I had the great pleasure of taking a class from Michele Usibelli today at the Cole Gallery. I have long admired Michele's work, and I am lucky enough to own five of her paintings. I must admit that they are all miniatures, but they are beautiful and they brighten my home.
We were a class of 13, from first time painter with oils to several people who are quite experience, and one professional artist. All of us are drawn to Michele's work---her free but sophisticated style. While she makes it look easy, believe me, it's not.
She starts out by doing a drawing on the canvas, to make sure the composition works, that things are where they should be and to establish the focus for the painting. She simplifies, to zone in on what is most important.
Michele works quickly, but is very deliberate. She tries to only put a stoke down once, meaning that she does not want to go back over that area, but to get it right the first time. It was fascinating to watch her. She was deliberate, almost emphatic, with her stokes, and while she could be bold she was often gentle. I learned so much by just watching.
Her method is unique (to me). She starts with the focus area of the painting and works out from there. She will "lose" the drawing, while painting it in, but then uses her background strokes to "carve" the forms back in. She is very conscious of value and edges. She tries to use her brush to form the shapes. All of these ideas I have been taught before, but watching Michele in action really drove it home for me.
The two girls, shown above, are mostly finished. You can see how they jump off the canvas. There will be middle ground and backgrounds done, of course, but the meat of the painting is there, practically fully formed. It took her maybe an hour!
The painting above is one Michele did of a teenage boy. She explained how the boy whose photo she took was actually wearing a brown jacket and white shirt, but to make the composition stronger, she changed the shirt to red and used the complimentary green to make it "pop." Colors across the color wheel from each other, dark against light---Michele kept reminding us that while she paints she is always having a mental conversation with herself.
It was a wonder to watch her.
Below is one of Michele's paintings, called The Secret. I bought it last year and it reminds me so much of my granddaughters. I couldn't get it to photograph well, but trust me, it's spectacular in person.
And here we have another of Michele's paintings. I can't remember what she called this one but it's always been The Nap to me.
And here's a crow she did, that I adore. (I have a "thing" for crows in the first place, and this little painting captures this fellow so well.)
And, finally, here is my unfinished painting from the workshop. I tried to put into action what she'd taught us, but alas, I didn't do so well. I did find that I was understanding more, however, and I can see where I need to change things and maybe, just maybe, how to make it better. It sure was fun trying.