Portrait Workshop with Gregory Mortenson


In August I took a two-week portrait workshop in New York at Jacob Collins’ atelier, Grand Central Academy (GCA). The workshop was taught by Gregory Mortenson who does beautiful portrait work. Mortenson graduated from GCA in 2006 after studying for four years with Collins and was a graphic designer prior entering the atelier, like me.

One of my main goals from last year was to get better at drawing the face knowing that figure drawings often fall apart at the face. I took a portrait drawing workshop, painted at portrait club and tended to crop in on the face while painting from the figure in life room.
There were only 12 spots for the class so I signed signed up early way back in April and waited for months. This would be my send off for Operation Year Two: Portrait Crack Down. Not that anyone is ever done pursuing the great mysteries of the portrait (it will probably remain my obsession), but this would be a major benchmark to see how far I’ve come.

The first week of the class was for drawing the portrait in graphite, then we learned to mix flesh tones and got into painting during the second week. Here are photos of the process:


The workshop was super helpful and and a good prep course for a year of full color in life room. Year Three started last Monday and I have my sites set on a new or perhaps expanded goal: tackling convincing flesh tones on the full figure in life room. It is my deepest wish of year three to paint a sensitively drawn figure with rounded turning of forms in convincing flesh tones — and with accurate values!

In terms of tall orders, this is the Burj Khalifa of painting goals. All painters learn to draw and paint the figure simply because it is the most challenging subject out there. It’s organic yet very structural, transluscent and opaque, and it’s human. It’s us. Every person in the world has the uncanny ability to know when something has gone wrong in a figure painting, no artistic training required. And so that’s the gauntlet of year three. A convincing figure. With a full palette at my disposal and two years of training under my belt, let’s see what happens.