144 & 289 Moody St, Waltham

Masks are required;

Occupant limits per studio

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Two New Workshops

“Sketch-Booking Out In The World” and “Learning To Draw; An Introduction to Drawing.”

“Sketch-Booking Out In The World” will be 3 Tuesday mornings: 9/21, 9/27, and 10/4, 9:30 – 12:30.
“Learning To Draw” will be 3 Wednesday mornings: 9/22, 9/28, and 10/5, 9:30 – 12:30.

Sketch-Booking Out In The World

Sketch-booking is the activity of filling sketchbooks with drawings of life, from life. Learning to draw is learning to see, and anything and everything going on around us and in front of us is our subject.
We have 2 goals for the class: finding the beautiful in wherever we are and discovering that the process of seeing and drawing is just as important and more fun than trying to create a “finished drawing”.
We’ll use materials that can fit easily into a pocketbook, satchel or a large jacket pocket: pencils, pens, erasures, and if you’re using brushes and inks, you’ll need a small container for water.
We’ll start each class with a few quick lessons, where I’ll demonstrate techniques to develop greater eye/hand/mind coordination and teach you how to practice capturing the likeness and the spirit of a place or a scene. We’ll visit public places to draw where we can watch and draw without attracting undue attention to ourselves like parks, coffee shops and diners, libraries, museums, tourist attractions, even cemeteries.

Rules of the road for sketching:

*Loosen up – Let your hand and pencil wander and meander for your first drawings of the day. *Understand that the process of drawing often matters more than a finished drawing – Do not be concerned with perfect or “right”: they don’t exist. Seeing is the important thing.
*Keep your materials list small- You want to be sure that you can carry and access them easily.
*Embrace randomness – We are seldom given perfect compositions or subject matter so draw the imperfect ones you are given. *Experiment with materials – Pencil, pen, ink or watercolor? Black, white or red? You decide.

Learning To Draw; An Introduction to Drawing

This class will introduce beginning students to the materials, techniques and different styles of drawing. Using demonstrations with still-life, followed by individual and group critiques, students will learn a framework for how to create a drawing: descriptive mark-making, blending and shading, value, shapes, form and composition. We will also get to know the tools of the trade: brushes, mediums, surfaces, and concepts.

Drawing can be learned. Learning to coordinate the eye, the mind and the hand to respond in unison to visual stimuli is simpler than it may sound. As long as mistakes are not going to stop someone from trying again, I can help them learn the skills needed to make challenging and gratifying drawings.

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The Dream – A Group Show at Honey Jones in Cambridge

I am very happy to announce that I am currently in a group exhibit of surrealist artists at Honey Jones Studio, an art gallery at 270 Concord Avenue in Cambridge, MA through the month of April.

Check the gallery website for the gallery hours and please come visit. Also note that there will be an Après Full Moon Closing on Wednesday April 28th from 2 – 6pm.

This is the artist statement I wrote for the paintings I have in the show:

    I make art in attempt to create order out of all of the beauty and chaos that’s happening to us all at once, giving form and visual poetry to the onslaught of visual stimuli and conflicting emotions and absolute uncertainty.  

   The past five years, more or less, mark a return to my life as a surrealist painter. I paint images of contrasting elements: i.e. abstraction/realism, organic/geometric, dynamic/static, infinite/temporary, in order to get beyond the visual world and into the subconscious.  

    Much of realistic painting over the centuries has had the aim of capturing a moment in time, while most of what we see, and experience now seems to be the opposite. We’re constantly having our attention pulled one way then another, being interrupted by traffic, phones, people behaving unpredictably, Netflix, Amazon and constant advertising everywhere, all the time. And that’s just normal life.

    Then comes the unexpected and often inexplicable: light bends so we see a ship floating in air above the sea, historical landmarks burn to the ground in bright orange flame under deep blue skies, and the streets of our mightiest cities stand stark in their emptiness as hospitals and cemeteries are overflowing.

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It’s very difficult for most of us to tell how good we are as we’re developing and growing as artists.

I recently got an email from one of my painting students who asked me if she should continue in the class “since everyone else is so much better”.

To say that’s a common emotion is not to say it doesn’t suck when you feel that way. I know because I’ve done it and probably still do, without realizing it. But it’s also bullshit and left unchecked can be very damaging.

It’s very difficult for most of us to tell how good we are as we’re developing and growing as artists. Practically the only metric that’s available for us is to compare our artwork to what others are doing, and comparing yourself with others is a terrible way to assess such a subjective and emotional undertaking as learning to make art.

The exception to that would be your relationship with your heroes, to whom we can look to for guidance. For instance: “what color combo might Degas have used?” or “How might Georgia O’Keefe have drawn this?” or “How might Beuys have thought about this?” We’ll always fall short if we compare ourselves to them, which is ok. It’s not a bad thing to reach for something you’ll never get if you like the reaching.

Another useful analogy might be: as you’re driving, you can use a stationary object to judge your distance behind the car in front of you (counting “one thousand one, one thousand two” is considered a safe distance). You can’t use something moving to measure against, you need something that’s a fixed point. Comparing yourself to other artists around you is like using a moving object trying to judge your distance from them.

Just about everyone thinks they’re worse than somebody. Some don’t care, some use it as motivation, and some succumb to the pressure of trying to keep up, as they see it, usually to somebody else’s definition of art. It’s really about whether you enjoy painting. Yes it’s very frustrating at times, which is why exercises that teach you to work without expectations are important. Embracing failure for what we learn from it crucial to progressing as an artist, but what is true failure is not painting honestly, meaning you’re painting what others want you to paint, or you’re letting what others think be how you gauge success. To quote Mother Teresa: “In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

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Brought to you through the: New Art Center           
61 Washington Park
Newton, MA 024661

Figure Drawing Basics  Dates: Oct 19 – Nov 2 … 3 Mondays, 9:30AM – 12:30PM … $165

To register please visit: https://newartcenter.org/class/figure-drawing-basics/

A 3-day workshop on different ways of drawing the human figure. There are endless ways to define the figure, and we’ll look at a few methods and approaches that illustrate some of the fundamental approaches we can use. Using photographs and drawings, we’ll be looking at how to see the human body so that it becomes something we can draw and paint. We will identify the gesture of the movement and the specific dynamics of the pose, and then add the parts: arms, legs, head, feet, etc., so they stay connected to each other. We will explore traditional drawing methods to create 3 dimensional forms: blending and shading, overlapping, contrasts, and context, using mostly, but not limited to charcoal, pencils and erasures.

Materials list: Charcoal, Ebony pencils, Erasure,  Drawing pads: 1 pad of newsprint, 1 pad of heavier drawing paper for extended drawings

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2 New paintings

Pale Rider 2020 30”x40” Acrylic and oil on canvas 2020
Dark Rider 24”x18” oil on canvas 2020

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ONLINE FIGURE DRAWING CLASSES: An ongoing Wednesday evening online workshop on drawing the human figure.

WEDNESDAYS SEPTEMBER 16- October 28 6:30-8:30 PM

$220 for 4 lessons or $60 per class

An ongoing Wednesday evening online workshop on drawing the human figure.

There are endless ways to define the figure, and we’ll look at a few methods and approaches that illustrate some of the fundamental approaches we can use. Using photographs and drawings, we’ll be looking at how to see the human body so that it becomes something we can draw and paint.

First, by identifying the gesture of the movement and the specific dynamics of the pose. Then, adding the parts as simple geometric volumes: arms, legs, head, feet, nose, etc., making certain that they connected to each other.

I will show how to create traditional drawing of 3 dimensional forms by blending and shading, creating form, overlapping, contrasts, and context. Materials will be primarily, but not limited to charcoal, pencils, erasures, ink, wash, collage, and paint.

Bring to the first class: 1. Pencils: soft graphite: 2B, 3B, 4B Ebony pencils by Prismacolor are my preference. 2. Charcoal: Several sticks of soft and hard vine charcoal, Compressed charcoal such as Conte or the long square sticks. They give a deeper, darker, more permanent mark than vine charcoal.

3. A pad of newsprint or a stack of cheap, throwaway paper such as typing or copier paper for gesture drawings. Done quickly, they are meant for practice, not for reworking.

4. An 18” x 24” drawing pad for extended studies.

A kneaded erasure, a gum erasure, a few brushes, and a container of water.

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Online Classes

In keeping with the times and current state of affairs, I’m offering online classes in painting and drawing.

The format will be that I provide a subject we’ll both paint from, usually either a still life I’ve photographed or a painting or drawing to copy. I begin the classes with a demonstration of what we’re going to paint or draw. I explain how to begin, what materials to use: pencils, brushes and colors, and what to think about as you enhance your skills and learn some tricks of the trade.

Class times vary. Lessons are available at 1 – 2 hour lengths for individuals and 2 – 3 hour lengths for groups of 2 or more.


Individual: 1 hour: $45; 2 hours: $60

Groups: 2 hour: $35 per student; 3 hours: $50

There are 2 instructional videos on YouTube:

How to copy a Vermeer and:                                                                                                         Painting Judith part 1 copying Christofano Allori’s  Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Here is a sampling of current students’ work:

A painting by me:

in progress

Oil painting by Michael B Wilson


One more of mine:

Detail of painting by Michael B Wilson


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Blind Contour Drawing part 2

Last post I wrote about the practice of blind contour drawing, and I thought I would post a couple of blind contour drawings that I did for this project. Plus I’ve added a few more how-to’s and why’s.

Drawing #1

Using an Ebony pencil by Prismacolor for these, on a cheap 11″‘ x 14″ drawing pad. A soft leaded pencil is the best tool to use because it responds to the pressure you use pressing into the page: to make a dark line indicating where you see dark in your subject press harder, and where it’s light use less pressure. This trains your hand and eye to respond in synch with each other, and it carries over to the responsive pressure you use with a paint brush as well as a pencil. A ball point pen won’t give the range of expression you get from a 2B or 3B pencil.

This is the subject of all three of the drawings I’ve included:

For these drawings I followed what I absorbed from reading and practicing Nicolade’s The Natural Way to Draw: Start with your pencil on a point on the paper, and focus your eyes on a single point on the object you’re drawing. Now, going slowly, start moving your gaze, keeping it focused on the object and move your pencil in sync with your gaze so that the pencil touches the paper as your eye touches the object. In my example of the cup, scissors and pens I focused on the top most point of the left handle of the scissors and started down to my left.

Going slowly, allow your eye to wander, as long you keep responding and recording with your hand where your eye is touching. Notice every little thing, from the curve of the handle of the scissor to the shadows under the cup handle, around the lip of the cup into the rise of the orange pen, over to the ball point pen pointing up to the right.

This method of drawing is more for training your eye than to deliver a finished product. It is a discipline, like a musician practicing scales repeatedly or an athlete running drills: to sharpen their skills, in our case our observation skills. Practice builds muscle-memory that allows you to perform what you’ve practiced without having to think about it conciously. drawing without control in this way is the best method for achieving true control. Once you realize that you can make a beautiful drawing without the anxiety and fear that your drawing won’t be “good” by inappropriate and insane standards imposed by others, you’ll see your drawing improve with focus, not struggle.

The only way to make a bad bc drawing is to not respond with feeling to what you’re seeing. In learning to see shapes -I’m not drawing pens in a cup, I’m drawing the shapes that exist as edges, shadows and reflections (part of what you’re focusing on in the exercise) – you can then learn to use those shapes to create form and volume, texture, and the negative spaces between objects.

To show the line quality of a blind contour drawing
Drawing #2

In the drawing below I did look at the drawing a few times, when I reached a dead end or felt irretrievably off course, but not as I was drawing. You can see the lines that just end – the 2 hooked lines midway on the right side, where I stopped to reset my pencil to begin again.

Drawing #3

Looking at the drawings of Ingres, Degas, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Gustav Klimt or Egon Schiele you’ll find how they each developed a style derived from blind contour drawing while not necessarily sticking to the “rule” of not looking or lifting their pencil.

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Blind Contour drawing

All of my students have heard me go on about, or they will, “blind contour drawing” as the best drawing exercise you can do. Now they don’t have to just take my word for it. Imagine my pleasure this morning to see the lead to Austin Kleon‘s* latest newsletter : “My favorite thing lately has been warming up my diary with blind contour drawings.”

He links to an article in the New York Times written by Sam Anderson: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-blind-contour-drawing.html.
“The goal of blind drawing is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify — to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice — a gateway to pure being.”

That is a pretty good synopsis of Kimon Nicolades‘ book “The Natural Way To Draw,” which is where I learned the practice, and Kleon talks about and quotes from. I discovered it when I was nineteen and becoming serious about making art. It was tremendously, wonderfully liberating and without a doubt helped me become better at drawing. I had always tried to draw things perfectly, with the only goal being to create a “finished product”. Even though I had practiced and learned the skills of creating forms and volumes and textures, my drawings didn’t look alive the way the drawings I admired did, and I didn’t know why.

So when I read a respected teacher say that you not only could but should draw without regard for achieving a finished drawing, I tried it. It was fun, and the more I practiced the more I learned to see and the more I enjoyed it and the better I got at drawing what I was looking at. It turned out that slowing down in order to see and draw at the same time was what I needed to get more life into my drawings; to do blind contour drawings you have to be disciplined and really look at the life you’re drawing. With practice that focus becomes easier to slide into and out of. Then you can look at your drawing as you are developing it and on the go and retain your focus as your hand goes where the eye goes.

*Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) is a writer who draws. He’s the bestselling author of Steal Like An Artist, which I consider essential for anyone who is learning to be creative, or is in the midst of the struggle to be creative. And other books. I follow his newsletter, where he writes about a variety of art related stuff – writing, music, art, film – that’s smart, fun and insightful. His excitement for the subjects in his newsletter is infectious. And other books.

Now you don’t have to just take my word for it.

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