Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Partying with the The Hudson River Fellowship

Lauren Sansaricq and Erik Koeppel

I got a phone call the middle of last week from Nathan Sowa, a member of the Hudson River Fellowship. The Hudson River School fellowship is a yearly gathering of young painters, many from The Grand Central Academy in New York. The Grand Central Academy is highly regarded as the most elite of the new ateliers training young artists.


They submit portfolios and if selected spend a month painting in the field with a group of 30 artists. This year they worked in Jackson, New Hampshire. That is in the Mt. Washington Valley in the White Mountains. In the 1860's many of Americas greatest landscape painters summered in the Mt. Washington Valley. The guidebooks in those days called it the "Switzerland of America"

Nathan suggested that I come up and paint with them for a day, I jumped at the chance. I have known about the group for years and wanted to see for myself what they were doing. This year's Fellowship began with many of the students taking a ten day workshop with Erik Koeppel. Erik was written up in Plein Air magazine this month. I knew he had recently moved to New Hampshire and I was glad for the opportunity to meet him.

Erik usually does drawings outside as preparatory studies for paintings made in the studio, exactly as his 19th century heroes did, on the same locations that he is working.

Erik has spent years studying the methods of the Hudson River School painters. His paintings really do recall the work of that first generation of American landscape painters, artists like Thomas Cole and Asher B Durand. Erik has a DVD showing his methods that will be available soon. I will get a copy. I don't want to paint like a Hudson River School guy myself, but there is a lot to be learned here.

 Erik's partner, Lauren Sansaricg also studies the Hudson River painters, below is one of her paintings.

On Thursday night I met my friend Jerome Green in Hyannis Mass. We went to a concert featuring Kim Simmonds, Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter, Leslie West and Rick Derringer. Those are all guitar heroes. I, of course, mostly went to see my friend Kim Simmonds, guitarist and founder of the legendary Savoy Brown Blues Band.

After the concert I drove back to New Hampshire, a several hour trip, and then slept for a few hours. On Friday morning I drove up to Jackson. That's on the other side of the mountains from mine so it is about a 2 and 1/2 hour drive. I arrived there and it was raining. It was my 60th birthday. I got to spend it teaching, I 'll take that!

This was their last night in the White Mountains and because of the rain there was little to do except have a party. There were about twenty or so of the fellowship hanging around at their rental house, so I went into my showbiz mode. I did a sort of mini workshop and lecture at them. I talked about landscape painting and making your living as a painter. They were also interested in hearing about my first teacher R. H. Ives Gammell, who is a famous figure to the classical painting revival. They asked me lots of questions and I did my best to answer them. They have had many teachers but have probably not known too many people who make their living painting.

We had dinner, take out pizza, and then I set up my easel and did a seascape demo in the corner where I was out of the way, but if anybody wanted to watch they could. It was not the best demo I have ever done. There was very little light.  I think my Rockport ways of working were very different from the measured approach they have all studied in the atelier. I was taught that way too, but I have long since developed my own less formal ways of doing things. They were probably shocked.

I guess their average age might have been about 22. They were college age , I would call them art students, but the atelier program they are in is far more demanding and structured than most art schools. They draw casts and figures, they study anatomy and work in mostly late 19th century technique.

They had good drawing skills and some of them seemed to have experience painting the landscape. Below is particularly fine effort by Zoey Frank. Isn't that  a fine painting? I met Zooey, she will be a fine painter before she is done.

Brian MacNeil working at his pochade (pronounced pochade) box. He is a Bostonian and is a both a tattoo artist and a painter. I asked him if he would please quit putting tattoos on women, but he told me that was the best part of his job. Below is one of his paintings of the Wildcat River above Jackson. I have painted there many times it is a spectacular place to work.

Below are some studies also done on the river by Nathan Sowa. Nathan arrived from an extended stay in Sweden and has taught for the Florence Academy of Art, another classical atelier.

The fellowship had done an  exhibition, that was well received, the night before in Jackson and there were many sales made. That which didn't sell was stacked all over the tables and around the house.This was the last night of the fellowships stay in Jackson. I missed meeting a few students who had already departed.

Nathan Sowa

The revival of interest in classical painting means that there are again young students working to learn the skills of a traditional painters craft. When I was studying in the mid 1970's almost no one had any interest in doing this kind of art. Today  dozens of ateliers train young artists in classical painting. They seldom have taught much about landscape though. Usually they confine themselves to figurative and still life painting.But the atelier training is an enormous asset for the would be landscape painter.Of course landscape painting is its own thing and after studying in an atelier few of these students will choose to become landscape painters. But those who do will be well prepared. Landscape painting has it's own set of skills. A painter is always a student.

Above is another painting of the Wildcat River by Connor DeJong. This artist is 19 years old. I have shoes older than that. I really enjoyed meeting these young artists. You would think that I would meet lots of young painters but I haven't. Until recently there weren't very many young people interested in classical painting. I sat in a gallery in Rockport, Mass. for 14 years and never had an art student express any interest in what I was doing, in the entire time I was there. T.M. Nicholas and I set up our easels in Savannah once and painted 30 by 40's a couple of blocks from the famous "name brand" art school there. None of the hundreds of students passing by with their portfolios under their arms bothered to walk the few paces out of their way and see what we were doing.

There is a tide flowing in the art world. It is ignored by the museums and the art schools but hundreds of young people are learning traditional painting techniques. I am certain that it will have an effect on our nations art. Some day one of them may actually get to show one of their paintings in a museum, besides the Alex Katz portraits and Damien Hirst seafood under plexi aberrations. It is glacial, but a shift is slowly occurring. These are hip, smart, beautiful young men and women who will be the artists that will live to see traditional painting accorded some attention by the official  art institutions. I am 60 now, I  don't believe I will live to see it, but they will. This has been generations in the making. My own teacher R.H. Ives Gammell began training young people in the 1950's hoping to preserve some of the accumulated knowledge of our culture before it was forever lost. In his day perhaps dozens of young people were working to learn this art, today many hundreds are.


I am lining up a number of workshops for the fall, more than in previous years. They seem to fill and I enjoy teaching when I can do it in 3 day spurts and then go back to my own painting. I have a bunch of workshops coming up.

Several people have asked me if I would do a workshop in Minnesota. The workshop will start on September the 15th and run though the evening of the 17th in (well, near) Stillwater,  Minnesota. Stillwater is an easy drive from the cities so participants can commute, or stay in one of the many motels or inns in this historic river town.
 There should be some autumn color and the greens of summer will have burnt off some by this time. This is getting into the best time of the year to paint outside. Woods and fields are a great subject at this time of year. Minnesota has lots of oaks that look real good in the late summer and fall. I grew up in Minnesota and will enjoy painting that landscape again. I am going to bring in some special guest stars to teach a little too.. I will tell you  a little more about that soon.

I will do the Stapleton Kearns show. So come out to Stillwater and join me. I can save you years of screwing around! The link to sign up is below.


Here is the link to sign up for my fall workshop in the White Mountains. This is a total immersion program and I run the class about 12 hours a  day. I do an evening lecture while we wait for dinner to be served.The fall color in the White Mountains is legendary and people come from all over the world to see it. In the 19th century all of the great Hudson River painters made a point of being there too, just a few miles up the road from the inn.Sign up here;



Simone said...

Funny you should mention your friend T.M. Nicholas. Earlier this year I was hosted by a couple at plein air event in Florida who owned paintings by Tom Nicholas (TM's father), T.M. Nicholas and a daughter of Tom's, named Susan. All were fine paintings. The husband of my host couple was Tom's nephew and T.M.'s cousin. Small world.

Antonin Passemard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Heng said...

Great stuff! You can really feel the mist in some of those mountain scenes.

Judy P. said...

What talent, and oh, to be young again, when the sky's the limit!

Sergio Lopez said...

There are a lot of ateliers popping up all over, with a lot of interesting people my age studying and even teaching at them now. Young people + classical training = lots of paintings of skulls... I don't think a West Coast atelier of landscape painting really exists, unfortunately. It would be nice to paint with the likes of those Hudson River disciples. They seem to be the only school that emphasize drawing in the landscape, and I wish there were more schools. Nothing kills my appreciation of a landscape painting than underdeveloped drawing.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

So enjoyed your article...I'm envious about the atelier training these young people are getting! I've always said I'd have done that in a heartbeat, given the choice. I came to art late (52) and have been running to gain rudimentary skills.

I'm going to share this post on MyArtTutor's Tips 'n Tricks Facebook Group...others will enjoy it too!

Brady said...

I loved your post!

I think the swing towards a more realist style is already occurring, and I think you will probably see it gain momentum soon.

Museums are always johnny-come-latelies to shifts in culture.

I've been wanting to apply to join the fellowship for a few years now.

Erik Koeppel said...

Stape, Great post! It was wonderful to meet you, and thanks so much for coming up! We're looking forward to painting with you again in the White Mts. someday soon.


Ed Cahill said...

When I went to art school in the 70's we had a professor named Herb Olds, a great draftsman. At the time there were three freshman drawing teachers and I did not get in his class. I was so upset that I protested to the administration and asked if I could take the class the next year. Of course they would not allow me. I always figured that cost me a rare opportunity. I would give my right --- to have the chance at a classical drawing background like these youngsters are getting. I hope they appreciate it.