Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Story

The East Bay Figure Painting is one of three groups under the Reemerging Artists grassroots organization. For the benefit of people new to these groups, and in celebration of our three year anniversary on November 28, here's our story:

Birth of the Figure Painting
Susan Brand, Susan Newman, Karen Zullo SherrBarbara Maricle, Mike Warner and Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez met at the figure drawing class that the Richmond Art Center then offered. Their first session was inspired by an invitation from Mike Warner to continue drawing and painting during the Richmond Art Center's winter break. He offered his shop in El Sobrante as our first location. Rebeca created the listserv, a Google group then called West Contra Costa Figure Drawing, on November 15, 2007. It was meant to keep everyone in the loop as they figured out how to keep the sessions going.

Back then, the group was primarily interested in painting the figure, so on November 28, 2007, they met to draw each other - they had no model! The second session took place at Rebeca's studio, and the third, at Karen's. The group hired amateurs until it was able to secure an account with the Bay Area Models' Guild. But the guild booking person at the time thought that sending models to rotating locations would be confusing, so Rebeca offered her studio as the primary location until the start of RAC classes. Soon after, Karen and Rebeca decided a three hour pose was not such a bad idea, so they began scheduling models with this in mind (as opposed to the 20 min poses at the RAC).

After a few weeks of this, they began discussing ways to make the volunteer-run environment welcoming and supportive, and settled for a few principles that are still part of both groups: Membership involved neither fees nor a portfolio review, just a commitment to painting, because they wanted members to have diverse approaches and levels of experience. Through a non-teaching environment, they wanted to encourage and support the development of members’ individual styles, believing this diversity contributes to a developing critical dialogue. And they encouraged members to share their knowledge of online communication, digital image processing, and the art market through free member workshops and joint projects.

For more than a year since its beginning, the figure drawing group continued meeting in Rebeca's small studio, which held a maximum of five painters. Karen and Rebeca shared the booking and coordination, and quickly discovered that a small group of drop-ins cannot always afford the model's fees, so they decided to seek a more spacious location in the spring of 2009. This was the Richmond Art Center at first, but because the center was undergoing a renovation, it was very difficult to stay. This prompted Karen to broker an arrangement with the members of what was then the Berkeley Firehouse Collective during that summer. Along the way, she came up with a new name. By August, Rebeca introduced a blog and a separate listserv for this group, and Karen took over the booking and coordination. The group, now named East Bay Figure Painting, began advertising almost immediately on Craiglist and other venues, to ensure they could cover the model's fees in the new location. The Berkeley location attracts a steady group of 5-9 painters, and they have achieved a supportive environment respectful of diversity in artistic approaches. In 2010 the East Bay Figure Painters put together their first show at the Firehouse Gallery. It was a smashing success. 

Birth of the Landscape Group
At the same time, Karen and Rebeca began painting outdoors together. Their first session took place in 2007 on a very cold Tuesday. On January 8, 2008 they went to Inspiration Point in Berkeley, and they almost froze! They returned there the following week, but did not develop a steady routine until later. For a few months, it was mostly just them and a schedule that moved between Tuesdays and Mondays. From the beginning, they thought about painting on weekends but a busy family schedule made this difficult. Ever so slowly, they began meeting painters who had these days available, and who were very committed to painting outdoors. Mike found Larry Hatfield painting near his house in El Sobrante, and Karen brought Vicki Salzman. They were added to the proto-listserv, which was then open to anyone who wanted to join and held the names of those interested in figure or outdoor painting.

On February 2009 (fourteen months after its start)the listserv was vandalized for the second time and Rebeca was forced to close it, delete it, and start a new one with a new name: East Bay Plein Air. This list continued to include people from both groups until August 2009.

The first blog was devoted to plein air painting, and made its debut in May 4, 2009. Rebeca wanted to have a public space in which to announce locations, since the listserv was no longer open to the public. She also envisioned it as a collaborative space where members could post work done during the group's painting sessions. It quickly gained a big readership because it is updated frequently with members' work. The group also began advertising on Craigslist and on Facebook. Because of this, the group and its listserv have grown. The group now meets twice a week and sends updates to 77 local artists. 

After their 2009 proposal got rejected by a local arts organization, the East Bay Landscape Painters booked their first group exhibit at the San Pablo Gallery. The group changed its name once more in the Spring of 2010 because another, older group with no web presence had held the name for a while and we didn't want to steal their identity. 

After the figure painting exhibit, Karen organized a support group for reemerging artists that was very well-attended, and a volunteer offered to coordinate it. This group is different in that artists get together not to paint or draw, but to discuss their lives and work. This group now has its won blog and listserv.

The three groups exist together as a collaborative network, Re-Emerging Artists. Its mission is to facilitate the re-entry of artists into the art world. It has been three years full of accomplishments!

All comments are welcome...
Rebeca and Karen

Friday, December 17, 2010


These were done in pastel on paper. The
standing figure is on green Colorfix paper. The portrait and standing sketch are on bristol vellum treated with sauce. The reclining pose is on plain bristol vellum, and was done on a rough, wooden drawing board that imparted its texture to the drawing, unfortunately. I had a terrible time with the portrait. I couldn't seem to get Cynthia's nose right, and the process was not helped by her steady stare into my eyes as I drew her face. She hated the portrait and told me so.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The last time Bob posed for us, I did one big painting

in acrylic on canvas. This time, I did a bunch of drawings in pastel (and colored pencil) on paper. The one with a solid, dark brown background was done on Colorfix Paper, which has a rough, colored coating that helps pastels stick to the surface. The others were all done on bristol vellum treated with sauce.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ishtar in a Red Dress

I did two versions of Ishtar. This is the first and I am still working on the second one.  It is a 22 by 28 acrylic on canvas.  Karen


Mary is a new model for me. I liked her pose and did this one very broadly and reworked in the studio later.   It is 22 by 28 acrylic on canvas.  Karen

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Artist & Craftsman supply sells a drawing paper that's
treated with a rough, colored coating that works very well with pastel. I used this paper with pastels and conte on Legs and also the portrait with the blue background. The other, simpler portrait was done in pastels and ink on paper treated with sauce.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Call for art

Hey, figure painters! Some people are putting together a book of
Bay Area figurative art. And they're accepting submissions.
All media are accepted, but the models must be from the Guild.
You can read all about it at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alexander Models

This one of Alexander uses a lot of texture and came together just at the end when I was able to de emphasize the background.  It is an 18 by 24 acrylic.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Jenny models

This is my second painting of Jenny.  I had a good start and then lost it in the middle. I worked on it later and like the soft focus and light now. It is a15 by 30 canvas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Artists' Get Together, Saturday, September 25, 2 to 4pm

Re-emerging Artists
An Artists’ Support Network

 An Artists’ Get Together
Saturday, September 25 from 2 to 4 pm
Firehouse North Gallery
1790 Shattuck Ave

¨    Meet the Artists in the Work From the Model Figurative show
¨    Bring a few pieces of your work to share (or images of work)
¨    Discuss ways to build an artists support system
¨    Learn about the Re-emerging Artists Network
¨    Share your experiences sustaining a career in art

Are you working at art full time after many years of doing something else like raising a family or a full time job? Have you recently retired or left your job and want to get back to painting?  Or are you back at work full and trying to find time to do art.  Sustaining a lifetime of creative work is an art in itself. People find that when they finally have the time there is little extra money for a studio or supplies and when they have the money there is not enough time. Isolation and a lack of feedback can make you feel stuck. Come join us for a discussion of strategies that have worked.  Meet others struggling with the same issues.

Please RSVP to Karen at

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Model in a Belly Dancer Costume

I did this before our show and it seems like a long time ago now. Our model was also a belly dancer and makes her own costumes.  She took a standing pose and that is pretty rare for our group. But I think she regretted it the second week because she was pretty tired that day. But still it was great to have a standing pose for a change.  Karen

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The East Bay Figure Painting Group Show

Work from the Model, our group show opens on Friday, September 10 from 7 to 10 pm at the Firehouse North Gallery, 1790 Shattuck Ave ( at Delaware)  in Berkeley. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The four square drawings were done
in colored pencil on handmade watercolor paper treated with sauce. The large, double portrait was done in colored pencil on ordinary, commercial, smooth drawing paper treated with sauce.

Big Heads

A few weeks ago I got bored with straightforward portraiture and started distorting the figure. Alex, Signe, Lucy, and now Christopher have been portrayed with oversized heads and small bodies. None of these paintings is finished yet, however. Christopher's western scene will get a cowhide background, and various oversized insects will be added to all the paintings. I've fallen behind in these tasks because of preparing for the Firehouse show, but hope to find time soon to add spiders to Alex, moths to Signe, centipeded to Lucy, and scorpions to Christopher.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chris models

I asked the model to choose his ourfit and he came in cowboy gear  and set up a scene with a card game.  He even had some country and western music to play.     We had a small group so I was able to put the model in the center of the room and get a back view. The canvas is 18 by 24.  Karen

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Carla Models After Her Surgery

We were happy to have Carla model after her hip surgery and before her next surgery.  And she took a great pose on our couch. She is a colorful model. I tried to keep this painting as loose as possible and am having trouble with my set up working on a larger size needing more  space for mixing etc. Even ended up sitting on a tube of red paint.  I tried to develop a rhythm in the painting.  Karen

Monday, August 2, 2010

Light and Shadow

I am working with pencil, paper, and eraser,
trying to get light on flesh,
a face defined by the way the light hits it.

I usually draw the face and the shadow,
and then I begin to erase.
It is in the erasing that the face emerges.

Deborah Rogin

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lucy Models

Lucy is a new model with the guild. Everyone was impressed at how still she stayed. For those doing portrait work it was very helpful. I liked the symmetrical feel of the pose  and the sense of stillness also.  This painting is 18 by 24.  Karen

My Second Signe Painting

On my second attempt I used a 15 by 30 canvas and a larger figure. I had fun with the color.  Karen

Signe Models in Her Playsuit

Signe took a good pose with a twist and good angles. It is a 24 by 30 acrylic on canvas.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prudence at the Firehouse

I asked Prudence to wear what she would choose to wear to be painted. She loves color and we were not disappointed.  I like the richness of this painting. It is an 20 by 20 acrylic on canvas.  Karen

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Whole Room

For my last regular session with this group, I chose a 16 x 20" canvas and oils. I distorted our model to make him fit, then found the figures of Georgianna and Meredith interesting as well. Thanks to Karen, I have ventured into the realm of multi-figure compositions.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vicki's Paintings

Vicki Salzman has been coming to the group for a long time and will start blogging and posting her work soon. In the meantime I am posting these images of her oil paintings for her. She has been working for many years on her portraiture skills and will describe that process below. I really like the way she uses the picture plane in this group of paintings.

Vicki says, " The figure painting group helped me narrow my selection of paintings to these 4 for our upcoming show in September at the Firehouse Gallery North. These paintings are the result of 6 years of studies with the master San Francisco portraitist, Bob Gerbracht. Bob's method includes learning to do a precise rendering of the model's face, before once can begin to add color. Color is then applied in a relational way. Each painted area is influenced and affected by the color next to it: background to hair, hair to shadow-side of face, shadow-side to lit area of face. Highlights come last. It is a very methodical way of painting, but one can get remarkably good results."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Deborah's Drawings

Deborah has been coming to the figure group for many months and drawing with pencil. She is going to start blogging soon but for now she gave me these four drawing to post for her. They are all fairly recent.  They  all show a good likeness of the models she drew.  And I think they also project a lot of feeling.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


For many weeks now, I've been trying to break out of my typical
portrait style. I wanted to do something less literal, more expressive, abstract, daring. Most
of my efforts in that direction have disappointed me, but this painting of Prudence is finally a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Samuel wore a wonderful three-piece suit (black with white pinstripes), a white shirt, and red patterned tie. He looked very sharp and business-like, and his costume set off his ruddy complexion and coppery hair and beard.
Once again, I opted for drawing instead of painting. Two of these drawings were done in colored pencil on coffee-stained paper. The charcoal portrait (the best likeness of the bunch) is on sauce-treated paper , and the seated figure study is in colored pencil on sauce-treated watercolor paper. All the drawings are 18" x 24".

Friday, May 21, 2010


Usually I show the whole body of the model on a half 140 lb. watercolor sheet, 22 x 15. Since the time was much shorter I painted a portrait, 15 x 11, on 300 lb. Georgianna

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lisa Models

Lisa's pose reminded me of the figures in the Frank Lobdell book I just got. Also reminded me of a figure from Bischoff or Diebenkorn. I used agrayscale underpainting and it helped make the colors look more solid. Karen