A Fleur de Peau – Visiting Henri Fantin-Latour at Musée du Luxembourg

Oil Painting

2nd Year student and De Laszlo scholar Nneka Uzoigwe took the opportunity to visit the Fantin Latour Exhibition in Paris. It has now moved to Grenoble until 18th June. I remember taking a train to the Bowes Museum to see an exhibition of his work. It was definitely worth it.

 

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Coin de Table, 1872

This Spring I was lucky enough to make a day trip to Paris. It’s purpose was to go see, ‘A Fleur de Peau’, the first and rather monumental retrospective of Henri Fantin-Latour since 1982. As a favourite artist of mine the exhibition did not disappoint. Displayed at Musee du Luxembourg were over a hundred paintings and works on paper by Latour, as well a collection of rare private photos and lithographs displayed alongside working drawings, illustrating Fantin’s amazing imagination in translating reality through to mythology and symbolism.

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One of the things that surprised me the most, was the feel of optical illusion when viewing his work in person. I spent a lot of time in the exhibition walking back and forth in amazement. Fantin’s paintings are highly detailed but only more so from a distance and when flattened in photos. So this  made it hard to photograph certain area’s, when I wanted to take some personal visual notes on his possible processes of application and layering. Up-close a lot of the brush marks were broad and rough and built up in careful layers of thin to thick, which expertly brought to light what could be achieved by simply following the same processes we’ve been learning at the studio.

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A couple of notes I took –

Figures sketched in thin wash soft grisaille – then opaque mid tones brushed on showing form and brush marks – thick dry lightest lights then applied – then colourful glazes and thin opaque darks.

Warmth of background shown through leaves and stems.

If a cold background – a warm transparent umber wash applied first – before adding on opaque greens thinly and expressively for the leaves.

Background pre-prepared for still lives – flowers built up in thin colours and darks sketched in in rich glazes – lights dryly and thickly put in.

 

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Tim’s talk on the American Illustrators

An example of one of his characterful illustrations

Tim Daost has been studying with us for some years. He has received both the De Laszlo Scholarship and was awarded Artist in Residence at Leighton House Museum. We have been fortunate that he has given a series of lectures at the studios on perspective and most recently on the American Illustrators. Here is a brief synopsis of his fascinating talk.

 

One of the main reasons I wanted to study traditional drawing and painting techniques was to improve my ability to tell stories visually.   I have always loved the way a good illustration can transport you to another world, and admire artists who can use realism in imaginative ways.

 

Although slightly less famous in the UK, the American Illustrator Norman Rockwell has long been considered a master of visual storytelling by the US public.

Norman Rockwell

 

The more I practiced traditional figure drawing the more I wondered how Rockwell and his contemporaries became such amazing figurative artists and illustrators.  I decided to explore this topic more in a talk I gave at the studio in November 2016.

A large part of the story of American Illustration comes back to the Art Students League in New York City.   Every time I found an illustration from the early 20th century with amazing figurative work and researched the artist’s background I discovered that they spent some time at the Art Students League or in Paris at Academie Julian.

 

Arts Students League

Researching a bit about the training at the Art Students League around the 1900s explains how its students became so influential.  At the time the League had three incredibly influential teachers:  George Bridgman, Robert Henri, and Frank Dumond.  All three of these teachers had trained at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts or Academie Julian, some directly under the tutelage of France’s foremost academic artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

 

Here are a few images of students training at the Art Students League – the setup should seem familiar to anyone who studies here at London Fine Art Studios.

 

 

 

Frank Vincent Dumont in Class

One of the longest standing teachers at the Art Students League, George Bridgman, wrote some of the most influential books on figure drawing that are still in wide use today and can be bought at the studio shop Lavender Hill Colours. Here you can see examples of the work from his class.

From a George Bridgeman class
From a George Bridgeman class

 

Robert Henri, another instructor at the League, wrote the highly influential book The Art Spirit.

Robert Henri Art Spirit

Frank Dumond, who exhibited at the Paris Salon and won a medal, can be seen in the photos above teaching cast drawing.

 

Frank Dumond

 

 

It is no surprise that instructors of this calibre were able to turn Norman Rockwell into one of America’s best illustrators by the time he was 20. Rockwell matured as an illustrator at a very fortuitous time, since the technical circumstances of the time made illustration the dominant form of advertisement.

 

 

During the 19th century lithography, photography, and printing were making it possible to mass produce black and white images cheaply.  Colour printing was a more complicated process, but by 1904 rotary offset lithography made it possible to mass produce colour images.  Although colour printing was possible, colour photography was still a challenging process until 1935 when Kodak introduced Kodachrome film.  This meant that mass produced colour advertisements required an illustrator from the early 1900s until about 1935.

 

This opportunity was taken up by many other Art Students League students:  Walter Biggs and Howard Pile were all former students at the forefront of American Illustration.

 

Illustrators from outside the League were also popular; a little research tends to reveal that they also had an academic background.  J.C Leyendecker was America’s leading illustrator before Rockwell.  He studied under John Vanderpool, the Dutch-American artist and author of the book “The Human Figure” which is still widely used in art schools today. Leyendecker continued his studies at Academie Julian in Paris.

 

Leyendecker’s images for Saturday Evening Post defined the modern look of Santa (often mis-attributed to a subsequent Coca-Cola campaign that clearly references these images), and his work for Arrow Shirts advertising helped define the fashion sense of the 1920s.

Leyendecker

N.C Wyeth is also considered one of America’s greatest illustrators.  He trained under Howard Pyle, who was in turn trained by F.A Van der Wellen from the Antwerp Academy of the Arts.  It is hard to find exact details on how Pyle was trained, but it is clear the Van der Wellen had his students draw from casts.  Pyle also briefly trained at the Art Students League, and it is reasonable to surmise that Pyle trained Wyeth using the classical techniques that he learned from the league and Van der Wellen.

N C Wyeth

Wyeth completed an incredible 3,000 paintings (an average of 6 per month during his working career)  and illustrated 112 books (2 -3 per year)  during his career.  Maintaining such a pace would require spending no more than 25 – 35 hours per painting.

8 Week Floral Still Life – Spring term

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Detail of final painting.
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Inspiration – A drooping marigold and other flowers spilling out of the vase (detail), Rachel Ruysch, Flower Still Life, c. 1726

This term I wanted to understand how to complete a longer more complicated still life. I planned to use a bountiful supply of spring flowers. Due to their short life, they would of course have to be replaced weekly. Here is a collection of images documenting these few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

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I started to build up the bouquet of flowers in my composition, a small bunch at a time. This meant I could concentrate on a small section of one or two flowers a session. This allowed time to finish each collection of flowers to the desired amount of finish and detail. The central poppy alone took me two full consecutive days in class.

 

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The most challenging part was designing of the composition. Not all the flowers I chose, worked in the set-up; when in the painting they sometimes clashed with the overall colour harmony, focal point, general feel and texture of the other flowers. So a lot of time was also spent editing in a variety of different flowers and painting over or wiping off what didn’t work.

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When adding in the flowers one by one, I had to be aware of keeping a natural flow and structure, to stop a staged feel. Paying special attention to creating natural overlaps and where light and shadows would consequently fall, helped do this. Near the end additional shadows were carefully glazed in, as well as reflected colours on some of the flowers to echo their surrounding environment.

 

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Final painting – Icelandic Poppies, oil on linen

 

New de Laszlo Foundation Scholars announced

De Laszlo Scholarship | London Fine Art Studios

We are grateful to The de Laszlo Foundation for their continued support of the school.  Now in its third year, the scholarship programme has enabled many talented young artists to further their training and build their confidence, successfully making the transition into the professional realm.

We are pleased to announce two new scholars for the Autumn Term and look forward to witnessing their development as artists:

 

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Oolong with Roses by Nneka Uzoigwe

Charcoal Portrait by Tim Daoust

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London Fine Art Studios: An insight

London Fine Art Studios: An insight

London Fine Art Studios: An insight This is us!  We have been busy working with acapmedia to produce a wonderful video about the school.  Thanks to Chris and Aaron of acapmedia for all their work and expertise.  Thanks also to the team at LFAS for their participation.

Check us out here:

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We look forward to the release of a second short film produced with acapmedia.  Also with the support of The de Laszlo Foundation.

Classical skills that go hand-in-hand

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This week started with, amongst other things, a conversation on the news about media bartering. A grosso modo it referenced the way in which large organisations are cutting marketing costs through in-kind exchange.

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Swapping goods and services for promotional opportunity or something similar is hardly a new concept, and it is certainly prevalent amongst many arts organisations. Indeed, it is at the heart of how many communities operate.

 

London Fine Art Studios is testament to this tradition. A Battersea-based, independent fine art school, the Studios is in essence an atelier offering classical art courses for aspiring and established artists. This encompasses drawing and oil painting, printmaking and sculpture, all from within a representational art lineage.

 

In keeping with the atelier methodology, much importance is placed on learning through exchange. We barter knowledge and experience, in exchange artists, teachers and students alike learn more, enjoy more and ultimately retain more. Small student groups work together, receiving focused and constructive critiques from their tutor-artist who draws and paints alongside them. They also gain from regular demonstrations as well as through observing their peers.

 

Underlying this process is a deep respect for the craft of drawing and painting. Again, there is a shared understanding that mastery comes through practice. It is the result of concrete instruction as opposed to conceptual or theoretical training, which, all too often, leaves students floundering, trying to run before they can walk.

 

This collaborative ethos runs through everything we do, and that is a lot! In a previous life one of our award-winning artists was also an award-winning barista (painted left), he now runs the Studios’ coffee bar supplementing his income whilst giving us (and our work) a welcome caffeine kick. We have yoga teachers and chefs, all of whom find a way of trading goods to everyone’s advantage!

 

It has also propelled LFAS and its artists well beyond the confines of the studios, working alongside a range of organisations across London. Projects with Poet in the City and Central School of Ballet have helped forge new working relationships between different art forms. In the case of Leighton House Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery we have brought practical expertise to the seat of art history; and, different again, popping up at the Affordable Art Fair and Pintar Rapido we have brought classical principles into a contemporary context.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.49.14Whatever we choose to call it – bartering, collaboration, in-kind exchange – this age old tradition has enabled us all to gain at so many different levels. Evidently it brings with it exposure and so the opportunity of increased following and, more importantly, new creative adventures. More significantly, it allows the participants to grow professionally as they try their skills out in new arenas and push the boundaries of their craft.

 

Finally, in a world that is notoriously cash-strapped and solitary, it has consolidated ties between artists and individuals and meant that we all get more bang for our buck.