Australian Fine Artist

The First of Five Workshops with David Chen

Last semester ended with us understanding more about skin tones and how to use edges, tone and colour to place the model into a scene.

This semester we began by going over David’s philosophy for the workshops and his experience as first, an art student learning Academic Art Training at university (something that is not widely covered in Australia) and later as a practising artist and art teacher.

The technical issues that David has overcome during his 40 years as an artist and teacher are invaluable for students to learn as we take on the difficult subject of the human body.

Other points

Social Media and Art

During the past twenty years social media has increasingly perpetuated the idea that learning artistic techniques is easy. The notion that anyone can just copy another artist’s methods, subjects, and styles, in contrast to popular belief will not result in a creative or talented artist.

Time is required to learn the basics of drawing, perspective, anatomy, colour theory and understanding of the use of various materials. There is no shortcut. If you want to be more than a follower of a fad or fashion, that may disappear very quickly into oblivion historically, there is only one way, and it requires dedication and hard work.


Consider the following aspects that need to be addressed and learnt.

  • Colour theory.
  • Composition, which includes portraits, still-life, the human body. Once these are mastered the same principles can be applied to landscapes and seascapes.
  • Extending nature beyond copying. A painting must extend what is seen to what is interpreted. A part of the artists must be transferred into the work to make it unique to them. what inspires the artist should extend into their application of the materials.
  • A true artist paints to reflect their own technique and character. It relies on the artist portraying how they ‘see’ things and not on them blindly following another artist’s work or a temporary trend.
  • Artists must be open to experimenting and modifying their work. Growth and modifying your subjects and technique is a part of the growth process. Remember, as an artist you NEVER stop learning.


  • Learn from the present and learn from history, but make it your own.
  • Remember to show respect to other artists and their work.
  • A current trend is for exhibitions and galleries to get publicity by sensationalism rather than knowledge and assessable criteria. This encourages fashion but not learning or long-lasting well founded quality. Aim for a legacy that will last.
  • workshops are aimed at teaching basics and assessable and identifiable skills. Basics form skills that can be built on to suit the individual artist, they underpin the ‘look’ and methods that will be developed as the student continues to practice and apply them.

Goals for Workshops

In the workshops coming up in the next few months, emphasis will be on the relationship between shapes and forms. We will learn what unnecessary times to leave out and how to make sense of our subjects.

An important aspect will be how to add our own individual vision to the subject and how to creatively use skin tones using the light source and reflected light and colour.

Lastly they will look at aesthetics and how to see beauty in paintings.

Requirements to learn

  1. Human Anatomy
  2. relationships between values and colour
  3. The technique of working from the general to the particular
  4. Manipulation of the oil medium
  5. Creativity

Most important: Like most artistic methods, drawing is the basis. For painting the nude, learning about the entire body doesn’t mean drawing it all – all of the time, but identifying our weaknesses and drawing them until they are mastered. This may mean drawing hands or feet, proportions or the face. Whatever it is, keep drawing until it becomes second nature and you will find that when the model is in front of you, the process of interpreting their pose will become a lot easier.

For this first session we had a female model, and did some 1 minute and 3 minute drawings to loosen up and learn about her shape. We then went on to choose a pose and paint for the rest of the day.

We were looking at modelling the form of the body and using colour and tone to depict it. We were also asked to interpret the surrounding colours as we wished to suit our paintings, so did some major changes in that area, simplifying a rather complex backdrop to something cleaner and not so distracting.

Since I have not been painting due to study commitments, there was a lot to be altered in this first effort for the semester and I have circled these in the following image. It isn’t something to get annoyed about, but definitely requires more practice on my part.

As with all my workshop blogs, I acknowledge David Chen for producing the instruction that formed the basis of this information. If you would like to contact David to go on the waiting list for workshops, the link to his web site is below.

© Janice Mills

© Janice Mills and David Chen

© Janice Mills and David Chen

If you would like to go on the waiting list for workshops with David Chen, you can contact him via his website at:

Note that David does not allow photography in his workshops so if you want to photograph your work it is suggested that you do so when you get home.

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

Also Note: All paintings begun or completed at workshops under the supervision of a tutor, who has physically improved the painting,  from supplied or students’ references, are for academic purposes only, and can not be entered in to judged art competitions/exhibitions, or made available for sale online or in a gallery, as they are not the sole production of the student. These are considered collaborative works and not the sole production of the student.

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