This is my third and final installment about the Steven Assael workshop. The first two installments dealt exclusively with the demo that Steve started as the Monday session, 10 to 5. I think he liked it so much that he wanted to finish it with the model. Or perhaps he like US so much he wanted to spend extra days with us. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. He had 16 students in the workshop, two of who are teachers at the Institute. Most of the rest of the class were young current BFA candidates or youngish BFA graduates from the Institute, but we had one stray up from Delaware (his home base) and Florida (his art college). Then there were the three of us older figure students, me and my buddies Bea and Elizabeth. It was a very compatible and committed group of artists. So maybe he just liked us.
Enough with the progress images of his demo. Here is the last one that I caught before I had to leave, followed by close ups:
He dabbed away at that red fabric (a soft shiny material, perhaps silk) from time to time throughout, and the daubs became more purposeful as the end of time neared. Suddenly, the fabric on the model stand became the fabric in the painting. Like a hungry, prowling predator, he circles his subject, getting closer and closer until Wham! there it is captured to perfection, pinned to his canvas. (I don’t know what predator behaves like that in reality, but doesn’t it sound right?)
When I left at 4:30, he was scrubbing the background.
I hate to follow that with my own pitiful effort to emulate him. But I know you are curious. Here’s the disaster I spent two days on:
I must have wiped that out nine times, trying to find my way. I refused to let him paint ON my painting, so he painted this as inspiration to get me over whatever was blocking my creativity:
But it wasn’t the start that I was having trouble with; it was the finish.
Thursday I changed rooms (we had two rooms going with a model in each) to paint Margaret. Here is my start, before any input from Steve:
Not enough blue! This time I allowed him to go at it on my painting:
Notice how he lost all my carefully drawn edges? As he left, he said “Now you can correct the drawing.” So I corrected the drawing:
And then I added the red lamp to my painting. When he saw this version and complimented me, I wasn’t sure whether he liked the lamp specifically, but when he later incorporated the red glow in his own painting, I imagined it might have been inspired by my red lamp:
Saturday was a day of Drawing with Steven Assael, 9 to 5. He did not come around to critique or help us, but we could watch what he was up to and ask him questions. Margaret was our model. This is Steve’s drawing of Margaret, executed with Stabilo pencils on silverpoint paper:
Don’t you love the decision to let her stomach disappear into the paper? And she wasn’t really sitting on her hand. So what if the likeness isn’t there! He couldn’t care less about a likeness, although he usually does get one, even of Margaret. I have another image to prove that but too tired to add now, which is technically no longer Monday.
This is my portrait of Margaret, in which I really do get her likeness. I was able to show it to Steve when nine of us went out to dinner with him, and I ended up in the seat next to him. He liked it, he really liked it!
Two criticisms that he shared with me: I should carry the shadows of her jawline and cheekbone into the hair so that the hair does not look so flat. I will do so when I have a couple of artmaking minutes to put together. I expect the improvement to be so subtle that you won’t be able to identify it, but you will think it’s better. It’s also the way he paints–the subtle attention to nuance that brings living flesh and muscle into his painting.
The other criticism had to do with my composition. I had included Margaret’s breasts, but when they became too prominent in the composition, I scribbled them out. However, the scribbles still appeared to be part of the drawing. In a related point, the design of the hair masses need to be considered, not blindly rendered.
Exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, inspiring–all that you might expect in seven days with a Master.
Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:
at the Hatfield Gallery and the East Colony Fine Art Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Kimball-Jenkins Gallery in Concord, NH; at the Bedford Library in Bedford; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at Stella Blu , an American Tapas restaurant in Nashua; at the law offices of Mesmer and Deleault at 41 Brook St in Manchester; at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Manchester (part of the Healing with Art program); and at her studio by appointment. Two paintings are also hanging in the Manchester office of Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter.