Next class begins June 8!

I will be teaching Evening Basic Drawing again this summer on Thursday nights from 6-8:30 pm beginning in 2 weeks on June 8.  The class is 8 weeks long and runs through July 27.    If you are interested in joining, sign up today!  The deadline to register is Wednesday, June 7.  There are still seats available & I’d love to see you!

Here is the link to sign up on the St. Louis Artists’ Guild website:  Evening Basic Drawing – Summer 2017

Summer 2016 Basic Drawing Artist's Guild - 19 of 27

Summer 2016 Gershon Spector – Chiaroscuro project

Summer 2016 Basic Drawing Artist's Guild - 22 of 27

Summer 2016 Connie Farhang – Chiaroscuro project

Spring 2017 Evening Basic Drawing

This past February and March 2017, I was honored to teach another class of wonderful, dedicated Evening Basic Drawing Students at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild.  We had a big class, 8 people, and I was very pleased with everyone’s progress.


Mary Forrester was our gesture model for the first class, who inspired us with many elegant poses.  During the first meeting, I introduce gesture drawing as a way for students to start loosening up their drawing motions and to connect what they’re seeing in their visual field with what their hand is doing on the page, with the goal of eventually looking at the subject more, and the drawing on the page less.

For the fourth class, we did Intuitive Perspective, during which students learned how to gauge accurate perspective by noticing the angles of the edges of surfaces and how they relate to one another, as well as the angles of the empty spaces between or around the objects, so that they could create a convincing depiction of depth.  For a couple of the still lifes, I had the students either move closer to the objects, or to the side, so that they could understand just how much the perceived angles of rectilinear objects change when viewed from different vantage points.

For the sixth class, we started by doing extended line drawings of simple objects that had a lot of empty spaces between legs or rungs of objects so that the students could learn how to further enhance their drawing’s proportion by sketching how the different angles of each part of the object align with other parts, helping them notice the shape of the spaces in between the physical elements.  To further enhance that idea of negative and positive space, I had the students shade the area around and between the various parts of the object dark, so that they began to think of those spaces as the object of their drawing, and then I had them erase out the object itself, as if it had been cut out of the picture plane.  Many students expressed surprise at just how much this activated the various shapes for them, and really helped them to understand that if all the angles and spaces between the various parts looked proportional, then the object itself would by default then appear more proportional.

During the next class, we further explored that idea by using the Perceptual Grid/Mondrian exercise by starting with a gesture drawing, as they normally would, and then using rulers to add a fine grid of lines horizontally and vertically across the picture plane, to help analyze the spacing between objects, making corrections along the way.

We studied Chiaroscuro drawing for the last two classes, giving the students time to really delve into understanding how continuous tone and dramatic lighting can be used to create a wide range of lights and darks and convey a greater sense of depth, even atmosphere and emotion.  Chiaroscuro is a classic technique used since the Renaissance using high-tone, mid-tone and low-tone mark-making to depict shape and volume in drawings and paintings.  The first part, chiro means ‘light’ and the second, scuro means ‘dark’, in Italian.

For the first half of the final class, I had the students tone the paper with charcoal, so that they could use that as a mid-tone background to help better gauge the range from light to dark.  The lights were created by erasing out areas (and some students later added white conté), and the darkest darks were created by adding more charcoal, black conté, or compressed charcoal to the surface for rich, deep blacks.  I seem to have missed taking in-progress photos of the charcoal mid-tone drawings from this portion of the class, unfortunately, but you can see some of my prior students’ Chiaroscuro drawings here:  Summer 2016  and here:  Fall 2016.

For the second half of the final class, I added the additional challenge of using toned paper (paper that has a noticeable color other than white) as the drawing surface, so that the brown of the kraft paper acted as the mid-tone, rather than a layer of medium charcoal.  Not only was the surface texture toothier than the smoothness of the newsprint, causing the mark-making to act differently, but converting the idea of a color other than grey as a mid-tone when we’ve only been working mono-chromatically added another element of difficulty.  My students were up for the challenge!

Here are some finished pieces from the Spring class:

Thank you to all my amazing students!  It has been a joy to have you in class!

End of 2016 Wrap Up

2016 was a wonderful year for me artistically, as I began to teach at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, in addition to creating, showing, and selling artwork.  I’ve written about my summer class previously, but I didn’t get the chance to write about my Fall Evening Basic Drawing class yet.

Fall, being a super busy time for many people, had a much smaller class enrollment.  While a little unusual at first, ultimately, it led to a really one on one, personal connection between my students and I.  We had lots of great conversations about life and art while they were working on their drawing projects, and I was very pleased to see how much they had learned and grown in confidence by the end of the session.  Here are just a couple of photos of the lovely work that my students did during class:


Carol Fichtelman, Chiaroscuro still life, final class


Carol Fichtelman, Chiaroscuro still life, final class


Carol Fichtelman, Chiaroscuro still life, final class


Jean Jensen, Chiaroscuro still life, final class


Jean Jensen, Chiaroscuro still life, final class


Jean Jensen, Chiaroscuro still life, final class

I will be teaching Evening Basic Drawing again during the Winter/Spring session, running for 8 weeks on Thursday night from February 8 through March 30, 6 to 8:30 pm.  There’s still plenty of time to sign up if you’re interested in joining in the fun, so be sure to sign up through the St. Louis Artists’ Guild website:  I believe you can sign up all the way through the first night of class.  The fees and supply list are included on the class webpage.  Hope to see you there!

Evening Basic Drawing through the St. Louis Artist’s Guild – Round 2!

I will be teaching  a second Evening Basic Drawing class through the St. Louis Artist’s Guild on Thursday evenings during the fall, from 6-8:30 pm beginning Thursday, September 8, and running for 8 classes through Thursday, October 27.  Sign up today!😀  I’d love to have you in class!

This is the supply list:  Basic Drawing Fall 2016 Supply List – Elizabeth M. Willey

Below are some photos of my summer students with their work.  The teapots were drawn at the beginning of the summer session, before any instruction began.  The chiaroscuro drawings at the bottom are from the last 2 class sessions.  I am so proud of my students!  We had a great time and they all worked really hard to continue to develop their skills!



She has feet & a hand and a half! :D

I’m still working on the upper hand, the cervical vertebrae, and the skull. There is still yet a wolf to join Red Riding Hood in the picture and I will be solidifying the outlines of the bones much more. Once the bones are firmly in place, I will be laying muscles over some of the sections, but not all.


Whew! What a week!

Really – what a couple of weeks!  The past two weeks have been the busiest of the semester for me so far.  Gearing up for our guest artist visit with Jennifer Meanley on 4/8 and 4/9, I kicked it into high gear (well, even higher gear) over the last two weeks, culminating in a weekend spent actually sleeping in the studio to make sure I finished as many pieces as humanly possible before my critique on Tuesday, 4/9.  I texted my husband that I was coming home when everything was done Tuesday night and his response was: “And you are?” 😀  I finished 4 new encaustic pieces (mixed media works made by layering heated and smoothed wax and spray paint, drawing, oil paint or collage) and made significant progress on 4 others (a couple of which, depending on how I feel after a little more time, may actually be complete – sometimes I have to sit on them a little bit to decide).

Jennifer Meanley was our guest artist for the spring semester.  Her art can be viewed here:  On Monday, she gave a lecture discussing the history of her work and some of the themes that are interwoven throughout her pieces.  Ideas of home and place in physical or mental space and nostalgia are very important to her work, the sensation of longing for something no longer present and how a person carries it within one’s memory.  Her paintings and collages seamlessly balance simultaneous color and simultaneous contrast, placing complimentary hues parallel to each other, as well as light next to dark.  She is very interested in what happens when objects meet and what happens to the space in between, using the tension of the contrasts in hue and tone to adjust the speed at which the viewer’s eye travels through the piece.  She is the first artist I recall listening to that discussed color in terms of tempo and velocity, rather than just temperature.  By the end of the lecture, my brain was humming with so many things to think about that I was afraid it would just short-circuit and not be able to process it all.  I can’t claim to have understood all of the theoretical principles discussed in her lecture (or my critique for that matter), but if I can integrate even half of the ideas into how I think about making my own work, my pieces, especially the oil paintings, will likely improve dramatically.

In total, for my critique, I showed 3 large figurative pieces (at various levels of completion) from my Dialectic Personae* series and about 15 encaustic pieces (some finished & some in progress).  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the wall with everything displayed together, but I got caught up in other preparations.  It was a really good feeling seeing how many pieces there were all together.

Jenn’s main critique of the Dialectic Personae pieces was that they looked like I was really trying to show that I know how to paint, but that the figures themselves came across as being handled in a manner that was “too self-conscious”.  The viewer really needs to question just what the heck is happening in the image, rather than seeing a couple of reasonably well-painted figures.  She referenced the artist Isabel Bishop for me to research, looking at the unselfconscious observation of urban working class women beginning in the 1930s, as in “Tidying Up” and the weird, slightly creepy, yet almost Renaissance style work of John Currin for the odd but beautiful factor (  “Be weirder” will now be my new painting credo!  Jenn also suggested that I tear back into the color of the pieces to help make them pop, make them more energized, and guide the eye around each piece better.  I had taken a break on working on these larger pieces this semester to work on the encaustics so I could feel like I was making some progress after being stuck on the slower paintings for the past year or two, but I feel like I have enough distance now from the bigger works that I can dig in and make some major changes.

Getting closer to completion

Getting closer to completion


I considered this finished before the critique, but am now considering digging back into the piece to work on the color harmonies.

Jenn also suggested that I look at Art Nouveau artists (, including Gustave Klimt (, for ways of blending abstract design with more realistic figures.  That may be a way to incorporate some of the layering techniques and design choices from my encaustic pieces into my oil paintings.  A lot of thoughts to digest, but I feel like this will be a stepping stone to much improved work.

*The Dialectic Personae pieces are based on the idea that many of us live dual lives – we present ourselves one way during the day (i.e. I am an administrative assistant) and another way at night (wacky MFA student).  I have done several modelling sessions with women who do roller derby, burlesque, or polesque (pole-dancing combined with burlesque) and have 3 paintings started, at varying levels of completion.