Monthly Archives: January 2014

:: Classes 2014 ::
Winter/Spring classes are up and running. You can still sign up. Learn more and find registration information at The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art is a friendly little traditional art school located in Northeast Minneapolis, MN (a bit on the outskirts of Dinky Town). The school is on the second floor of a red brick warehouse on the corner of Stinson Blvd. and Hennepin Ave. Off-street parking is available.

gesture drawingGestural Figure Study
Gain a better understanding of gesture of the figure. This class will mesh The Atelier and Studio Arts figure study methods. Students will explore what gesture is and ways to capture it through quick poses, progressively longer poses, and experimentation. Materials list will be supplied upon registration. Beginners welcome.

Fall class starts TUESDAY Sept. 17, 4:15 - 6:45 PM, $230, 15 weeks.
Winter class starts TUESDAY Jan. 28, , 4:15 - 6:45 PM, $230, 15 weeks.



Stretch your imagination! During this class, students will develop imaginative pieces based upon a story or individual ideas. We will move from idea generation to preparatory work and on to final art. Emphasis will be placed on composition,and storytelling. Students may choose to work in the medium with which they are comfortable. Christine has experience to support watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, or oil paint.

Fall class Starts Thursday Sept. 19, 7:00 - 9:30 PM, $210, 15 weeks.
Winter class starts Thursday Jan. 30, 7:00 - 9:30 PM, $210, 15 weeks.



portrait class at the atelier in minnesotaPortrait and Interior
Students draw in charcoal and may progress to oil or pastels. The portrait model will be set within an interior. Advanced students can take advantage of the entire composition. Capturing the likeness is emphasized. Color and techniques in oil and pastel are covered.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 28, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
Starting Thursday, Jan. 30, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
Instructors: Christine Mitzuk (Tues.) & Laura Tundel (Thurs.)
$230, 15 weeks.

I had previously posted about the process I was using to redo my Website.

Upon further investigation, a little nudge from friends, and some tech advice, I decided to give WordPress a shot. I have to say I'm liking it so far.

At the date of writing this, I'm using a free template from Tiny Forge. So far it fits my needs. We'll see what happens as my business develops.

What I'm finding useful right now:

  • I have it set up through my hosting account so I don't have to worry about storage.
  • Fairly easy, straight forward CMS (content management system) from the start.
  • I can create galleries with proportional and large-ish thumbnails instead of the goofy little cropped ones I used to have.
  • There are easy to create contact forms.
  • I can move pages around on the fly and change colors all at once.
  • I can do some monkeying around with the code in the edit panel (helpful hint, Firebug used through Firefox is a great tool to figure out what code does what).
  • Each image gets its own unique page which is great for Art Directors or other visitors that want to bookmark or share a specific picture.
  • The template is set designed to work well and look great on multiple browsers and mobile devices. This is something I would have had to test myself, and recruit friends to test which would have taken a LOT of time. Time that I'd prefer to use making pictures.

What I'm finding a little tricky:

  • I have minimal control over what appear where in the galleries. I think that's probably due to me needing to learn a bit more about this set-up (and maybe a bit more CSS or something).
  • There's a huge amount of padding below images in blog posts (probably room for descriptions) so I need to either figure out what I'm going to use that space for or figure out how to delete it.
  • I would like more flexibility with the layout but the way it is now is pleasing and consistent across ALL pages. That would be tricky to keep track of with a WYSIWYG builder because I would have had to keep track of a specific file for each image. This way each page is created on the fly, instead of multiple files to organize.For even more on Websites using WordPress, Aaron B. Miller has an informative post you might find useful.

As a present for my husband, I painted a posthumous portrait of his mother. Kinda tricky. I had to work from photos, and my memories and impressions of her.

Step 1

Transfer the photo reference as a line drawing/tracing to the canvas and start painting. I thought this would be a shortcut. Turns out it wasn't. I found I wasn't really understanding the forms and it was looking flat. So...

Step 2

Do a drawing. Not a highly rendered drawing but a drawing from observation instead of tracing. Instead of just copying what I saw and trying to exactly place all the bits, I actively thought about form (shapes, volumes, overlapping forms, and underlying structure), plane changes, and value groupings.

head study done in conte sanguine pencil on brown paper
Head Study
Utrecht Recycled Sketchbook paper
Conte Sanguine Pencil, Conte White

Next time if I transfer a picture, I'll try to be more mentally engaged with forms. Though I did enjoy doing the drawing so maybe a quick one stays in my process.







Step 3

Go back to the painting. Think about shape, volume, value, color, edges. With each layer of paint continue to think about shape, volume, value, color, edges.

I had a few progress shots but due to technical difficulties, they are long gone. Instead, here's the finished piece (or at least really close to being done).

oil painting on linen, 9"x12"
oil painting on linen, 9"x12"

Materials and Painting

This portrait was painted in oils. Generally my process goes something like this. For the lay-in/first pass I thin the paint with Gamsol (a type of odorless mineral spirits. It has the least amount of evaporation per hour so I'm not breathing in too much junk). Following the "fat over lean" principle, I use less Gamsol and more paint in the next several passes. Nearing the end when I'm working finer detail and edges I add a little Galkyd Lite to the mix. I tried regular Galkyd ages ago but found it set up too quick for me.

Right now I mostly use the Paxton Pallete from training at The Atelier (with a few additions of my own for this specific project). Eventually I'll experiment with other colors.

The Paxton Palette lends itself well to natural colored subjects, like people, because of the qualities of mineral pigments v.s. modern/organic pigments. Most all the colors in the Paxton palette are mineral pigments with the exception of Alizarin Crimson.

Paxton Palette Colors

  • Ivory Black
  • Raw Umber
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Indian Red
  • Light Red
  • Cadmium Red Light (was Vermillion but Cad. Red Light is a good replacement)
  • Cremnitz White (this is lead carbonate so I'm using up the one tube I have and then I'll be switching to something else)
  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Naples Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Viridian Green
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Additions: Manganese Blue, Cerulean Blue, Permanent Sap Green Deep (this last one mainly because I wanted to see how it mixed for cool shifted flesh tones).


If you're interested, you can read more about mineral vs. modern colors



Yes they're product pages, but you can glean some helpful general information too.

So a couple guys did a Kickstarter. They created a modern version of the camera lucida: the NeoLucida. I was curious so I chipped in.


David Hockney, in his book "Secret Knowledge," proposed that many of the old masters used optics as they came available. This ruffled some feathers. I'm halfway through the book and I think it's a pretty interesting read. He includes some well thought out experiments and examples of the various optics (camera lucida being one of them).

The NeoLucida

Back to the Kickstarter. I received my copy of the NeoLucida in November and last night finally gave it a try.

neo lucida in its box

 The directions are straightforward. I thought, "piece of cake".

I clamped the NeoLucida to the table and put my drawing paper under the prism. I set up an 18" tall statue about 2.5'-3' away from me and got started.

In reality, there was a little learning curve and some trial and error to get the hang of it.



I had to:

  • constantly lean over the table and keep my eye about 1" from the prism
  • adjust my angle of viewing and kind of slide myself along the image as I traced so I could see the pencil and the little statue I was tracing

Like anything, it would take some practice to really get a good drawing.

neoludida_attempt1 neolucida_figure

my attempt  (about 5.5") and the statue I was drawing on





I can see how it would be useful for portraits or a very simple still life. I think it would be trickier to use for a composition of multiple objects. Plus I think I'd end up with a sore back with all that leaning over. There must be a better way to set up if I were to use it more (maybe a standing desk) but I don't think I'll use it very much.

It was a worthwhile exercise to be able to take a peek into historical drawing tools.

You can read a bit more about the history of the camera lucida here: