Covino Portrait1P1070431PaintingWorkshopCovinoFrank4-2015

Dear Artists and Friends,

It is with ineffable sadness in our hearts, that I must report this news.  Our friend and long-time art teacher and mentor, Maestro Frank Covino, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, after being pronounced “cleared of cancer” just last week.

If I may use a bold simile, his loss feels like looking up at the mountains in Sugarbush, where Frank worked hard to build the home he loved, and seeing that the grandest of summits has disappeared from our sight.

Here is a note from his wife, Barbara Covino, that you will all want to read:

Subject: It is with a deep abiding sorrow in my heart that I write this letter…forgive the delay but it has taken time to believe this is true…

Beloved friends and family , one and all,

After two days of profoundest shock, and countless tears I realize I must write you.  It is with a heavy, heavy heart that i must inform you that dear Frank has passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday night, February 16th.  It was quick and he did not suffer–a death we would all prefer–but he had been progressing so well, it was a gut-wrenching shock that still is unbelievable.

I truly cannot imagine a world, or a life without him…32 years of happiness and adventure.  Life was never boring with him!!! What an amazing talent, a brilliant man with a wealth of knowledge, a gentle and sensitive man who had to excel in everything he did, and was thus an inspiration to all who knew him.  He encouraged others to strive for excellence and to believe in themselves, giving them the tools to create a positive reality in their lives, whether it be art or health.  We all can repeat that golden maxim: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO AMELIORATE! Wise encouraging words, those.

But he was more than the sum of his parts; he was a genuine force of nature, a real Renaissance man, but above all else, he had a kind heart and a very great soul. We all loved him so; there will never be another Frank.  But I know it is now time for each and every one of us who was touched by his life, to take that spark and pass it on.  He gave us wings and it is time for us to fly…Make him proud!!!

I am too choked up to continue writing.  God Bless each and every one of you who had a place in his heart…family, friends, students….He loved you all sincerely and without guile….

We are in the process of collaborating with the family and planning both a smaller family funeral as well as a larger set of celebrations of his life and legacy open to all who loved him–one in Vermont and one on Long island.  As soon as the Covino south clan and Mark and Jennifer and I hammer out the details, I will email you all, soon as can be done.

We are going to give that wonderful man a send off he won’t soon forget!!!

Love and blessings , Barbara Covino

PS: PLEASE FORWARD THIS to everyone you can think of. It has grown into a cast of hundreds, and forgive the delay but it has taken time to believe this is true.


Although you are copying an Old Master and placement has already been decided for you, here are some thoughts to keep in mind in the future when you begin composing your own work:  if you leave a large space above the head, you will signal to the viewer that the person you are depicting is diminutive, whereas, with less space above, you will give the impression of a taller, more imposing figure.  This knowledge is especially useful psychologically when you want to make a woman seem more feminine, or a man more masterful.  For example, you would probably not want to paint a commissioned portrait of a farmer, a CEO, or a king, with a lot of space above their heads.

Drawing well requires an extensive understanding of proportion, so to help you get a headstart on drawing and line, we will adopt the OMs’ method of using a graph to facilitate a highly accurate enlargement of your chosen painting.  Then, as you progress in skill and knowledge of the “rules,” you can begin to break them because you will find you need these guidelines progressively less and less.

Now that you have collected your painting supplies and materials, it is time to do an acetate overlay cartoon, or line drawing, over your 8″ X 10″ reference.  Then, you will transfer that same cartoon onto your painting board.    Both the acetate AND the board will be gridded.  Remember those algebraic equation days where what you do to one side of the equation, you do to the other side?  Well, the same idea applies here: what you do to the acetate, you do to the board, no matter how short a guideline may be.

The Cartoon
Work from your grayscale reference from the grided transfer and cartoon, through to the rendering stages.  When you “scale up” your reference material to fit your painting surface, the proportions of that reference material must be maintained; otherwise, you will have a final drawing that is out of proportion with perhaps ears too big or fingers too long.  Here is an easy procedure to ensure you get it right.

Procedure for Enlarging Reference While Maintaining Correct Proportion
Let’s say you are working from an 10” X 8” photo reference, and you want to paint it as a 26” X 20”.
1. Divide the long length of your desired enlargement by the long length of your photo reference to get a ratio:

26 ÷ 10 = 2.6″

2. Multiply that ratio by the short length of your photo reference.  This will tell you what your enlargement’s short side should be in order to maintain correct proportion:

2.6 X 8 = 20.8″

Your painting size will be 20.8″ X 26″

In this example, the size you wanted was 26″ X 20″ but the closest you can get is 26″ X 20.8″—so what can you do?  You have a choice at this point of either:

a) increasing your desired painting size to 26″ X 20.8″ (which would leave you with an odd size for framing),
b) rounding down to 26″ X 20″ (more standard size), or
c) decreasing the photo image content by leaving off a small bit of the sides.  This would be a very slight adjustment and probably worth it to be able to maintain a more standard size frame.

The Graph
Once you have the correct proportions, use a thin-point red or blue Sharpie and draw a rectangle on the acetate that corresponds proportionately to the size of your board and place it over your drawing.  Use pieces of masking tape to secure each side or corner.

  • Very lightly draw a big “X” on your surface from corner to corner.
  • Draw a cross through the center of the “X.”
  • Connect the cross around to make a diamond.
  • Finally, divide the graph into fourths by adding two horizontal and two vertical lines.


Lay another piece of acetate on top of the grayscale reference and grid.  As with the gridded acetate, also tack this one down with tape.  Trace the figure, including as many detailed features as possible.  You can use dotted lines or denser lines to indicate shadows or clothing folds.  If you make a mistake, remove it with alcohol and a cotton swab, as mistakes made at this stage will only look even more pronounced in your enlargement.  Strive for perfection–it will pay off and save you time later on.

*You can take your cartoon outline further, if you find it helps you, by turning it into a value study.   Do this by continuing to draw on the acetate to create a value study with lines–closer together indicates darker–farther apart creates lighter areas.  When your acetate drawing looks exactly like the reference and you would deem it a good drawing by itself, you are ready to begin transferring it to the painting surface.

On your board, and just as you did on the acetate, draw an “X”, then a cross, then a diamond, then divide it into fourths, both horizontally and vertically.  You can use charcoal or pastel pencils for this.  Do not use graphite because it can telescope through oil paint over time.  You can draw additional lines to aid you, connecting any two points at any angle.  Use as many of these as you need to help encase difficult areas like eyes, nose, and mouth.  Keep in mind that whatever you do to the board, you do to the acetate. Note where I placed my extra lines:


We’ll continue with inking and gesso/gelatin buildup in later posts.

All the best,


P. S.  Just a note to remind you of the upcoming workshop

Hello, dear readers.  Here is some information I just sent out to all members of The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild, and I would like to share it with you as well.  We are having a one-week workshop where we intensively work on our paintings for one committed week.  If you will be in the Phoenix area on October 7-11, 2013, we would like to invite you to attend and perhaps make some new painting friends.  Respond to this post if you are interested.

Dear Artists:

Great news!  Karen has confirmed the dates for the Arizona Renaissance Art Guild’s one-week workshop. So, are you ready to paint those gorgeous works of art???

It’s PAINTINGPALOOZA time, one whole week to devote to your Classical painting for about $60 – $85 (total for the week), where we artists help each other make our work better and better.

The workshop is scheduled for the week of October 7 – 11, 2013, at the museum.  Workshop hours each day are from 9:00 a.m. until ?.

Signing up is simple–just send us an email and please include your phone number in case we need to contact you.  We have space for a maximum of 12 people. The more people that sign up, the less the cost!

There is no need for you to send a deposit ahead of time: just RSVP via email to confirm your attendance, and then pay your share when you get there.

And as always, if you see someone who didn’t get this email but who should or wants to be on the mailing list, please feel free to forward this on to them and us so that we will be able to include them in our next mailing.

Call if you have any questions.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Karen and Marsha
Arizona Renaissance Art Guild


The Taos Society of Artists had about six to ten members, the Hudson River School up to twenty-five.  Our Arizona Renaissance Art Guild is small, with eight to twelve members, so if we’re talking about numbers, the Guild is in good company.  Who knows what history’s retrospective look at us will be….

Anyway, I’m back from the workshop, having had the most grueling week of fun ever!  We literally painted from morning until night, sometimes as late as midnight, only to begin again the next morning around eight a.m.  If we had had some bunk beds and a shower, I think we might have just stayed at the museum. The Gilbert Museum is a wonderful place for us to work and they have been so very gracious to us over the last eight or ten years, especially the museum’s director, who always goes out of her way to make sure the facility is top notch.

Some of us copied the Old Masters, and some did original works.  And speaking of retrospectives, I will be providing individual pictorial ones on some of our artists at a later date, but I just want to give you a photographic overview of the work we did this past week, and the environment we work in.  Some of the unusual colors you may see are underpaintings designed for specific effects later on.  Also, keep in mind these photos are just snapshots.  We all know what a picture is worth, so here it goes:















In related news, I got a new easel. I used a French easel until I wore it out, so I bought a new, more robust travel easel.  After much research, I settled on the “Belmont” by Jack Richeson.  It can support the larger size boards I often work on, can tilt forward for pastels, and lay flat for oil glazing or watercolor. Yes, other easels can do all this as well, but this one is special in important respects: it is made of renewable lyptus wood AND it’s on wheels so I can use it for a sort of hand truck when loading my supplies after a workshop (Of course, never put heavier things on it–it’s not really a hand truck, after all :-)).  I got it from Madison Art Supply who had the best price at the time.  They provided quick delivery, too.

What sold me on this particular easel is that another of our members had one, and one day, he showed me how easy and FAST it was to set up and take down.  I was amazed and “sold” at the same time.  The fact that it was from Richeson was a plus, because their company is at the top when it comes to customer service.  They will make sure you are happy with your purchase, especially if you have a problem.  And in this case, I did have a problem: the bottom tray didn’t grip well enough and wanted to drift downward (over the course of hours of painting) and I had to readjust it periodically.  It wasn’t an urgent problem, but I called them about it anyway.  They sent me another tray and made sure it got to me by the second day of the workshop!  These people are incredible so consider Jack Richeson brand the next time you need art supplies.

The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild does one-week workshop intensives three times per year, and in addition, we get together to paint all day on the third Saturday of every month.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and are interested in finding out more or possibly joining our colony, please let me know through this blog.  ~Marsha


We recognize whether an art object has good proportion or not by whether it is pleasing to our eye (or not), although we may not always be able to say why.  This phenomenon is related to the Golden Mean, a proportion that goes all the way back to antiquity. It is an aspect of beauty that we can easily adopt in our designs and be assured of success.

A portrait that goes to the waist will look more visually pleasing than one that goes to the armpit.  Why?  It is the Golden Mean.  The head in relation to the torso is the Golden Mean Ratio of 1:1.6, or 3 parts wide and 5 parts tall.


Portrait in progress by Marsha Rhodes Gilliam


Portrait in progress by Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

You will find that most Renaissance portraits are done in ¾ view with the model looking back at the spectator because, if you run a central divisional line right down the face, there will be one part of the face to one side of the division, and 1.6 parts to the other side of the division—the Golden Mean.

This Golden Ratio was used extensively by Leonardo da Vinci.  Look at his Last Supper and notice how the primary dimensions of the center, the room and the table were based on it.  You can also see it in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa; here are some Golden Mean divisions, superimposed:


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In addition to the Renaissance Old Masters, many other famous painters from Dali and Seurat, to Bouguereau and Burne-Jones have made extensive use of the ratio as well.


As a painter, you must create unity in your composition to make its message and visual impact cohesive.  Unity is the constant characteristic of all great art, and designing with the repetition of ratios helps to create and maintain that cohesion. Unity is an essential attribute of superior art, whether a portrait, landscape, or still life, and the repetition of ANY ratio will add unity (but the Golden Mean is best).

Let us say you wanted to do a landscape with 20% ground and 80% clouds (2:10 ratio).  You would make the composition more visually pleasing by including a stand of trees placed at the proper ratio.  Divide your surface horizontally into 10 parts and, at 2 parts of 10, place the trees; that ratio of 2:10 echoes the ratio of ground to sky.  And the more often you echo that ratio, even to the construction of rocks and trees, the more unity your painting will have and the more visually pleasing it will be.

When designing, do a geometric pattern that adheres to the Golden Mean first.  Then drop in recognizable images to take the place of those geometric patterns.

5 is to 13 as 1 is to 1.618.  In other words, since the Golden Mean is actually a hair less than 1/3, one of the easiest ways to implement the ratio in your paintings is to apply the Rule of Thirds on your design to guide you in your placement of important focal areas.  Divide your drawing surface by placing a “tic-tac-toe” of nine equal blocks on it. The four points where the lines intersect indicate the best points for high interest locations.  The human eye likes these areas and gravitates toward them. Avoid centering your subject. In addition, don’t place your horizon line across the center of your composition—use one of the horizontal grid lines instead. You can break any of those nine areas down further by dividing into thirds again, then again, depending upon your design objectives.


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