Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vincent Desiderio Workshop

Last weekend I had the great pleasure to take the two day workshop that Vincent Desiderio held at the Academy. Desiderio graduated from the Academy in 1980, moved to NYC and entered into the big dog fine art field and has become very successful.He's represented by the Marlborough Gallery In Chelsea. Desiderio is also a Big Brain artist. He has a great grasp and understanding of art history that underlies and empowers his contemporary figurative/narrative paintings. The intellectual side or thinking that goes into his work is considerable and he filled our heads with a lot of his philosophy this weekend before he was painting and while he was painting. "Painting can develop a language that has the authority of science. Painting should be a conversation with doubt and a reconciliation of that doubt. Artists must be more proactive in rediscovering ones self. Become engaged with yourself, create something you can believe, don’t fall victim to theoreticism. Cronies, gallery owners or markets cannot predetermine every action by an artist. Make an endowment of your internal life; it is infinity to plumb." this was just some of the thoughts Desiderio poured into our brains before he started his demo.

Here Desiderio showed us one of the main points in his painting demo, which is that shadows act like mirrors, they reflect light. he talked exetnsively about Caravaggio's technique. "that everything should be painted as if on a grey day", and the shadows and the light are accents.
The guys a dynamo, which you'd need to be to do the large scale paintings that he does. It's great that he comes a few times a year back to school to give back b to us current students the bebnefit of his talent, hard work and experience.

We were instructed to do under-paintings in brown ink, a shellac based one if we could find it. The second day we shellaced our canvases or paper first and then we did our under-painting in ink on the shellac.
The we all waited for our canvases to dry.

Then Desiderio started the demo, which I filmed and these pics are captures from the video I shot.
Desiderio completed the blocking in, let it set up and then went over the whole thing again with a bigger brush, and using teh ink darked the whole picture even more.
Then taking a small amount of Titanium White and adding a little Burnt Sienna, mixed them together and painted that mixture on top of the dark brown under-drawing creating a blue hue! So, two warms can make a blue hue optically. He used small brushes, one for each color and one just for scumbling of blending together two areas, he also paid attention to the edges as he worked.
The he went to town working in a scumble to complete the figure above, he kept the values close and mixed in a little ivory black to make the middle tone of the shadow in the models back.

Desiderio's way of working is this combination of scumbling on the paint, using Liquin as his medium, he also never uses any terps, he cleans his brush with the medium he uses to prevent the solvent from weakening the way the paint will lay in the "bed" of the medium, so it retains it's vibrancy and doesn't dull and sink into the canvas. then letting it all dry, he may glaze over the whole painting again and then scumble back on top of that, repeating this basic way of working for the entire painting.

Here is my washed in under painting, we had to work fast as the talk and demo took up the bulk of the class.
Here is the painting I did on the second day after the demo, it's more of a study and while this painting is far from great, I did learn some things that I am trying now on another painting. this technique requires a long time to work over the painting in steps.
Here is the painting study I did on the first day. All in all it was a great experience and was maybe the best experience I've had learning at school so far, so thanks to Vincent and to the painting Dept for setting this up for us students.


Steven said...

That's a great quote at the beginning. Thanks for sharing.

anna said...


i'm interested very much in his art so thanks for sharing.

so it was some kind of visitation?
I though that he teach in NYAA.

great paintings:)

greetings from Poland

geoff said...

Very generous of you to profile your experience with Vincent. What did he say about painting from photographs? I'm REALLY curious. Let us know!!!!!!!

Emily said...

Hi Mike,

I stumbled across your blog as I was researching Desiderio for a paper I am writing. It is so interesting to hear about his process in detail. Thank you so much for sharing! What a great experience that must have been.


Tom Cleveland said...

Hey, I think I remember this blog, I happened upon it like a year ago, and if I remember correctly, you've gotten so much better! But anyways I did the same thing as Emily, I just sort of stumbled across it. I was just wondering if there is any way you would want to send me that video you took in the class. I would be eternally grateful. You could email it as an attatchment. My email is But if there is some reason you can't that's ok. I hope to transfer to PAFA next year. Maybe I'll end up in a Desiderio workshop.

cristina said...

thanks so much for sharing.