Work from our Life Drawing Class

There are many drop-in life drawing classes around Melbourne, which are fantastic for artists who have experience in drawing from the figure. Here at Melbourne Art Class, we run a unique, six-week Introduction to Life Drawing Course, tutored by a number of our talented artists / teachers. We have designed this course for students who would like to learn the fundamentals of life drawing and receive one-on-one tuition in a supportive environment. During this course, students learn different techniques for drawing the figure, and many of our students complete the course multiple times to hone in on different skills with our teachers’ guidance.

Our current Life Drawing Course is presented by Hilmi Baskurt, and the students have achieved incredible results in such a short time! You can see some of their brilliant work below.

Our next Life Drawing Course will be presented by artist Jesse Dayan, and this will sadly be his final short course at MAC. It has been an absolute honour having Jesse teach our Life Drawing short courses, and we are very fortunate that he will still be able to run Life Drawing workshops here at Melbourne Art Class in the future.

You can find out more about our tutored Life Drawing Courses and enrol here.

Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Final work from our Portraiture Course

Marco Corsini recently held a seven-week Introductory Portraiture Course, and the group of artists that took part helped make it one of our best portraiture courses yet!

During the course, Marco introduced students to the fundamentals of portraiture through working from various plaster casts. The class then spent a session creating self-portraits, with incredible results. Marco has commented that these become special drawings for him as a teacher.

“Every time we have drawn these self portraits from a mirror, whether it is a child drawing or an adult, inexperienced or experienced, I find the resulting drawings so intimate, that I feel like a trace of the person is in them. It is always for me, a significant moment.”

Marco (teacher)

You can click on the images below to enlarge them.

The final four weeks were spent painting from a life model, with the students created some brilliant finished pieces. We want to highlight that most of these students were complete beginners, and we are very proud of how far they have come just after second weeks, and everyone should be very proud of their results!

We want to thank everyone who was a part of this course, as we believe we were really part of something special. We will be running another portraiture course later in the year – so watch this space!

Incredible works from our Drawing Course

Another Introductory Sketching Course has just drawn to a close, and the students are extremely pleased with their results!

During the first of six lessons with Hilmi Baskurt, students are free to draw however they like. Hilmi’s instructions began after this initial drawing, which is put to the side to compare with the final drawing at the end of the course. You may not be able to believe that complete beginners created these drawings from Still Life below..!

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Introducing Michelle Zuccolo – our new teacher

We are excited to introduce to you a new artist, and teacher who is joining our group of master teachers here at MAC – Michelle Zuccolo!

Michelle Zuccolo

Michelle will initially be teaching our new Introductory Watercolour Course and our Studio Art Course for Teenagers – two art classes which are in high demand.

Michelle Zuccolo (MA (Visual Arts), BA (Fine Art), DipEd, IB cert., not only brings her extensive training to MAC, she is also an extremely accomplished, practicing artist who has maintained an ongoing exploration into the human form and its depiction in art.

Her work is underpinned by an interest in the human psyche, expressed in related portraiture paintings, life drawing and sculpture. She has been a finalist in many awards, including:

  • Portia Geach Memorial Award, E. H. Erwin Gallery, Sydney in 2011, 2013 and 2014, represented each time with a self-portrait.
  • In 2015 and 2016 she was a semi-finalist in The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.
  • Five times in the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing.
  • Two times finalist in the Spring Festival of Drawing, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.
  • Two times finalist in the ARC Yinnar Drawing prize.
  • Finalist in the Castlemaine State Festival Dominique Segan Drawing Prize.
  • She has also been represented in the Australian 7th Drawing Biennale held at Drill Hall.
Michelle Zuccolo, Whispering, pencil on paper

Michelle was also a recipient of the ISS Italian Services Institute International Fellowship in 2013. There, she was fortunate enough to been able to conduct research in Italy and Austria, studying classical and medieval art forms. Inspired and enriched by this experience, her artwork continues to reference and celebrate the human form and architecture, with symbolic and religious undertones.

Michelle has taught Visual Art for over twenty-five years at various levels of education including Secondary and we are very fortunate to have her join us at MAC.

She will be taking our Introductory Watercolour Course beginning on July 21, and her Teens’ Studio Art Couse in August.

Van Gogh’s Still Life

Still Life with Apples and Pumpkins, Vincent Van Gogh, September 1885, oil on canvas, Nuenen

Van Gogh and the seasons has been the fastest selling show in the history of the National Gallery of Victoria. Over 150,000 people visited the exhibition during the first month. There have been a number of people comment that they had expected to see Sunflowers, or Starry Night, and they were surprised by his darker work. As Van Gogh’s artistic career only spanned 10 years, only finding his most well-known style two and a half years before his death in Arles, we are taking a closer look at his earlier works. The years of study preceding the painting of Still Life with Apples and Pumpkins in 1885 play an important role in the establishment of Van Gogh’s dynamic style and the paintings that have become household names.

Under Anton Mauve’s short-lived tutelage, Van Gogh was introduced to still life objects. Normally a painting teacher would make their student study the work of another artist before they began their own compositions. Mauve, however, set up still lifes for Van Gogh, including apples, pumpkins and cabbages. This appealed to Van Gogh because, for him, they symbolised the harvest, and peasant life.

Van Gogh was living in Nuenen at the time he painted Still Life with Apples and Pumpkins. This was a particularly prolific period of his life; he produced 195 paintings, 313 drawings, 25 water colours, and 19 sketches in his letters to his brother Theo. [1]

Studying still life was not only cheap for Van Gogh (he did not have to pay for a model to sit for him), it also provided exercises in exploring light and how it affects colour. His palette was fairly limited, with mainly earthy tones, particularly dark brown. You cannot see any indication that this young artist would paint with such vivid colours, only two years later!

Van Gogh was aware that still lifes did not sell very well, however he wrote to Theo, “it is damned useful, and I shall continue to paint them this winter.” [2] You can see how Van Gogh has used the painting above as a very effective exercise in light and shadow.

Van Gogh also used still life to learn how to represent form using colour on the canvas. He applied varying tones of a limited number of colours to depict how the light fell and turned on the surface of objects to create planes, and form. Writing about his piece below, Van Gogh explained to Theo that he tried “to express the material in such a way that they become heavy, solid lumps – which would hurt you if they were thrown at you, for instance.” [3]

Basket of Potatoes, Vincent Van Gogh, oil on canvas, 1885

Only a year after he painted these still lifes, Van Gogh moved to Paris to live with his brother, and these dark colours were flushed out of his paintings and were replaced with the growing spectrum of Impressionist colour.

Written by Lauren Ottaway


[3] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 425 to Theo van Gogh. Written 4 September 1885

[3] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 425to Theo van Gogh. Written 4 September 1885

Fractured Dwellings: Rosi Griffin

Paintings that describe fragmented domestic spaces populated with disintegrating walls, are timely. They come when the industrial spaces around Rosi Griffin’s Collingwood studio are rapidly transforming with new developments continually springing up for a swelling inner city population. They come at a time when massive rises in Australian house prices have turned property development and residential renovation into a national sport when glossy magazine style layouts of idealised domestic spaces cloud our image of that the home has been for most of us.

Fragmented Dwelling, Rosi Griffin, acrylic on canvas, 122x91cm

The paintings, Fragmented Dwelling and Urban Transformation, describe this time as the disintegration of the domestic space. Not only is the possibility of ownership becoming more remote for emerging generations but for those that have a home, the domestic space is now set in the context of surrounding development and unattainable images of perfection. The domestic space is being threatened on many levels as materialistic impulses cloud out communal and familial impulses. The stability and viability of that space is being torn, dislocated and shredded like the walls in these paintings. We can no longer claim to be escaping the slums, as Modernism claimed almost century ago, rather, it is now all for the sake of the new and the ideal as dictated by fake images of domestic perfection.

Urban Transformation, Rosi Griffin, mixed media on board, 60x50cm

Walls create a space that not only protect, but also provide a known place, and in that place gradually builds a narrative of belonging. The experience of a neighbourhood, the identification with a place are held by familiar walls. The walls of our home, the walls of our streets, are pages on which our stories are written. Without them we fall into a a perpetual present with no past, perpetual change eroding a language of belonging. Language of home gradually disintegrates and becomes abstracted until all that we have in its place are traces of memory of what was. As in Build after demolition, we no longer have identifiable walls, just the trace of walls that define a present space with no history and no story. Edges without containment and protection.

Build after demolition, Rosi Griffin, acrylic on canvas, 112x140cm

Opening Friday 2 June, 6 pm to 8 pm at St Heliers Street Gallery, Abbotsford Covent, 1 St Heliers Lane, Abbotsford.

Written by Marco Corsini

Shepherd and his Flock, Vincent Van Gogh

Shepherd and his Flock, Vincent Van Gogh, September 1884, oil on canvas on cardboard, Nuenen

Van Gogh lived with his parents between 1883 and 1885 in Nuenen. During his time there, he met Antoon Hermans, a successful, retired goldsmith, with whom Van Gogh wanted “to remain on good terms if possible”. [1] From Van Gogh’s perspective, Hermans was “rich and has built a house that he’s filled with antiques again, and furnished with some very fine oak chests. He decorates the ceilings and walls himself, and really well sometimes.”[1]

Hermans was also an amateur painter, and Van Gogh took him on as a student. This may come as a surprise with the knowledge that Van Gogh began pursuing his artistic career only four years earlier. Van Gogh had previous teaching experience after taking up a position at a boy’s school in Ramsgate, England after he lost his job at Boupil & Cie, the Art Dealers in Paris in 1876. He really enjoyed his time teaching, so much so he questioned it, writing to Theo, “These are really happy days, the ones I’m spending here, day after day, and yet it’s a happiness and peacefulness that I don’t trust entirely, though one thing can lead to another.” [2] There was also material motivation behind Van Gogh teaching amateurs how to paint, as he told Theo, “I have a plan, though, to gradually get people to pay something — not in money, however, but by telling them ‘you must give me tubes of paint.’ [3] Van Gogh taught Hermans whilst he lived in Nuenen, and he also took on tanner Anton Kerssemakers and telegrapher Willem van de Wakker as students. Van Gogh taught them general painting techniques and how to paint still lifes.

Hermans was a particularly interesting student, because he wanted Van Gogh’s help to paint the interior walls of his house. Hermans had already painted flowers on twelve panels of his dining room, and he wanted Van Gogh to help him design images of saints for the remaining six panels. Van Gogh thought that scenes depicting the four seasons would be more suitable, and Shephard and his Flock above, is one of the images that Van Gogh created for Hermans to enlarge. This painting represented autumn. He has created a strong feeling of an oncoming stark winter with the angular, leafless trees. The contrast of the bright pasture and flock of white sheep against the dark, looming clouds and night setting in, vividly creates the feeling of a cold autumn evening.

As with a lot of Van Gogh’s work, Jean-Francois Millet’s influence can also be seen:

Jean-François Millet – Shepherd Tending His Flock, oil on canvas, 1860

Van Gogh also used this project to improve his drawing of the human figure, as he engaged various models to complete the painting studies. He initially sketched an ox-cart in the snow (which was later replaced with wood-gatherers in the snow), a ploughman, a sower, a grain harvest, a potato harvest, and the above sower. He then created oil paintings from the sketches. Van Gogh made an agreement with Hermans that he would create six compositions for him to reproduce onto his walls, only if Hermans returned the paintings to him. It is unconfirmed if Hermans ever returned his paintings, or paid Van Gogh for the work.

Written by Lauren Ottaway

[1] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Monday 4 August 1884

[2] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Saturday 6 May 1876

[3] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Monday 17 November 1874

Van Gogh, The Sower – a closer look

The Sower, Vincent Van Gogh, December 1882, pencil, brush and ink, watercolour, The Hague

After following his brother Theo’s advice to pursue art, Van Gogh went to study anatomy at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1880. He returned to his parents’ home in 1881, where he focused heavily on drawing, and thus begun his serious artistic exploration.

Van Gogh greatly admired Jean-François Millet’s and his work had a profound influence on the emerging artist. Millet, who had quite a modest background, created nostalgic tributes to farmers, and Van Gogh identified with them and recognised the compassion in Millet’s work, which he highly valued.

Van Gogh began studying Millet’s work and produced drawings in order to learn how to paint. He drew The Sower (after Millet), pictured below, which was based on a black and white print of the painting. Van Gogh’s interpretation of the monochrome reproduction led to some interesting, minor inconsistencies; the grains that Van Gogh’s sower is scattering behind him were actually birds in Millet’s work.

That year Van Gogh also travelled to The Hague to try and sell his work, and to also meet with his second cousin, and successful artist, Anton Mauve. He returned to The Hague to study under Mauve a few months later after working in pastels and charcoal as Mauve had instructed. However, after a short month together, and a strained relationship, they had a final falling out about drawing from plaster casts. “First and foremost, I had to draw from plaster casts. I utterly detest drawing from plaster casts – yet I had a couple of hands and feet hanging in the studio, though not for drawing. Once he spoke to me about drawing from plaster casts in a tone that even the worst teacher at the academy wouldn’t have used, and I held my peace, but at home I got so angry about it that I threw the poor plaster mouldings into the coal-scuttle, broken. And I thought: I’ll draw from plaster casts when you lot become whole and white again and there are no longer any hands and feet of living people to draw.” [1]

The Sower, which Van Gogh produced at The Hague, is particularly poignant to the body of work on exhibition at the NGV, and Van Gogh himself, because it is a depiction of the seasons and the people who toil in order to maintain a meagre life. Van Gogh had lived in many rural areas and was captivated by the sowing of the wheat, the harvest, the sheaves of wheat in fields, and the haystacks, which you see increasingly in his later work in the late 1880s. The sower, amongst other working-class figures engaged in the field, formed a body of work ‘from the people for the people’, which Van Gogh thought ‘would be a good thing – not commercially but as a matter of public service and duty’[2]. He planned to produce thirty low-cost prints to create this body of work. Van Gogh sent photographs of four of his drawings of people working in the fields, including the Sower, to his brother (first image above). This is how he described the work to Theo, “Then a second Sower, with a light brown fustian jacket and trousers, so this figure stands out light against the black field, bordered by a little row of pollard willows. This is quite a different type, with a clipped beard, broad shoulders, rather thick-set, somewhat like an ox, in that his whole frame has been shaped by his labour in the fields. Perhaps more of an Eskimo type, thick lips, broad nose.’ [2]

Van Gogh wanted to show these figures in action – not at rest, because ‘there is more drudgery than rest in life.’  He worked on these series of working-class drawings because he tried ‘to work for the truth.’ [2]

The Sower (after Millet), Vincent Van Gogh, Oil on canvas, late October 1889, Saint-Rémy.

Millet’s influence on Van Gogh was clear during the early stages of his career. When he was living in Paris in 1886-87, his focused shifted from the fields to the Parisienne cafes. However, the countryside returned to his work when he moved to Arles in 1888, and then over three months from late 1889 to early 1990, Van Gogh produced twenty-one copies of Millet’s work. During this time Van Gogh was in the asylum at Saint- Rémy, and he described to Theo his own interpretations of the Millet’s works. ‘If someone plays Beethoven, he adds his own personal interpretation; in the music, especially in the singing, the interpretation also counts and the composer doesn’t have to be the only one to perform his compositions. Anyway, especially now I am ill, I am trying to create something to comfort me, for my own pleasure. I put the black and white by or after Delacroix or Millet in front of me to use as a motif. And then I improvise in colour […] seeking reminiscences of their paintings; but the memory, the vague consonance of colours while are at least correct in spirit, that is my interpretation.’ [3]

Written by Lauren Ottaway

[1] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 229 to Theo van Gogh. Written Friday 21 April 1882

[2] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 291 to Theo van Gogh. Written 3-5 December 1882

[3] Vincent van Gogh. Letter 607 to Theo van Gogh. Written 19 September 1889

Huge progress made in our second beginners’ Portraiture Class

We have only had two sessions of our beginner’s Portraiture Course with Marco. After our second session, during which everyone worked so hard (you could hear a pin drop!), the work produced was a huge step up from the first class (Marco must be doing something right)! Take a look at the impressive work from last weeks’ class below.

Marcus and Monica’s work
Victoria and Hualan’s work
KC, charcoal on paper, 2017
Peter Quarry, charcoal on paper, 2017
Monica Jackson, charcoal on paper, 2017
Lauren Ottaway, charcoal on paper, 2017


Vincent Van Gogh’s works at the NGV

Over the three months that Melbourne is home to an awe-inspiring collection of Van Gogh’s works spanning his life and representative of the seasons through which he viewed and painted the world, we will be taking a closer look at some of his works at the NGV.

Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, 1884, Vincent Van Gogh, oil on canvas, 

In October 1884, Van Gogh sent a letter to his brother Theo, along with some small photos of his recent works, so that Theo (who was an art dealer) would have something to show of his work, if the opportunity arose. In the letter, he described Avenue of Poplars in Autumn as “The last thing I made is a rather large study of an avenue of poplars, with yellow autumn leaves, the sun casting, here and there, sparkling spots on the fallen leaves on the ground, alternating with the long shadows of the stems. At the end of the road is a small cottage, and over it all the blue sky through the autumn leaves.”[1]

From this passionate and intricate description alone, you can get a real sense of Van Gogh’s love for Autumn. It was his favourite season, and he wrote in 1882, “I sometimes yearn for a country where it would always be autumn, but then we’d have no snow and no apple blossom and no corn and stubble fields.” [2]

Van Gogh was living back with his parents in Nuenen, in Norther Brabant, at the time he painted this work. A few months earlier he had been living alone in northern Netherlands, and, driven by loneliness, moved back to his parents’ house. Van Gogh was drawing and painting fervently at the time and the darkness in this image would carry through to his future work.

He began painting in oils in the early 1880s and really enjoyed the medium. You can see the liberal application of the paint in the details of the textured lines used to create the tall poplars and the woman in the foreground. The vibrant Autumn colours and soft graduated sky, combined with the tall, dark shadows, create an undisputable feeling of the season – something which Van Gogh, over his short ten-year career, translated onto the canvas with genius.

The melancholic interpretation of the painting inspired author Greg Bogarerts to write Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, a tragic story of the lone figure in the painting.

[1] [2] Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written late October 1884 in Nuenen.

Written by Lauren Ottaway.