The Complete Painter: Lessons from the Masters
Professor David Brody has been a Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Washington in Seattle since 1996. He did undergraduate work at Columbia University and Bennington College and received his graduate degree in painting from Yale University in 1983. Professor Brody has lectured or been a visiting critic at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The University of Chicago, Harvard University, Capital Normal University in Beijing, and the China Art Academy in Hangzhou. Professor Brody's paintings and drawings have been shown in close to 100 exhibitions in the United States and Europe. These include solo shows at Gallery NAGA in Boston, the Esther Claypool Gallery in Seattle, Gescheidle in Chicago, and Galeria Gilde in Portugal. His work has also been shown at the ARCO Art Fair in Madrid, the RipArte Art Fair in Rome, the Trevi Flash Art Museum, the FAC Art Fair in Lisbon, and Art Chicago in the United States. Professor Brody's work has been published and written about in two monographs and in many articles and reviews. Art in America concluded, "A highly intelligent artist ... Brody is absolutely serious about technique. An emphasis on fine drawing, delicate surfaces, and careful considerations of color and light informs all his pictures." Professor Brody has received numerous awards. He's been both a Fulbright Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow, received the Basil H. Alkazzi Award for Excellence in Painting, and was awarded Royalty Research Fund grants and Milliman Endowment for Faculty Excellence awards at the University of Washington.
01: The Grand Tradition of Painting
Humans have been painting for more than 40,000 years and creating pigments for more than 300,000 years. You’ll join that great tradition by making your own pigments and paints in this lesson. Learn why the masters began their careers by copying others and why this is the best time in history to learn to paint.
02: Health and Safety in the Studio
Oil-based paints are considered the most versatile medium for painters today. But with pigments, oils, and solvents comes the potential danger of toxicity and combustion. Learn how to take proper safety precautions—reading the Safety Data Sheet and product label for each item you buy, ventilating the room where you paint, and properly disposing of hazardous waste.
03: Basic Painting Materials
What are the “must-haves” for your workspace? Learn about necessary supplies, including paper, pencils, additives, brushes, and the six specific tubes of paint you’ll need for your first palette. You’ll also learn why so many painters rely on the mahl stick—and how to build your own.
04: Studio Setup and Brush Care
Make sure your workspace meets your specific needs and preferences. Explore your lighting options for both natural and artificial light and learn how they impact your painting, palette, and subject. You’ll also learn how to set your paints on the palette to allow for greatest efficiency and flexibility, and how to clean everything at the end of your session with brush cleaners you’ll build yourself.
05: First Exercises: Line and Mark
Studying John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X, you’ll learn how the placement of the brush in your hand affects the types of strokes you can make. As you test various options with your own brush placement, pressure, speed, and dilutions, you’ll experiment with a variety of lines and marks—and examine those of Van Gogh, Cézanne, and many others.
06: First Exercises: Value, Edges, and Texture
In this lesson, you’ll experiment with many ways to change value by changing opacity, hatching, stippling, and more. You’ll also learn a variety of ways to create an edge, making it hard or soft. You’ll experiment with many different ways to both apply and remove paint, and learn about the relationships between thick and thin layers—and what will stand the test of time.
07: Creating Basic Forms: Lines, Shapes, and Solids
As you study line, texture, contour, space, and proportion, you’ll learn how painters can start with a flat shape and create a three-dimensional solid. By examining Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and other paintings, you’ll learn how artists build upon simple geometric figures to create highly organized groupings of interlocking shapes.
08: Value: Making a Value Scale
With the goal of painting grisailles and brunailles—paintings executed entirely in shades of gray or brown, respectively—you’ll learn a step-by-step method for developing two appropriate value scales. In the process, you’ll explore paint mixing, assessing the value of those mixtures, identifying and correcting mistakes, and understanding the effects of simultaneous contrast.
09: Value: A Simple Still Life
Before creating a brunaille based on Norman Lundin’s Simple Still Life–Three Cups, you’ll learn how to transfer the cartoon files—the underdrawings in your course guidebook—to your surface, as well as options for using the grid system to scale up or down. You’ll visually take the painting apart to carefully identify the work’s shapes, and then use your value chart to guide you through the painting process.
10: Value: Mood, Palette, and Light
Learn how value affects the mood of a painting—with a greater range of values bringing higher energy and a smaller range bringing a softer, calmer mood. Explore how value also can be used to create pattern, a focal hierarchy, and the illusion of space and three-dimensional volume. You’ll also examine the way light can be used to give a flat effect or to produce greater drama with a chiaroscuro.
11: Value: Block and Sphere in Grisaille
By painting a chiaroscuro block and sphere in grisaille, you’ll apply value mixing skills—with 17 different values in this exercise—and explore the way light affects rectilinear and curvilinear forms. You’ll practice blending edges, experimenting with a variety of brushes and the use of horizontal and vertical strokes.
12: The Figure and a Portrait in Brunaille
In this lesson, you’ll experiment with using value intuitively, leaving behind the numerical references you used previously. You’ll learn how the illusion of a complex three-dimensional form is created as you work with value and shadows. And you’ll learn to see the planar structure beneath an object, considering both value and edges as you bring life to the structure.
13: Working with the Earth Tone Palette
In this lesson, you’ll explore the full palette of earth tones, black, and white—a palette that has been used for millennia in every geographic area. As you experiment with a color-mixing exercise, methodically developing a chart to reveal the full range of this palette, you’ll observe the way the colors seem to change depending on their context.
14: Ensuring Accurate Proportions
Explore the benefits of the gridded velo, calipers, beam compasses, and even tracing paper. These tools have been used from da Vinci to the modern age for developing precise proportions when painting. Specifically, learn how to work with proportional dividers to help the accuracy of your work, whether you’re copying from another painting or painting a still life.
15: Composition: Shape, Ground, and Format
Nothing is more important to the success of a painting than composition—the organization of elements that brings cohesion to the work. Learn how to look deeply at paintings to discover compositional patterns and to improve your own work by examining format, simple and compound aggregate shapes, the box strategy, the crucial role played by “background,” and more.
16: Composition: Leonardo and the Armature
Learn how to develop and work with an armature, the structure that determines the organization of elements in your painting and guides the viewer’s eyes through your work. Whether it’s the placement of a large figure or the angle of a hairline, generations of artists from diverse cultures have depended on the armature to bring visual power into their works.
17: Composition: Balance, Focus, and Space
Learn how to construct your painting to control the viewer’s path through its visual information. What do you want the observer to attend to first, second, next? You’ll explore the elements of compositional weight and balance, space, hierarchy, focal considerations, color, and more to understand the ways in which each of these factors affects your viewer’s experience.
18: Degas, Hammershøi, and Other Projects
In this lesson, you’ll practice the elements you’ve learned—from value to composition—with several painting assignments. In addition to a still life, you’ll work with cartoons of paintings by Degas and Hammershøi, and numerous specific suggestions for painting groupings of geometric solids, fabric, and maybe even a room in your own home.
19: Materials: Oil Paint Brands and Quality
Two tubes of paint with similar names—or even the exact same name—can appear and behave very differently depending on their chemical composition and the processes used in manufacturing. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to glean information from paint labels and how to utilize the Color IndexTM, often abbreviated CIGN, the international classification system for dyes and pigments.
20: Materials: Oil Paint Characteristics
Learn how opacity, tinting strength, permanence, and consistency affect your paint’s performance, and how to identify these characteristics from the paint’s label. You’ll also learn how to make sure your paint is safe, how to proceed if the label does note a health hazard, and how to care for your paints once in your workspace.
21: Color: Theory and Exercises
Learn the difference between additive and subtractive mixing, how those processes impact the colors you’ll see when you mix your paints, and why formal color theory doesn’t always reflect how paints work in the real world. You’ll begin to create your own color chart in order to experiment with the value, hue, and saturation of your particular paints.
22: Color: Painting with Limited Palettes
Examine the limited palettes used by some of the great masters throughout history—monochrome, dominant hue, analogous, split complementary, and more—and explore how they strategized color usage to create a particular mood in a painting. You’ll build your own palette as you explore an exercise on color mixing, trying to match your paints to a specific color on a print.
23: Materials: All about Medium
All painters would love to find a medium that would cause the exact result they want with no negative effects. Instead, it’s all about compromise. Learn about the pros and cons of linseed oil, oil of rosemary, odorless mineral spirits, hydrocarbon resins, balsams, yellow beeswax, and more. You’ll experiment with making damar varnish and find recipes for numerous others.
24: Materials: All about Brushes
Although almost all artists today paint with brushes, painters have experimented with an enormous variety of tools—from fingers to squeegees. In this lesson, you’ll explore the two main categories of brushes, their variability in price, and how to best care for them. You’ll also learn why hog hair is the best natural bristle and why “sable” brushes are almost never made from sable.
25: Materials: Flexible Supports
With step-by-step instructions, you’ll build your own flexible support, starting with purchasing the supports and linen, and then stretching the linen over the frame. To create the needed barrier between the textile and the paint, you’ll make a rabbit-hide glue solution and then prime with a lead white ground. You’ll also learn a great variety of options for future experiments.
26: Materials: Rigid Supports
Many artists choose to paint on rigid supports—wood, metal, or even glass—which preserve paintings for much longer periods than flexible supports. Learn why plywood and composite panels are today’s popular choice for those who paint on wood, how to prepare wooden surfaces before painting, and step-by-step directions for making your own gesso.
27: Materials: Carpentry for the Studio
Many artists want their own supports, studio tables, stretchers, and strainers made to custom specs to best meet their specific needs. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to build chassis for canvases and panels, a painting table, and a brush table. Step-by-step instructions for the tables can also be found in the course guidebook.
28: Project: A Modigliani Portrait
In this lesson, you’ll experiment with painting Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of a Young Girl. In this work and others, Modigliani worked with the ratio of the canvas itself, as opposed to the natural proportions of the figure. You’ll learn to see and paint those unusual proportions in his orange-blue complementary system.
29: Project: A Degas Ballerina
By painting a study of The Ballerina, by Edgar Degas, you’ll work extensively with washes in a red-green complementary-analogous palette. You’ll experiment with a great range of mark making, both positively with your brush and negatively with scratched hatchings, and work with several tools to remove paint as you emulate Degas’ texture.
30: Project: A Corot Landscape
Painting a study based on Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Bridge on the Saôn at Mâcon—with its palpable illusion of light and air—gives you the opportunity to work with a greater depth of space than in any previous painting in this course and with brush strokes you haven’t used before. You’ll be challenged also by using his double complementary palette.
31: Project: Derain’s Portrait of Matisse
In this lesson, you’ll paint a study based on André Derain’s iconic 1905 portrait of his friend Henri Matisse, using highly saturated color that modulates from light to dark and warm to cool as you move around the head. In copying Derain’s style, you’ll use hue, value, and brush marks to make sure the head is the focus of the piece.
32: Project: A Porter Self-Portrait
In this lecture, you’ll paint a study based on a Fairfield Porter self-portrait. Porter focused on observational figure painting with works that relied on strong abstract shape relationships. In this painting, you’ll work with opacity and density as you create all the large and small, positive and negative shapes that come together as a type of grid of interlocking puzzle pieces.
33: Painting’s Evolution: Indirect Painting
Explore the significant differences between indirect and direct painting. You’ll learn which tools and techniques to use depending on which type of work you want to produce—the historical indirect method of using thin translucent paint on top a smooth white panel, or the more modern method of using opaque paint on the rougher, less reflective surface of canvas.
34: Nighthawks, The Scream, and Other Projects
In this lesson, you’ll study Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Munch’s The Scream. While viewers often think the Munch was painted in a moment of emotional outburst, both paintings were highly premeditated and meticulously created with numerous advanced studies. By examining the many steps these painters went through in preparation, you will improve your own artistic process as well.