Nitram Charcoals are a unique alternative to vine or willow charcoal sticks. They have varying gradations of hard and soft, allowing you to control your tone and weight of line. Personally, I use Nitram Fusain charcoals almost exclusively and recommend them to all of my students, who also have nothing but good things to say. Which is why it was such an honor to be asked for an interview with them on their blog! I am reposting here for your reading pleasure and hope you will take the time to check out their website www.nitramcharcoal.com
Contemporary Charcoals: Brianna Lee Written By: Alexis Culotta
Category Art Materials, Artists, Artwork, Charcoal Inspiration, Charcoal Technique, Featured Art, General, Nitram, The Basics
This week’s blog, the next in our “Contemporary Charcoals” series, features
the work of California native Brianna Lee. Blending a love for the technique
of the Dutch Golden Age masters with her unyielding inspiration gleaned from
the everyday, Brianna infuses her works both in charcoal and oil with an unabashed and refreshing vibrancy. Brianna took some time out of her busy schedule (in addition to accepting commissions, she also manages her own atelier) to tell us a bit more about her artistic ideology. For more of Brianna’s work, check out her website, her Facebook page, and also her atelier website,
South Coast Art Center.
NC: What do you hope your works communicate to the viewer?
BL: My ideas are continuously evolving but I think ultimately I want to move the viewer emotionally. I believe that beauty has the power to give hope to others in their darkest moments and that art can elevate us above the mundane demands of everyday life. It is similar to soaking in a beautiful garden or coastline: it rejuvenates the spirit.
NC: What drew you to working in charcoal? What advantages do you think it has over other media?
BL: I think Salvador Dali said it best: “Drawing is the honesty of art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad.” I think that mastering charcoal medium is essential for any artist. It is challenging to control and teaches you so much skill before you attempt painting. I often work in charcoal because I find that the medium has a certain quietness about it and it sits easily in a room. A drawing isn’t loud and shouting for attention, yet it pulls you in. There is a certain grace about a well-crafted drawing.
NC: The artist has to choose when a work is “done”. How do you know when a work is complete? How do you know when to stop “editing”?
BL: I think it is important to be objective about your own work, to try and see it through others eyes. I try to look at each of my painting as I would one of my students’ works.
I ask myself, “If this was my students painting, what would I tell them?” I think most artists experience dissatisfaction with their work in the end. This is why it is so difficult to finish a piece and let it go. I read once that William Bouguereau approached every fresh canvas thinking it would be his masterpiece. In the end, he always felt he missed the mark and lost enthusiasm, wishing to abandon the painting and start over. And he finished a lot of fantastic work! Sometimes, I force myself to move on because you can’t solve all the world’s problems in one painting, and I figure if Bouguereau felt this way,
it’s okay if I do too!
NC: What’s the best advice you’ve received about becoming an artist?
BL: My late grandpa always told me I could do anything I set my mind to and that I should always live in the “now” and be present everyday. I can still hear his voice in my head saying those words. Being an artist is a multi-tasking career. Goals are good to have but there is no point in focusing solely on your destination. Part of the joy is the journey. This is why I cherish these words. It is my reminder to not fret about tomorrow and just enjoy today – be mindful and present.
NC: How do you set up your studio? What are three items you need in your
studio to get started?
BL: My studio (above) is part of a live-work loft in downtown Santa Ana, California, that also operates as my teaching atelier (South Coast Art Center). So, often my studio is full of easels and tables from classes and tons of paintings and demos laying around. That being said, there are three items I must have. The first is a simple wood taboret/palette with a monitor stand attached (for photo references). I often work from a monitor when
I don’t have the option of working from life. The second is great lighting, as balanced light is crucial for painting. I also have great big windows in my studio that I will use for natural light in the late afternoons. Third are my essential tools: painting supplies, Rosemary brushes, and of course Nitram Charcoals!
NC: Can you tell us more about one of your favorite creations? Where did you create it? Does it have a story attached?
BL: My favorite piece is Metamorphose because it represents three major related events in my life. Metamorphose (above) was initially inspired by my first ever trip to Europe. I went to Germany and Prague on a study abroad trip that summer. We saw so many inspiring works of art, like Alphonse Mucha’s Slavic Epic and many massive multi-figure paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. I was blown away and couldn’t wait to get back to the easel to begin on the multi-figure composition I was envisioning. As it was the first I had ever attempted, and also as I was working under a tight deadline of 2 months even while studying full time at Laguna College of Art and Design and teaching, it turned out to be a huge learning curve. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but with lots of late nights and coffee
I managed to finish in time for the Germany and Prague Exhibition in Laguna Beach.
The good news: the painting sold! It was the largest painting I had attempted and it now sits in a collector’s lovely home there. A very happy ending!
To View this Interview on the Nitram Blog, Click Here
Many who set out to learn to paint begin by painting "alla-prima" (meaning all at once or wet into wet"). And many end up putting their brushes down because painting is more difficult than they anticipated. Learning to avoid making muddy mess on the canvas is a frustrating endeavor! But don't put your brushes in the drawer just yet, there is another way.
What most do not realize is that the best painting approach for beginners is the Classical "Indirect" Method. Unfortunately, this method is seldom taught except at some small ateliers like ours.
The Classical Method breaks painting down into several manageable stages that are easier for new painters to grasp.
First beginning with a drawing, you learn the importance of creating an accurate "cartoon" for a painting.
The second stage is monochromatic rub-out underpainting using an earth tone to develop the drawing in paint. This gives you a feel for handling paint with a brush. In baby steps.
The third stage is the "Grisaille" or grey painting. Using an earth tone and white, you paint the forms to completion until realism is achieved, like a black and white photograph. This teaches you the importance of values in conveying three dimensional forms and develops your abilities with the paint and brush.
The final stage is the color layer, where glazes and semi-translucent paint is added over the grisaille to give a full color effect.
And voilà! You just finished a painting...and it's not half bad! Hooray!
I have a firm belief that anyone can learn to paint. But it is like learning any instrument or creative endeavor, you must begin with basics. Even the experienced painter can learn a lot from this method, so we encourage you to try!
I teach this method in my Painting and Drawing Workshop on Tuesdays and Thursday's 9am-12pm at my studio in Santa Ana, CA.
You Can Sign Up Online Here:
2015 started with a magnificent BANG! Its been hectic but overall great. Many changes, but change is good. It rejuvenates your spirit and fills the well of inspiration, which is important when you're an artist.
I just moved into a beautiful live/work loft in the heart of Santa Ana where I teach classes through my studio, South Coast Art Center, and of course, where I live and paint. I've got many exciting things in store for the next few months, including having a booth at the Laguna Beach Art A Fair this summer!
I've got tons of painting to do and I am working on several commissions. In the meantime, I am finding new creative ways to promote my studio.
Here is a new video about my studio, South Coast Art Center. Enjoy and Happy Painting!
This is a recorded live demo I from a class I teach in Orange County. South Coast Art Center is my new studio located in Costa Mesa, CA. We offer a variety of classes at the studio, for more information visit: http://www.southcoastartcenter.com
This summer I was privileged to travel to Munich, Germany and Prague, CZK with my professors and some students from Laguna College of Art and Design. This was my very first trip to Europe and it was so incredibly inspiring.
In Prague, we visited many important sites including St. Vitus cathedral, which is absolutely breathtaking. In Munich, we spend two days at the Alte and Neue Pinakothek (Art Museum), sketching from works by Rubens, Botticelli, Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt.
The trip was so important and memorable that I decided to document it in a small e-book. You can view it for free here (see below)
Thank you to all who contributed to my trip, it would not have been possible without your support!
Color-Demonstration using the Limited Palette
I just finished teaching a weekend workshop intensive on mixing flesh tones with a limited palette at Kline Academy of Fine Art. Students created a color wheel and then used the wheel to analyze the flesh tones of a master painting, creating a small color study. Students did such a great job and exclaimed how much the color wheel has opened their eyes to color mixing, so I thought it might be a great opportunity to explain the top 5 Reasons to Use a Limited Palette:
This limited Palette, also known as the "Zorn Palette" after artist Anders Zorn, contains the following colors: Ivory Black, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ocher and Titanium White.
View our Slideshow from the Weekend Workshop!
Students painting at the Spring into Summer Plein Air Portrait workshop in Temescal Canyon Park
Summer en Plein Air
One thing I love about plein air painting is you always have a story to tell. I've been fogged in and rained out, and even though sometimes I'd have to pack up with an unfinished painting, there was always a sense of adventure! Summer in SoCal is one of the best times of the year to explore the beautiful parks and study nature en plein air. Which inspired my Spring into Summer Portrait Workshop. It was a great success! We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day in Temescal Canyon Park in Santa Monica, Ca. The workshop began at 10am with 5x7 color studies. Students worked hard to capture the swiftly changing light. Their color studies served as guides for the final painting. Students focused on the warm and cool temperatures of color, patterns of dappled light and shadow and studied how the outdoor environment effects the color of skin tones.
We saw blues, greens, violets and golds throughout the day as the light changed. Sometimes you would just catch a glimpse of a beautiful moment when the light flickered a highlight somewhere spectacular and you would try to recreate it as brilliantly as it was seen. It was a unique challenge and incredibly refreshing experience to paint the figure outdoors.
While I consider myself a more naturalistic painter, primarily sticking with an earthy palette, I couldn't help myself during this workshop and I pushed my colors to the limit. I began to appreciate what it was that the Impressionists were trying to capture. Everyone enjoyed the workshop so much, that I received several requests to host it again.
Gladly! So to keep posted on new workshops, subscribe to my blog (enter email on the right) and I hope you can join us in our next adventure!
The How-To's and Why of Cast Drawing
Cast Plate by Charles Bargue
First, lets start with a little bit of History.
Cast drawing is a tradition that originated in the École des Beaux-Arts academies in Paris, established around 1648. Here, young artists would apply to participate in 4 years of rigorous art training.
Before students were allowed to approach drawing a live model, they would begin by learning to copy prints, drawn by other artists, of classical sculptures. This was the best way for the student to learn about contour, light and shadow. A popular series of plates were created by artist Charles Bargue (see left).
Once proficient at copying the plates, the student was then allowed to draw from plaster casts of famous Classical Sculptures. Once they had a mastery over form, the student was then brought in front of a live model.
Bargue Drawing by student Analia L.
Why should you learn Cast Drawing?
Well, to put it simply, it will teach you to see the errors of your ways.
We all have bad habits when we draw. We make things too long, too wide, too big, too small, too round, too square. The number of ways you can make an error is as varied as Nature herself.
Cast drawing using the Sight-Size approach can help you understand the way you perceive the subject and help reveal your tendencies towards one habit or another. Essentially, what we are doing when we draw from observation, is translating. Cast drawing can help you learn to translate better. And drawing from Classical casts teaches you a lot about design, anatomy and enables you to carefully study the true nature of an object. Even for the abstract painter, there is much to learn from Cast Drawing.
Think of your artistic skills as tools in a toolbox. One tool does not fix everything. But it serves a special purpose and does that task very well. Sight Size Cast drawing is one of those very special tools every artist should have in their toolbox.
Click "Read More" to View Sight-Size Tutorial
Spring into Summer! A Figure en Plein Air Workshop
Date: Sunday June 24, 2012
Time: 9:30am-5pm Location: TBA
Spring into Summer colors with this all day workshop! Learn the color of outdoor light onskin tones with a live model en Plein Air. You will be introduced to a “light” palette, ideal forcreating luminous paintings. The workshop will begin with a lecture and demonstration and "poster" abstract studies. You are encouraged to bring a lunch and water and to wear light clothing. This will be lots of fun, do not miss out! For more information or to Register, call Kline Academy of Fine Art at (310) 927-2436
Two-Day Color Mixing Workshop
Does color elude you? Unsure where to begin when mixing color? Then this workshop is for you! Students will explore the essentials of color with this two-day color mixig workshop. Learn to create color harmony by using the “Zorn” Palette and take a practical approach to color.
The workshop begins with a guided color mixing exercise, where students create a color wheel and learn the benefits of a limited palette. The second day students will use this chart to guide them to recreate the colors of a Master painting.
Learn real-life application and how a color chart can guide you, whether painting luminous
flesh tones or earthy landscapes! Students upon completing the course have expressed how much it has
improved their abilities to analyze colors accurately.
Call today and reserve your space! Kline Academy of Fine Art at (310) 927-2436
All Supplies will be Included, Materials Fee Applies*
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