What happens every week in Marco’s Studio Art Class

Marco Corsini’s Studio Art is a term-based course and has tended to be an eclectic fusion of talks and presentations by Marco (about four or five per term), guest speakers (one per term) and studio time.

We have a range of students attending this course; from dedicated, practising artists who have been with us for over three years, high school students supplementing their in-hours art classes, to creative people who just need an outlet.

The skill level is extremely varied as well – students tend to either be beginners who are guided through the fundamentals, or more experienced and ongoing artists who work on their own projects with Marco’s guidance. That’s the beauty of our Studio Art program – you can be the creative individual that you are, in an encouraging, non-judgemental environment, and also receive critical and professional artistic guidance if that is what you seek.

Lauren Ottaway, Red Kitchen, acrylic on canvas, 2015. Completed in Studio Art Class

We have had individuals on a Tuesday, arrive inspired with a new set of stamps and a stamp pad and stamp on huge pieces of paper all night, whilst others work painstakingly at an oil painting they have been focusing on for weeks. And we always have one or two beginners working on exercises set by Marco with his still life arrangement. The mix of people and their combined creativity is truly inspiring.

This class nurtures creativity and expression, and many students also find it an oasis from the “daily grind”. I was part of the class for three years and it was like a breath of fresh air where I was able to access that creative flow where time does not exist. Having this in my busy, corporate week was invaluable.

Marco’s Studio Art class is where I began to take my art practice seriously. Many of the materials are provided for beginners so the program allows a cost effective entry into art practice.

The class is limited to ten students to allow one-on-one tuition. Enrolments are now open for next term: https://melbourneartclass.com/studio-art/.

Why is Still Life so important?

Still Life – a collection of inanimate objects – does not inspire everyone, and after drawing the same curved vase ten times, beginners often want to move on to “more exciting things” like the human figure, portraiture, landscapes, abstract work etc. However, Still Life is an important genre for every artist; through it you explore line, composition, value or tone, space and nearly every type of texture, just to begin with. It can be the foundation of your art practice, or a complete and fascinating subject in itself, plus many of technical problems in painting can be resolved with Still Life practice.

If you study the Masters – both modern and classic, many works are Still Life paintings. In other works, Still Life plays what you think may be a minor roll, but as you begin to study them, you begin to realise how important it is to the painting as a whole. Artists such as Giorgio Morandi dedicated himself to working with Still Life throughout his own life with the enigmatic results still delighting viewers today. Picasso famously commented on the anxiety in Cezanne’s apples being what held his interest in the work.

“It’s not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cezanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacques-Emile Blanche, even if the apple he painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our attention is Cezanne’s anxiety – that’s Cezanne’s lesson.”

Clearly, Still Life can be a extremely powerful genre in the right hands.

Why should you draw and paint Still Life?

Paul Cézanne, "Fruit Bowl, Glass, and Apples" (1879-1882)
Paul Cézanne, “Fruit Bowl, Glass, and Apples” (1879-1882)



Did you begin drawing cylinders and cylinders and more cylinders until they began to resemble cups and vases and wine bottles? Think about all the lines in a Still Life – the fragile petals of a flower; the curve of a lamp in front of a hard-edged wooden box. The smooth skin of a dotted pumpkin, with deep grooves all meeting at one point; the tiny crosshatches on a folded piece of hessian on which a delicate teacup sits. This is where you learn how to draw a wealth of lines and render different surfaces and textures. It takes discipline but these skills can then be transferred to Life Drawing and portraiture, or whatever you would like to explore.

Lights and darks

A Still Life composition is where you can truly learn how to render lights and darks; value, also called tone. It is challenging but a place where every beginner should start and every seasoned artist should return. You can explore tonal range in Still Life – from the crisp white folds in a cloth to the deep, dark shadows cast upon it by a vase – and all the values in between. This is where you really learn how to “see”. A tip from our teachers is to squint at the subject in front of you – this can help you see the difference between the lights and darks more clearly. When painting Still Life, you quickly learn about colour mixing and how to mix a black (which you find out in our painting classes), and how to handle paint.

Francisco de Zurbarán, Bodegón or Still Life with Pottery Jars (1636)
Francisco de Zurbarán, Bodegón or Still Life with Pottery Jars (1636)


In art classes the Still Life is often arranged for you, although you may have the opportunity to choose which part of the composition you want to draw. Drawing and painting Still Life will help you identify how a composition can be modified for a particular effect. You can experiment with different compositions, create focal points and guide the viewer’s eye through compositions.

Still Life classes at Melbourne Art Class

This term we are offering Painting from Still Life with Hilmi Baskurt. In the class, students are encouraged to develop conceptual understanding and technical proficiency in painting. This seven-week course will be held on Saturday afternoons from January 30th. You can find out more information and enrol here: http://melbourneartclass.com/painting-from-still-life/.

In Marco’s Tuesday night term-based Studio Art Class, you have the opportunity to work from a different Still Life composition every week. You are free to use any medium you wish, or work on your own projects in the class. You can enrol or find out more here: http://melbourneartclass.com/enderby-studio-art-program/.

Returning to the River

I’ve just come back from camping and I’m drying out tents. Huge cubist polyester birds in hues of green, stretched by rope hanging over our back courtyard between a row of pencil pines and the fence. Defeated by the alpine rain and now drying, so as to be packed away. Soon the array of camping gear around the house will also be filed away to distant corners and hiding places. The underside of our bed will become an impenetrable block of chairs, tents and camping mattresses, not to be emptied and dusted until the next time we need the ‘gear’. This is camping for the inner-city dweller.

I went back to the river. Not any river; the King River in North East, Victoria. This river supplies and feeds the King Valley, its agriculture and my home town. A thriving tobacco industry existed back then, our Italian families had settled in the area and contributed to the major part of that local industry. As children and teenagers we spent long hours in the river’s not quite tamed waters. In swimming holes where ‘snags’ or fallen logs and other uncertain things hid, where occasionally we could even see a snake swimming.

All along the valley, the river’s flood plains were seasonally under threat from floods. The King River flows into the Ovens and it is there that my home town of Wangaratta lay under regular threat of flooding until a levy bank was built around it’s perimeter. I remember seeing a VW Beetle that had been swept off the flooded, washed out road near the town of Cheshunt, ending up three hundred metres downstream, wedged in a River Red Gum. Apparently its driver had to sit there above the flood waters and wait to be rescued.

I also remember the men of the town leaving work to help sand bag houses that lay close to the flooding One Mile creek. My father, old Bill and I in a row boat as we rowed through the flood waters at the garage where dad had come to work after he had to leave the family farm as a young man. We rowed through to collect the tools off the back of a truck dad had been working on. Old Bill who wasn’t so old back then, rowing. Bill, wirey in stature, toughened by growing up in the the Great Depression, a carpenter who would never buy a new piece of timber, when another could be recycled.

I came to Melbourne and the other world cities I have lived in because I needed them. I needed their knowledge. I needed to know that what I had within me would not be lost and could be connected with the great artistic narratives of the world. Or maybe I came because Greg who was with me when I was painting in Dad’s garage, told me he could not see me staying in Wangaratta. Greg who would scramble to hide my Beastie Boys tape (which he quietly hated) in my Valiant before I could find and play it loud as we drove down to the local swimming hole.

I returned to the river. We have found a place with a beautiful swimming hole not far from from Lake William Hovell, an imposing man-made lake that sits in the hills at the base of the Alpine region. We swim, we eat; we try to avoid the rain, but inevitably get rained on. I go to rest and to be with my family. Actually, I spend most of my time working, setting up camp and cleaning, but it is all done in the context of these magnificent mountains and I seem to soak up the essence of them like I soak up the water.

In the past I have often gone to actively look for inspiration for my work, sketching and collecting, but not this time. After a busy year and with my head full of such stuff as art school budgets, course plans and even the pressure that I place within myself to produce something out of my painting days I have in my own studio, I allowed myself not to feel I had to produce anything. I needed to let go.

Upon arriving I soon realised I was operating as camp manager and parent, always slightly anxious and always looking, checking and cross checking for logistics and possible dangers. Very far from my artist mind and any notion of creativity. I wanted to feel something deeper and thankfully as time went by I found that the environment began to seduce me with its complexity and strange, stark beauty. My sight or the way I saw things began to change. Beauty, or what I call beauty, filtered into my consciousness. I was awed by the erosion of the river into the bank and the smooth river stones imbedded in an overhang which formed part of a layer that was intertwined with tree roots from a tree that perhaps one day will just lean over and fall into the river.  While swimming I could look up at this fusion of elements and species, seemingly random yet so intricately magnificent. A little slice of the complexity of the universe laying at edge of the river with moss, little ferns, the alien blackberry bushes and countless plants and bushes sitting on a loose arrangement of precariously undercut river stones, roots and earth.

I began to reflect on the King River as a source. It’s river stone beds and shallow streams, sometimes bubbling around arrangements of boulders, sometimes disappearing into deep, dark, still waters, which had never been beautiful to me when growing up and I had never thought of its significance in our lives beyond its supply of water. The river as a source which had branded a primordial sense of dependancy and intimacy within me over my half life time. The river that constantly flowed, had always flowed, will always flow. The river that bound us around itself and preserved us. I slowly connected to the idea of source and slowly felt that my own dependancy on this source was being revealed. That I had felt a need for years now, to constantly return to this source. I began to connect with the notion of origin and that just as I sat on the banks of this river or swam or drank from it, all I could ever do was draw close to it, to be within in, return to it. I had to return to this river. I have always returned to the King River.

In the city, as I studied art, I was taught to question the idea of source or origin. So I went looking for another way to understand what we were and how in encountering each other we could understand ourselves. I found the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas who had settled upon building an understanding of ethics based upon encounters between people. Meaning and ethics are derived from encounters and the values highlighted by those encounters.  So, that is often how I live, understanding myself through encounters with others, in the negotiation between myself and others. Returning to the idea of source is for me, to step back to absolute origins where meaning is not negotiated, it already exists.  Call it Logos, God or call it the creative universe, which ever way, meaning and values begin to reveal itself in the text of the mountains and the water. The complexity of this universe is not negotiated when I immerse myself in it, rather it is read, as the veil of everyday life falls away. Meaning and values are observed or perhaps experienced through the magnificence of what one is looking at. Celtic spirituality speaks of certain places where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. For me the veil at the King River is thin, falling away easily to reveal a deeper sense of self, with a stronger current of creativity at its origins.

If the town in which I grew up in is culture, mixing and clashing, negotiating meaning within encounters and reimagining; if Wangaratta is everyday life with all its distractions and tensions, then it sits, unbeknown to itself as a beneficiary of the river that gives it life, a beneficiary from a source that is far more magnificent in scope and complexity than the physical town itself, and yet mostly unrecognised or unnoticed until the floods come.

Awakened by the river and its surrounds, I began to use Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, whereby you write three uncensored pages every morning, first thing. This is a fantastic un-blocker for creatives and I am once again blown away by how effective it is. What a thin veil exists between our everyday selves and the inner creative self that links back into our own creative origins. I found myself further able to imagine and see.

Today would have been the third day I used Julia Cameron’s exercises. I woke up, took my journal, a few books and a pen and I went outside to begin my Morning Pages. I sat in a chair beneath my drying tents. I sat and stared at the magnificence of the forms, the tension in the fabric, deep caverns and the ropes. With other equipment scattered and visually intertwined amongst the forms, I was overcome with new ideas and inspirations. I did not feel that I was producing anything or offering anything for negotiation. I simply had seen something and the implications of that something lept onto my mind from its source. I felt like I was receiving a present as child. I had received.

I drew. I imagined a new work.  How thin the veil between ourselves and our creative origins.

Written by Marco Corsini

Exquisite bouquets from our Floral Design Course

The first term of our Introduction to Floristry Workshops saw a number of students who had never before arranged flowers produce exquisite bouquets. Over the four weeks, Carolyn focused on different techniques and arrangements, including elegant, textured bouquets with bouvardia and freesias and striking modern table arrangements. Below are some moments from the course. Each student took home their creations each week, which they were very happy with! We are extremely proud of the professional arrangements they created. Carolyn will be running another Introduction to Floristry Workshop beginning in April. You can find out more information and enrol here.

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How to take quality photographs of your artwork

Taking quality photos of your artwork is very important. Whether you are taking for an art competition, blog or social media post, it is imperative that you achieve the closest likeness to your artwork as possible.

Subtle things such as yellow light and the angle of your camera can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your photograph. However, taking a photograph of your artwork like a professional is not that difficult to achieve!

Lighting, positioning and your camera set-up

These are the basic things you need to consider when taking a photograph of your artwork.

It goes without saying that a quality digital camera (like an SLR) with high mega pixels is going to achieve greater depth and quality in your photos, but if you follow the below tips you can create quality photos with almost any type of camera.

  • You need to choose where you will shoot your artwork – inside or outdoors. If you are taking photographs outside, be mindful of glare and position your artwork where you can get an even amount of light.
  • Set your artwork up on an easel as perpendicular as possible. Your artwork’s edges must be parallel with the view finder of the camera. If it is tilted at all, the shape or your artwork will be distorted. Try not to zoom in too much, and leave as little space around the artwork as you can (which you can edit later on the computer).
  • If you are taking photographs indoors, make sure the light is coming from one source, either natural light from a window or one fluorescent overhead. Also make sure that the fluorescent light is not green or yellow, because this can really affect the colour of your artwork. Your camera might have a “white balance” setting for florescent, halogen, lamp, candle etc. which you can experiment with.
  • You can either use the auto-focus centre on your camera, or the manual set-up if you can. For manual set-up, you will want to have the aperture lower, which will let in less light and give the image more depth. Ideally you would use a tripod, or rest the camera on a surface to keep the camera stable.
  • Try to take a lot of pictures of your artwork. It takes a bit of effort to set up the photograph, so it is better to have a lot of images to choose from when you load them onto your computer.

Once you have done this a few times you will get to know your camera and hopefully find a good location to take photographs.

In this digital age, where over 1.8 billion images are uploaded everyday on Instagram alone*, it is important to publish quality. Every image of your artwork on the internet is part of your on-line folio.

* http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/now-upload-share-1-8-billion-photos-everyday-meeker-report-224688.html

From pet portrait to doggy bag

Lauren Ottaway, a current MAC student, shares her creative journey that led her from paint-brush to screen-printing.

I first painted Louis the Frenchie as a gift for someone with a stocky French bulldog bursting with personality. The reaction from my friends and family for this small 30cm x 20cm pop-art style French bulldog was very positive, and I had an upcoming exhibition at Lentil as Anything so I thought I’d dedicate a portion of it to Louis.

Louis the third, acrylic on canvas, 2013
Louis the third, acrylic on canvas, 2013

I painted another four small canvases in varied colours (using acrylic) and another larger canvas with his face repeated – a bit like Campbell Soup cans. I received a lot of good feedback at the exhibition, and then sat on the idea for a little while as I thought Louis could become a little icon.

A few months ago I came to the conclusion that I wanted to quit my full-time job in marketing, and I remembered that I have always wanted to have a market stall (I might call myself crazy now though)! My cousin is a screen-printer, so I shared my seemingly wild idea about printing Louis on tote bags. She thought it could work, and she had leftover bags and material I could use, so she taught me how to screen print.

Lauren screen printing

Using my cousin’s rusty carousel and a screen with a stencil of Louis cut out using contact, we began producing flawless prints. I was gobsmacked; seeing what was my painting from one year ago on a bag was so exciting! I printed about 20 bags and tea towels, and I was addicted.

The next few days was a mad rush gathering quotes for bag and tea towel wholesalers, and everyone I know pitching ideas about what I could do and how I could do it.

I came up with two more designs – Gus the pug and Wooza the crazy cat.

The next week I found my lounge room full of boxes of bags, tea towels and aprons.

Tea towels finalLauren O Designs 2

And the next week I was furiously printing in my in-laws garage and heat-pressing each piece in preparation for the first market I had been accepted into. If you had told me a year ago that I’d be screen-printing one hundred bags I would have never believed you!

I’m not sure if this is how far Louis and his two new friends will go on this unexpected journey, though I’m loving every step.

Starting up a tiny creative business

After selling at a few markets, I now have so much more respect for people who make and sell things themselves. You have to do everything yourself, from creating tags for the products, to loading the car, setting up shop and keeping a smile on your face whilst people walk past your stall and run their hands along your products.

However, the satisfaction of people purchasing and adoring what you sell is priceless. It is a great outlet to meet like-minded creative people and also seeing what other people are doing inspires me every day. After being exposed to this hand-made community, I have decided to only buy hand-made products and support local artists and creatives this Christmas.

You can find out more about my screen-printing products here: facebook.com/laurenodesigns and see my other artwork here: madebylauren.com.au.

Upcoming markets

Blender Lane Artist Market – 110 Franklin St, City

December 10 and 17, 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Camberwell Christmas Twilight Market – The Parkview Room, 340 Camberwell Road, Camberwell

December 19th 4:30 – 8:00pm

Summer Art Classes at MAC

Over the summer holidays many of us our leave our paintbrushes and pencils where we left them after our final art class. So we have introduced two new short courses to motivate you to continue your art practice throughout the break. These short courses are also great gifts to give at Christmas time because the gift of creativity and experience is invaluable. Be sure to request a gift certificate upon payment.

Drawing and Painting Intensive with Marco Corsini – Dec 29th, 30th and 31st

Join Marco this December for a three-day Intensive Drawing and Painting Course.

Marco Corsini, A kind of homecoming, 2014, Oil on linen, 120 cm. x 120 cm.
Marco Corsini, A kind of homecoming, 2014, Oil on linen, 120 cm. x 120 cm.

Marco will combine a series of presentations with personal tuition in drawing and painting, with an emphasis on working from observation and the development of sophisticated technique. Some of the aspects covered include composition, underpainting, representing form, space and texture, colour and its relationship to composition and form, and more.   Find out more information and enrol here

Introduction to Drawing with Hilmi Baskurt – Jan 15th to Jan 29th

This course presents a fantastic opportunity to learn the four elements of sketching with our new teacher, Hilmi Baskurt.

Hilmi Baskurt Untitled
Hilmi Baskurt Untitled

A former student of iconic British painter Frank Auerbach, Hilmi will introduce you to structural sketching, value sketching, Chiaroscuro and contour sketching. Hilmi earned a Master of Fine Art degree in painting from Royal Academy of Arts and his Masters’ thesis was on the subject of Composition. This drawing course will be extremely beneficial for beginners and artists who would like a refresher over the holidays. Find out more information and enrol here

Children and art

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent earlier today which may be of help in understanding what I am trying to do in the Young Artist Program.

Until the age of thirteen or fourteen a child needs to be reassured that their own creative processes including experimentation and failure are all valid. I am trying to allow the children to emulate the creative processes that I see a mature artist go through. By doing that I am hoping that the child will be equipped with confidence and creative processes to deal with the challenges of anything they choose to take on. At some point the child’s vision widens and seeing skills they do not possess; they choose to acquire those skills. It is at that point that a systematic direction can be given. To some degree these two aspects are present in every child at every stage so I am trying to read the child to know when to let them go and when to give direction and I do that every class.

If the child were to produce mermaids and dogs every week I would not see that as being any different from Fred Williams producing landscapes. My role then is not to distract from the child’s vision but to support them in developing that vision and give technical advice when necessary (which at this age, may or may not be taken on). My other role is to expose the children to art and art processes which I try to do although the children are often so absorbed in their own work they barely seem to notice.

Marco Corsini

Managing a Creative Project

Often, working creatively is seen as a completely intuitive, whimsical and spontaneous process. Nobody that I know, who is producing consistently, works in this way. While intuition and spontaneity do play a part in the creative process often it is just dogged persistence that gives results. I have put together the following chart to help manage and encourage persistence in the creative process.

Managing a Creative Project