The Academic Nude

Before beginning a painting, Golden Gate Atelier students make a transfer drawing. In this work, gesture, proportion, and shadow shapes are delineated. The drawing is then transferred to a canvas primed with a mid-tone imprimatura. Students also make a small color sketch, or bossetto. This enables them to see the big effect of light on the scene and to find clean flesh tones. By having a color study and a transfer drawing next to their easels, the students can proceed with confidence.

Students begin with simple color mixtures. At this stage they focus on accurate drawing and on values. Capturing the specific body type of the model as well as his inner life is the goal. As the work proceeds, more details are added and the color mixtures become more complex. Each part is compared to the whole so the final painting will have a sense of unity and power. At the Golden Gate Atelier we use a hierarchy of edges, values, and colors to create a center of interest. We try to paint how the human eye actually sees. Ours is not a photographic realism. Each student expresses the quality that he feels most strongly.

Direct Painting

At Golden Gate Atelier we teach the direct method of painting we learned it in Florence.  It descends from 19th Century Ateliers like the Paris atelier of M. Carolus-Duran where John Singer Sargent learned to paint.  R.A.M. Stevenson, who was a student in atelier at the time, describes the method as follows: ” After a search for proportions in charcoal. . . . The main planes of the face must be laid directly on the canvas with a broad brush. These surfaces—three or four in the forehead, as many in the nose, and so forth—must be studied in shape and place, and particularly in the relative value of light that their various inclinations produce. They were painted quite broadly in even tones of flesh tint, and stood side by side like pieces of a mosaic. . . . M. Carolus-Duran believed that if you do not approach tone by direct painting you will never know what you can do.”   While Sargent developed a brilliant personal style, he continued to paint directly because it creates vivid, natural portraits.

Portrait Painting »