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In keeping with the times and current state of affairs, I’m offering online classes in painting and drawing.
The format will be that I provide a subject we’ll both paint from, usually either a still life I’ve photographed or a painting or drawing to copy. I begin the classes with a demonstration of what we’re going to paint or draw. I explain how to begin, what materials to use: pencils, brushes and colors, and what to think about as you enhance your skills and learn some tricks of the trade.
Class times vary. Lessons are available at 1 – 2 hour lengths for individuals and 2 – 3 hour lengths for groups of 2 or more.
Individual: 1 hour: $45; 2 hours: $60
Groups: 2 hour: $35 per student; 3 hours: $50
There are 2 instructional videos on YouTube:
Here is a sampling of current students’ work:
A painting by me:
One more of mine:
Last post I wrote about the practice of blind contour drawing, and I thought I would post a couple of blind contour drawings that I did for this project. Plus I’ve added a few more how-to’s and why’s.
Using an Ebony pencil by Prismacolor for these, on a cheap 11″‘ x 14″ drawing pad. A soft leaded pencil is the best tool to use because it responds to the pressure you use pressing into the page: to make a dark line indicating where you see dark in your subject press harder, and where it’s light use less pressure. This trains your hand and eye to respond in synch with each other, and it carries over to the responsive pressure you use with a paint brush as well as a pencil. A ball point pen won’t give the range of expression you get from a 2B or 3B pencil.
This is the subject of all three of the drawings I’ve included:
For these drawings I followed what I absorbed from reading and practicing Nicolade’s The Natural Way to Draw: Start with your pencil on a point on the paper, and focus your eyes on a single point on the object you’re drawing. Now, going slowly, start moving your gaze, keeping it focused on the object and move your pencil in sync with your gaze so that the pencil touches the paper as your eye touches the object. In my example of the cup, scissors and pens I focused on the top most point of the left handle of the scissors and started down to my left.
Going slowly, allow your eye to wander, as long you keep responding and recording with your hand where your eye is touching. Notice every little thing, from the curve of the handle of the scissor to the shadows under the cup handle, around the lip of the cup into the rise of the orange pen, over to the ball point pen pointing up to the right.
This method of drawing is more for training your eye than to deliver a finished product. It is a discipline, like a musician practicing scales repeatedly or an athlete running drills: to sharpen their skills, in our case our observation skills. Practice builds muscle-memory that allows you to perform what you’ve practiced without having to think about it conciously. drawing without control in this way is the best method for achieving true control. Once you realize that you can make a beautiful drawing without the anxiety and fear that your drawing won’t be “good” by inappropriate and insane standards imposed by others, you’ll see your drawing improve with focus, not struggle.
The only way to make a bad bc drawing is to not respond with feeling to what you’re seeing. In learning to see shapes -I’m not drawing pens in a cup, I’m drawing the shapes that exist as edges, shadows and reflections (part of what you’re focusing on in the exercise) – you can then learn to use those shapes to create form and volume, texture, and the negative spaces between objects.
In the drawing below I did look at the drawing a few times, when I reached a dead end or felt irretrievably off course, but not as I was drawing. You can see the lines that just end – the 2 hooked lines midway on the right side, where I stopped to reset my pencil to begin again.
Looking at the drawings of Ingres, Degas, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Gustav Klimt or Egon Schiele you’ll find how they each developed a style derived from blind contour drawing while not necessarily sticking to the “rule” of not looking or lifting their pencil.
All of my students have heard me go on about, or they will, “blind contour drawing” as the best drawing exercise you can do. Now they don’t have to just take my word for it. Imagine my pleasure this morning to see the lead to Austin Kleon‘s* latest newsletter : “My favorite thing lately has been warming up my diary with blind contour drawings.”
He links to an article in the New York Times written by Sam Anderson: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-blind-contour-drawing.html.
“The goal of blind drawing is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify — to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice — a gateway to pure being.”
That is a pretty good synopsis of Kimon Nicolades‘ book “The Natural Way To Draw,” which is where I learned the practice, and Kleon talks about and quotes from. I discovered it when I was nineteen and becoming serious about making art. It was tremendously, wonderfully liberating and without a doubt helped me become better at drawing. I had always tried to draw things perfectly, with the only goal being to create a “finished product”. Even though I had practiced and learned the skills of creating forms and volumes and textures, my drawings didn’t look alive the way the drawings I admired did, and I didn’t know why.
So when I read a respected teacher say that you not only could but should draw without regard for achieving a finished drawing, I tried it. It was fun, and the more I practiced the more I learned to see and the more I enjoyed it and the better I got at drawing what I was looking at. It turned out that slowing down in order to see and draw at the same time was what I needed to get more life into my drawings; to do blind contour drawings you have to be disciplined and really look at the life you’re drawing. With practice that focus becomes easier to slide into and out of. Then you can look at your drawing as you are developing it and on the go and retain your focus as your hand goes where the eye goes.
*Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) is a writer who draws. He’s the bestselling author of Steal Like An Artist, which I consider essential for anyone who is learning to be creative, or is in the midst of the struggle to be creative. And other books. I follow his newsletter, where he writes about a variety of art related stuff – writing, music, art, film – that’s smart, fun and insightful. His excitement for the subjects in his newsletter is infectious. And other books.
Now you don’t have to just take my word for it.
I will be teaching 2 one-day workshops in January in the new decade, aka next month. The first one will be Saturday, January 11, 2020, 10 AM – 4 PM at my studio 144 Moody Str, Waltham.* The topic of the workshop will be Painting Drapery. This will be a reprisal of the December 7 workshop, true, but that’s because the first was such a success I vowed to do another one. Plus I had several people ask for another chance to attend the painting drapery subject specifically, so I figured why wait? The cost will be $110. Please use the comment section below to let me know you’re coming, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The second workshop on Saturday, January 25 at The Weston Arts and Innovation Center and I’m very excited about it. Titled From Realism To Abstraction, it’s for people who want to learn to create abstract paintings based upon the recognizable world without entirely leaving that world behind, and aren’t quite sure how to begin. To register for the workshop please visit: https://westonaic.org/program/realism-to-abstraction-2/
The workshop will be held at The Weston Arts and Innovation Center (WAIC) a new venue for me, and for just about everyone else. A group of dedicated citizens have recently transformed the old Weston library (an excellent example of how beautifully that era cared for the aesthetics of a building and how the look affected the people who entered and used it: with respect. Where else but a library, church, temple or mosque, can a person be expected to sit quietly and will be reprimanded if they don’t?) into an exciting center for arts, ideas, and activities. You’ll be hearing from me that hopefully, I’ll be hosting further workshops at the WAIC, and hopefully, eventually, a “paint’n’sip” night.
You can read about WAIC “The maker space branch of the Weston Public Library” at https://westonaic.org. To register for the workshop please click here. To read a more complete description of both workshops click on my website Michaelbwilsonstudios.com/teaching.
*The complete address is : 144 Moody Street, Building 4, Second floor (Artists WestAssociation), Waltham, MA 02453. For further assistance text me at 617-851-7945. For the Google map to my studio building click here
I will run a one-day workshop at my studio on painting drapery and fabric, Saturday, Dec. 7 at 144 Moody Street, my studio in Waltham. The cost will be $110. Please use the comment section to let me know you’re coming, or write to me at email@example.com
Simply put, painting drapery and fabrics is beginning with modified simple forms in rhythmic combination. Specifically the cylinders, cubes and cones that make up the bulk of how fabric folds and bends.
Next is building those simple shapes into dimensional forms by adding a light source and shadows. In the workshop we’ll be learning to see shapes (2D) and develop them into forms (3D). Shading and blending show how the light hits a form and describes how it exists in space.
Complex forms are made by combining simple forms, and overlapping forms create palpable space. A soft flowing form bends and changes direction, which both terry cloth and silk do, yet they are very different from each other. In order to describe different fabrics, we will study painting textures, which is all about which brushes to use, how to handle the brush to blend values and colors, finding the right viscosity of the paint for your image, and more.
REALISM TO ABSTRACTION
November 23 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Weston AIC Art and Innovation Center https://westonaic.org/program/realism-to-abstraction/
356 Boston Post Road, 1st floor Weston, MA 02493 phone 781.786.6177
this workshop is now being offered at $120
This workshop will take a look at how artists have used realism as a starting point to explore unique ways of seeing and interpreting the natural world, and to access the artists’ inner world. While it often seems that abstract art has very little to do with depicting the world as we all agree that it looks like, the history of it is a linear, logical progression of simplifying forms into shapes that are less and less realistic, and swapping out colors for those that bring out the emotional power of color. A quick historical overview of that progression in order to understand some of the why did they do that? and how did they do that? and armed with a strong sense of play will be where we start to explore your unique interpretations of the world and get in touch with your inner abstractionist.
Using examples of paintings that exemplify that defining tenets of abstraction along with objects to paint from , we’ll explore elements of painting that apply to both abstraction and realism: composition, interactive shapes and forms, brushwork, color and more. Techniques, processes and the ideas behind them will be emphasized.
Acrylic or oil paint, brushes, canvas or paper, a sketchbook, and a pencil. (not supplied)
I’ve put together a selection of my watercolor paintings from a couple of trips to Europe over the last year and a half.
Now, I don’t pretend to be or put myself out there as a watercolorist any more than I call myself a landscapist. I paint watercolors mostly when I travel or sketches in the studio*. I paint outdoors in the summer; landscapists are out there through-out the year. It’s what they do.**
I paint outdoors because it keeps my observation skills sharp and it’s great to be outside in good weather since my usual workday is in the studio the whole time. It gives me something to do when I travel that enhances the experience in the places I visit, and I have to believe it’s going to make me a better painter, in the studio or out.
* I did do some watercolors for the Don Quixote Kickstarter Project in 2012.
I wrote recently about painting outdoors with oil paint; today’s post is about taking watercolors with you when you travel. Below is what my kit looks like when it’s in my luggage or my day bag. I keep my brushes and pencils in a plastic zip lock bag that is inside a freezer bag, along with one or two sketchbooks, depending on how long of a trip I’m on. A complimentary airline travel bag is terrific for an array of equipment you’ll see below.
The block of Arches WC paper -140 lb; 7″ x 10″ – and a styrofoam portfolio that doubles as a backing board don’t fit into the zip lock, but travel well enough on their own, although sometimes I use a big rubber band to hold them together.
I take a small variety of brushes: #10, #6, #4 rounds; 1/2″ and #12 flats, a fan brush and a 2H and a 3H pencil.
In the airline bag I keep my paint tray, mechanical pencils, erasers, a stump, toilet paper or a paper towel, a few rubber bands, a big paper clip and a small plastic cup for painting water. If you forget paper, like I did when I shot the photo above, you can always pick something up along the way. One other thing to have if you’re using a WC paper block is a knife to cut the top page off your block, which you then slide into the foam-core portfolio/backing board. A butter knife will do, but a pocket knife is best. Especially if your pocket knife has a corkscrew.
The mechanical pencils and stump I use for drawing in the sketchbooks, but for laying in the drawing that I’m going to paint over, I use the #2H and #3H pencils because they are so light they kind of disappear in the paint. But my favorite thing in my bag is the set of 3 collapsible daVinci brushes:
The brushes themselves are quite good, they take up very little space and they are so cute!
Shown below is an alternative for carrying brushes that I use when I’m packing long handled brushes. The hard plastic case is expandable to accommodate whatever brush size you want
The backing board/portfolio for finished paintings and drawings:
A rubber band keeps the folio closed to protect your paintings.
That’s it. Go forth and paint. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, and maybe not even good enough. Good for you for trying! Fact: The more you practice the better you become.
To follow up the last post, “Learning to Paint Plein Air”, on what I take with me to paint outdoors, here are a few landscape paintings from this summer.
The most recent have a lighter tone, feeling more “airy” on purpose: I replaced darker colors like ultramarine blue, Courbet green, burnt umber and yellow ochre with cobalt or cerulean blue, cobalt teal, nickel yellow.