Hello, Artists,


We are planning a workshop the week of November 14, 2016, which is our only opportunity window for quite a few months. Can you make it? We will also have a Free Prep Day on November 7, a week before the workshop, in order to help you get a wonderful start. The cost for the 5 days is $489.

Art of the Masters Workshop
When: Nov. 14-18, 2016
Where:  Gilbert, Arizona
Time: daily, 9:00 – 5:00

If you feel undecided, maybe now is the time to get off that fence and embrace your true art self. We promise that you will get more step-by-step art instruction in one week with us, than you will get anywhere else, even in workshops that cost more than twice what we charge. We also give you helpful handouts (most art classes don’t) because we want you to be able to remember and continue working on what we’ve taught you. To us, the most important thing is continuing the legacy of the Old Masters, and we are passionate about passing on their wisdom and techniques to others. We would love to have you with us!

And like Maestro Frank Covino always did, we offer $100 off the cost of your tuition for each of your friends that sign up for the class.

Below is a sample of first-time student drawing (24″ x 30″), in preparation for painting.  Amazing, huh!


Here are things needed for the Free Prep Day:

Materials for board preparation, graphing, and drawing:
Ampersand Gessobord brand surface
metal yardstick and ruler
ultra-fine Sharpies, various colors (black, blue, and red are probably enough)
General’s charcoal pencils, soft
kneaded eraser
High quality photo of Old Master painting to work from, printed on 8 1/2”x11” glossy photo paper, one grayscale, one color–Art Renewal Center is an excellent online museum source–
blending stumps (tortillions)
Exacto knife
spray workable fixative
clear tape

Other helpful items:
transparent 18” triangle
India ink and sable liner brush
artist’s white tape, removable

Please respond below, and we’ll get right back to you!

Marsha and Karen
Art of the Masters


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


Here is the second page of information (referred to in yesterday’s post) that I provide to patrons so they can become more acquainted with the process that goes into creating their classical-style painting. Its title is “On The Process and Materials Used in Your Painting” and here is the link and the text:


I hope you find it helpful.

On The Process and Materials

Used in Your Painting


This painting was created with the finest professional materials,

following the procedures of the Old Masters of the Renaissance. 

The process begins with a carefully selected piece of marine-grade

plywood from fine-grained hardwood or masonite.  The Old Masters

would have used this if it had been available since it does not split

or crack like wood panel, and is highly resistant to warping.


Six to ten coats of Renaissance Bonded Marble are applied to create

a highly reflective white surface.  The ground needs to be as white as

possible because the oil binding in the paint becomes more

translucent with age, thus more light from the white ground is

refracted through it.  This is why the Old Master paintings seem to

have so much depth and luminosity.


Preparatory sketches are used to make a complete, highly-detailed

charcoal drawing directly onto the surface.


Following that, a precise underpainting is executed in verdaccio,

azuraccio, grisaille, or bistre, depending upon the subject.


The medium used is made from these ingredients:

a.  the finest purified, cold-pressed, clear golden linseed oil;

b.  stand oil, used extensively by the Old Masters;

c.  triple-rectified turpentine, the most important of the painter’s

essential oils;

d.  and, dammar varnish is included in the medium, as well as

being the final protective (and removable) coat.


I believe it is the professional painter’s responsibility to warrant

their patron’s trust by ensuring that their purchase will endure the

ages.  I use as few mass-market art materials as possible.  I make

my own dammar varnish and stand oil and trust two or three cottage

colormen for mulling and preparing my tubes of oil paint, thereby allowing

me more personal control over the quality of pigment and grinding oils used.

~~Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

© Marsha Gilliam 2005