The Fundamentals – A Gallery of Student Work

Video Highlights from the Renaissance Retreat, September 2018

Video Highlights from the Renaissance Retreat, May 2018

A look at the week-long oil painting workshop held at Castello di Potentino in Tuscany.

The Providence of Fundamentals – Learning to Draw Before You Paint Pays Dividends

This story is a tribute to new students of mine who brought with them some rare commodities—courage and tenacity.  The story goes like this:

Prior to the end of 2016 I had received several requests for a drawing class.  “I want the basics,” they said, and that made me more than happy.  Rare it is to find these days a beginner who understands how important it is to start at the beginning, let alone several, unrelated, at the same time.  (To be clear, painting is not the beginning, drawing is.)

So I obliged and offered a course I called Fundamentals, Parts I and II: Drawing and Painting the Still-Life.  The first day was a great success (or so I thought).  It was February 4th, 2017, there were five students, and three had paid the registration fee, which implied they were committed to the class.  I did a demo on how to start, then each assembled a simple still-life and got to work.

As the weeks passed, the numbers dwindled.  Subject matter just not sexy enough?  Something else?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that the student who stayed with it—Yana, a talented and strong-minded Siberian—produced a beautiful still-life in graphite.  Here is a gallery of her effort:

But this story isn’t just about Yana.  It’s also about Livia.

Livia came late to the course at the beginning of March when only Yana remained.  I had already gotten to know Livia from the Figure Drawing class I held on Thursday evenings.  After a couple of weeks of figure drawing she asked me if she could attend any other class so she could put in more time.  I told her about the Fundamentals class and said she could join it on one condition: you stick with it to the end.  She agreed.

Much to my delight, she kept her word.  By the end of March, she was the only one. (Yana had left to visit the homeland.)

Livia’s development was a joy to see from week to week, which you can witness for yourself in the gallery below.  In light of the fluid world we live in today, it is most comforting—nay, most relieving—to be reminded that some understanding and practice of basic principles are ever pillars of reward.  I am especially pleased with what she was able to accomplish with the painting.  Could it have been thus without some knowledge of drawing?  Perhaps.  But rather than count on providential intervention during a baptism-by-fire painting experience, I’d prefer to see more like her have the courage to tackle the fundamentals first.

So this story is to say “thank you” to Livia and Yana for seeing the strength in the basics and sticking with it.

Brave!  Sono orgoglioso di tutte e due.

Timothy Allen
Founder and Director
The Painting and Drawing Art Studio of Rome

The Continuity of Light and the Criteria to Capture It: A Review of the Workshop with Charles Weed

From Wednesday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 6th, 2017, PADASOR was very proud to host an international group from Finland, France and Rome for an intensive oil-painting workshop with the American painter, Charles Weed, that focused on the still-life (skulls and shells) and the portrait.  With plenty of enthusiasm and good humor to go around, it was a great pleasure (and luxury) to work diligently from 10:30 to 18:00 for four days straight.  Never a surprise, though no less disappointing, when such quality time quickly comes to an end.

I’m sure the take-away for each was unique to her temperament, but allow me to share what I thought to be the principle lessons:

  • Start with a palette that puts color temperature immediately in play.
  • Make strong statements: don’t let ambiguity compromise your ability to evaluate the precision of your drawing.
  • Look for the big shapes/planes of light; don’t let halftones compromise their integrity.
  • Carefully consider how the surroundings are affected by that same light source; be aware how the management of those surroundings and their edges with the planes of light affect the continuity of light in the painting.
  • Find shadows by building the surrounding lights (as opposed to making the shadows darker–like furrowed brows, darks under eyes, lines under cheeks, etc.).
  • Keep the key high; you can easily darken over time.

My thanks to all participants: Paivi, Lisa, Antonella, Joëlle, Mary Ellen and Ludovica.  Photos below of the group and the incredible development of each of the paintings.

Special thanks to our model, Estefanie!

Finally, speaking as a figurative painter and educator, Charles Weed is one of the finest I know on both accounts.  The empirical reasoning and straight-forward specificity of his teachings brings to mind a quote I am rather fond of by the writer David Mitchell: the tighter the straight jacket, the more spectacular the escape, which is essentially a succinct and clever argument for the necessity of rules in art.  I am convinced that without rules, there is no craft; without craft, there is no art.  Or, as Charles might say, there is no thingyness.  (Trust me: it’s more profound than it sounds.)

In essence, Charles is very, very good in helping others to see those rules.

Thank you, Charles, for your precious time, infectious passion, and generous friendship.  Until the next time, a toast to the shifty Mississippi and old leather suitcases.

Timothy Allen
Founder and Director
The Painting and Drawing Art Studio of Rome





Mary Ellen





Painting En Plein Air Along the Tiber

This past Monday I had the pleasure to do a private lesson with Shiri and Dan from Jerusalem along the Tiber.  It was Shiri’s first time painting with oils, so I was most impressed with her result.  Thank you, Dan, for sending the pictures and thank you, Shiri, for writing a quick note:

Dear Tim,  Thank you so much for a fascinating lesson; I learned a lot and enjoyed it very much.  It was a great experience to draw with you on site at the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge.  It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope to meet you again someday.  With gratitude,  Shiri

If you too are interested in a private plein air lesson in painting in Rome, please contact me.

Summer Portrait Painting in Louisville, Kentucky

It was really good to be home in Kentucky this July to spend time with my parents and a plus that I could do some portrait sessions with neighbors Geetha (the painter) and Remy (the model).  My thanks to the both of them. (Photos below by family resident star photographer, Dad.)

A note to those who were on the trip to Rocca Calascio this past summer: I tried a birch wood panel for this portrait and have found it much more to my liking than I did the wood panels that we had used.  I should also note that I did use a primer on the wood panel that was oil-based and not acrylic.  Determining if that in an of itself made the difference will require further experiments.

In Puglia as I write this.  Looking forward to returning to Rome and starting yet another season of PADASOR.

I’m hoping to post the schedule for Fall 2015 by the end of August, so stay tuned.

Finally, if any of you were in my Figure Drawing class at the end of the Spring session in 2014, you might remember a girl from Sweden named Saga (In fact, if you were there, I defy you to forget her).  I’ve just posted to my own website and look at the two nights I had last year to paint her portrait.  I invite you to have a look.