Friday, April 17, 2015

Really Learning to Paint - The Old Masters Way

Last month I decided that I wanted to take my painting to the next level, a serious, high art, level.  I spoke with some professional artists I deeply respect and asked their opinions.  It became clear to me that I needed to learn to draw well.  After that I needed top level instruction from artists dedicated to teaching.

Serendipitously, less than a year ago The Chiaroscuro Studio of Art opened nearby which teaches a disciplined, 19th century approach to learning to paint.  This is South Florida's first true program of this nature, one which virtually all of the masters in the 19th Century, as well as many of today's living masters.  More information can be found here at their website:  The Florida Academy of Contemporary Realism.

The student starts off copying what are known as "Bargue Plates," instructional drawings rendered by Charles Bargue, a French lithographer and painter who developed one of the first drawing courses.  The student learns many concepts related to seeing relationships between shapes, values of light and shadow, and how to render shapes to accurately represent what one is seeing.

 The process is basically described by the steps shown in the plate:

This is my first project and drawing in the program.  I never imagined the time and work put into copying one of these plates.  From the beginning the instructors saw problems with lines, angles, shapes and values, sometimes painfully subtle.  In each phase their constant critiques kept pushing me in the right direction, fixing a line here, and angle there, seeing how everything related to everything else, and never accepting even the slightest imperfection.  Eventually I started seeing problems myself.  I am confident that the discipline learned by spending the time painfully recreating the drawing will payoff.  I am guessing but I would say that I have at least twenty hours in this drawing.  

The next drawing will be larger and more complex.  I'm excited about that. 


  1. Garry this is awesome! I'm so glad you decided to go through this vigorous training. I'm sure it will pay off. I've been studying with Deborah Paris who applies these same time honored principles to landscape painting. It is all at once frustrating and liberating to finally address all the drawing issues affecting my painting. Drawing will set you free. Keep us posted on your progress. I am really interested.

  2. Garry this is awesome! I'm so glad you decided to pursue this vigorous course in drawing. I have been studying with Deborah Paris who applies these time honored traditions to landscape. (She's presenting a paper she wrote on the topic at TRAC2015 in Ventura, CA in November. The title is The Training and Use of Visual Memory for Representational Landscape Painters.) Anyway, I find addressing all my drawing issues has helped my painting a lot. It's all at once frustrating and liberating. Drawing will set you free!

  3. Good for you!
    Seeing the light and how it creates volume was a two year focus at my art school. No color allowed either!
    We used to call the cast of the foot, the 6 toe beast because it was so difficult to get the pad of flesh at the side not to look like another toe!!
    This is wonderful and suits your natural flow for detail. I am going to enjoy following your progress. Will you be packing a cast in your suitcase on your next trip?