Category Archives: workshop

Workshops are Worth It!

Giving a demonstration in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Hi Gang! I know it’s been a long time. But I’m BAA-aaaaack! Today I want to talk about the value of taking workshops when there are so many great tutorials out there (DVDs, Youtube, etc…).

So… why invest hundreds of dollars and many hours to attend a live workshop when you can simply pick up the latest tutorial DVD by your favorite artist/teacher at a fraction of the cost? Hey, I get it. For many of us it’s just not possible to attend a class for many reasons: scheduling conflicts and lack of expendable income are probably the two most common reasons why people cannot make the investment. And for you, this is why I made my tutorial DVD with Bella Muse Productions. But I want to give some reasons why you should still consider signing up for a workshop. This is not an exhaustive list:

Students hard at work in Bruges, Belgium at Flemish Classical Atelier.

The Live Experience — There’s nothing like being in the same room with people of your same stripe working toward a common goal. Being in a new place with new people has a way of heightening our senses. We are able to consume the learning process in a special way that deepens the experience and makes it more meaningful. The energy is palpable. We undergo the adventure together. We find we are not alone in our frustrations and victories, and how lovely is that?

Interfacing with your Instructor — I can almost guarantee you that you will be surprised by your teacher. How nice they are. How mean they are. How they breakdown and present the material. You will no doubt go to the class with certain misconceptions about who this person is and how they will operate. Be open minded. Even well-known artists are only human and we have our weaknesses and foibles (Well, not me, of course. I’m speaking of the other guys. Wink.). We also have our unique strengths. We have a lot to teach you just by the attentive way in which we approach our subject, how we manage our materials, and simply our posture while making our art.

A full class at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

Personal Attention — In a DVD you don’t get the personal attention. You don’t get the critiques. Also, you don’t get to hear the teacher critiquing other students. These indirect comments may very well apply to your work, too. In my classes I strive to give each person equal attention. I don’t play favorites and my goal is to help you learn and improve. If you aren’t able to make a “fix” I will literally take your brush in hand and make it (or part of it) for you. In many, many cases my students are surprised by the way I am able to redeem a seemingly hopeless situation. This is a very important service you will never receive from a DVD tutorial. I love to demonstrate to my students that once you acquire the proper tools, nothing is impossible.

Making Friends — I have made most of my very best friends in the line of teaching. My worldview has greatly expanded and I’ve met such wonderful people who have added beautifully to the quality of my life. Of course you may not meet your “bosom pal” at class, but you just never know.

Lots of smiles at the end of a great workshop in Brattleboro, Vermont.

So think about it and don’t set your default button at “I can’t afford it”, or “I’m waiting until I win the lottery”. Take the first step and start calculating costs. Save up if you need to and make a plan. Just do it! I’ll be waiting for you. You won’t be disappointed.

My 2018 workshop schedule can be found HERE. We also have some space open for my portrait class in Seattle coming VERY soon, January 22-25. Details can be found on my workshop schedule.

Happy Art Making!


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2016 Workshops!


Hi Gang!

My 2016 Workshop Schedule is now finalized and can be viewed here:!workshops/cdq3. Overseas venues include: France, Belgium, Ireland. And in the United States: California, Georgia, Vermont, and Washington. I will not be adding any more workshops to the 2016 schedule. I hope something works out for you. Specific questions regarding costs and other logistics should be directed to the hosting studio. Contact information is available for each workshop.

See you in class!



2016 Workshop Schedule Coming Soon!


Hi My Friends!

Sorry for the long silence. Just wanted you to know that I will be posting my 2016 workshop schedule soon. Overseas locations will include France, Belgium, Spain, and Ireland. And in the States: California, Georgia, and Washington. Most of the venues will be repeats from former years and I am glad to have the opportunity to work with these studios again. Details coming very soon!

Don’t give up early!


Last Call for Alla Prima Class in the Bay Area


I’m excited to return soon to the Bay Area to teach my alla prima sketch technique. The New Museum in Los Gatos, CA will be hosting this class September 18-20. Alla prima is Italian for “at the first” or “all at once”. This kind of approach to the portrait usually results in a more spontaneous and organic character to the paint which I find irresistable. Morning demos will be followed by late morning and afternoon sessions where you will get a chance to apply the principles in your own studies. Space is limited and time is running out. I hope you will consider joining me for this three-day intensive.

To register please click this LINK, or you can contact Gabriel Coke at:


Phone: 831.345.1845, or 408.354.2646

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To Project or Not to Project…

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My demo piece from last year’s workshop at Flemish Classical Atelier.

Projecting a photo onto a canvas before painting — is it “legal”? Is it legitimate to project? If I project can I call myself a real artist? When I project how do I deal with that little voice inside yelling “Cheater!”. I think there are some things to consider here. It’s not just cut and dried “wrong” or “right”. Here’s my take:

I like to ask this question: WHY are you projecting? Is it because you can’t draw, or is it to save time?

If you are projecting because you can’t draw, you’ve already discovered you WILL lose your drawing in the painting process. If you can’t draw, you’ll still screw it up. You know who you are. You’ve done it many times. You still have to be a good draftsman to pull it off. Let me tell you, if you still struggle with drawing and you’re projecting because you think it will help you, you’re fooling yourself. You NEED to learn to draw first. I don’t care who told you otherwise. They are dead wrong. I’ve seen learning painters lose their projected image over and over again. They project and trace a photo. Then they start losing the drawing within the first few hours of painting. You HAVE to learn to draw.

I know a few artists who regularly project a photo, or part of a photo in order to save time. I get it. When you have to make a living with your art you don’t always have the luxury of maintaining your ideals. Especially if you have a family to support. Then there are deadlines. It’s competitive out there for the working professional artist. It’s tough. Many do what they can to survive these difficult times. But these artists are also EXCELLENT DRAFTSMEN. They don’t really NEED to project. But it saves time. Their paintings are still excellent. Personally I don’t have a problem with these artists who do this.

Do I (David Gray) project?


I have a family. I have a wife and two kids. My wife doesn’t work for pay (She actually works harder than I do. She home educates our children!). I have a home mortgage. I have all the financial responsibilities of the working family man. I have to make ends meet. So why not project? Why not save time? The answer has two parts to it.

Part 1: Remember I said if you have responsibilities you don’t always have the luxury of maintaining your ideals? Well, I do anyway. For me it’s a point of honor to hand render everything. Even when working from photo reference I hand draw my composition without the aid of a projector. Have I EVER projected? Yes, I have. And I don’t like it. So I don’t. Drawing skills are at the core of my work. I like honing those skills every time I do a painting. It’s a personal decision for me. If you’re a good draftsman and you want to project to save time, okay, fine. I don’t have a problem with it. But it’s just not for me.

Part 2: I’ve found that I tend to edit what I see when it comes to a photographic image. The camera is monocular. It doesn’t see the same way we see (Assuming you have two eyes. Not everyone does, of course). Therefore I find little disturbing ways the camera sees that I don’t like. So I edit that part. I find when I personally hand render the image, subtle things happen in my drawing that are more pleasing to me. I do tend to idealize my subjects a bit. Or maybe I should say I tend to draw my subjects the way I WANT to see them. Hand rendering the image allows this to happen to a greater degree. My own aesthetic and artistic sensibilities are allowed to emerge in the drawing if I render it myself. I didn’t always realize this. I discovered it by observing my finished paintings of photographic imagery. My paintings didn’t look quite like the photo. If fact, I PREFERRED my painting to the photo. I was delighted at this discovery and it made me even more determined NOT to ever project a photo.

In the end, of course, it’s up to you. I STRONGLY recommend a consistent regimen for building your drawing skills. Find out what your weaknesses are and build them up.

There’s an opportunity for you to do this coming up this Summer. July 1-11, 2015 I’m teaching a ten-day intensive portrait class in Bruges, Belgium with Flemish Classical Atelier. We are going to be spending the first 4 days drawing. I’ll be teaching my way of building the drawing in preparation for doing the painting. You’ll see that there are no fancy tricks. I break the process down for you and demystify this essential skill. Please consider joining us. I know we’ll have a great time learning together. And Bruges is a lovely and inspiring place to be. I look forward to working with you…and then sipping a beer or two after class. Please click this link to find out more or to register:

Hope to see you there!

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A scene from last summer at Flemish Classical Atelier. Students working on the portrait drawing.

Last Call for 4-day Portrait Workshop in Atlanta

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Detail of demo from a past workshop.

We will be working from the live model from May 14-17 at The Art School in Sandy Springs (Atlanta, GA). We have room for two more. Please join us for a fun and intensive time of learning techniques and concepts for painting the portrait from life. For questions regarding this class please contact Donna Thomas at 404-313-7356, or See you there!