Zienna (detail), Anthony Ryder, Oil on Panel, 12x10, 2014


Basic set-up:

It is important that we learn how to use our tools and materials and organize and manage our work environment. This has to do with arranging both the studio as a whole: the lighting, models stands, easels, tables, seating and other furnishings; and the workstation of each student in particular: the canvas or panel, palette, solvent and medium containers, brushes, paper towels, etc.

Manual and Procedural Techniques:

There are efficient ways of doing everything, from cleaning a paintbrush, which takes just a few seconds, to organizing and executing a complex painting, a process that may require weeks or months of effort. At the Ryder Studio, we go into the processes of painting and drawing in depth. We patiently demonstrate the tasks involved while providing real-time explanations.

Pencil Drawing

The handling of pencils and erasers, making lines of various weights, hatching and cross-hatching, and correcting mistakes, all these activities we demonstrate and discuss in both general class lectures and during individual crits.

Fundamental to our way of drawing is the fact that we begin with a linear shape. It may be an envelope, a block-in, or a gestural sketch. Beginners start with the envelope, through which they learn the fundamental principles of our approach to drawing. Next comes the block-in, a complex, composite shape elaborated on the basis of the principles already encountered in the creation of the envelope, with the addition of the internal curve. Finally there’s the gestural sketch, which is a more fluid block-in.

Following this linear-shape beginning, we develop the ‘contour’, a description of the silhouettes of the forms of the body, and we begin to generate the appearance of the forms ‘on the inside’, i.e. those we see within the confines of the contours. This latter process of drawing on the inside entails the application of our understanding of light and shadow, which we duly study.

Portrait Painting

The five stages of the painting process are Poster Study, Charcoal Drawing, Ink-in, Color-Wash Under-Painting, and Form Painting. Click on Form Painting for a brief description.

In each of these stages there are specific ways of handling and applying the materials in a particular sequence, i.e. beginning in a certain way and in a certain place, and proceeding step by step through to the completion of the stage. Like the methods and techniques of pencil drawing, these oil painting processes we demonstrate in both general class lectures and during individual crits. We also address many of the ways we go astray, and the remedies for these errors.

Principles of Light and Form:


The deepest issues of realistic painting and drawing have to do with our recognition of the nature of visual experience. Of what good are the technical skills of painting and drawing if we do not realize what we see with our eyes? But what do we see? The answer is simple and yet exceedingly deep: light. Light is the substance of visual experience. All the impressions we have of everything we see come to us via the mediating action of light.

For us, painters and draftsmen, the study of light is a matter of contemplation, comparison and education.

With regard to the latter, education, we need to learn somewhat of the physics of light. But fortunately, we do not need to know very much, and all that we need to learn intellectually is easily accessible. This is because what we need to know about the physics of light has to do with our everyday visual experience. The colors of things, and the occurrence of light and shadow, since we have seen these things all the days of our lives, are experiences with which we are deeply informed. Though the principles underlying these experiences may be studied in tremendous depth, we need not go further than an understanding of the basics. These basics of light and color we discuss and investigate again and again in the course of our studies. In time, they become our normal parlance.

As it relates to contemplation and comparison, through the processes of painting and drawing, we find ourselves more and more precisely attuned to the experience of vision. Our paintings and drawings gradually improve as we gradually improve in our ability to recognize variations in the value, color and shaped distribution of light.


But, though light is the stuff we see, and without it we see nothing, yet it is in a sense only half of what we see, for unless light interacted with the myriad forms and objects of visual experience, we would see nothing but an undifferentiated brightness: just a big, formless glow. Thus the other half of the visual experience, along with the glowing, shining energy of light, is its formal configuration. In other words, when we look at things we see more than a cloud of light. We see specific images. These are specific, if our eyes could register such fine detail, down to the molecular and atomic levels. For light, in that it shines upon an object, and then reflects from that object, acquires as it were the pattern of the nature of that object, and it is this that we see when we perceive the object.

Consequently, in addition to a familiarity with the way of light, we need also to develop a deep understanding of the formal nature of the objects we wish to portray.

This understanding, as it develops in the artist, is called 'sense of form', and it can go very deep. Indeed, as we see the work of the great masters, we perceive that the pursuit of this understanding can very well be a life-long endeavor. We are very fortunate, in that we have through the teachings of Ted Seth Jacobs, a great wealth of instruction on his subject.

In particular, it is the form of the human body that we study, which form serves us as the prototype and paradigm for all other form, both natural and artificial. At the Ryder Studio, figure drawing is therefore the foundation and cornerstone of everything we do. For, as the saying goes, “If you can draw and paint the human figure, you can draw and paint anything”. This doesn’t mean that you’re automatically a landscape painter, if you draw the figure, but it does mean that through drawing the figure you will absorb an understanding of principles that will deeply inform your work with landscape, or still-life, or any other subject you choose to pursue.

© Ryder 2021