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Making a Stepping Stone in Painting Practice - A Talk with Mark van Yetter

On the third day of Summer Academy, I met with Mark van Yetter who is teaching a course in painting focusing. Mark is here for the second time, having been a co-teacher in 2014. He noted the openness and the friendly atmosphere of the Academy kept, as one of the reasons that propelled him to take this job. We sat in his spacious classroom and chatted about the course and the art of painting.


Mark van Yetter after our talk


You’re exploring formal decisions in painting and you are also considering each individual practice of every participant. What does your teaching process look like?


Well, the first step was to have everybody set up their own place to work and start with their normal practice. I spent the first day and part of the second day just meeting with each person one-on-one and seeing where they’re at and trying to locate what they want out of the course, learn their interests - just making a personal relationship, which I think is important because then you can open up to talk about the decision making.


In what way will you engage with your students except for the conversations? Yesterday, you had an exercise with a live model, which was timed. What other exercises are you planning to do?


There are several different exercises, mostly with drawing, since that’s the foundation of painting. With the life drawing, I’ve decided that we have the model for about three hours and the large majority were 10-20 second drawings. Somehow, everybody thought it was crazy to spend three hours doing such fast, short drawings, but I think they could spend a week on it! The large majority of the students have the preconceived ideas, as they learned certain ways about form, contour or line in the figure and they feel really comfortable with them. So, when they try to find a form in a figure quickly, in 10 seconds, it means that you’re gonna have to be able to make a confident line. By doing that, they have to be able to look at something and then put it on the paper quickly. And they’re gonna be able to make the movement and realize that even if the model is standing still - it’s a moving thing. This exercise is very basic, all of the exercises will be really basic and they’re not really about me teaching anything. They’re for the students to do and hopefully learn themselves while they’re doing them. After the exercise, we look at the drawings and I try to point out the difference and qualities of lines and so on.


Some results of the life drawing exercise 



Yesterday, I told you that your approach seems really instinctive. Now hearing you explain your teaching process, it seems to me that you are waking up the student’s instinct to paint, something coming from within.


Yeah, I think it is instinctive! I mean, anybody can be a creator of an image, just take cameras as an example - a photo doesn’t necessarily become art. There has to be something that separates any image from art and that’s what every artist is trying to find. For me, I work intuitively so I think I’m approaching the class teaching from my experience of my own practice. Fair or not fair, it’s probably the best I can offer, because it’s what I can give.


What are you hoping to achieve in this course at the end, when you look at the group and yourself?


I hope that after the course everyone here that decides that they want to make the decision to dedicate their life or much of their time to painting. And that they’ll come back to the things they learned here and find something interesting or ideas for progress. I hope that I made a stepping stone, I guess. And that everybody has a good time, of course!


When you place yourself as an artist in this group, are you hoping to get some insights regarding your own practice?


Inevitably I will and I do. I don’t know if I’m hoping for it, but it inevitably will happen.


In the photos below you can catch a glimpse of the atmosphere from Mark's class today.














After the conversations and inspirations gathered from the artists today, I continue looking forward to the Global Academy lecture held by Ruth Noack tonight!


Until tomorrow!



19/07/17 16:22 Summer Academy 2017

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