In a surge of focus and commitment, I headed to Boston for a 4 day workshop of intensive painting. My familiarity with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts goes back many years; say to the mid- 1980’s when I enrolled in two classes: design and painting at the Museum School adjacent to the the Museum of Fine Arts. It was spring and my last few months in Boston before returning home to Wisconsin.
My memory of those classes propelled my art endeavors for a long time afterwards. Mostly, I felt so appreciated for becoming an artist and fine art enthusiast. It made sense then to rekindle, get clarity, or simply immerse myself in some serendipity by returning to this museum for a brief time. So painting in oils for 4 days seemed just right.
The Museum of Fine Arts faces both the Fenway and Huntington Avenue. Remembering the Fenway, I entered through the doorway and with directions in hand followed a byzantine pathway to a room somewhere on the lower level. The workshop had started and we were introducing ourselves and mentioning what each of us liked. There were about 10 artists attending, all female except one male besides the teacher. Ethnicity was varied and I was the only one from Wisconsin. Not wasting any time, the teacher, Jeff Heins, gave a demonstration of our first painting assignment. Jeff explained how to start a painting focusing on the figure – ground relationship. Then he proceeded to show us how to paint the cast shadows thus establishing a value system. Pieces of artificial fruit were placed on a table with a dark background and direct lighting. From this set-up, our 1st acrylic paintings of the figure – ground dimension were created. The results were clarifying and pleasing.
For the next day and a half, the class continued to develop this initial painting into a completed realistic oil painting with color and a 3-dimensional quality. On the third day, each artist brought in a photo or some favorite items to make as a still life. These paintings began in the same way as the first painting by creating the value structure. Subjects included were various like a champagne bottle in a bucket, photo of a windmill, photo of an Indian dancer, photo of one of Sargent’s portraits in the Museum, a picture of a dog, a landscape with a sailboat and a still life of pieces of candy. The atmosphere was focused and friendly. The schedule during the four days started at 10:15 AM until 2:15 PM with a break in between.
Om the last day, Jeff took the class into the museum to see several paintings which showed how certain artists approach making the 2-dimensional canvas into a 3-dimensional image fit for a museum. John Singer Sargent’s room of paintings was a highlight even with a very large painting by Kehinde Wiley which could have a room of its own. At the end of four days, a variety of oil paintings from everyone brought something new to my painting process as well as benefiting from the liveliness of painting with other artists. Many thanks to Jeff whose guidance , suggestions, and oversight kept all the artists engaged in their paintings.
To participate in such a workshop of a great museum like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is a cherished experience. Children entered the museum participating in programs while on vacation from school that week. The Frido Kahlo and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibits invited many guests for viewing. A bookstore and several cafes with friendly, professional staff made the museum experience delightful. And what made my day was after admiring the large yellow green Chihuly piece on the main first floor, was to see a still life flower painting by Berthe Morrisot!