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The picture plane as a window into reality

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

For the past two weeks ART YARD Advanced Studio continued to explore different ways to use the picture plane as a window into reality. Encouraged by pencil sketches from the session before, teaching artist Ed Rath shared more images by master artists to reinforce the concepts we are working with.

Apropos to Akash’s self-portrait, in which Akash’s reflection is surrounded by a crowd of mask like visages, we look looked at James Ensor’s, Self-Portrait Surrounded by Masks, a claustrophobic cluster of ghostly mugs. We also looked at portraits by Francisco Goya, which, through exaggerated scale, combined the real with imaginary, creating edgy, haunting, psychological ambiguity.

James Ensor, "Self-Portrait Surrounded by Masks"

Next, we looked at several painting of windows by French Surrealist Rene Magritte. In these works Magritte paints an easel with a canvas in front of a window holding a canvas with a painting of the landscape outside the window, thus blurring the line between illusion and painted illusion. Magritte’s work illustrates the confounding problems artists face depicting reality in art.

“La condition humaine” by Rene Magritte

Lastly, we looked at Grant Wood’s masterpiece, Parson Weems Fable. Herein Grant Wood relates the myth of young George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. The largest figure in the painting is Parson Weems, standing in front of the curtain which separates the “window,” or picture plane, from the narrative depicted. Since no photographs of young George Washington exist, Wood copied his portrait off of the dollar bill, ensuring instant recognition. He also simplified the cherry tree as a perfect green globe on a lollypop stick, complete with tiny red cherries. Wood’s painting illustrates how a painter can depict space and time in front of and behind the picture plane simultaneously.

Grant Wood, “Parson Weems Fable”

Detail "Parson Weems Fable"

After looking at these inspiring images, the students developed their pencil sketches into Sumi ink drawings.

This Monday Advanced Studio Artists dove right back into their Sumi ink portraits.

Madison’s approach was deceptively simple and very effective. Zahir worked with ink in a very painterly way which we all felt helped convey an eerie emotional quality to his piece. Jordan worked remarkably well with the subtly of color gradation. In fact, Ed thanked Jordan for teaching him new techniques!

Quentin is working from an image of himself reflected in Grace DeGennaro’s Geometry 18 currently on view in Portrait: The Kentler Flatfiles in 58 Works curated by David Houston.

Grace DeGennaro, "Geometry 18"

Evelyn began to develop her life-sized self-portrait onto large paper. The beautiful paper is from a roll of paper which was amongst a generous donation of top-of-the-line art supplies from Karen Miles. Thank you Karen!

Once completed her first portrait, Sigrid then created a second fantastic piece inspired by Janell O’Rourke’s charcoal drawing M Train 7 currently on view at Kentler.

Janell O’Rourke, "M Train 7"

Vera did some great work in her sketchbook developing her ideas this week!

During critique August and Vera received compliments and comparisons for their energetic joyful mark making.

We were very happy to have ART YARD Supporter Nicolette Reim join us for Advanced Studio this week! Nicolette’s insightful compliment during critique pointed out how each artist is developing and honing their own unique style.


Dennis and I have been working with ART YARD at MS226 liaison Lucia Lengua to finalize class and trip schedules for our partnership. We are looking forward to classes next week at MS226 in South Ozone Park, Queens.


I met with Figureworks Gallery Director Randall Harris this week to make plans for our spring exhibition. We agreed that the exhibition of work by Advanced Studio participants will be titled Self Reflection.

Meridith McNeal, "Inside Outside Batman Brief" through the window at Figureworks Gallery, 2017

The opening reception will take place Monday, June 8th 2020 from 5:30-7:30pm at Figureworks Gallery, 168 North Sixth Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


See you next week!

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