In a couple of weeks I will be in Florence teaching the Charles Cecil Studios Summer Portrait Course. It is designed for painters of all levels who want to improve their life-size portrait skills and develop their eye. The class size is small, limited to 16 students. The environment is fantastic as the course is held in two 19th century painting studios on Piazzale Donatello. Both I and George Clark, a studio assistant in his fifth year of study work alongside the students demonstrating and critiquing.
Students work in pairs using the sight-size technique. From the very start they deal with the life-scale image with cast drawing from sculpture busts. It is a logical progression from cast drawing to portrait drawing and finally portrait painting. By the end of the first week the model is introduced. Usually by the end of the second week every one is painting. Each year is a bit different depending upon the students.
Painting and drawing are practical arts. 4 weeks is a decent time frame for transmitting the complexity of seeing and beginning to apply those principles to portraiture. There is a recent vogue in art education with the Demonstration and the Workshop. It is always helpful to see an artist at work and observe his/her working methods. However, it is usually an abbreviation of their normal studio practice. I maintain my doubts about how much knowledge can be actually shared this way.
During the course I am constantly demonstrating as I work with students. Working in the same room and alongside them enable me to closely follow their progress and keep them on track.
In many ways the course is like going back in time. All the studio work is done under natural light and directly from life. It is taught using a historic technique along with a limited palette of historic colors. The medium is based on 17th century recipes. There is no music either.
The schedule is quite intense. It is 6 hours a day of drawing and painting on your feet. To paint a life scale image you must stand at least 10 to 15 feet back from the model to see the big shape. That is another reason why the class size is limited. Each student has his/her own ‘runway’. Distance is fundamental to seeing proportions and nature without artificial construction systems. So a lot of walking is involved as well.
To learn more about the course the link is here.