Monday, March 24, 2014

Olena Babak at Oak Hollow Studios

Portrait by Olena Babak

Olena Babak

Portrait Workshop
Through the realm of Facebook, I have connected with many new friends. Olena Babak is one such person. One day, a flyer appeared in my newsfeed advertising a workshop at Oak Hollow Studios in Carthage, N.C. the workshop given by Olena focused on Portrait Drawing in Charcoal and Pencil. 

Olena is a classically trained artist, originally from the Ukraine. Currently, she lives and teaches in Maine. The flyer described her workshop as a five-day intensive workshop. The workshop focused on the fundamental concepts of portrait drawing - shape, value, edges, conceptual thinking, and anatomy.

Drawing by Olena Babak

Oak Hollow Studios
Owned by Carmen Drake Gordon and is set on a beautiful 40-acre farm. The studio offers a classical atelier environment, with on-going workshops, life drawing sessions and classes. 

The workshop was advanced and was my first portrait drawing workshop. I knew it would be above my abilities but felt the timing was right. Arriving at the class, I learned that all of my classmates, including the model, had studied at or taught at Jeffrey Mims, Academy of Classical Design. It was well above my skills, however, it would ultimately lead to a breakthrough for me and my work. 

Olena is an enthusiastic and energetic teacher with so much to share. From the moment the class began on Monday until the conclusion on Friday, we were mentally and physically engaged. Throughout the day, Olena would circulate from easel to easel and discuss each person's progress. 

Drawing by Olena Babak

Portrait Painting
Olena developed her painting style to facilitate portrait sessions with clients. She moves quickly through a process to capture the basics of a likeness in a 2.5 hour sitting. This process enables her to bring the drawing to a finished state without the client's presence. 

The basis of the class was to incorporate her processes for working quickly. Each morning we began with a lesson and exercises. The information flowed, and we worked along with Olena as she taught and demonstrated. During the afternoons, we worked with a model. By the end of the first day, it was clear the class would be as rewarding as it was intensive. 

Olena Working

Workshop Concepts
Below are a few of the concepts addressed in the workshop:
1.Use vine charcoal to mass in big general shapes, create a visual path of light and dark, lump mid/dark values into dark shapes and all else into light shapes.
2.Use straight lines, create shapes with value, and use value patterns to create proportions.
3.Measure to get proportions and likeness, establish angles, and compare sizes, relationships, etc.
4.Refine shapes, values, and angles.
5.Begin to define anatomy, draw schemas for eyes, mouth, and nose. Work from skeleton/skull.
6.Refine values, the order of light, big shapes, and proportions.
7.Analyze work from the conceptual because models won't always be available.

Drawing by Olena Babak

The week
To step outside of my comfort zone was a good choice. It was challenging and enormously rewarding. Everyone in the class was focused on learning as much as possible and moving their work forward. The energy in the room was palpable and inspiring. 

Olena is a talented, giving and dedicated teacher and Oak Hollow Studios is an enjoyable working environment. Carmen an excellent artist herself has created an environment conducive to learning, sharing and creating. 

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Until next time...

Artfully Yours,

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