Start Where You Are. Move On from There.

Copy after Chagall's "Birth" The Art Institute of Chicago Pencil on paper 7" x 5" © 1991 Marilyn Fenn

Copy after Chagall’s “Birth”
The Art Institute of Chicago
Pencil on paper
7″ x 5″
© 1991
Marilyn Fenn

Class notes, from Advanced Drawing Studio with Barbara Rossi, SAIC, 1991

Purpose of class: development of personal resources, more inventive with how you represent things; more significant to you.

Look at modes of representation, both Western & other.

It happens by doing it all the time – TOTAL COMMITMENT!

Start where you are. Move on from there. Maximize your good points, push them further.

*Sketchbook or journal – most important tool!

Collector and assessor of your own experience. Watch yourself watching the world.

Things occur as they occur.

Keep note of the visual experiences that strike you.

Keep a picture file. Xerox things from books that impress you; take photos.

You can’t will your experiences, but pay attention to them after they’ve happened.

Subjective-objective experience of the world.

Every day – several pages.

You should probably date when you took a picture or saw an image.

Everything you hear that really strikes you.



at Hirschhorn:

Balthus – Golden Days; mirror as dagger? Dress as shape of chair, fire; vaginal forms.
Like Piero della Francesca – face, hair. Contrast between sensuous life and intellectual life — sensuous form larger, more illuminated. Drapery like armor, face in the cloth. Woman as vessel. Even negative shapes become references.
Nude woman as Christ figure; intellectual figure as Mary Magdalene?

at Met:

Master of Barberini panels; architecture as backdrop for sculptural figure with loads of drapery-fabric as stone.

National Gallery:

Death of a woman. St. Claire – very weird. Great weird spidery hands.

Grunewald: Christ on cross & St. John

Do 20 minute sketches in museum for 2 hours.


Make composition with original object – use analogies, incorporate into a composition. – any kind of space – highlight original form.

Make composition with original form and identify best analogy or pun, drawing original form while suggesting second form. Visual metaphor in one form.

Take detail of painting from museum – look at it for analogical form underneath the structure — rework into large drawing. Can be abstract – make other form more strongly present.

Look for masks where features of form are transformed into analogical objects — xerox or draw them (look at books or in museum) where one form is substituted for another – like full figure is substituted for nose, eyebrows, etc. & put in sketchbook.


Read this whole series of class notes:

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Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.

— Michael Crichton
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  • For me the two focal points of the red scale spiral – primary, and the purple – secondary, are punctuating movement to the left accentuated by counter movement of the purple spiral in the wake of the primary focal point. Like atmospheric pressure differences.
Gallery of Recent Paintings
Pecan Street Boogie - Oil on Canvas - 10 x 10 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Small Color Painting 2014-012 - Oil painting by Marilyn Fenn Untitled 2015-003 - Oil on Canvas - 12 x 10 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Composition Number 9, 2013 - Acrylic on panel -  9 x 12 -  © 2013 Marilyn Fenn