Tony Ryder’s Ryder Studio School offers a 9 month course during the school year, but to my delight, they also offer 3 different 2 week intensive courses. I chose the 2 week portrait painting in oil. We worked on a single portrait for two weeks.

Tony Ryder (Ryder Studio School) demonstrating the Poster Study during two week intensive portrait painting class

Tony Ryder (Ryder Studio School) demonstrating the Poster Study during two week intensive portrait painting class

My first day of class at the Ryder Studio School was like the first day of elementary school. I’ve always had such good memories of the first day; new faces, people to meet, and things to learn. Toby (M. Tobias Hall) was our live model for the 2 weeks. We worked on painting his portrait the entire time.

Toby is also an amazing artist in his own right, and is moving to Seattle, WA, with his artist girlfriend Mercia in September 2010 (hint, hint if you want to commission a portrait by him and you live in Victoria, BC).

There were 14 students in our class, some of whom have been learning under Tony Ryder for up to 2 years (including Toby), and they came from all over the United States, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, and of course Canada!

I love the process, system, and order that is immediately evident from day 1. First, we were designated a cubby hole for our art supplies (yippee since I dislike the burden of carrying around art supplies). Next, we were allocated out own painting position, where our easel would remain for two weeks (you need the same position to paint a portrait from a live model).

Palette Layout for oil paints on Corian surface

Palette Layout for oil paints on Corian surface

I ended up with Position 5, where I had the model almost full face on. I felt pretty good about my position (won by lottery), until I realized I was the only one who had to paint TWO EARS. Everyone else had profile, or just enough that only one ear was showing.

It didn’t matter once I got the ears drawn in, and subsequently realized I would probably only touch on the form painting anyway.  It occurred to me early into the following week, when all of us (the whole class included) realized how much work and precision this colour mixing thing is, and the million little math formulas it requires to get the desired results! It’s hard, and disciplined work, man!

Tony Ryder's poster study (demonstration)

Tony Ryder's poster study (demonstration)

On the first day we watched Tony (as we did every morning) demonstrate the poster study. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate some ideas about colour mixing and value scales of the subject. It reminded me of the Photoshop effect by the same name, having the same effect when manipulating a photograph.

After class ended on day 1, some of us learned how to stretch a canvas (a first for me). Mine was stretched by the famous M.Tobias Hall – which I’m sure I’ll regret not having him sign it. It was also my first experience using oil paints, and learning how to  lay out a paint palette as recommended by Tony. This was combined with some good housekeeping tips for best results.

My poster study from class

My poster study from class

After watching Tony in the morning, it was then our turn to set up and begin the poster study. We began by outlining the shape of Toby’s head with brown, using a dab of paint and Gamsol, and our other solvent medium mixture.

As instructed, we began with the darkest accents first called the base mixture, and then began to mix the next value up. If there is a value change, then there is a colour change.

We were constantly reminded to think of colour, hue, value, and intensity. We mixed paint and added in colour like pixels. We all had a brush washers filled with Gamsol, and learned the best way to wash them.

One student asked Tony how an artist can become confident about a colour choice, and Tony’s quote of the day in response was,

” Never get in a whale boat with a person who’s not afraid of a whale”. I took this to mean that it’s good to be scared. This keeps you on your toes, and aware at all times!

Marmot - seen on the way home from class

Marmot - seen on the way home from class

Next post will include the Vine Charcoal phase and how Mighty Mouse is the patron saint of the Block In, along with more tour info like local churches and museums.