Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Judith Carducci Workshop, January 2011

It's 4:30 in the morning and I've been up all night. This is not my normal schedule! Just ask any of my former college roommates: they'll tell you with just a hint of ridicule that I like to be in bed by 10:30 p.m.! However, my work hours have been turned upside down since Steve switched positions within his company. Last week, he was on 1st shift (5:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). This week, he jumped from those ungodly hours to even worse hours -- 3rd shift (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.). So, I am attempting to match my sleep schedule to his. Strangely enough, it's working out okay. I just finished a delightful painting session during which I completed an arm and a leg; meanwhile, my dog slept peacefully on the floor next to my easel while I listened to the soothing sounds of Beethoven. I'd say it has been a good night. I never considered myself a night person, but I'm making the most of the schedule change, and so far, so good.

I wanted to write breifly about the Judith Carducci portrait workshop which I was privileged to attend from January 5-9. It was hosted by Michael Mentler and the Society of Figurative Arts here in Dallas. Judy did 3-hour demos in pastel each morning of the workshop, followed by 3 hours of insruction and guidance in the afternoon as attendees took their shot at drawing or painting from the model. I've always found that the best teachers can say just a few words and it's like a lightbulb goes on above your head and that you're able to progress immediately. Judy is no exception - she explains her process with clarity and patience, much like her former teacher, the renowned Daniel Greene.

I'm sure that every single person at the workshop took home something personally challenging that they could apply to their artwork. In my case, I heard the words of every art teacher I've ever had still resounding in my head: "Soften your edges!!" But beyond that, I took these things to heart:

- If you're going to be a portrait painter, you had better know anatomy. Learn the anatomy of the face so that you know what to look for... but on the flip side of that, always paint what you see rather than what you know.
- When doing commissioned portraits, the emotions of the client (how they feel about themselves or the one they love being portrayed) will always be different from the emotions of the artist. The most successful paintings come as a result of the artist being true to their own aestheic standards, while remaining sensitive to the subject.
- You're the artist! Make good aesthetic choices, especially when forced to work from photos.
- A note on technique: use cross-contouring to give the figure volume and roundness.
- Here's the hard one (the one that takes years to master...) Paint with "panache"! Make every stroke count!

Well, there were also a lot of things covered that I already knew (like VALUE, VALUE, VALUE!), but it was definitely good to hear them again and be reminded of what a truly great calling it is to be a painter. Judy has SO much fun while she paints! She relishes every sroke, every shadow, every highlight, every contour. I have a long, long way to go before I ever reach Judy's level of skill and experience, but she will be the first to tell you that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. As an artist, one never truly "arrives". That's a good thing! If ever we stop having fun in our artistic experiments, clumsy mistakes, and little victories, we ought to turn in our brushes and choose a different career. Judith Carducci has become a role model to me for good reason: she LOVES painting, loves people, and loves life.

Here are a few pictures from the workshop:

Here I am with Judy (I'm dressed up because Emily and I were models on the last day of the workshop):

More photos can be seen in my Facebook photo album here.

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