This is my third January as an atelier student and I have come to love the beginning of the calendar year which, in atelier life, comes after several weeks away from the easel while we break for the holidays. By mid January, when we begin again, our brains have rested and the dust has settled. All of the learning we crammed into the fall quarter has somehow gotten processed during this break and every student returns significantly improved, a true Christmas miracle.
And as anticipated as Christmas morning, I look forward to the first week back in the atelier wondering what surprises await me. What will I suddenly struggle with less? What piece of understanding will have slid into place? But this year, just as the first day back to school arrived, I got sick. Holidays with family in Tennessee and a death in the family in Texas created an ambitious travel schedule in a particularly hairy flu season and I was trounced the day before school started on Monday the 9th. I had to stay away until that Wednesday. I was so bummed!
We spent that first week getting back into the swing of things with one-day studies in life room which were a blast, once I finally got to partake.
The following Monday, we set the pose for a three-week painting with a wonderful model named Preston, who is also a classically trained dancer. I just finished the 16 x 26 inch version of this painting on Friday. I need to let it dry and get a good enough photo before I post it. I have some fun work-in-progress shots I’m looking forward to sharing as well.
Meanwhile in the afternoon we were finishing up anything left on our easels from before the break and working on one-day still life studies.
Work-in-progress alert: I’m still a few days away from finishing this still life, “A Winter Garden,” even through I already have a frame cut for it. I’ll post a new and improved photo later in the spring after I finish. This is what I had been working on at the end of fall before break. You’ll remember I was studying turning form in different colors by isolating one color at a time in small studies. This study is a bit larger and contains several different colors I wanted to practice working with. So far orange is the trickiest for me to turn form with I suspect because you must take it from quite bright to quite dark with out muddying the color. Not quite sure why the yellow lemons weren’t as difficult.
Below is a one-day study I made to explore more of that red-purple you can see on the red cabbage above. I did it very quickly but sometimes really quick projects retain a nice fresh quality in the paint.
The next week I began painting some flowers that my studio-mate Karin had gotten for her birthday in November. They dried so beautifully in the vase I had to paint them.
Last week I worked on a self-portrait that never quite came out right. Namely, because I didn’t give myself enough time and because it gets dark so early in the afternoon, the light completely changes by 3 PM and so do the shadows. This was my first self-portrait attempt and there were things that seemed intimidating at first that turned out to be easy, like how to set up the mirror, and then other things I thought would be no big deal that turned out to be deal-breakers, like I couldn’t paint the way I normally do because the model wouldn’t sit still. I would definitely start by making a full drawing next time. This one I did with an alla prima (all at once) start, drawing in paint and adding color very quickly.
The following painting is not mine, it hangs in the Frye Art Museum here in Seattle. A couple of years ago the museum started a program called Remastered that allows my atelier to paint master copies in the gallery mere feet away from the original paintings. Last summer I copied a portrait in the gallery that I will post about in the future. The painting below, “Voluptas,” will be the next painting I copy starting this week. It’s wonderful to sit in the museum with an easel working from the original painting and viewing the original brush strokes. I’ll be there every Thursday afternoon for the next 10 weeks.
As a parting image, I want to share this flower arrangement I made over the weekend. My friend Jasmine (hey Jasmine!) told me about a class she was taking at a nearby florist’s shop. Having worked as an art director and now painter, I realized it had been a long time since I’d done something creative where the stakes were super low. Arranging flowers felt like a bath for my brain. And you can only make gorgeous flowers look great. I had to resist the urge to paint them though.