Oil on canvas painting in process showing pathways through the rectangle, by …Cezanne?? Last quarter I saw a profound shift in artwork at the school. It happened in Jonathan Harkham‘s Still Life class. Jonathan Harkham is an artist and educator who is joining us from his studio in LA. On the first day of class I noticed there were some nice student paintings, then increasingly through the weeks it was as if students had stolen their artworks off a museum wall. Both beginning and intermediate painters produced equally exciting work. The first paintings were fine enough, but then after a few weeks, the paintings produced in the class were springing full of life. They were direct, physical, and spontaneous. They had weight and presence. It wasn’t just one or two students that had a good quarter. It was the whole danged class! Here are some paintings by League painter Marina Vogman. This white cup painting shows where she started with her first painting in class, so you can compare it to the image below it, where she ended the class series. You can see the paintings – even as they represented boring ordinary objects – developed an exciting physical presence, and without implementing any compositional rules, the compositions strengthened. As Jonathan would say “It’s incredible.” Marina Vogman, first day of classMarina Vogman, last day of class (in process shown at top of post) Marina: “I am very thankful for this class – it has been the best thing about the pandemic. It was frustrating at times but it did feel like a breakthrough for me….” Marina Vogman, fast sketch for painting “The urgency [Jonathan produced for us] was very helpful. Typically I would agonize trying to find the right objects, the right arrangement, light, etc., and then would continue to find issues with it, which felt discouraging. In this class it was like ‘grab something quickly, you have an hour to paint”, so there was no time for fussing and questioning my decisions. I just ended up painting random things in front of me, mostly in the same room. That was aha moment #1 – anything can be a worthwhile subject, it doesn’t have to be optimized, and it is what I personally see in it at the moment that makes the painting interesting.” Marina: “Aha moment #2 was the approach to empty spaces and background. That is something I have struggled with in many previous classes – I never could figure out how to treat them effectively. I tried to vary the color but it would still come out looking flat or contrived. In this class the pathway exercises taught me to give equal attention to every area of the canvas and to build these areas gradually from distributed marks. And I was surprised to see the sense of depth and space reflected in the painting.” Painting in process “Then there was also the paint handling. I always kind of suspected there was the correct way to apply paint that I can’t figure out. This time it finally clicked that there are many different ways, and I can use them as a toolbox. (I am still working on this one, this will be a long journey…). I intend to figure out how to translate all of this into my not-from-life paintings.” – Marina Vogman Jonathan Harkham’s “Pathways Through the Rectangle” (previously “Still Life”) will be online again on Wednesday evenings at 6pm PST, starting January 20. All levels welcome – beginners often have an advantage over experienced painters!