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To Honor, To Inspire, To Educate

WordpresspicThank you for stopping by my little nook of the virtual world! My name is Suzanne Lago Arthur and I am realist painter working out of the Northern Virginia area. I hold a BFA from the Corcoran College of Art + Design and an MA in Museum Studies from George Washington University. I have exhibited both nationally and internationally in such venues as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, The Museum of the Americas, Washington DC, EuroAmerica Galleries, SoHo, NYC, and The United States Special Interests Section, Havana, Cuba. My subject matter includes portraiture, still life, figurative and landscape paintings. I also teach classes for youths and adults right out of my studio. I am member of the Portrait Society of America, Oil Painters of America and am a copyist at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

On this site you will find my professional portfolio along with updates of what’s currently on my easel. In addition, I also blog weekly about aspects of art making and creative work that I believe will inspire all like minded souls. Please check back often for new posts on “Mastering Work Flow”, “Technique Tuesday” and “Workshop Wednesday” among others in which I discuss the secrets of the trade.

I am available for commission work and will have artwork available for purchase directly from this site. If you are interested in commissioning a portrait please refer to my Commissioning A Portrait post here on my About page for further details. Artwork that is currently available for purchase will have a link to Paypal.

Thank you and please come again!

-Suzanne

suzanne@lagoarthurstudio.com

Commissioning a Portrait

“Ben, Anna & Charlie”. Oil on canvas. 27″ x 38″. 2014. Private collection.

There are few things in life as artistically satisfying for me than to have the opportunity to create an heirloom quality portrait for a client. Perhaps it is the exhilaration of observing the client’s emotional reaction to the work that I find so rewarding. But I can’t help but feel that this is the way that I can best share my “gift” with others–by helping people honor and immortalize those they hold so dear.

I can create a pastel drawing or oil painting of your loved one or colleague starting at various price points. Below is an outline of my typical commission process:

  • Personal Consultation: Initial discussion to identify scope of work and client objectives.
  • Subject Observation: Meeting with subject (portrait sitter) to observe & better understand the personality and mannerisms of the individual. If possible, I will sketch and make initial studies from life.
  • Photo-shoot Preparation: Photo-shoot location & date identified along with attire and and other details.
  • Photo-shoot and Review: Photos are taken (for use as painting references), processed and reviewed with the client to identify candidates for the final painted portrait.
  • Painting/Delivery: Typically a year once the painting process begins depending upon the complexity and scope of the work. Note: A 50% deposit is required at the time of booking.

My 2015 Commission Prices are as follows and are based on how much of the person you want shown and in what media (i.e “head and shoulders”, “full figure”):

Portraits in Pastel

Children:

  • Head and shoulders, 11” x 14”: $1,200
  • Head, shoulders and hands, (half figure) 16” x 20”: $2,000
  • 3/4 length figure: $2,500
  • Full figure, 18” x 24”: $3,000

Adult:

  • Head and shoulders, 11” x 14”: $1,700
  • Head, shoulders and hands, (half figure) 16” x 20”: $2,500
  • 3/4 length figure: $3,000
  • Full figure, 18” x 24”: $3,500

Portraits in Oil (Canvas or Panel)

Children:

  • Head and shoulders, 16” x 20”: $2,000
  • Head, shoulders and hands, (half figure) 30” x 36”: $3,000
  • 3/4  length figure, , 30” x 40: $5,000
  • Full figure, 30” x 40” or 36” x 48”: $6,000

Adults:

  • Head and shoulders, 16” x 20”: $2,500
  • Head, shoulders and hands, (half figure) 30” x 36”: $3,500
  • 3/4  length figure, , 30” x 40: $5,500
  • Full figure, 30” x 40” or 36” x 48”: $6,500

Additional charges may apply

  • Prices above reflect individual portraits. For multi-figure portraits, multiply the fees shown per each additional figure.
  • Out of state travel.
  • Re-shoots for reference photos.
  • Complexity of subject matter. I.e., elaborate book cases, beading on gowns etc.
  • Additional portrait modifications beyond the original scope of the contract.

Please contact me directly if you are interested in commissioning a portrait by phone or by email.  (571)225.2332 or Suzanne@lagoarthurstudio.com. All inquires welcome. Thank you!

Suzanne Lago Arthur | Exhibit Resume

http://www.lagoarthurstudio.com
Suzanne@lagoarthurstudio.com
 
 

EDUCATION:

Continuing Education: 

Workshops: Dan Thompson. Robert Liberace, Rick Weaver, Daniel Sprick, Robert Johnson, David Chiefetz & Casey Childs

  • M.A. in Museum Studies, dual concentration in Exhibit Design and Collections Management. George Washington University. May 2001. Washington DC.
  • B.F.A. Corcoran College of Art + Design. May 1996. Dean’s list 1992-1996. Washington DC.

AWARDS:

  • Finalist in “2016 Online Juried Show”, American Women Artists.
  • Placed “First in Oils”. 2012 Red Barn Art Show. Waterford Foundation. Waterford VA.
  • Finalist in the Art Renewal Center 2011-2012 “International Salon”
  • Awarded 3rd place honors at the 2011 “Expressions” Portrait Competition @ Artspace Herndon, VA.  Juried by Palden Hamilton.
  • Finalist in Brian Neher’s first “You be the Judge” online painting competition. http://www.brianneher.com/blog/news/110111.aspx

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • “Lighting Matches in Cuba on the 4th” by Fred Bernstein. New York Times, July 4th 2002.
  • “Exponen Artistas Cubano-Americanos en la Habana”. El Nuevo Herald (Spanish edition of the Miami Herald). August 2001.
  • “Cuban American Art 2000”. United States Interests Section HavanaCuba, Exhibition Catalog. August 2000.
  • “WETA Around Town”. March 1996.

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS:

International Guild of Realism
Oil Painters of America
Portrait Society of America
American Women Artists

RELATED EXPERIENCE:

Owner/Instructor
Lago Arthur Studio School
Leesburg, VA
Apr 2011 – Present

EXHIBITIONS:

      Juried:
      • “Root to Bloom” juried by Teresa Oaxaca. Principle Gallery. Alexandria,VA. Nov 2016.
      • “Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour” (WLAST) @ ArtSquare. Leesburg VA. June 2016. June 2014. June 2012. June 2011.
      • “Expressions” Portrait Competition @ Artspace Herndon, VA.
      • “Something Hot”. ArtSquare. Leesburg, VA. Aug 2011.
      • “Art at the Mill”. ClarkCounty Historical Association. Berryville VA. May 2011. Oct 2001. Oct 2010.
      • “Neighbors: The Corcoran at the OAS”. Art Museum of the Americas. Washington DC. 1998.

Solo:

      • RoseGallery. Leesburg VA. June 2001.
      • “Milestones”. WashingtonCollege of Law at AmericanUniversity. Washington DC. Nov 1998.

Group:

    • “Red Barn Art Show”. Waterford Foundation. Waterford VA. Oct 2012.
    • “Single Fare 2”. Sloan Fine Art. NYC. March 2011.
    •  “Heads and Tails VI”. MOCA DC. Washington DC. Nov 2010.
    • “Fruit of the Vine”. The Gateway Gallery. Round Hill VA. Sept 2010.
    • “Project Create Art Auction”. Reyes + Davis Gallery. Washington, DC. May 26th, 2010.
    • Round HillArtsCenter. Round Hill, VA. April 2010.
    • “Holiday  Show”. Gallery 222. Leesburg VA. Dec 2009.
    • “Landscapes”. American Horticultural Society, River Farm. Alexandria VA. June 2007.
    • “Cuban-American Art 2000”. United States Interests Section Havana, Cuba. 2000 – 2003.
    • “Art for Life-Hope for Our Children”. Latin American Art Auction & Exhibit at the Pan American
    • Health Organization for benefit of Whitman Walker Clinic. 2000. 1999. 1998. 1997. 1996.
    • “Washington Art-O-Matic”. Washington DC. May-June 1999.
    • “Encuentros y Tradiciones V, Mosiaco Latino”. District of ColumbiaArtCenter. Washington DC. Sept 1998.
    • “Art for Life-Hope for Our Children”. Art Museum of the Americas. Washington DC. 1999.
    • “Contemporary Sensibilities”. EuroAmerica Galleries. SoHo, New York City. Oct 1997.
    • “Corcoran College of Art + Design Senior Exhibit”. Hemicycle, Corcoran Gallery. Washington DC. May 1996.
    • “10: The Corcoran College of Art + Design Printmaking Portfolio 1996”. Gallery K. Washington DC. Feb – Mar 1996.

Root to Bloom at Principle Gallery

14543732_10154627385819042_7948743114753558725_o

I am really thrilled to say that I was juried into the Root to Bloom exhibit at the famed Principle Gallery in old town Alexandria (VA) by the amazing Teresa Oaxaca. There are so many great artists in this show that I feel humbled to have my painting, “Feedsacks” (above) included. I am told that they had nearly 1,000 submissions to the competition and only 73 artists were selected overall.

There is currently a social media competition happening at the Principle Gallery for this exhibit. The artist who gets the most “likes” on their painting in the link below will win an award. I would really appreciate your “like” on my painting. Simply follow the link and click on my painting and hit like. https://www.facebook.com/principlegallery/photos/a.10154652878153383.1073741843.98926243382/10154652879903383/?type=3&theater

And I hope some of you will come out to the opening on November 11th from 6:30-9 PM. Thank you readers!

Abuelo and Alexander

08-22-16-portrait-abueloandalexander-lr
“Abuelo and Alexander (Portrait of the artist’s father, Carlos Lago and her son)”, Oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″, 2013-2016

This past August I finally finished a very personal family portrait of my father and son which turned out to be a true labor of love, begun 3 years ago. My patient father simply waited until I was able to work on it, a little at a time, in between my portrait commissions.

My father is a passionate gardener and the background of this painting is my father’s very own garden depicting his collection of azaleas, deciduous azaleas and rhododendrons. It is a fitting tribute to him and to the loving relationship he shares with my son. My favorite part being the tender gesture of their hands touching each other.

 

2016 WLAST Studio Tour

 

A small sample of the artwork I will have available for sale on the WLAST tour.

I will be exhibiting again with the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour (WLAST) next weekend June 18 – 19, 2016. Come see my work along with the work of potter, Carrie Althouse and jeweler, Dana Jansen at STOP #1 on the WLAST tour. In addition I am excited to share that all 3 of us will all be conducting art demonstrations,  Tarara Winery will be giving wine tastings, Jules BBQ will have his yummy food for purchase and there will be LIVE music performances on both days of the event! Pack a picnic blanket and make a real day of it. Afterwards continue your tour at the other 30 open studios across Western Loudoun Co. If you live in the Washington DC area, this is an event you will not want to miss!

 

WLAST STOP #1
June 18 – 19, 2016
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
42498 Farm Lane, Leesburg, VA 20176

The sign on RT. 15 North in Leesburg, VA  marking STOP #1 on the WLAST tour.

 

 

Workshop Wednesday: Robert Johnson

RobertJohnson_IMG_4700
Robert Johnson demoing during his recent workshop, June 2016.

Twice now I have had the  pleasure of taking a Robert Johnson workshop. Both at the private studio of a wonderful friend of mine in Purcellville, VA. This most recent workshop occurred during the record breaking deluge of rain we received in Northern Virginia. However, despite the rain spirits were bright and the painting “spell” cast by Johnson was magical.

Robert Johnson is a master painter of exceptional skill and technique. His marks are in essence calligraphic–and he admits to having been inspired early on by the Japanese art of Sumi-E painting. This influence is evident in his work and separates his approach to oil painting from his contemporaries. The way he  applies paint is a performance all on its own. He delicately controls the lift & pressure of his brush to  accurately render the ephemeral quality of his subjects.  Any opportunity to study with him is not to be missed.

One of the highlights of this recent workshop for me personally, was meeting an honored participant, the noble Statesman from Virginia–Senator John Warner. Senator Warner  stands with other notable Statesmen (such Winston Churchill), who have turned from  politics to painting later in their career. I thoroughly enjoyed the Senator’s recollections of his time both as Secretary of the Navy and as a United States Senator as well as his anecdotal stories of celebrities and personalities he has known along the way.

Below are my notes that I took during both of Robert Johnson’s workshops. I have placed them in categories to make them easier to understand and apply:

 

RobertJohnson_IMG_2336
Robert Johnson’s initial drawing in Transparent Red Oxide from the first workshop, June 2015.

Composition

-Decide which direction the viewer will travel through your painting.

-Concentrate on negative shapes, variety, design. Decide whether your design will go off the canvas–if so, let it go off in several directions or it will look like a shortcoming.

-You want variety in your set – up. Its inherent in nature.

-Seek a feeling of movement. Good proportion: mass of flowers to greenery to container.

-Using the convention of “polarity”-the juxtaposition of opposites, allows both objects to acquire visual impact. i.e. vertical/horizontal, bulky/delicate.

“The function of the background is to support the “prima ballerinas”. It should not detract from the main event. The background should not be as thick, the values not as saturated ed, the edges not as hard, etc.”

-“Strive to get depth, even on a front to back composition.”

-“The eye goes to hard edges, more paint & bright colors. Be aware of this and design accordingly.”

RobertJohnson_IMG_2380
Robert Johnson further along is his demo. Here he is working on the design of the rug, June 2015.

Materials

-Works on double primed lead supports.

-Preferred medium mixture: 5 parts stand oil, 5 parts Gamsol (OMS), 1 part damar varnish.

-Lays in an “imprimatura” wash with cobalt, viridian & transparent red oxide. Puts down marks on top in a rhythmic patter which he sometimes allows to show through in the final product.

“What do mediums add to your painting? They loosen up piles of paint, make longer brushstrokes like in the background and can create transparency”

-“You need flat brushes to get at the delicacy of the flowers. Paint them with the thought that if you blew on them they would move.”

-“All brushes should come to a nice sharp edge. Even your filberts.”

-Begins laying in his drawing very loosely-brush held way back, long brushstrokes. Thins down paint with turps (OM).

-Paints with only one glove on his “painting” hand.

RobertJohnson_IMG_2360
Robert Johnson’s palette.

Rendering

On levels of importance: Values, then Edges, then Colors

-Johnson wipes out the flower masses with paper towels from his initial drawing to set up the structure . He lifts quite often.

-He recommends creating charcoal drawings on toned paper to get used to “lifting out lights. Wipe out like an artist–your touch should have the feel of going over a peony.”

-“Paint the subject as if it is a under single source light. Ignore the ambient light.”

-“Don’t ever leave anything on your canvas that is confusing. Make it clear.”

-Johnson often redesigns as he is painting. He will mutter to himself, “Let’s make this little guy (a yellow peonie bud) white.”

-“The moment you touch your canvas, everything should be done with artistic intention.”

-“Don’t think about sugar bowls and roses-think about shapes and how they relate to one another.”

-“There is no democracy in art. The big forms always win.”

-“Get to your final painting stage quickly so that all you have to do are revisions. Finish the big statement as quick as you can.”

-“Always remember that perpendicular planes reflect the light the most. If you are having problems seeing or drawing try to remember that principle.”

-“Try to put the light down horizontally-it will stand out more. Implies ridges.”

“The Rembrandt effect”: Horizontal then vertical marks, ending on the vertical.

-THE 5 MIN RULE: “When you make a bold statement there is this instant fear that you have done something wrong. When you have that urge to change it-ignore it. Take a deep breath, recognize what is happening. Give yourself permission to modify it–but only after 5 mins.”

-“Strength and boldness lead to more strength and boldness. This is the purpose to the 5 min rule.”

-“Learn to make good descriptive brushstrokes. As the painting evolves each stroke should be laid down as if it is never getting lifted.”

-“Maximize the utility of the highlight. Give them breathing room in your design.”

-“The light (within a painting) can describe the intensity of the light on the subject, the surface texture, direction of the light, the contour that it is going over.”

On painting flowers: “Start with the outside shape of the flower, get that accurate. Then strive for the dimensional -the light and dark of it. Only then have you earned the right to paint a petal. Work abstract to detail.”

-“Say the most with the least. Be precise and you can get away with suggestion.”

-On the second day of a painting Johnson begins reworking the canvas by reapplying the background color so he has something to paint into.

On painting rugs: ” Try to establish a pattern. Don’t be a slave to it. Rugs should have a clear, paintable pattern to them. Use the weave of the canvas to describe the weave of the rug (sometimes scratches the paint away with the side of a palette knife to reveal the weave). Say the most with least. Allow the materials to do the work for you. Go back in and restate the design of the rug but avoid getting mechanical & uniform with your brushstrokes. Use a light touch, get the paint just on the tip of your brush and drag it into place.”

-“Brushwork should be a muscle memory thing. You should be able to render the object just by looking at it with your eyes.”

“Just lay the paint on. No scrubbing. The paint will look better if you just allow it to do what it naturally does.”

-“You need a blend of soft and hard edges. Let the soft edges dominate. Use hard edges sparingly. Especially in the background. ”

-“If you can do it in one stroke it looks better. Start with a very light touch and then apply pressure-the stem will be painted naturally going from thin to thick.”

RobertJohnson_IMG_2373
Detail from Robert Johnson’s finished demo, June 2015.

Values/Colors

-Follows thick lights/thin darks rule.

-Gets a highlight on quickly to key in the values.

-“A trick from Sargent’s portraits: Add more light/color to the shadow of a subject–just past its contour. It helps turn form more and gives a sense of air.”

-“Within the dark areas there are accents. The opposite in value of highlights.”

-“We never think “dark” (values) with flowers but we should.”

On foliage: “Layer light over dark, dark over light–adds dimension. Overlapping planes also give you dimensional”.

“Cast shadows are extremely important. Get them in early. They keep everything honest, related. The main thing I think about here is getting them dark enough and in the right places.”

On greenery: “Ultramarine blue + Cad yellow pale + something from the red family. Always sneak red into your greens.”

On painting red roses: “Don’t make lights, lighter- make darks, darker. White only makes red look chalky.”

-“Be careful painting yellow roses. It is the color most easily adulterated. It turns the key way down when other colors are accidentally introduced to it”.

 

Recommended Reading

-“Painting Techniques of the Masters”, Hereward Lester Cook

-“Russia, the Land, the People”

-“The Painted Word”, Tom Wolfe

 

RobertJohnson_IMG_4717
A comparison of Robert Johnson’s subject and painting from the second workshop, June 2016 (unfortunately the photos are not taken from the same exact position). Notice how beautifully nuanced he pairs the background color to his rug. He changed the hue to suit his artistic statement.He also turned up the chroma in the design of the vase for the same reason.
RobertJohnson_IMG_4718
The finished demo painting, June 2016.

 

 

 

 

Art Tourist: Seeking Andrew Wyeth

Suzanne Lago Arthur Outside A. Wyeth Studio
Here I am proudly standing in front of the door to Andrew Wyeth’s studio in Chadds Ford, PA. Imagine being so famous that you need a sign like that in order to get work done. Love it!

Last November, my family and I made a very special pilgrimage to the Brandywine Museum, but more specifically to the studio of the late great Andrew Wyeth and to the Kuerner Farm that he immortalized. I have been a huge fan of Andrew since my childhood and a couple of years back was also able to visit the Olson property in Maine that he made famous in his painting “Cristina’s World”. Little did I realize that the great man is buried there or I would have introduced myself to him properly, paid my respects and thanked him for all the years of inspiration.

Every year since my trip to Maine, I have promised myself that I would go see his studio in Chadds Ford, which is only open for part of the year. And every year it seems I would miss the window. But finally during last November I made it and on the very last weekend that it was open. Hooray!

So you may be asking yourself why I am writing this post now? Because the studio is open again for tours from April 1st – Nov 20th. Chadds Ford is beautiful during this time of the year. If you are a fan of the Wyeths as I am, you will not want to miss the opportunity to experience their world and the huge impression they left behind in the Pennsylvanian countryside.

AndrewWyethStudio_ChaddsFord
Andrew Wyeth’s studio in Chadds Ford, PA.

Andrew’s studio is set up exactly as the artist left it. As if he has just stepped out of his studio for one of his regular walks in the surrounding countryside. There are drawings (reproductions) strewn throughout the floor. Egg tempera supplies still await his skillful hands and jars of luminous dry pigments line a window’s ledge.

Copy of A. Wyeth drawings
Watercolor and graphite drawings (reproductions) are tacked up on the wall just as Andrew would have kept them.
JamieWyethsCorner_ChaddsFord
Jamie Wyeth’s corner of his Dad’s studio showing preliminary drawings of Robert and Edward Kennedy.He used these studies to help him achieve a likeness for the commissioned posthumous portrait of  President John F. Kennedy.
AndrewWyeth_BookCollection_ChaddsFord
A partial view of Andrew Wyeth’s personal book collection. The “art nerd” in me rejoiced upon the very site of it.

We were able to see the Kuerner Farm as well which was a huge treat considering that Andrew produced over 370 works of art on the property. There is a wonderful book documenting his time and productivity on the farm called “Wyeth at Kuerners”. It is out of print now but if you are able to get a hold of a copy I would highly recommend it. It contains a personal narrative told by Andrew on each of his paintings from this series including all the preliminary drawings. It is an invaluable insight into the process of a great American master artist. I got my treasured copy from a wonderful friend (thank you again, Karen) but I have seen them available any where from $8 – $249. The curatorial staff at the Brandywine even reads from it during their tours.

Kuerner House
Here is the Kuerner House seen from the window.
Kuerner House_Evening At The Kuerners
(Above) Another angle of the Kuerner house with one of Andrew Wyeth’s painting’s, “Evening at the Kuerners” for reference (Below). My husband and I once owned a similarly aged  “4 Square” farmhouse. I wonder now if I was drawn to it subconsciously from spending all that time staring at these Kuerner paintings.
Sink in Kuerner's Barn_Spring Fed
(Above) Just inside the Kuerner’s barn is the original spring fed sink. (Below) Andrew Wyeth’s “Spring Fed”painting.
AA_KuernerPorch
My son, standing on the Kuerner porch watching the sun set at the end of our excursion.

What’s on my easel: “Abuelo & Alexander”

WIP_AbueloandAlexanderWIP. I am almost at the finishing line of this portrait of my Dad and son. Yay! The reference here was taken 2-3 years ago. I started it and then had to put it on hold for a while due to commissions.

There will still be some refinement done to the figures and background before I am done. The next time you see this painting will be when it is finished and I have had my photographer take the official picture of it. I will blog about the creation of the painting then. For now, please ignore the glare in this cell pic.

 

Workshop Wednesday: Teresa Oaxaca, the Figure in Charcoal

TeresaOaxaca_LaPrimavera_3227
“La Primavera (self portrait)”,  charcoal on paper,  by artist Teresa Oaxaca.

This past weekend I ushered in the New Year with a bang by attending Teresa Oaxaca’s “Figure in Charcoal” workshop at the Art League in Alexandria, VA on Jan 2 – Jan 3rd. Considering that just the day before the workshop I was a little sleep deprived–and ok, maybe still “recovering” from the festivities, I was really happy and perhaps a little surprised when everything “clicked” for me during the workshop. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been, Teresa Oaxaca has a lot to share with her fellow artists so listen up.

Full disclosure: I have been a big Teresa Oaxaca fan from the very first moment I met her in Rob Liberace’s classes at the Art League. In fact, I own two of her self portrait drawings and one of her etchings (hint: when she says something is unsold over social media, that is your cue that you can purchase it). Teresa is one of my favorite contemporary artists and in my opinion the most promising. I just love the boldness of her charcoal drawings, the mixture of the gestural abstraction and rendered form. They are exquisite.  And the fact that Teresa herself is super sweet and down to earth–I just knew I could learn a lot from her and I definitely did.

The following are my notes from the workshop and I hope you gain as much enlightenment from them as I did.

TeresaOaxaca_Demo
Teresa Oaxaca during her charcoal portrait demo.

-Teresa’s block-in is a big envelope, very loose, light & gestural.

-Sometimes the looseness (gesture) from the beginning is kept through the piece {I would add that it is this initial gesture that gives so much life & contrast of textures in her drawings}.

-She begins with a jumbo soft charcoal piece and initially adds a center line, eye line & forehead line followed by the shadow shapes of the eyes and nose. The rendering of the mouth and chin come second.

-Prefers Canson Mi Tientes paper (smooth side) and vine charcoal.

-Teresa uses a lot of straight hatching lines. “Easier to get structure in and keep it that way.”

-Usually works life sized and steps back from the easel often to check her drawing.

-If you want to use crazy, energetic hatch lines like Sargent did in his charcoals (and Teresa does) you must have a solid geometric structure underneath {This subtle but powerful advice was one of the things that really resonated for me}.

In process shots from Teresa Oaxaca's charcoal portrait demo.
In process shots from Teresa Oaxaca’s charcoal portrait demo.

-“Geometric shapes render & anchor the drawing.”

-Her subjects start off looking more exaggerated in the beginning and then get more accurate as she continues working.

-She spends most of her time developing the light & shadow areas and then will knit them together.

-The nature of charcoal is that it is just dust. Get used to the fact that you will be constantly readdressing your darks throughout the process  of creating a drawing.

-Uses a brush to soften along the core shadow on a cheekbone or will just drag the charcoal across.

-Shadows are solid, mid tones are a combination of blending or hatching (veiling).

-“I like to put the directional changes in the shadow shapes.”

-She will often put a little speck of white chalk highlight in order to key her values {again, advice worth the price of admission right here}.

-“If your drawing is failing it is because you are not obeying the light/dark patterns.”

-Ask yourself on the simplest of Master drawings, “What makes this really work?”. Dissect and understand it.

-Most of the drawing will be carried by the in-between places that are either smudged or hatched.

-Make sure the shadow pattern is correct, even on a smaller form like the eye. The big shapes still need to be rendered on the smaller forms. Same rules apply!

-If you know you don’t have time, stick to developing structure.

-She often veils in highlights on the planes of the forehead.

-Sargent spent all of his time on the structure and would throw his characteristic slap-dash bravura mark at the very last minute.

-If you don’t plan on rendering an area leave it as a block-in or else you will be forced to fully resolve it.

-Gesture is the foundation of a minimalist drawing.

-Take pictures every half hour, it will reveal your own process to you. It also works as a mirror to show you your mistakes.

SuzanneLagoArthur_JamesPortrait_Process
Process shots from my drawing of James created during the second day of the workshop.

 

SuzanneLagoArthur_JamesPortrait
My completed drawing of James.

I want to personally thank Teresa for a wonderful workshop experience. Prior to this workshop, I never felt completely in control with Charcoal but I definitely feel more in control now and intend on practicing with it more often.

You can follow Teresa Oaxaca and her blog at her website www.teresaoaxaca.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teresaoaxacafineart, on twitter and Instagram at @teresaoaxaca.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big MagicSo I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like this book. Why you might ask? Because I associate author Elizabeth Gilbert with the Oprah empire and despite how much I respect Oprah as an individual, I generally rebel against being spoon fed book recommendations to the masses. There is just something about it that I find so plebeian and patronizing at the same time… and so typically when Oprah recommends a book I run the other way. Of course everybody by now is familiar with Gilbert’s literary success EAT PRAY LOVE. Did I read it? No. But I saw the movie. Does that count?

I am however really, really into podcasts when I paint in my studio, particularly those dealing with painting or creativity. I stumbled upon Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast (which I think was meant to be an appetizer for the release of Big Magic) and was kinda intrigued. In one of the first podcasts I listened to, Gilbert advises listeners to create a contract with Creativity. To agree to show up everyday to work but to not agree to take all the responsibility for whether or not your work will turn into anything masterful. Because Creativity doesn’t care if you win some big award with your work, it just wants to EXIST in some particular form. It wants to come into being through you the Creator. “It just wants to play” as Gilbert says. My ears perked up at this unusual advice despite its Age of Aquarius vibe. Now that is one unique thought I had never entertained before so I ordered her book and found myself taking lots of notes on other things she recommended.

On Creativity

Gilbert believes that the Universe buries creative treasure deep within all of us and then stands back to see if we can find them. She calls the hunt for these creative gems, Big Magic. She advises keeping yourself open to inspiration. That often one thought or clue will lead to another and so on and so forth. That is when Big Magic happens.

On Getting Your Work Out There

Gilbert recommends that you consider rejections as part of a great big cosmic Ping Pong game. The universe lobs a rejection your way be it from a competition, a gallery, a publisher -whatever and it just means it is your turn to lob something back over the Ping Pong net. Send out another application immediately to a different competition, gallery, publisher etc. Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. I was happy to discover on another podcast I listened to, that this is exactly the same strategy Game of Thrones Author, George R R Martin used to build up his career. Cool huh? I will definitely be adding this strategy to my arsenal going forward.

Stuck In A Rut?

Get dressed to go to work. Like really dressed up as if you have an important meeting to attend because you do, you have a serious daily appointment with your work. I’ve heard similar things before like “dressing for the job you want, not the job you have” and it made perfect sense in an office environment but here in my home studio it seemed less appealing because I can wear pajamas to work if I wanted to. Hey- that is just one of the benefits of the job! However, Gilbert has something here. One particular day in the studio I was having difficulty focusing so I took her advice, took a shower put on my dressy jeans and a nice shirt. Even topped it off with a pair of earrings and perfume and magically I was transformed into a new person who gave a $&*! about my work and I got back to it and had no problem sustaining my interest for the rest of the day.

So despite my previous hesitations towards Gilbert, I am going to rate Big Magic a strong B + on my book recommendation list. And maybe now that she has melted my icy heart a little, I may even go pick up a copy of EAT PRAY LOVE.

Maybe…

Big Magic can be purchased from Amazon and qualifies for free Prime  2 day shipping.