Please click on paintings to view larger.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Painting models from life

Oil on Linen 16x12"

My good painting friend Sarah Kidner and I have been hiring models to come to our studio lately to prepare for two terrific workshops we will be taking this spring. (A 5 day figurative with Carolyn Anderson in April and a 10 day figurative/portrait intensive with Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon in June).

Mostly we have been doing one afternoon a week, but last week in a big push to get our chops down, we had a model in every day for 5 days. And just to add to the fun we invited some other friends to join in, which was huge entertainment value. Lotta whining going on, but we did get lots of work done, and we agreed that 5 days straight made for some clear progress - if not in skill, then at least in focus.

Here is what I find valuable in painting models from life:
  • It demands you address your drawing weaknesses
  • You can see amazing nuances that simply do not exist in photo reference
  • There are a world of subtle color temperature shifts beckoning to suggest form
  • It is divinely, completely captivating
  • It is hands down the hardest thing you can do as an artist
  • It DOES get easier with practice
If you're serious about developing your skill as an artist, I can think of no better way to tackle that goal. You don't need to hire professional models, any warm body that will sit still for you is an ideal subject. We pay our models $20 an hour and usually have them in for 3 hours at a time. We have found that putting a movie on the laptop for the model keeps them entertained for a sitting, and they just take breaks when they feel the need.

L-R: Liz, Sarah, Gaye Adams, Jean Pederson and Bobbi Dunlop in Sarah's studio


  1. Hey Brad, this was a 3 hour session.

    We aren't so much concerned with getting a finished portrait as we are with having a focused practice session. Most often I wipe them off at the end, but there was something compelling about this one that made me want to hang on to it.

  2. The movie on the laptop explains her expression! She absolutely looks like she's watching something - omg your color choices for her fleshtones and her eyes are masterful! You guys look like the Invasion of the Blonde Artists (and I mean that in a good way!!!)!

  3. Wow. Now I am more scared. I am signed up for two workshops in May and June where I will be focusing on live models. David Shelvino and Nancy Chaboun. Know it will help me progress. Maybe I need to practice some before I go.
    You don't do anything half way. Good girl!

  4. Looks like any of the artists could have been the model, great looking bunch! Carolyn is a wonderful instructor, know you'll love her class. And 10 days with Scott and Susan, wow, you'll be a MASTER portrait artist at the end of the summer.

  5. You gals sure have tons of fun and work hard!

  6. What great artists and teachers. I love all 3 of them, you'll grow/learn so much!

  7. Hey Carol, the pre-course practice is like cleaning the house before the cleaning lady comes :-) ...I feel like I can learn more if I'm not totally overwhelmed by the difficulties. David Shevlino-wow! Love his work, that will be SUCH a fun workshop - lucky you!

    Ann, that is definitely my goal. MASTER painter within the next 6 months. :-) I mean really, how hard can it be?

  8. Great post, full of thoughtful information. Thanks Liz.

  9. Wonderful painting, Liz. How great to take those workshops! Way to go. I'm sure it'll be amazing. I look forward to seeing more of your portraits!