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Figure Painting Workshop with Giorgio Dante

Oil Painting from Life - Stephanie
What a perfect way to start off the summer...start summer in June and start it with a 10 day workshop with Giorgio Dante! I am so fortunate to have another opportunity to study with yet another amazing artist and instructor.

Not to toot my own horn, but I am really proud of my painting :)  I rarely do figures and I have not had nearly as much practice this year as I had hoped working from live models whether it be drawing or in oil.  Something I plan to correct this season ;)  Our model was Stephanie, a model that I often book for our Suite E Life Drawing sessions so it was nice to see a familiar face even though I did not paint it ;)

The workshop was 10 full days and we spent the first two days working on a drawing which I will have to post later as I need to get a photo of it.  The drawing was smaller and included the full body and face. It was a great way to get warmed up and get familiar with the model as well as the lighting set up.  The process was quite different than what I have tried before and I really liked allows blending, yay.  It is always great to try new methods and then tweak to make them your own to suit your style and method of working.

For the remainder of the week we created a new drawing of the torso directly on the canvas and then proceeded to paint a graisaille.  Unfortunately I had to miss one day, Friday so I had to work like a mad woman to get the graisaille completed so that it would be dry after the weekend to start the color layers.

Figure Sketch on Oil Primed Linen
I sketched out the torso, roughly 14x18" directly on the oil primed linen.  I likely added more interior shadow lines than required but they help me to keep things on tract, especially when working quickly. 

Giorgio has a very sophisticated process but he is such a patient and thorough teacher that I actually felt pretty unlike I just dove in and got to work. 

So funny side note, I actually have never used linen from a roll before so I started drawing on the back as I thought mid-tone color which is actually the raw linen was the oil priming, duh.  Well that was a little embarrassing ;) So, the oil priming is the white side for future reference ;)  Well luckily Giorgio provides a ton of instruction while we are working and corrected me before I got too far along....and he did not laugh at me...well not that \I noticed anyway ;) 

Once the drawing was completed, I moved onto the oil graisaille using Raw Umber and Titanium White oil paint working into a couch which is a very thin layer of medium and a touch of Raw Umber just to give a slight tone.

Raw Umber Contour Outline
I started by refining the contour lines with a round brush using straight Raw Umber oil paint. Once the contour lines are completed I switched to a flat brush and blocked in all of the shadows first followed by all of the lights using a second clean flat brush with straight Titanium WHite. Once all of the values were blocked in....and NOT before....I started blending.

Artist's have to have such will power to not blend too soon.  Blending is basically our reward for all of our patience, hard work and stages of frustration and self doubt.  Things can look really strange during the block in and it is really easy to loose the structure that I have worked so hard to create once you start blending.  Also, blending is just so much fun that I have to remind myself several times not to get too carried away and blend to oblivion.

With this process, it is really not necessary to get too refined at this stage but I think I will definitely be painting more painting using this method but to a more refined finish without color as they are just so pretty.  I seem to have a think for monochrome.

Graisaille - End of Week 1
The second week we spent applying the color to our monochromatic under paintings while refining the drawing and form as we progressed.

Giorgio is an amazing teacher as he always seems to have a knack of coming around when I started to go astray and got me back on track.  It is so important to be able to watch a master artist point out your mistakes, show you how to correct them and then have the time to correct your mistakes.  For me anyway, this seems to be the way learn, try, make mistake, fix mistake, try again :)  He also is very patient and repeats himself many times so that by the end of the workshop we truly get what he is saying.  When learning a new method we often think we hear and understand but we are not truly ready to comprehend what is being said and shown.  By having Giorgio patiently repeating both verbally and by demoing, I think it really accelerated our learning in a very short time. 
Once all of the flesh tones have been worked out and modeled as fully as can is time for the darks, gasp!  With trepidation and a very thinnly loaded brush I start to add in the darks...that is until I saw how everything just popped and then I dove in...well, ok maybe waded in at a steady pace ;)

It is amazing how one brushstroke affects another.  Every time a stroke of paint is added whether on a monochromatic painting or color, I am always amazed at how it affects the overall painting.  That is why you can never step away from your painting enough.  Something I now consciously try to do by stepping back every few minutes to get a fresh perspective of the overall effect and to also hopefully catch any errors that have cropped up.

Towards the end of the workshop and several mistakes later, I realized that I had somehow on the last day with only a few hours to go, totally lost the shadow on her lower right arm! How could I have messed up so bad? What the heck was I doing, ugh, how embarrassing....again! So Giorgio patiently showed me how to fix my error, he did not laugh or shake his head at me, and I quickly fixed up her arm, good as new!

As I put on the finishing stroke I looked up at the model and to my surprise, the shadow was gone on the model, what the?!? Duh, it is amazing how the slightest turn of the model can affect the light on the form as the contour of her arm did not look visibly different but it went from being in shadow to being in full light.  Yet another lesson learned ;)  Stephanie is such a great model that I seriously often forgot she was there as she is just SO still and holds the pose amazingly!

Working from a live model is much more challenging than from a photo but it is so much more rewarding.  The trick is to go with the shifts and stick with what is most pleasing, not necessarily what you see at all times during the pose.

Some of the other amazing work done by other students at the workshop:

Grace's Painting
Irene's Painting
When you walk around the room it is like a animation as the form turns

Another amazing workshop has come to an end but I will be spending many hours practicing what I have learned.  If you ever have the opportunity to take a workshop with Giorgio Dante you will not be disappointed, guaranteed.  I am so fortunate to have such generous, talented and truly passionate artists willing to teach to share their knowledge. Hugely grateful!


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