Beginning painting, Billings Lake, fieldtrip to the Corcoran

As I think I’ve mentioned already, I’m teaching a fantastic beginning painting course at American University this summer. After consulting with AU painting professor Danielle Mysliwiec on course content, I created a syllabus that includes observational painting, painting from images, and abstraction. We started with a still life comprising white objects, then moved into color. After several color studies of Goethe’s triangle–warm, cool, tint, and tone variations–we started the next paintings, and I think the exercises really helped them understand color mixing more fully. At one point halfway into the painting, I heard a student muttering, “I’ve painted myself into a tertiary hole!” Ah, the abyss.

Last night we completed paintings of interiors based on photographs and then stretched canvases for our final project, which is an abstract portrait. Painting alongside the students, who are from all over the world and exceedingly bright, I am reminded how much I love painting from observation. For the interior assignment, I cheated a little and painted the view from an upstairs window at my sister’s lake house in Connecticut. Pictured above, the painting is more of a landscape than an interior, but, honestly, doesn’t it look like I’m connecting with an inner Lois Dodd? Sort of shocking after working abstractly for so long. For anyone who saw the NYTimes video of William Wegman at his lakefront retreat, and yearns for lakefront property but doesn’t want to drive all the way to Maine, my sister’s rustic little house, about two hours from New York and down a series of long dirt roads, is for sale. (UPDATE: She says the house is also available to rent.)

On Saturday, August 4, at 10:30 am, the class will be meeting at the Corcoran Gallery to see the Diebenkorn show. Saturdays are free this summer at the Corcoran, so please join us. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from New York, which means if you leave town by 6 am, you’ll just make it. Diebenkorn! Yeah! See you there!

A map and directions are here.

Image at top: From the window at Billings Lake, acrylic on canvasboard, 16 x 20 inches. Lousy iPhone snapshot.

Related posts:
From the DC art community: Tim Doud and Zo� Charlton (February 2012)
Portrait of the day: Lois Dodd (June 2015)


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  1. Sharon, isn't it interesting to switch between modes, I did it myself this week with a still life. Part of me almost forgot that I was still able to make it work. Nice painting btw.

  2. I have always wanted to live in a lake house. I am also into painting and I find houses by the beach and lakes are giving me inspiration to do more art. It must be the view.

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