It's not too late. Come join the fun!

Portrait and Interior Class



Make your own magic! Learn to create beautiful portraits from classically trained professional artist Christine Mitzuk. Beginner and intermediate students welcome.

Spots still available! Sign up today for Christine’s Tuesday evening portrait class
at The Atelier, 7-9:30 pm. Started 1/20. 15 weeks. $230.

To register or ask questions contact Christine, or The Atelier at 612-362-8421.


digital painting of the astrological sign Aries by christine mitzuk to be used in Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar

Let your imagination fly! Class starts this Thursday 1/21/15.

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.

To register or ask questions contact Christine, or The Atelier at 612-362-8421.


Exploring Color: Color Theory and Color Mixing

Color Mixing Class - Paxton Palette ValuesExperience color hands-on through creating color boards and value scales. Using the colors of The Atelier’s Paxton Palette in oil paint, we will explore the attributes of color: hue, value, and chroma. Projects will be paced by order of completion and students will work at their own pace.

We’ll discuss the color wheel as it relates to painting with the Paxton Palette. Topics will also include mixing “mud”, Munsell and Gamblin color space, direct vs. indirect painting, color temperature, color harmony, color psychology, and a bit of color history. Plus we’ll demystify the information given on paint labels.

Please contact Christine (cmitzuk@gmail.com) for what to bring to the first class. Supply list given after you are registered.

Starting THURSDAY, Jan. 22, 4:15 - 6:45 PM
$210, 15 weeks. Scroll down for registration information.

:: Classes 2014 - 2015 ::
Fall/Winter classes will be starting soon. I will be teaching 3 again at The Atelier.  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 East Hennepin Ave. Off-street parking is available.

Gesture figures study done in soft pencil on paper.
Gesture figures study done in soft pencil on paper.

Gestural 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. 16, 4:15 - 6:45 PM, $230, 15 weeks.
Winter class starts TUESDAY Jan. 20, 4:15 - 6:45 PM, $230, 15 weeks.



Illustration ClassIllustration
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. 18, 7:00 - 9:30 PM, $210, 15 weeks.
Winter class starts Thursday Jan. 22, 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. Instructors: Christine Mitzuk (Tuesdays) & Laura Tundel (Thursdays).

Fall classes starts Tuesday, Sept. 16, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
or Thursday, Sept. 18, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
(Thurs.) $230, 15 weeks.

Winter classes starts Tuesday Jan. 20, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
or Thursday, Jan. 22, 7:00 - 9:30 PM

head study painted with oils by christine mitzuk
2.5 hours, 8"x10" gessoed hardboard

Colors used for this head study

  • Perylene Black (Winsor & Newton)
  • Yellow Ochre (Winsor & Newton)
  • Permanent Yellow Light (Rembrandt)
  • Permanent Red Medium (Rembrandt)
  • Permanent Magenta (Winsor & Newton)
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Winsor & Newton)
  • Untramarine Blue (Utrecht)
  • The white was either Utrecht White, or Flemish White by Utrecht. I forgot my usual white at home so bummed some from our Portrait Co-op host. Thanks Frank!

This time I played with Perylene Black (Winsor & Newton). It's actually a very dark green that's slightly bluish. It's also transparent, as opposed to Ivory Black which I usually use which is semi-transparent. (Note, the green shadow is NOT Perylene. It's a bit of Yellow Ochre + Ultramarine Blue + white. There are a few faint strokes of Perylene on top of the first mixture.)

The Perylene mixed with any of the reds yielded some lovely darks. Throw in a little yellow and the mix shifts to an interesting brown.

I also thought I'd try Magenta in mixing flesh. It gave me some very nice cool notes.

I also gave the Permanent Yellow Light a try. That gave me some very nice peach flesh notes for this model.

And if trying new color combinations wasn't enough, I started the drawing differently too. This time I used Yellow Ochre tinted with white to do the drawing.

oil paint head study by christine mitzuk using sepia, chromatic black, and flake white replacement
Head Study in Oil Paint on Canvas Board.
This model had very lively facial expressions but she was also incredibly wiggly. It was tricky but this was a fun painting session. I think her antics allowed me to capture quite a lot of her character.

In an effort to see for myself what different colors and paints do and decide what I like, I've been experimenting. For this head study I tried Rembrandt Sepia, Gamblin Flake White Replacement, and Gamblin Chromatic Black. This combination also gave me a chance to concentrate on values (more one that in a different post).

I liked using the Sepia quite a bit. It was a warm dark, compared to my usual selection of Ivory Black. I also got to experience what I've heard about Rembrandt paint as being oily and having a very smooth consistency. I enjoyed painting with it.

The Chromatic Black was a nice punch of dark compared to the Sepia. I'll need to try it with colors next to see how it mixes. If you're interested, you can read more about Chromatic Black on the Gamblin website (I thought it was interesting information but I like color theory): http://www.gamblincolors.com/newsletters/studionotes16.html

The Gamblin Flake White Replacement lived up to their product statement. Its consistency is definitely ropey and my brush strokes are mostly retained. This is the 3rd or 4th time I've used it. I'm not sure this will stay on my palette but I'm going to experiment with it a bit more to see if there's a different way to use it. I feel like I'm fighting the stiffness or thickness of the paint when I put brush to canvas. I could probably add something to the paint to lessen that resistance (maybe a tiny bit of odorless mineral spirits, or one of the alkyd mediums, or maybe a little oil + odorless mineral spirits. (No. I don't use turpentine. I don't like the smell. Personal preference.)

I'm looking forward to playing some more. Ideally I'd like to have a similar color selection in my sketching and color study media (watercolor or gouache) and my final painting in oil. I think it would make the transition from idea to final a little smoother. We'll see what happens.

Last week I posted about how I transfer a drawing to canvas. This week, paint!

I'm using oils and decided to use a limited palette. Initially I was going to use Ivory Black for the cools but the flesh was looking dead so I added French Ultramarine Blue. Basically I'm using versions of the primaries Red, Yellow, Blue (which can be mixed in many ways) plus White and Black. FYI - Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black mix to make a lovely dull green.

- Titanium White
- Yellow Ochre
- Cadmium Red Light
- Ivory Black
- French Ultramarine Blue

oil painting portrait study lay in by christine mitzuk
Oil painting lay-in.

Here's the lay in. At this stage I use a good amount of odorless mineral spirits. The paint is thinned down to about melted ice cream consistency, maybe milk consistency in some areas.

I try to block in the big shapes, thinking about value first and then color. Going for unity first (the variety will come later). I try to keep in mind where the light source is, and how it hits the planes of the face. If I think about the vertical corridors of value groupings, I'm better able to keep the planes and shapes in their families of value.

But that variety of color is oh so tempting. I keep having to remind myself, "No no. I must stick to value and local color."


Portrait head study by Christine Mitzuk done in oil paint
Day 2 of painting the portrait in oils. More paint, less solvent.

Here's the next day. Still kind of at lay in stage. I use less solvent (odorless mineral spirits) and more paint. Still thinking about shape, value, color. Still trying to go for unity and building up a body of paint. I try to keep in mind the answers to "where is my lightest light, my darkest dark?" and "where are my most intense red, blue, yellow and how intense are they, really?"

It's like I'm taking notes, marking where I see certain values or colors. Still pretty rough looking.

As I move through the process with this study, there are some things I'm going to change. The ear is too big and isn't sitting back visually with the rest of that side of the head. So either the ear value needs to go darker, or the cheek value needs to lighten up. Plus I still have some value wrangling to do elsewhere (the corridors of value aren't unified). There are 8 weeks left to the class so I'm not short on time.

I think next class I'll just dive in and try to paint more from gut reaction. We'll see how that goes.

This is a follow up from last week's post about my portrait study using Russian Sauce.

Portrait study by Christine Mitzuk using Russian Sauce on American Master's grey paper.
Portrait study using Russian Sauce on American Master's grey paper.

I went back in to the drawing with a fat tortillion and smoothed out the background. I'm liking it much better.

Next I transferred the drawing to a prepared canvas panel.

Materials Used
I used a sheet of acetate (3 mil I think), a Sharpie Fine Point (a color other than black or blue), a ball point pen, and a sheet of graphite or carbon transfer paper.

How to Transfer a Drawing to Canvas

1 Place the acetate over the drawing, making sure that at least one edge is lined up with the edge of the composition. In this case I placed it directly on the drawing.

The nice thing I'm finding about Russian Sauce is that it isn't as delicate as vine charcoal. I'm still careful with the drawing but incidental bumps or brushing against it don't wipe away areas like what can happen to a vine charcoal drawing. Mind you, that also means the Russian Sauce isn't as easy to erase as vine charcoal. When I've done a vine charcoal drawing, and want to keep the drawing clean, I'll spray fix the drawing before transfer. Another way to not scuff the drawing is to place 4 quarters at the corners of the drawing, rest a piece of plexiglass on them, and then put the acetate on the plexi. The larger or thinner the plexi, the more it bows and the touches the drawing. Plus during dry months, there seems to be more static that makes charcoal dust stick to the plexi.

2 Using the Sharpie, trace the big and necessary structural shapes. I use red or green so I can see what I've transferred in the next step. Also be sure to mark the crop or edges of your picture. You'll need them to align the drawing with your canvas or panel.

3 Align the acetate to your canvas or panel and tape one edge of the acetate to the edge of the canvas or panel . I used a linen canvas panel that I prepared. Slide the graphite or carbon transfer paper under the acetate so it's sandwiched between the acetate and the painting surface. Using the ball point pen, follow your Sharpie lines. I like to use red or green because the ball point pen is dark in comparison so I can see what I've transferred and if I've missed any lines.

Tools to transfer a drawing to canvas . The transferred drawing is on the left and the acetate with transfer lines in on the right.
Prepared canvas with transferred drawing, and transfer tools.

Why bother with all this instead of drawing directly on the canvas or on thin charcoal paper and transferring with that? It gives me the opportunity to have a nice drawing in addition to the painting. Also, in this case I did the drawing on thick paper so just transferring by using the drawing would be near impossible.

Next week, PAINT!

portrait study using yarka sauce on Amerian Masters gray paper by christine mitzuk
Portrait study using Yarka Russian Sauce on American Masters grey paper, 11"x13".

I teach a portrait class Tuesday evenings so when I'm not helping students, I'm helping myself by working on this head study.

This was a great opportunity to experiment with Yarka Russian Sauce. What fun! I love the darks I'm getting. This all started with my interest in Valentin Serov's work. I was intrigued by the rich darks I was seeing in some of the reproductions of  Serov's portraits but wasn't sure (still not sure) if he used Sauce or charcoal.

Russian Sauce is a pastel of sorts but it feels smoother than other soft pastels I've used. Plus, it's water soluble (at least the black is; I haven't tried water with the colors).

An artist buddy of mine had taken Margaret Baumgaertner's portrait workshop dealing with Sauce so I picked up a few tips from her:
Create a little bag (or pounce pad) out of a portion of nylon stocking. Grind a bit of a stick of the black sauce in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder (which gets everywhere so watch out, and you might want to wear a dust mask).  Load up the powder in the bag. Seal it off with a rubber band. Then you can apply the powder to paper by dabbing or smearing.

I used the pounce pad on the background. My bag was pretty loose and I ended up with a streaky application that was difficult to smooth out. Next time I think I'll fill the bag so it bulges. Or perhaps apply the powder and then use a sponge, paper towel, or tortillion for a smoother overall tone.

For this portrait study, first I lightly drew the facial structure with pencil. Then I laid in values. I dabbed and mopped with my pounce pad, laying in rough value relationships. I used a kneaded eraser to refine the structure, refining the shapes and edges, erasing back to the paper where needed. Then I worked the darker values by drawing with a stick of the black. The really rich darks were then wet with clear water using a watercolor brush (my trusty Prang 7). Then I added a bit more dark, drawing into the damp area with the stick of black.

Odds and Ends
I store my homemade pounce pad in a little glass jar so the powder doesn't get all over the place.
Margaret Baumgaertner has a DVD on how to use Russian Sauce. I haven't watched it so can't speak on the content or quality of the DVD but her sales page has some interesting and useful information.
Next week I'll post about transferring my drawing to canvas for painting.

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

here: http://www.gamblincolors.com/newsletters/studionotes19.html

here: http://www.goldenpaints.com/justpaint/jp26article2.php

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

I’ve been studying Valentin Serov’s portraits. He was a Russian artist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I love his dancing, searching line mixed in with bold marks and wanted to experiment with that. A few Saturdays ago I had some extra time and got to attend the morning portrait co-op at Studio 103 so did some experimenting…

Portrait of Jack Klatt
size: 10″x12″

Our model that day was local musician Jack Klatt. For this head study I used American Master’s paper (grey), General’s Layout Pencil for lightly plotting in shapes, and Derwent Ivory Black Drawing Pencil plus a little Conté white drawing pencil for touches of highlights.

The paper was luxuriously smooth to work on and the Layout Pencil marks erased fairly well without beating up the paper (though I did use a light touch to begin with). The Derwent pencil didn’t erase very well but dabbing at it with a kneaded eraser did lighten marks a bit.