwhite2or honing your teaching skills, in addition to your painting skills, so students can learn more than they may have thought possible in a three day workshop. And thank you to Warehouse 521. In three short years, Jeanie Smith has developed an incredible program that attracts top artists from around the world. I’ll certainly keep my eye in the schedule and hope to return soon.

P.S. Below are some paintings from the workshop and from my studio. Ever since returning home, I’ve been practicing what we learned in the workshop. Bad habits are hard to break but I think I’m making some progress. dsc_0655 dsc_0669 dsc_0666 dsc_0664dsc_0658 dsc_0660

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Arrowmont Part 1: An artist’s experience

IMG_0075_2For years, I’ve heard glowing reviews from colleagues, teachers, artists and friends about Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and for years I’ve dreamily combed over the course catalog. This summer, with my daughters away at camp, and an admired instructor on the Arrowmont schedule, I seized the opportunity to finally attend.

The nine hour drive from Little Rock was happily interrupted by a weekend of gallery hopping with an old college friend in Nashville (scroll down to see previous post if you are interested in Nashville galleries). I then headed to Gatlinburg, TN on Sunday. After battling the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg traffic, my arrival at IMG_6091the secluded and serene Arrowmont campus was a relief. Making me feel welcome, Cynthia at the Registrar’s desk had a nametag, map, and instruction sheet ready and waiting. After depositing my belongings in Hughes Hall, I headed to dinner where meeting students who would soon become peers was quick and easy. My worries about not knowing anyone here faded as I joined several diners, all excited about the upcoming week at Arrowmont.

During dinner, a student who has attended over 20 classes here shared tales and tips with our table of plebeians. Afterward, we all headed to an auditorium for Orientation which included guidelines, class information, a history of Arrowmont, and an introduction of the teachers. It IMG_0085_2become immediately clear, as if I hadn’t noticed in the course listing, the teachers are world class. It was also clear that Arrowmont is a highly organized, well run program. I liked knowing our time here would be used wisely, and that there were multiple opportunities to learn, from artist lectures, to studio tours, to an extensive and beautiful library (see photo on left).

At end of this article, I'll list the artist websites I made note of...I'm sorry the list is incomplete! They are all very talented and worth a visit.

At end of this article, I’ll list the artist websites I made note of…I’m sorry the list is incomplete! They are all very talented and worth a visit.

Each night at Arrowmont, there are artists lectures beginning soon after the incredibly healthy and delicious dinners. OK, OK, side note, I can’t delay this any longer, I know this blog is about art but I must talk for a moment about something else very important: FOOD. The food at Arrowmont is incredible. I had zero expectations…of all the great things I’ve heard about the place, I didn’t pay attention to reports about the food and as I was more interested in the art class experience. IMG_0080_2I simply purchased the meal plan with my enrollment in order to save time by avoiding downtown Gatlinburg for IMG_0094_2meals. There were multiple salads served each meal, several freshly prepared vegetables, vegetarian options at every meal, soups, homemade desserts, and delicious coffee, tea, and beverages available throughout the day. I cook often at home, and having three healthy vegetarian meals provided each day was a delightful surprise.

At 7:00, on the first night of lectures, we heard 15 minute presentations from Pinkney Herbert (who came out dancing and jamming on a harmonica), Andrew Kuebeck, and several of the artist residents. As soon as Pinkney’s harmonica sang, I knew the evening lectures should not be missed. IMG_0084_2So, there were daily lectures, films, instructional time in the studio, open studio time, group critiques, and reading assignments. And just when one might need to get out of the studio (and take a break from the oil paint fumes, in our case), Arrowmont wisely provides an event called “Studio Stroll” on Thursday evening. Brilliant. Get your target audience hooked on yet IMG_0082_2ANOTHER medium. I can’t decide if I became more enamored with enameling with Mary Chuduck or felting with Stephanie Metz. I’d heard these artists lecture earlier in the week so by the time I visited their studios on Thursday evening, I’d developed a great appreciation for the process and their work.

Overall, on top of the incredible instruction, unparalleled course offerings, and scrumptious food, Arrowmont is a place where artists can build a community of peers who inevitably feed our ideas. It is a place that elevates the direction of our work and softens the sense of isolation artists often feel. Whether you are a newcomer to the arts, a hobbyist, or a professional artist, this place is a heavenly balance of on the job training and summer camp. In addition to technique with materials, we can glean from the faculty tips about lecturing, teaching methods, and gallery business. We can learn about ourselves, our goals, and more about our own work. And we can experience the feeling of really getting away from it all while conversely getting a ton of work done. And that, to me, makes every moment at Arrowmont time well spent.IMG_6106

Thank you for reading! Up next, I’ll describe our painting class, lessons, and work samples in more detail in “Arrowmont Part 2: Painting with Pinkney Herbert.”

Artist websites:
stephaniemetz.com
andrewkuebeck.com
stonepoolpottery.com
borealisstudios.com
graemepriddle.com
pinkneyherbert.com