The Metaphoric Still Life – Creating a “Portrait” Through Symbolic Objects

Barbara Noah is a visual artist who teaches painting, drawing, mixed media, and 2D/3D interdisciplinary arts, including both representational and abstract work. She has taught at the University of Washington, Cornish College of the Arts, UCLA, and Cal State University, Long Beach. Her art practice has included work in several media (digital imaging, painting, print, photography, sculpture, installations, and public art). She has exhibited in venues such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Seattle Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Artists’ Space and The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the City Museum in Nakhodka, Russia, the Shenzhen Art Institute Gallery in China, and the Biennial Exhibition of La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine-Paris in France. Her work has been published in ARTnews and Art in America. Barbara is the recipient of Artist Trust’s THA Grant and a Pollock/Krasner Grant. She received her B.A in Art from Mills College and an MFA from Pratt Institute in New York.
Saturday, Sunday
9:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.
All Levels Welcome
Gage Capitol Hill
Bring more than one object (and/or photo(s) of well-lit objects) that symbolize a person – you or someone else you choose. Keep the number of objects and the type of objects simple (i.e., not too complex, nor with lots of detail), so that you may have time to complete or get your painting well under way during the workshop. (Well-lit objects in photos means objects lit from the side, top, or bottom, not lit from the front (no flash photos) or backlit.) These real or photographic objects will be combined to metaphorically or symbolically represent the person you have chosen. During the workshop, they can either be arranged in any manner that works visually and metaphorically, or you may arrange them in such a way as to resemble a figure (out of largely non-figurative elements). It is also OK if any of your objects are themselves figurative or fragments of figures (or animals).

You may use either acrylic paints or oil paints for this weekend workshop. Golden Artist Colors makes a slow-drying paint called OPEN acrylics, which dries much slower than regular acrylics, although is fully compatible with quicker drying paints. I recommend it for blending time for those of you less experienced with painting, but if you already have the quicker drying regular acrylic paints, it will be fine to use those. It is also possible to get retarder to add to the regular acrylics to slow down the drying time. For oil painters, if you want your paints to dry faster, you can add a little Japan drier.

Acrylic Paint:

  • Your choice of heavy body or Golden brand OPEN (OPEN is slow-drying) acrylic paint, or your choice of other acrylic paint brands. Include basic colors, including these or other comparable colors – yellow (e.g., Hansa yellow, cadmium yellow hue), red (e.g., Pyrole Red, Napthol Red), Quinacridone Magenta or Cobalt Violet, Pthtalo Blue or Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green or Permanent Green Light, Titanium White, Carbon or Mars Black, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Orange Hue. Substitutions are fine.
  • Retarder if you want to slow paint drying but don’t want to buy OPEN paints
  • Acrylic gloss medium to thin your paint (Golden OPEN gloss medium if you want slow-drying medium
  • Acrylic gloss gel medium, to mix with paint, which keeps the paint thicker like the heavy body paint itself (may be OPEN gel, if you wish, for slower drying)
  • 2 Stretched canvases or canvas panels –Any size, but likely 16”x 20” or similar size would be about right for a weekend painting. You may only make one painting, but have a second on hand in case you want to start over or have time to make two.
  • Palette knife for mixing pain
  • Palette or disposable palette pad – minimum around 12” x 15” or so, with flat mixing area
  • Golden polymer varnish, gloss – small size fine
  • An array of shapes and sizes of synthetic brushes for acrylic paint
  • Vinyl gloves if you want to keep your hands clean
  • Rags
  • Can or jar for water

Oil Paint:

  • Your choice of oils colors, including these or comparable colors – yellow (cadmium yellow pale or medium hue), orange (cadmium orange hue), red (cadmium red hue or alizarin crimson), violet (cobalt violet, manganese violet), ultramarine blue or cobalt blue, permanent green light or phthalo green or viridian hue, titanium white, ivory black or similar, burnt sienna, yellow ochre.
  • Japan Drier if you want your paint to dry faster.
  • Liquin or Galkyd or other medium for oil paints.
  • 2 Stretched canvases or canvas panels – Any size, but likely 16” x 20” or similar size would be about right for a weekend painting. You may only make one painting, but have a second on hand in case you want to start over or have time to make two.
  • Palette knife for mixing paint Palette or disposable palette pad – minimum around 12” x 15” or so, with flat mixing area.
  • An array of shapes and sizes of synthetic or pig hair brushes specified for oil paints
  • Rags.
  • Vinyl gloves to keep your hands clean.
  • 2 Cans or jars for your paint medium and solvent Odorless mineral spirit.

Collage and Other Options: If you wish to try collaging any images or flat-ish materials on your painting, please also bring the adhesive of your choice that will work with the materials you have in mind, and a gluing brush (one that will not shed hairs) to use as a glue to attach the materials to the painting surface prior to painting (or in the case of acrylic paint, during painting). If you wish, you may also bring any textural materials or drawing materials you might like to incorporate into your work. If you wish, to get a head start, you may do so before the workshop, or simply bring them and use them if you decide you want to use them during the workshop. If you have not had previous experience with mixed media, it might be more straightforward and easier for you to just stick with painting. The most important part will be to bring the simple, symbolic objects, which we will try to light well and paint, in order to metaphorically or symbolically represent the person of your choice.

This workshop will focus on the creation of a still life with symbolic elements representing a specific person. You may paint from life from objects you bring and/ or from photos. You may also include collage elements. We will look at other artists’ work as an introduction, and then you will create your metaphoric “portrait,” which may or may not have actual figurative components. You may work with single media or mixed media, including the following options: painting (oils or water based), drawing, and/or collage materials. You may also consider other 2D and/or shallow relief materials.
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