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Alyssa Monk's Painting: Transcending the Photo Reference Workshop

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  • with Alyssa Monks
  • March 1-3rd 2019
  • Lincolnton, NC

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    Alyssa Monk's Painting: Transcending the Photo Reference Workshop

    March 1-3rd 2019



    Painting: Transcending the Photo Reference

    This workshop is designed to guide the students toward creating a painting from a photo reference, using both indirect and direct traditional painting techniques. It aims to instruct painters on how to use the photograph to create a painting that surpasses the look of the photograph, not simply imitates a photograph. The workshop will explain how to create a useful photo reference, covering topics such as ideal lighting, camera settings, lenses, Photoshop, and printing. The process will begin with preparations such as choosing a composition through quick sketches from a variety of reference photos, progressive oil sketches with limited use of the photograph, and then laying in the composition with an imprimatura wash. When that is dry, the students will learn to create color relationships that portray the space and volume, creating the illusion. Emphasis is then placed on paint application and ways of activating the surface. By focusing on deliberate brush stroke and maintaining accurate color relationships rather than rendering, the application of paint to describes the form. We will accentuate the structural volumes of the form over the contour, concentrating on relating all parts of the picture to each other with an organized palette. From there, students will be guided towards deciding what information is useful to look for and what usual pitfalls to avoid when interpreting a photograph. Deciding when and how to invent and experiment is perhaps the most crucial part of the process. Students will be encouraged to look more at the painting itself than the photographic source, using it only for initial reference. We will explore ways of seeing the picture objectively, how to imply detail without overstating, and what level of finish works best for the particular painting or style. The painting will develop through indirect layers of opaque and transparent painting to achieve the delicate nuances of flesh and other surfaces.Methods of Glazing and Scumbling will be discussed. The final result can be a painting that captures the essence of your subject (and your connection with that subject) and contains the intimacy of the human touch that transcends a smooth photo-realistic image. There are a variety of results varying from abstraction/improvisation to a more illusionistic representation. All will be discussed and the challenges and rewards of each will be explored.

    Alyssa’s work is represented by Forum Gallery in New York City. She lives and paints in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her latest solo exhibition “Resolution” was in March and April of 2016 at Forum Gallery. Monks's paintings have been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions including "Intimacy" at the Kunst Museum in Ahlen, Germany and "Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820–2009" at the National Academy Museum of Fine Arts, New York. Her work is represented in public and private collections, including the Savannah College of Arts, the Somerset Art Association, Fullerton College, the Seavest Collection and the collections of Eric Fischl, Howard Tullman, Gerrity Lansing, Danielle Steele, Alec Baldwin, and Luciano Benetton. In 2015, Alyssa gave a talk at the TEDx even at Indiana University discussing her recent work, which is featured on TED.com. Recently, she was named the 16th most influential women artist alive today by Graphic Design Degree Hub.

    Born 1977 in New Jersey, Alyssa began oil painting as a child. She studied at The New School in New York and Montclair State University and earned her B.A. from Boston College in 1999. During this time she studied painting at Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence. She went on to earn her M.F.A from the New York Academy of Art, Graduate School of Figurative Art in 2001. She completed an artist in residency at Fullerton College in 2006 and has lectured and taught at universities and institutions nationwide. She continues to offer workshops and lectures regularly.

    Alyssa has been awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for Painting three times and serves as a member of the New York Academy of Art's Board of Trustees. 


    Day 1:

    • We will go over what makes a good photo reference and how to create one in more detail and go over examples. 

    • Students will pick a photograph from a supply that is provided for subjects that interest them and are all good references 
to work from. 

    • Using the photo reference and the pixelated version of the photograph (provided), students will generally, but accurately, map out the composition on their gridded canvas using a quick drying wash or imprematura. 

    • Color progression/color relationships discussion 

    • Color mixing, (matching or inventing) and palette preparation 

    Day 2: 

    • Discussion and demonstration on application, edges, brushstroke, thick or thin paint, etc. 

    • How to see volume instead of silhouettes and paint form, various techniques discussed 

    • Begin application, taking care of color relationships and application techniques 

    • Initial application covering entire surface, taking care of color relationships and exploring new application techniques, to create initial illusion based on color in photograph 

    • Discussion on responding to the painting vs. the photograph. 

    • Experimentation and exploration: not following the photograph perfectly or literally. Making intentional strokes and 
informed decisions. When and how to experiment and why it’s essential to the painting process. 

    • What is the useful information to look for in the photograph? Anatomical clues, volumes, structure, drawing issues solved by avoiding the silhouette and looking at the internal structure and volumes as opposed to the outline 

    • More Pitfalls to avoid when reading the photograph 

    • Lecture on responding to the painting vs. the photograph. 

    • Discussion of desired results varying from abstraction/improvisation to a more realistic illusion’ 

    • What is the essence of your subject that must be conveyed with the intimacy of the human touch beyond the photo- realistic image? 

    Day 3 

    • Glaze and Vellatura Demonstration and Lecture 

    • Continuing with First Layer application, Correcting color and adding detail 

    • How to finish, what is finished, you are the first audience. 


      Event Schedule........

      Friday March 1st 2019
      10:00am - 5:00PM workshop 
      12:00pm-1:00pm - Lunch provided at the studio

      Saturday March 2nd 2019
      10:00am - 5:00PM workshop 
      12:00-1:00pm - Lunch provided at the studio

      Sunday March 3rd 2019
      10:00am - 5:00pm workshop 
      12:00pm-1:00pm - Lunch provided at the studio 


      * NOTE : Students staying with us in our on-site accommodations will also receive continental breakfast, Chef prepared dinner, unlimited access to studios & art supplies, and on-site amenities. To inquire about on-site lodging contact donna@donnadowney.com or call 704.240.8076 for availability and pricing.  


      Workshops Policies : Half-day, full-day, multi-day workshops, and special events are scheduled throughout the year. Once you purchase a workshop you will be enrolled.

      Due to limited class size, purchased spots for all workshops are transferable but payment is non-refundable. What this means: If you buy a class spot and are unable to attend, and if there is a waiting list of students that has formed, we will try to sell your spot to the first person on the list. If the person on the list accepts, we will transfer your spot to the other person.

      **If you are unable to attend and there is no waiting list, we will unfortunately be unable to provide refunds** 

      Emergency Cancellations : In the very rare event of an emergency or unavoidable natural disaster or act of God, the class may be cancelled. In this situation, all fees will be reimbursed to students in full.


    1. Frequently Asked Questions

      What airport do I fly into?

      Charlotte Douglas Airport in North Carolina

      Do I need to rent a car?

      We offer complimentary rides (at specified times) to and from the airport and shuttle you each day to the studio. For more info, click here.

      Where do I stay?

      You can either book a room at our new studio or get a special rate with one of our hotel partners.

      To book a room at our studio, email or call us at 704-240-8076 or donna@donnadowney.com. For more info on rooms, click here.

      To book a room with a special rate with our hotel partner, see below:

      Quality Inn (located 2 miles from Donna Downey Studios)
      1550 E Main St, Lincolnton, North Carolina, 28092
      Phone: +1-623-432-0782
      Book Here

      Hampton Inn (located 2 miles from Donna Downey Studios)
      129 Roper Drive, Lincolnton, North Carolina, 28092
      Phone: +1-704-736-2000
      To register online for the special event rate, click here or call and use Donna Downey Studios corporate code 0002759994

      What is the cancellation policy?

      Purchased class spots are non-refundable. In the event that you cannot attend, and the workshop is sold out, please email kelli@donnadowney.com to be put in contact with the first person on the waiting list. From there, the payment must be worked out between both parties. If there is no waiting list, we are unfortunately unable to provide any refund or credit.

      If you would like to enroll in a workshop that has been sold out,
      please send an email to donna@donnadowney.com and you will be put on a waiting list.
      Questions? Contact donna@donnadowney.com