Current & Upcoming Classes

Sicily Artist Retreats

Landscape Painting in Sicily

Taught by Ephraim Rubenstein from April 22nd to May 1st, 2023

Join us for this all-inclusive painting workshop with Art Students League Instructor Ephraim Rubenstein, where we will paint en plein air in and around magnificent Marsala, Sicily. We will bring you to the best spots to paint, ocean salt flats, medieval towns, and ancient ruins—all the inspiration you will need to create beautiful works of art surrounded by the stunning Sicilian landscape. Our all-inclusive retreats offer a unique blend of art instruction and cultural immersion, allowing you to not only improve your artistic abilities, but also experience the beauty and culture of Sicily. From our brand new, well-appointed accommodations and amenities to our carefully crafted itineraries, every aspect of our retreats has been designed to provide you with the ultimate artistic and cultural experience. On site plein-air painting has been a mainstay of Ephraim’s painting and teaching for over forty years. The course will emphasize getting off to a strong start, thoughtful and expressive composition, and the notion of space composition. The class will also offer practice in handling changing light and weather conditions. Topics we will cover:

  • • Equipment and set-up
  • • How to handle changing light situations outdoors
  • • Dealing with varied weather conditions
  • • Topographical vs atmospheric emphasis in landscape painting
  • • The difference between direct and indirect approaches to painting outdoors
  • • The notion of space composition
  • • Emphasizing warm/cool modulations in concert with light/dark modulations

While Ephraim’s emphasis will be on oil painting, students are welcome using all media, including those who would like to draw. At the end of each day you will return to a gorgeous boutique hotel nestled among the olive groves, with astonishing views of sunsets over the ocean. Sit back and relax with a glass of wine by the pool as the chef prepares delicious meals for the group, ensuring you have all you need to relax and recharge after a full day of painting. 

Price: $4800
Non participating partner: $1000
Location: Marsala, Sicily
Medium: Oil paint (but all other mediums welcome)
Language: English
Food & Accommodation: All inclusive

For learn more or to sign up, visit Sicily Artist Retreats

The Art Students League of New York

Introduction to Pastel Painting
October 31–November 4, 2022
Monday–Friday, 1:30-5:00 pm

This workshop will serve as a general introduction to the medium of soft pastel painting for beginning students, as well as an opportunity for more advanced students to sharpen their skills. Considered drawing by some and painting by others, using soft pastel (not oil pastels!) presents a number of technical problems that will be addressed during the workshop. Topics will include a thorough review of materials (papers, boards, grounds and the pastels themselves), as well as procedural concerns (working hard to soft, dark to light, blending versus hatching and fixing).

Hybrid Class/Workshop: Color Spot Oil Painting
March 2–27, 2020
Monday–Friday, 1:30-5:00 pm

Color spot
 oil painting is a method of direct painting developed in the early decades of the twentieth century by Charles Hawthorne and later by his student and assistant, Edwin Dickinson. Although aspects of color spot painting go all the way back to Baroque painting, Hawthorne and Dickinson were the first to organize entire canvases and elaborate compositions by means of the color spot.

As a method, color-spot painting is distinguished by its freshness and directness. This freshness is the result of hitting color/values right from the start, rather than arriving at them slowly, as in more traditional painting methods. While traditional oil painting is indirect—built up slowly in thin layers—color-spot painting is alla prima and generally, opaque.

While traditional painting methods end up (intentionally or unintentionally) emphasizing value, color-spot paint painting gives equal attention to color. And while many painting methods favor the rendering of objects, color-spot painting gives equal attention to space and atmosphere. Because of the abstractness of the looking that is involved, color-spot painting allows the painter to discover the unexpected, rather than the expected, in nature.

This workshop will provide an introduction to color spot painting, emphasizing the role of the viewfinder, the relationship between the object and its environment, and how to set-up the initial key of the painting.

This is the only class that Ephraim will teach at the League this spring and space is limited to 12 students plus the monitor. If you are interested, be sure to register early!

A color spot is a piece of color, large or small, that has been observed and abstracted from the appearance of nature and applied directly to the white canvas in discrete notes. Color spot painting is as direct a method as exists—one aims to hit the mark right at first, and not go back (or go back as little as possible) so as not to destroy the integrity of the network of spots. Above: Ephraim Rubenstein, Nataliya II (Process I ), oil on linen, 28 x 54 in.
These ‘spots of color’ make a network of colors out of which the painting is born and developed. Using a white canvas, there is generally no underpainting in value, or other intermediate foundations. Color spots are studied as to shape and location and stand side by side, like pieces of mosaic, with little fusion of the adjacent edges. These spots are felt to have integrity as building blocks, so color spot painting avoids over blending and softening. Above: Ephraim Rubenstein, Nataliya II (Process II ), oil on linen, 28 x 54 in.

Life Drawing and Artistic Anatomy
September 2018 – May 2019
Wednesday/Thursday evenings, 7:00 – 10:15 PM

This class provides training in the direct observation of the figure. It emphasizes tonal drawing–the perception and composition of the appearance of nature—and form drawing–the development of form concepts as derived from the study of anatomy and perspective. This class works from the nude model, with poses generally lasting three weeks.
It also introduces a broad range of materials to explore their expressive possibilities. They include broad, painterly media, such as charcoal, gray-scale chalks and graphite powder and harder, more linear media such as sanguine pencil, graphite pencil, and silver-point. We also experiment with mixed-media processes, such as using wax as a resist for subsequent ink washes.

2018–19 Lunchtime Lecture Series

As part of the Art Students League of New York Lunchtime Lecture Series, I will be delivering the final lecture on Feb 13, 2019, from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, “The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.”

Never has a creative intelligence laid itself bare as Vincent Van Gogh does in his letters to his brother Theo. We see him grappling with all the essential problems: his work, his family, his love objects, and historic and contemporary art and literature. He appears to us from the inside out, day-by-day, week-by-week, forging the vocabulary of modernism, painting, “not as I see things, but as I feel them.” Van Gogh appeals to us because he is the perennial lost soul, a young person trying to find his way in the world, trying to figure out the meaning of his existence, and of how he can be of use to the world. 

Columbia University School of Professional Studies

Narrative Medicine Program PSNMED5040
Fall Semester 2018
Thursdays, 10:10 AM – 12:00 PM

Seminar in the Literature of Art will examine selected landmarks in the history of writing about art. It will include works of theory, criticism, connoisseurship, and the writings of artists themselves. We will examine such questions as: Is there such a thing as an artistic personality? Is there a relationship between art-making and mental illness? And why do so many artists allude to suffering, both mental and physical?

One of the major questions raised by the seminar is the extent of Western art’s involvement with the body. The nude body has been absolutely central to our conception of beauty and proportion, and has provided the most potent vehicle imaginable for empathy and for the projection of feeling. But most importantly, all of the writers studied in the seminar teach us how to look more closely, and how to make sense out of what we are seeing. In this way, the visual arts become an arena through which we learn to look at the world more slowly and carefully.