Curriculum for The Painting Project Studio School
The Painting Project curriculum is designed to meet students wherever they are – beginning, intermediate, advanced or professional. The goal of the curriculum is to give them the context and tools that are most appropriate for their particular direction of exploration in paint. Grounded in the Western tradition, rooted in the Renaissance, versed in the inventions of Modernity, and engaging with Contemporary concerns and theory, the courses are constructed for a range of possible paths and pursuits.
Possible Course Trajectories:
I. The Foundations Course is designed to function both as an introduction into the world of painting as well as a vehicle for a more in-depth observational painting practice. Each student travels at their own pace, mastering the various skills of geometry, value, tonality, edge quality and paint handling. These skills serve as the basic platform from which to build and pursue one’s own practice, whether in a more experimental vein or in a more traditional attitude. Mastering these foundational skills also allows the developing painter to begin to experience the two-dimensional surface, whether paper or canvas, as a spatial arena in which to start to train one’s mind to “dream into” the flat surface as it opens into creative possibilities.
II. While the Foundations Course provides for a sustained practice in and of itself, it can also serve to prepare students for study in Figure/Figuration and/or Abstraction as Discovery. The skills needed for Figure/Figuration are the same ones as for the Foundations course – geometry, value, tonality, etc., — but the skills need a much higher degree of proficiency in order to create a convincing rendition of the figure. It is easier to begin to develop these skills from still life and then to continue to hone them with the figure, than to begin straight away with the figure. Depending on the student’s ambition, the Figure/Figuration course can serve for sustained study or as a form of advanced foundation course for narrative paintings or paintings done from memory.
The Abstraction as Discovery course is in many ways also an advanced foundations course. Students are exposed to working directly with the formal elements of a painting, for example, line, shape, form, color, edge, texture, paint handling, and composition. Because the painting necessarily goes through many transformations during the course, the student becomes directly familiar with painting as an extremely flexible and ceaselessly changeable medium. As well, the student is given the opportunity to experience the act of painting as a vital form of experimentation and discovery. Painting, as an open-ended form of discovery, becomes a vehicle for inner exploration and a metaphor for living. In this way, Abstraction as Discovery becomes a foundation course for an understanding of painting as a life practice and a long-term journey. Further, a familiarity with the process of painting in its more physically dense and muscular aspects gives the student a context and experience to draw upon no matter what their future direction, abstract or representational, from observation or imagination or memory.
III. The series Painting Through Modern Masters is designed for intermediate painting students. Using exercises based on the inventions and concerns of a variety of Modern painters the course provides a structure for formal experimentation in relation to representational form, and an opportunity to question basic assumptions about what a painting is and how it functions. Among these questions is whether the goal of the painting is an attempt at an objective rendition of our world as seen “through a window”, or something else altogether. Beginning with Cezanne, particular exercises are provided to engage with painting as an arena for subjective exploration of an objective situation. Following these exercises based on Cezanne’s practice are two sets of exercises based on the divergent paths of Picasso and Matisse. In addition to examining the possibilities of the visual, aspects of our embodied experience that relate to mass, touch, the kinesthetic and proprioception are engaged through painters such as Soutine, Giacometti, and Auerbach. Through a working familiarity with Modern experimentation and invention students are exposed to painting as a kind of formal play in which one can discover one’s own questions and concerns and develop them into a personal structure and engagement.
IV. Strategies for a Creative Painting Practice is designed for advanced and professional painters that have an outside studio practice. Engaging in weekly group critiques and discussions, the course provides a sense of ongoing community. In addition, practical questions are raised concerning the ins and outs of a studio practice and strategies for developing one’s path as a painter. The course provides support for the advanced painter to bridge the space between being a painting student enrolled in a teacher’s course to being a painter who has embarked on their painting journey in their own studio.
V. The Reading Group is a non-studio ongoing course that gives students a larger context and vocabulary with which to think about painting and issues related to culture and art. This in turn feeds back into the student’s reflections on their own work as they pursue their interests as developing painters. The readings that are discussed range from selections focusing on one particular painter to larger chapters providing overviews in art history including our contemporary situation.