Preview: Talk & Workshop With Visiting Artist Ephraim Rubenstein

Ephraim Rubenstein is coming to The Art League in January! The artist, who you may remember from our 2014 Portrait & Figure Festival and more recent workshops, will be here for a double bill: a free talk and a drawing workshop. We talked to him to get a preview of the weekend’s events:

January 5: Artist Talk

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Rubenstein’s Friday talk will be an introduction to his work as an artist and to the process of color spot painting.

New River, Galax, Late Afternoon by Ephraim Rubenstein (click to view larger)

Color spot (also the subject of a future Art League workshop to look forward to) is a type of alla prima painting. That means the painting is done “at first attempt” or wet-in-wet, in one sitting. Color spot, specifically, was developed around the 1900s by Charles Hawthorne (author of Hawthorne on Painting) and his student Edwin Dickinson.

“It’s a way of seeing color very freshly,” Rubenstein said. The artist pays as much attention to the warm-cool relationships (temperature) as to light vs. dark (value).

Color spot painting is done on a white canvas — no tone — and best in one layer, not built up slowly with grisaille and glazes. The goal is to get it right from the start, “so it has a very fresh look, color-wise.” (This avoids students’ common struggle with “muddy” color, Rubenstein noted.)

Self-Portrait by Lucian Freud, 2002. This unfinished painting emphasizes Freud’s color-spot approach.

A painter working in color spot starts with the greatest contrasts, “setting the perimeter” of the painting with the warmest warms and coolest cools. “Every painting is in a key, the same way a piece of music is in a key,” Rubenstein said.

This talk will cover Rubenstein’s own work in color spot and what interests him as a painter. It will conclude with a brief discussion of the wax-resist drawing technique, below.

January 6–7: Gorgeous Effects with Ink and Wax-Resist

register for this weekend workshop →

Rubenstein’s workshop will center on a multi-media drawing technique called wax-resist.

Agrigento I; pencil, wax, ink, char-kole, charcoal, conte, and nu-pastel on paper; by Ephraim Rubenstein

This technique uses paraffin wax as a water-repellent resist for subsequent ink washes: the waxy areas protect the lighter values as the drawing progresses. The wax itself can also remain on the drawing and has a cool texture, Rubenstein said.

He said the idea is similar to batik, a fiber dyeing technique that likewise uses a wax resist.

Equestrian Monument, Barcelona II; pencil, wax, ink, charcoal, Char-kole, conte, pastel and Nu-pastel on paper; by Ephraim Rubenstein

Wax-resist drawing can be seen in the work of, for example, Henry Moore during the London Blitz. In this workshop, students will use a lot of different materials: pencil, wax, ink wash, and water-soluble Char-Kole. Rubenstein said the workshop is for intermediate and advanced students with some general drawing experience.

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