I can feel a little hint of spring in the air lately and it's got me excited to start teaching again. I always enjoy my semesters at the Ridgewood Community School and I'm always happy to see new and familiar faces.
This time around: I'll be teaching Drawing for Beginners, Watercolor for Beginners, and Watercolor Level 2. Also, last semester I presented a lecture about my summer in Giverny; this was a very popular program so we're bringing it back around for this spring semester. I wasn't able to teach the drawing course last semester and it's filling up quickly so if you're interested in it then I suggest registering asap.
Classes begin on Monday, March 4th and there's still time to register, which you can do online: https://rcs.ridgewood.k12.nj.us/brochure__registration
or by calling 201-670-2777
Looking forward to another great semester!
I was very saddened to hear about PAFA's recent announcement that they're closing their college at the end of the 2024-25 academic year. I am a 2014 graduate of the PAFA/PENN BFA program and I also have a certificate in painting and drawing from PAFA. The PAFA/PENN program was established in 1929 and it's really a shame that it was ended; in fact, I think they ended it back in 2017. But PAFA also had its own BFA and MFA programs that they're now ending due to "rising costs", "dwindling student enrollment" and some other factors.
I can't even imagine what the current students are going through. And I wonder what is going to happen to the faculty? It must be a very difficult time for everyone there.
I chose to attend PAFA in 2009 because of its history as an art academy and because I've always been interested in representational methods of painting. While I was at PAFA, I noticed an active shift away from the more traditional training towards more unconventional methods. As a result, I felt somewhat isolated when I was a student there. Regardless, there were teachers who encouraged my classical pursuit. And I spent a large amount of time doing research in their library. They had books like Albert Boime's The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century, which I read religiously. That was where I also discovered the work of William Bouguereau (1825 - 1905). Bouguereau was one of my earliest academic influences. For me, the other main attraction was PAFA's cast hall. Oh man, did I love that place; I only regret that I didn't spend even more time in there.
What I liked about PAFA was the Academy and Academic history. To me, PAFA was a place where I could study nature and practice the craft of painting. I didn't go there to create anything avant-garde or conceptual. I was there to learn the nuts and bolts of painting: how to stretch canvas, prime canvas, mix paint, learn anatomy, learn color theory, to draw the figure, and to practice. I also studied the principles of shape, value, color and line. In addition, I also had the opportunity to study sculpture, printmaking, woodworking and other disciplines.
The techniques, materials and methods that I learned at PAFA need to be taught and passed on from generation to generation--otherwise, they will disappear. It helps to read books about it, but it's vital to have someone there who can show you directly. I was fortunate that I had this experience at PAFA, but many of those teachers have subsequently passed away or retired. I became a teacher in 2015 and I am passing forward what was given to me. It's important to note that there is a growing resurgence in this sort of traditional education. Schools like the Florence Academy of Art are still teaching these methods and offering an MA degree.
Now that I'm a little older and I've been teaching for a while, I've realized some things about art education. Most schools put the cart before the horse and have students focus on philosophical ideas and concepts first and foremost. I think this is a terrible approach and deprives students of the necessary tools needed to express individual truths. It's like a writer never learning the grammar and spelling needed for language. Or a musician never learning the scales. Art students should study nature as much as possible and then be taught the methods to visually understand nature. Essentially, how to paint instead of the what or why's of painting.
The common criticism of traditional training is that it prevents or stifles individual expression, but there's plenty of room for creativity and expression within this training. Think of someone like Da Vinci who generated revolutionary inventions from natural phenomena. And most importantly, he had the rigorous training which is necessary to express this creativity.
All-in-all, it's sad that America's oldest art school is closing. There's information available that says they have a "new vision" for the school and that they have a plan, but there are articles out that say the whole thing is a big mess. It's a real shame.
"If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color." - Mary Cassatt
What a year 2023 was! I can't believe that I spent 1/4 of it in France, painting in Monet's garden and traveling around France. Those 3 months were magical and it gave me the confidence to travel internationally. To just realize that there's a whole world out there and so many things to see and people to meet.
Speaking of travel, I'm planning some workshops for 2024-2025. I'm excited to be a part of a German-based company called ARTISTRAVEL (See picture below) - We're even talking about possibly doing a Japan workshop at some point. I've been fascinated with Japan since I was a kid so I'd love to go there to experience it. I never thought I'd have the ability to travel around the world so I'm very grateful for all these opportunities
Closer to home, there's a Sargent exhibit up in Boston that I'd like to go see. Last year my long-time friend, Asem Ahmed and I saw the Sargent and Spain exhibit in D.C., which was great. So I may see if he wants to go check out the Boston show.
Last week, I finished up my semester at the Ridgewood Community School. Now, I'm looking at the spring semester which begins in March 2024. I'm planning to teach the same watercolor course and I may also teach a drawing course.
During the summer 2024, I'll be spending 5 weeks in Florence to finish up my graduate degree. The MA program at the Florence Academy of Art has been a perfect fit with my career. My own skills have improved greatly and I highly recommend this program to other artist/educators.
One of my main goals for 2024 is to network to find new opportunities for commissioned work. I've built up a large portfolio of commissions and I'm at a point where I'm really happy with my artistic abilities. I've always loved portraits and now I'm looking to take my professional career to the next level. Anyone interested in my commission information can check out my COMMISSIONS PAGE.
Looking back on 2023, I'm feeling very proud of all that I accomplished. It's been a lot of work to improve as an artist and to find opportunities, but I love what I do and I wouldn't trade it for the world. As always, there were good times and bad times, good people and not-so-good people. There was also a lot of trial and error, but I learned a lot about myself through the process.
Thank you for following a long and I wish you all a Happy Holiday and a Happy New Year!
I recently watched an interesting video by Mr. Paul Ingbretson about Painting Reproductions and it made me think about reproductions of my own art. I constantly struggle with photographing my art and I wonder how much I should share images of my work. A certain amount is necessary for the galleries that I show in or for posting things on my website. But I've really cut back on what I send and share. But why wouldn't I want to share images of my paintings?
I've written about similar ideas many times and I'm very passionate about this topic. Mainly because I'm very aware of the ever-growing trend to only view paintings online and to not make a pilgrimage to see these works in person. This total domination of photographic reproductions worries me.
There's a litany of reasons as to why all paintings showed be seen in person. The size/scale of the painting is ignored by viewing it on a screen, the color quality, surface texture (gloss/matte) is lost, the edges and contrasts are usually false, I could go on and on. I think one of the main issues is that a painting is not 2D; a painting has layers of paint built up and it actually creates a 3D image. This is more true of painters like Vermeer or Rembrandt who really take full advantage of the opportunities which oil paint has to offer through glazes to thicker areas.
For me, I share my art in my site's portfolio section and I enjoy writing on my blog. But I think of my website as more of an information catalogue instead of an honest viewing experience. But isn't it absurd to think that everyone can see my paintings in person? Maybe, but I care very deeply about my paintings and I believe they deserve to be seen in the best possible manner. And you may also say: Isn't it great to be able to see so many paintings that we don't have access to? (private collections, far away museums, etc.) I understand, but I don't think it's an advantage.
Have you ever met someone and been totally bowled over by their charm, beauty, intelligence, charisma, and general air? To me, that's what it's like to see a painting in person. Take that same person and take a single photo of him/her and try to extract that same depth from it. It's impossible.
Many of my teaching lessons revolve around these ideas of genuine study and real individual experiences. Yesterday, I had a student tell me that he sees paintings now in a new way as a result; this touched me deeply and I was honored that he said that. I think these ideas of nature and art are timeless and my goal is to share that message through my teaching. Reproductions may reach a higher and higher level of exactitude, but I will always be an artist who wants the real deal.
This video inspired me to write this post and I hope you will enjoy it as well.