• Zoe Papas

Painting aka Drawing with a Brush


Oil painting of a man's portrait
My first oil painting done from a live model

This is my first oil painting done from a model from life. To provide some background, I took many drawing classes in college and continued to pursue drawing the figure from life on my own. After attending open studio sessions for a couple years, I was encouraged to apply to teach figure drawing classes. Even though I was confident in my drawing abilities at this point, I never took the leap to painting. I had some basic painting instruction in high school, but it was not enough for me to feel confident in my painting ability. I only took one painting class in college, which did not give me the formal instruction I expected. The idea was just to show up with paintings which would be critiqued by the professor. One day I came to class with a painting based on a figure from my drawing class. While this painting was admittedly not great, it did not deserve the extremely harsh criticism from my instructor which was given in front of the whole class. I was told that I couldn't just draw with a brush, that's not how painting worked! I got the feeling that the painting wasn’t necessarily bad, it just didn’t fit his abstract expressionist vision. And so, without anyone to teach me, I didn't pursue painting. There were a couple paintings I attempted since that class, but I didn't feel any of them came close to what I could do with drawing.


Fast forward about 8 years from my college painting class, and here I am doing a Master of Arts with the Florence Academy. Last year was my first year in the program. I did two oil paintings, one of a tissue from life and one mastercopy. I also did a still life painting outside of class. After doing these paintings, I felt a lot more confident in my painting ability, but I knew I still had a lot to learn.


As I worked on my portrait last week, I had some issues with paint handling, mixing colors, and dealing with the glare on my painting. I got some help mixing flesh tones from my professor, Mario Robinson, who is a wonderful portrait and landscape artist. Mario gave me an in-depth critique at the end of the week. He was shocked to learn that it was my first oil painting of a model from life. Mario praised my painting, going so far as to call it inspiring! Though I still have room to grow, this was great motivation for me in my painting journey. One thing that really stood out was Mario calling my success in oil painting a testament to all the drawing I've done. I definitely had a full circle moment thinking back to my college painting class. It took me a while, but I found out that yes, painting is in fact just “drawing with a brush.”

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