Supercharge Your Still Life Painting by Adding Imagination w/Clive Smith

Monday-Friday | 3/25-3/29 | 9:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.

Clive Smith is a highly trained British painter interested in how contemporary painting can speak to modern societal issues.

For two decades Smith primarily focused on portraits, including self-portraits. Much like Lucian Freud, these paintings capture the emotional density of the sitter. Now in his recent work, Smith features intricate bird’s nests that gracefully rest on exquisite ceramic plates similar to those one might see displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

The juxtaposition is at first unlikely: the highly valued antique plate contrasted with the natural phenomena of bird-made structures. Referencing the book, “Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio” by Genevieve Jones and her family, Smith perceived a way to expand his language. He captures the delicacy and glaze of precious ceramics or a humble bird-made nest sitting within – here the roughness of the twig or shine of an errant piece of plastic is reminiscent of classical oil paintings. Up close the surface devolves into abstraction.

These paintings address a poignant issue: incorporated into the plate patterns are tales of accidental species extinction. For example, one painting shows the plight of the Passenger Pigeon, once the most numerous of birds in North America. At 1pm on 1st September 1914, the last of the species named Martha, died in the Cincinnati zoo, the only time the world likely witnessed a species extinction.

In another new series of paintings, Smith ruminates on the insatiable demand of modern consumer culture. As an effect of mass industrialization, we often discard broken, disposable things and replace them with the next design trend. This unintentionally contributes to pollution.

Referencing the Japanese art of Kintsugi – repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold or silver to highlight the breakage – Smith is interested in how breakage and repair becomes part of the object’s history and dignity, and is viewed as beautiful. By breaking a plate and gluing it back together, Smith found accidental “ready made” broken lines to work around and within. Approaching each plate as he would a portrait painting, and bestowing it with personality like hard-worn wrinkles through the luscious application of paint, Smith blurs the lines between realism and abstraction, Fine Art and Applied Art.

Smith presents an unapologetic and authentic presence of these objects with exquisite mastery. They make us think about how we value the hand made, what is art, what is beautiful, what is enduring and what is transient.

Smith (b. 1967, St. Albans, England) lives and works in New York. In 1999 he won First Prize, BP Portrait Award, at London’s National Portrait Gallery. He has had numerous museum exhibitions that include the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK. His work is in many public collections such as in the Cleveland Museum of Art, US; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, KC, US; and the National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

9:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.
All Levels Welcome
Gage Capitol Hill
  • Please try to bring 3 different shaped vases to work from, they can be ones you already own or buy some from a Salvation Army/junk, second hand store, you should be able to pick them up for a few dollars each, we are going to look at different shapes and how we can combine them together to create in paint a newly shaped vase. Solid color ones are great but some pattern is fine as long as there are large areas of solid visible, white or light colors are great for seeing volumes and highlights but if you find/love bright color vases these will work well also, I want you to work with styles you personally like.
  • Clear or color packing/artist/duct tape that is similar in color to your vases as we may want to prop them together and tape will hold them in place.
  • Sketch pad/paper for sketching shapes at the beginning and your choice of drawing material, pencil/pen/charcoal, your choice.
  • Bristle brushes, hog or synthetic various size rounds (I mainly use smaller rounds #1and #2 ,#3 mostly) and filberts or brights sizes from about 1/4” up to 1” (brush numbers are different to each brand but I would advise at least having a 1/4”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1”)
  • A Palette , glass/wood or disposable ones are fine
  • Palette knife for mixing/cleaning off paint
  • Brush cleaning jar
  • Oderless mineral spirits or some other brush cleaner
  • A fluid medium for thinning paint, I recommend one that has a drying agent in it for speed drying in class like an alkyd , Galkyd light is good, I use M Graham walnut alkyd medium but another brand of “Painting medium” will work as well as just linseed oil.
  • Oil paint tubes, I personally use Michael Harding, Williamsburg and old holland but any good quality brand will be great
    • Titanium white or mixed white (Titanium and zinc)
    • Yellow ochre or raw Sienna
    • Red umber or burnt Sienna
    • Ultramarine Blue
    • Alizarin Crimson and/or Cadmium red
    • Cadmium yellow light/lemon
    • Black (I use Lamp Black) or Paynes grey
  • Bounty paper towels and cotton rags if possible (old t-shirt cut up is great). I find Paper towels are great for cleaning brushes, cotton rags are great for wiping off paint on a canvas.
  • As far as supports and grounds to paint onto it is a personal choice. I would encourage either canvas stretched panels or boards or pre primed gessoed wood/masonite panels for oil painting, also paper that has been primed or made for oil paint is fine but you will need a masonite/plywood board to attach paper to pin it onto. You may want to work on 2 or 3 different paintings during the week rather than just one. I would encourage bringing a few supports so you have choices. I also would advise not working bigger than 16 x 20” and I personally would work more in the 12 x 16” or smaller, it really is your choice on how large you like to work and what you can handle in the time frame.
Artists start with what’s in front of them, but they don’t have to stop there. In this workshop, master artist Clive Smith guides students from observational painting of a group of vessels, to an expanded vision grounded in the real, but energized by imagination – exactly what he does in his own astonishing works. Working from the actual objects, students will learn to incorporate information from other sources to transform what they see into something convincing, and yet invented. Clive will demonstrate and lead students through his own stages of production: lighting, initial sketches, and transformations using tape, props, and other strategies to push the envelope of the real.