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"Painterly" and "Photo-realistic" in contemporary portrait painting
ALL of the greatest Masters in the history of art regarded formal academic training as indispensable for the development of the highest professional skills. My teaching experience is a direct result of my own years of studies (1974-1990) in the consistency of the academic discipline and established historic curriculum at one of the world's oldest and acclaimed fine art academies, the Russian Academy of Arts (est. 1757). Having started my formal art education at the age of nine, I continued to study within the academic art system for the next sixteen years and had become very familiar with countless challenges one may face in drawing, painting, composition, etc. Therefore, based on my own vast experience of being a formal student for many years, I understand and know exactly what the students need in any given situation, as well as how to successfully resolve any complicated issues they may have, right on the spot.
Students posses and are enriched by the skills and knowledge that their teachers pass on to them. If their teacher had not received an extensive classical education, it is most likely that the students would then be limited to only acquire their teacher's 'style and approach', and the fruits of their labor could result in their becoming 'beggars in knights armor' so to speak, as the roots of deeper knowledge and skill, vital for the development of artistic individuality, would not be introduced.
Commissioned Portrait Artist
Honorary Life-Time Member of the Russian Academy of Arts (est.1757)
Chevalier of the Order of Saint Anne (founded in 1735)
Igor V. Babailov, MFA, Hon RAA
A true realistic painting in the tradition of the Masters will not look like a photo, and visible brushstrokes will not be chaotic to draw the unnecessary attention either. The brushstrokes must follow the form and correspond to the bone and muscle structure underneath the skin, to guide the viewer's eye in the right direction and in search of the subject's inner-world, instead of intentionally destructing from possible mistakes in proportions. Speaking of proportions and anatomy... the arms and hands in the portrait, especially HANDS, which were described by the Masters as "another portrait", must always be impeccably drawn in proportion to the body with the expertise of the anatomic structure, to assure their equal life-like appearance in the portrait. This is why the works of the great Masters, such as Sargent and Zorn, are strong and never cartoonish, as they have the substance of anatomic strength and uncompromising loyalty to the accuracy of drawing in every area of the painting.
My workshops contain two important parts: The Instructor's Demo and The Students' Practice after observing the demo.
In Visual Art we learn by seeing. In fact, that is how we learn. Therefore, within my workshop program, I do three separate 1.5 - 3 hour (quick and highly detailed) life demonstrations in Drawing, Pastel and Oil, each in the approach of the academic training. This is a great opportunity for students to witness the progression of portraits from life in different mediums, from start to completion. My goal, as your instructor, is to simply show you and teach you 'right' from 'wrong', so you can quickly get on the right and your own artistic path towards advancing your individual skills where 'the sky is the limit'.
Following my demo, inspired students work on their own pieces, and every student receives my personal and individual attention according to their needs and specific requirements.
I look forward to seeing you in class!
Today, unfortunately, the 'painterly style' is quite often used by portrait artists to camouflage any errors in anatomy and proportions; so, we should not follow blindly the praises for such a "style" without keeping in mind that the above mentioned Masters did not just paint, they "drew with brushes", as I like to say. The great Italian Master of the 20th century, Pietro Annigoni stated: "Painting does not exist without Drawing, and it is Drawing [from life] that gives the exact measure of the painter. Drawing never fails, but often the artist does." Let us remember this!
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The Power of Proper Art
strength for every artist. First and foremost, it is the application of the academic principles in every subject we draw that we must learn to see. Wouldn't you like to have total confidence in yourself as an artist and to be able to draw and paint realistically entirely from life and/or from your imagination, absolutely anything and be totally comfortable without the use of the camera, when portraying any subject in any genre: portrait, landscape or multi-figurative composition?
One can compare art education to the solid foundation of a house, as once it is built properly, it will hold any shape or form you will place on it. This is why it is not sufficient to acquire just any art education, it must be rather a proper classical art education. As in parallel with painting, it also teaches you DRAWING which IS the core of any strong realistic painting.
Have you ever had a feeling, when looking at contemporary realistic paintings, particularly portrait paintings, that they could be divided into two polarized categories: some seem 'dried out' and resemble photographs, and the others look somewhat 'incomplete' in so called 'bravura' of painterly brushstrokes?
The academic method, or someone's "style"?
In art education, the academic method of learning is universal and also economical. It saves you time and money in the long run and the trouble of trying to build what you need, out of bits and pieces from various workshops by different instructors who, due to the lack of their own education, teach their "approach", instead of classical foundation. Different instructors' personal approaches and their often complicated palettes, may 'clash' with each other and result in confusion and an unclear direction for students. It is like attempting to learn how to write using both hands at the same time. How far would you go?
If you want to learn fast and efficiently, proper academic instruction in the principles of classical academic curriculum, should be your focus. It is accessible, straight forward and recognized for its most effective teaching of composition, perspective, foreshortenings, anatomy and tonal values. All the Masters of the past did just that. Despite their different geographic backgrounds, they all went through the same universal academic art training, as prerequisite for the development of high drawing skills, artistic individuality and, eventually, becoming the Masters. Bouguereau, Zorn, Repin are known for their very distinct individual styles, yet that was not what they learned during their academy training, not the 'styles', but the very same alphabet of the academic art language, and spoke it fluently in their own ways.
Studied at the
Royal Swedish Academy of Arts
Studied at the
École des Beaux-Arts, Paris
Studied at the Russian
Imperial Academy of Arts
Sharing the Historic Russian School of Traditional Art Education
Since 1974 through 1990, I was very fortunate to study and receive distinguished art degrees from the Russian Academy of Arts (founded in 1757).
My friend Amb. Michael Novak, Templeton Prize recipient and world-renowned American scholar, once stated: "One good thing that came out of the Iron Curtain, was the outstanding Russian art education!" When Modernism was already marching for decades throughout Western Europe and North America, the Russian School of Art was the only historic school in the world, which remained free of Modernist influence, as behind the 'iron curtain' it kept its academic roots intact and preserved the best of classical academic education.
Art education is like reading the Bible, over and over again, building on what you know and always learning something new. That is why my classes are not limited to so-called 'levels' of instruction. I share with my students the IN-SIGHT of my formal art education, which covers a broad spectrum of critical issues, highly beneficial to all artists, students and professionals, who aim to improve and polish their skills in drawing and painting. Leonardo da Vinci once wrote, 'Poor is a student, who doesn’t go further than their teacher.' Just like Leonardo, I also believe that there must be no secrets whatsoever and I share with my students one hundred percent of everything I have learned during my own academic years in the classrooms and studios of the historically acclaimed Academy.
For God, Gold and Glory
The Arrival of Christopher Columbus and his crew in the Americas (oil on canvas, 72" x 79")
by Igor Babailov
Having a broad and well-rounded academic formation, is a source of