Second Periscope Feed on Monday

Hi Everyone,

We will have another Periscope broadcast on Monday, November 16 at 10:30 am Pacific Time. I will be teaching about glazing. Hopefully we will be able to improve the quality of the video from last time. Thanks so much for the feedback! 

If you are unable to watch the broadcast in real time, the feed will stay live for 24 hours. To see this Periscope broadcast please follow which is the hosting studio of my workshop. 

This is an interesting technology. I hope to learn as I go and improve as I learn. I appreciate the suggestions. 

See you Monday!


Periscope Broadcast Tomorrow

Hey Everyone,

I am currently teaching a still life workshop at Whisbey Island Fine Art Studio. Tomorrow, Saturday November 14 at 10:30am Pacific Time we will be broadcasting my demo of The Overpainting on a portion of my still life demonstration piece. Please follow to tune in. This is my first experience with Periscope so I hope it all goes well. For those of you who cannot attend a workshop this will be a unique opportunity for you to get a “look in” to one of my classes. 

Sorry for the late notice. Please comment and let me know what you thought of it. 

Best wishes,


2016 Workshop Schedule Coming Soon!


Hi My Friends!

Sorry for the long silence. Just wanted you to know that I will be posting my 2016 workshop schedule soon. Overseas locations will include France, Belgium, Spain, and Ireland. And in the States: California, Georgia, and Washington. Most of the venues will be repeats from former years and I am glad to have the opportunity to work with these studios again. Details coming very soon!

Don’t give up early!


Last Call for Alla Prima Class in the Bay Area


I’m excited to return soon to the Bay Area to teach my alla prima sketch technique. The New Museum in Los Gatos, CA will be hosting this class September 18-20. Alla prima is Italian for “at the first” or “all at once”. This kind of approach to the portrait usually results in a more spontaneous and organic character to the paint which I find irresistable. Morning demos will be followed by late morning and afternoon sessions where you will get a chance to apply the principles in your own studies. Space is limited and time is running out. I hope you will consider joining me for this three-day intensive.

To register please click this LINK, or you can contact Gabriel Coke at:


Phone: 831.345.1845, or 408.354.2646

IMG_6102 (551x720)

Defining Your Path


The other day a fairly well-known artist posed a question on Facebook. The way I understood it, it went something like this, “Should we expend energies finding new ways of expressing ourselves, or merely refining an artistic dialect?”. You can see from the wording (which is my paraphrase) that this artist puts more value on pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers. I don’t deny that this is indeed valuable in its proper place and time. But for where I am at this point in my life with my art I’m still enjoying the process of further refining my particular mode of expression. I believe there are rewards still to be had both for my audience and for me.

Today I want to deal with this aspect of the craft. Not so much with what we want to say, but with the finer points of how we want to say it. For me this how has been a very interesting and essential part of my journey. Defining my stylistic path (the how) has been helped by a particular type of study of other artists. I touched on this in the past with Dave’s Tips to Becoming a Better Artist. Point number four reads:

“Pick three artists (minimum) that you want to emulate in your work. Study everything you can about them. Try to identify what it is about their work that you like. Do some master copies of their work.”

Using a single painting by a particular artist, I want to give a practical example of how point 4 played out in my own artistic development.

Some years ago I started making lists of my favorite artists — the artists I wanted to emulate in some way. These were the ones that made me say “I want to paint like THAT!”. One day I wrote down about 15 names, give or take. A few days or a week later I did the same thing. Interestingly, the lists were not identical. But as the lists piled up I realized that there were 6 or 8 names that made the “cut” every time. These were my Masters. These were the artists whose pictures I was really going to meditate on and learn from.

Joseph DeCamp is one of the artists who made the list nearly every time. In 1908 he painted The Guitar Player (above) which has become one of my very favorite paintings of all time.  As I have studied this painting I have tried to identify its qualities I hope to infuse into my own work.  My theory has been that the better I can describe to myself what it is about a painting that really turns me on, the more it can influence the way I compose my pictures. Over time The Guitar Player has become key in defining, and refining, my pictorial language.

A few characteristics of this painting that I really like are the division of space. the quality of the light, and the seeming simplicity of the composition. I love DeCamp’s use of subdued color here (he didn’t always do that). The neutral tones balance the red notes perfectly. Even though the subject is playing a guitar, to me this painting feels quiet. It’s meditative. I like to think that maybe she has just plucked the last note of her song, and I hear it sustained but slowly dying away. A single perfect note expressing a delicate and delicious moment of solitude. These kinds of musing about a painting (or any other inspirational material) are my “…[identifying what it is about the work that I like]”.

Below are some images of my paintings that I feel may share some of the same qualities as The Guitar Player. I hope this illustrates how this kind of study can help define, and indeed refine, how you express your subjects in paint.

Best wishes

— DG

IMG_9613 (1024x762)
Blue and Gray


Jessica with Ingres


IMG_0381 - Copy (763x1024)

Be Good to Yourself and Your Art


Hi Everyone,

I just want to send out a quick reminder. Don’t forget to exercise today. If all you do is take ten minutes to get your breathing going and your blood flowing, your body’s going to like that. And your art, too. All that sweat will clear your mind, heighten your mood, and get you ready for whatever challenges you have coming today. Oh, and by the way, do it again tomorrow…and the next day…and…




To Project or Not to Project…

IMG_7564 - Copy (820x1024)
My demo piece from last year’s workshop at Flemish Classical Atelier.

Projecting a photo onto a canvas before painting — is it “legal”? Is it legitimate to project? If I project can I call myself a real artist? When I project how do I deal with that little voice inside yelling “Cheater!”. I think there are some things to consider here. It’s not just cut and dried “wrong” or “right”. Here’s my take:

I like to ask this question: WHY are you projecting? Is it because you can’t draw, or is it to save time?

If you are projecting because you can’t draw, you’ve already discovered you WILL lose your drawing in the painting process. If you can’t draw, you’ll still screw it up. You know who you are. You’ve done it many times. You still have to be a good draftsman to pull it off. Let me tell you, if you still struggle with drawing and you’re projecting because you think it will help you, you’re fooling yourself. You NEED to learn to draw first. I don’t care who told you otherwise. They are dead wrong. I’ve seen learning painters lose their projected image over and over again. They project and trace a photo. Then they start losing the drawing within the first few hours of painting. You HAVE to learn to draw.

I know a few artists who regularly project a photo, or part of a photo in order to save time. I get it. When you have to make a living with your art you don’t always have the luxury of maintaining your ideals. Especially if you have a family to support. Then there are deadlines. It’s competitive out there for the working professional artist. It’s tough. Many do what they can to survive these difficult times. But these artists are also EXCELLENT DRAFTSMEN. They don’t really NEED to project. But it saves time. Their paintings are still excellent. Personally I don’t have a problem with these artists who do this.

Do I (David Gray) project?


I have a family. I have a wife and two kids. My wife doesn’t work for pay (She actually works harder than I do. She home educates our children!). I have a home mortgage. I have all the financial responsibilities of the working family man. I have to make ends meet. So why not project? Why not save time? The answer has two parts to it.

Part 1: Remember I said if you have responsibilities you don’t always have the luxury of maintaining your ideals? Well, I do anyway. For me it’s a point of honor to hand render everything. Even when working from photo reference I hand draw my composition without the aid of a projector. Have I EVER projected? Yes, I have. And I don’t like it. So I don’t. Drawing skills are at the core of my work. I like honing those skills every time I do a painting. It’s a personal decision for me. If you’re a good draftsman and you want to project to save time, okay, fine. I don’t have a problem with it. But it’s just not for me.

Part 2: I’ve found that I tend to edit what I see when it comes to a photographic image. The camera is monocular. It doesn’t see the same way we see (Assuming you have two eyes. Not everyone does, of course). Therefore I find little disturbing ways the camera sees that I don’t like. So I edit that part. I find when I personally hand render the image, subtle things happen in my drawing that are more pleasing to me. I do tend to idealize my subjects a bit. Or maybe I should say I tend to draw my subjects the way I WANT to see them. Hand rendering the image allows this to happen to a greater degree. My own aesthetic and artistic sensibilities are allowed to emerge in the drawing if I render it myself. I didn’t always realize this. I discovered it by observing my finished paintings of photographic imagery. My paintings didn’t look quite like the photo. If fact, I PREFERRED my painting to the photo. I was delighted at this discovery and it made me even more determined NOT to ever project a photo.

In the end, of course, it’s up to you. I STRONGLY recommend a consistent regimen for building your drawing skills. Find out what your weaknesses are and build them up.

There’s an opportunity for you to do this coming up this Summer. July 1-11, 2015 I’m teaching a ten-day intensive portrait class in Bruges, Belgium with Flemish Classical Atelier. We are going to be spending the first 4 days drawing. I’ll be teaching my way of building the drawing in preparation for doing the painting. You’ll see that there are no fancy tricks. I break the process down for you and demystify this essential skill. Please consider joining us. I know we’ll have a great time learning together. And Bruges is a lovely and inspiring place to be. I look forward to working with you…and then sipping a beer or two after class. Please click this link to find out more or to register:

Hope to see you there!

IMG_7563 - Copy (800x487)
A scene from last summer at Flemish Classical Atelier. Students working on the portrait drawing.

Tips, lessons, and other musings on the art life