Through the process of finding a studio mentor for my MFA experience at LUCAD, I had the pleasure of finding the artist, Joe Santore. He is a painter and professor who earned his education from Yale and teaches at two prestigious schools, Bard and the New York Studio School. Winning prestigious awards like the Guggenheim fellowship for creative arts, he is both a well accomplished painter and highly regarded instructor. When I reached out to him via email he was warm and kind and offered me kind and hopeful advice saying,
“I wish you success with your work. Have fun with your remaining time
in school, be adventurous, embrace the challenges and think
These words came after him explaining to me that he has been cutting back on his instruction hours over the last few years and thought mentoring would be problematic due to the mileage between us as well.
Even though he was not interested in being my mentor (bummer!) he still asked to see images of mine, which was super flattering. After this exchange he invited me to sit in on a critique he was having with his students at the NYSS. His two week intensive figure painting course was having its final critique and I got to sit in! ROAD TRIP!
I tried to rally up some of my fellow Group One members to tag along in this long journey but they couldn’t fit it into their schedule. So… I hit the road alone and ventured- little girl into the big city- all by my lonesome. This may not be a big deal to most and I know I project a big personality but independent, adventurous trips like this are not my norm. I entered the address into my GPS and immediately had regrets for signing up for this adventure. My quick two hour trip was, in reality, 3.5 hours! I almost lost my nerve, tired before starting (the texts from my husband’s enticing pina coladas didn’t help!) but I hit the ground running and took a bite out of that Big Apple!
The trip was long, the GPS didn’t lie, but the experience was great. Everything was new to me, amazingly enough since I’m 33, but it was scary and invigorating. I mean, who the hell is nervous about driving to NYC solo? Or finding on street parking, or crazy NY drivers (who am I kidding, I fit RIGHT in there!), or walking in the city by myself? This girl was nervous but I did that shit. I conquered it. More importantly I loved doing it! Moving on to the learning bit…
Joe was a quiet older man who appreciates the aspect of looking at paintings in great length. He stated that it is as important to spend time with your painting, just looking and not making marks, as it is to paint. He told us a story of how DeKooning would sit in a chair in front of his paintings, chain smoking cigarettes, and just look at his work for six hours straight. Only then would he feel the need to start working on his painting again. Joe reinforced that, its not just about what you see within the space you are painting, but what you are seeing on the canvas as well. It is the combination of both that you need in order to solve the visual problem. Another thoughtful piece of advice he gave to his students was that, “Painters don’t have to do it all.” Sometimes it is okay to JUST paint, and sometimes JUST paint one subject matter, citing Morandi’s still life’s. These two points of advice were refreshing! Its not just production but rather the experience. It’s okay to hone one skill and do it to the best of your ability.
He also talked about how it was important to “feel the way through the light” in the painting and follow its patterns. To pay attention to the reflected, colored light on the flesh-tones and be careful not to make it seem “designed.” That at times it is more important to lay down the color and brushstroke for what it is and possibly revisit it later if necessary after looking at it longer. Is it the right color/stroke/pattern? After getting onto this topic he told the class how Cezanne painted much in this way.
Another topic that came up that he was passionate about was that of painting with color. Laying down one color next to the other to create form- rather than drawing with paint. To match “simple body parts next to quiet colors.” He emphasized drawing with the paint and not to make the drawing and painting process separate from one another. This hit home for me because after leaving my first residency I really felt I needed to go back to charcoal drawings and brush up on my drawing skills. I still feel like that is a good idea and plan on doing so, but when I move back into the painting realm, I am going to make sure to use my paint as the “drawing medium,” so to speak.
Altogether, this trip was inspiring! I am happy to have had this experience and hope to be invited to possibly sit in on one of his Bard classes as well. I am proud of myself for heading out and happy to have been welcomed. I picked up a few new artists to research: Euin Uglow, Rudy Burkhart, Mathew Gaynor, and Andrew Forge as well as a book to look at, “The Story of Art” by E.H. Gombrich.
If you’d like to visit Joe’s website you can follow the link below:
A great article to read that I found: