The Golden Gate Atelier Painting Program

Painting at the Golden Gate Atelier is based on proven classical techniques. Students begin their training by working in grisaille. Then they use the limited palette before moving on to full color for portraiture, still life, and landscape. Students learn to represent nature faithfully by using a mosaic of specific shapes and color values– each shape defining a specific plane and relating to the whole. They study how edge variety creates atmosphere; they create color harmony by using subtle differences in warms and cool tones. Finally, students explore brush work and paint application to create a lively painterly surface.

At the Golden Gate Atelier we value craftsmanship. Students learn how to grind pigments and to prepare canvases in the traditional manner. They are encouraged to try oil and gesso grounds and to explore the possibilities of bristle, sable, and synthetic brushes. The properties of various mediums and pigments are demonstrated. Students are taught how palette knifes are used for scraping and carefully applying paint.

The Limited Palette

Golden Gate students train using the limited flesh palette of white, yellow ocher, red, and black.  This simple palette has been used by many of the great figure painters going back to Titian.   Saying much with little: this is one of the principles of art. Intermediate painting students can add cobalt or ultramarine blue and alizarin to their flesh palette.  However, even that is not strictly necessary. Birge Harrison, a French Academy- trained painter who taught landscape painting at the Art Students League, explains: “The distinguished Swedish artist Zorn uses but two colors—vermillion and yellow ocher; his other two pigments, black and white, being the negation of color. With this palette, simple to the point of poverty, he nevertheless finds it possible to paint an immense variety of . . . subjects, and I have never heard his color criticized. . . . Many other painters limit themselves to five colors; and when the palette is extended beyond seven it is safe to presume that one is skirting the borders of the amateur . . .”

Figure Painting »