Henry Isaacs / Ashley Bryan Workshop Notes

Henry Isaacs / Ashley Bryan Workshop Notes


As I said here, it was my privilege and delight to be at one of the last two Islesford workshops given by Henry Isaacs and Ashley Bryan, both of which have been featured artists on this blog (see here and here). As an interesting surprise, their helper for the workshop was Gareth Hinds, whose books also happen to have been featured on this blog in the past (see here). A powerhouse group, their advice was gentle and encouraging, freeing and supportive, and blissfully without prescription. If I taught, this is the way I would teach.

Here are my notes, separated out by speaker:

Henry Isaacs:

  • Uses canola oil with a little bit of Galkyd Lite (drying agent) to mix with oil paint. (3/4 oil, 1/4 Galkyd Lite) This is non toxic, has no fumes, and is done for health reasons.
  • He rarely uses an easel, preferring the ground, his lap, or his hands.
  • “We are underneath a wonderful dome. Distance is coolest. The sky changes as it goes over us. Paint all the space, especially what is between your feet and the most distant point.”
  • “You are in it. See yourself enveloped in it. How can you paint it so others will feel they are in it too? Do this, and others will recognize it emotionally, even though you are no longer there, and they have never been there. If they recognize it emotionally, they have connected with it and will love it, even if they cannot articulate why.”
  • “Although my paintings appear fresh, they are layers and layers of paint.”
  • “Paint with an all around seeing of the canvas. There needs to be the whole composition in every touch of the paint.”
  • “The camera is the worse thing that ever happened to art.”
  • “Painting is not a static thing. It is a moment of discovery.”
  • “Be informed by the landscape, but not dictated to by it.”
  • “Develop the entire picture plane.
  • “Opposing motion keeps the interest. Don’t paint only side to side or up and down. Vary brush strokes: use different sized brushes to create different sized strokes too.”
  • “Energy of the stroke is more meaningful than the form.”
  • “Make each mark unique. Make each mark alive.”
  • “Check out the art of Maine artist Henry Marin. What makes his paintings believable?”
  • “Go to the Art and Healing conferences in NYC which alternate between The MOMA and Sotheby’s each year.”
  • “A horizon line is just a device, and is often not straight.”
  • “Build from a linear structure.”
  • “Whenever you make a stroke, put a ground around it. Nothing is independent to its adjacent plane. How do you see a mark unless you see it in relationship with another mark? Butt color against color, shape against shape. Let the tones and colors touch– we are all adults here.”
  • “Do a lot of mixing of paint.”
  • “The great thing about fog is it allows an invention inspired by the natural space.”
  • “How do you get sharp edges? Go slowly.”
  • “Compare what is happening on the canvas to what you want to be happening, while still taking advantage of ‘mistakes.'”
  • “Approach your painting in semi attack mode.”
  • “How much fun is an abandoned canvas!”
  • “Vary the color along the top and bottom edges.”
  • “You are creating something to be read by someone else. I don’t believe we create it for ourselves. Do not abdicate your responsibility of saying something.”
  • “Just work. Keep going.”
  • “The rhythm of your hand is everything you do.”
  • “When the paint gets thicker and thicker, I have a better and better time.”
  • “Whoever strives after perfection is striving for the divine.”

Ashley Bryan:

  • “The painting is asking you to do something unbelievable, and you must do it.”
  • “Break convention!”
  • “Bring the energy of light and love to everything you do!”
  • “The measure of success is the way you persist.”
  • “If it is creative and constructive, let nobody make you stop it.”
  • “Persistance is truth and beauty. Desire to persist. Never lose the daily practice. Do art every day. That makes you what you are: alive, an artist, and worth being heard. It is about being stubborn.”
  • “Nicholas Roerich sold almost nothing in his lifetime and now has an entire museum dedicated to his work in NYC (see here).”
  • “Call your doodles sketches!”
  • “Style is fate. We cannot choose it of our own.”
  • “Don’t use the word ‘artist.’ People say they aren’t artists. Say you are a ‘transformer.’ Everyone is a transformer. You can’t escape it.”
  • “Begin with a spirit of adventure and discovery. You can hardly wait to get going each morning. Tap into that and the negativity will flow right past you. It can’t touch you if you are as open as a child. Be a child!”
  • Someone said, “I can’t draw!” Ashley quipped with a shrug, “None of us can.”
  • “A good picture tells us something of what a blind man knows about the world.”
  • “Cameras are mentally blind. We learn about the world through the sense of touch.”
  • “I make mistakes into flowers.”
  • “Will it be varied or similar?”
  • Picasso: “You can try anything in painting, you even have a right to, provided you don’t do it again.”
  • “Make it sing!”

Also see my photos here to get a further sense of what was taught. (Note in the first photo below they are wearing opposite name tags…)

I am so grateful to have been here!

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I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.



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  2. […] met her at a Henry Issacs Workshop back in 2016 in Maine, the first of many workshops we’ve done together (like here and here), and we’ve plein […]

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