Kai Lun Qu

Weekend at New York Academy of Art w/ Steven Assael

I was fortunate enough to have been accepted and enrolled in a Masters Workshop with Steven Assael at the New York Academy of Art last weekend, drawing the model under his instructions while observing countless demos of the master at work.

Day 1

I arrived at the New York Academy of Art and it just so happened that the school was giving an Open House tour to people who were interested obtaining an MFA at the facility. I sat in while waiting for my workshop to begin and saw many of the alumni and faculty superstars who are affiliated with the school mentioned and shown in the presentation such as Jenny Saville, Alyssa Monks, Steven Assael, Vincent Desiderio, Michael Grimaldi, Will Cotton, Dan Thompson and many more.

There were sculpture casts all over the school in perfect condition and I couldn't help myself but be filled with awe and envy knowing how the academy students are free to draw and paint from them whenever they want. I unfortunately could not fit enough time to draw from the casts but perhaps next time...

I awaited along with a few other students in the studio until Steven arrived. I was super surprised on how relaxed and easygoing Steven is, He was extremely humble, intelligent and skillful as he sat us all down at the beginning of the class and talked about his views on art and his work. After 30 minutes of talking he pulled out 5 big sketchbook pads and showed us some never before seen drawings. It was amazing how even though he did tons of experiments, his entire sketchbook did not one have failed drawing. Each one was amazing after the next that I literally imagined him having a solo show with his sketchbooks alone.

Recognized this drawing by Steven and finally saw it in person as he was flipping through his sketchbook. It looked even more astonishing in real life.

After the talk he started a short demo showing us his techniques on working with silverpoint. I have never seen someone use silverpoint before so it was definitely a first experience.

I also met Evan Kitson, who stopped by Stevens workshop to say hi. It was amazing how so many artists that I have admired over the years were just hanging out in the same building walking around. it was an unreal experience.

After Stevens demo, the students all started working on the model. I was super anxious to be able to draw in the same room as Steven Assael that I may have rushed through my drawing a bit too fast (Which Steven pointed out, saying I should relax and slow down and just enjoy the process, which I started to do more of near the end). Steven was extremely helpful, sitting down with me one on one and critiquing my drawings and drawing on top of it with a piece of tracing paper. Showing me the indentations of the facial anatomy that I have missed or overlooked. It was truly a humbling experience.

Steven demoed a quick figure drawing for me in my sketchpad after critiquing my portrait drawing, showing me the concept of light and darks within shadows and how it reacts against the light of the subject. He drew the figure entirely from his imagination basing off his knowledge of anatomy and did in the a matter of minutes.

My Portrait drawing that I done after the first day. It isn't my best work but I definitely learned a lot during that day.

Day 2

Day 2 started off with Steven giving a demo on the construction of a portrait. He started with the skull and pinpointed the high points of the skull and how it related to the portrait of the model. He started drawing two skulls and slowly started construction the portrait on top of the upper skull drawing. Steven maintained the likeness and accuracy of the model while still continuing to demo. He was extraordinarily fast, getting accurate results out within a matter of minutes.

During break I was told by a few friends that Dan Thompson was giving a demo downstairs. There was no way I was going to miss this anatomy master at work so I rushed downstairs to see the demo. When I arrived Dan was in the process of almost wrapping up his demo and putting on some final touches.

Dans demo up close. Its amazing how he is able to maintain such a sensitive softness while still preserving stability and structure of form. I was a bit disheartened that I wasn't able to see this drawing come to fruition.

This is another one of Dans drawing that he brought in to show his class that was lying on the table in the back of the room. I snuck a shot before leaving back up to Stevens class.

Near the end of class, Steven decided to do some drawing of his own taking a break from helping everyone. He sat down and drew this within a little over 30 minutes. It blew my mind how fast and precise he was. '

Overall it was an amazing experience at the New York Academy of Art. I can't wait to be back next month for the Vincent Desiderio workshop. Stay tuned for that blog!

- Kai