Alex Kanevsky stops in front of a student’s easel. With a hand placed on his chin, he casts a concentrated eye over the work and ponders on the exact words with which to articulate his ideas. His attitude expresses respect for the artist and a pronounced sense of responsibility. He does not want to impart his teachings using trivial comments that lack substance. He embellishes his voice, quiet and deep, with a delicate sense of humour. And he uses his surprising skill with metaphors to transmit the most ethereal and vague concepts; those that stand at the limits of what can be expressed in words. That Alex Kanevsky makes this effort is to be welcomed; he is aware that works of art have to speak for themselves and that almost everything that can be said is on the periphery of pictorial essence.
Alex Kanevsky in Madrid
I had the privilege of organizing trough ESpaint a workshop with Alex Kanevsky in Madrid during the week of June 8-12. It took time because this master painter is not seen too much in his role as teacher; just once a week he gives a couple of hours of classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. When the event was advertised, many artists from around the world asked to sign up. And when at last the day arrived, the 25 artists who had been selected waited expectantly for the week with the master to begin.
All of us who were there had a deep admiration for Alex Kanevsky’s work, and we were hoping for a valuable learning experience. But we know that being a good painter does not necessarily translate to being a good teacher; more often than not a great master is a mediocre teacher and vice versa. However, Alex Kanevsky belongs to that minority group of painters who are able to apply their skills to both disciplines. He does not normally take a student’s brush in his hand in order to make corrections. This is because he does not believe it is about painting a piece of cloth, a vase or a nude better – there are as many ways of painting as there are painters and, in any case, that is the job of conventional academies. Instead, he believes it is about fostering the individual talent of each student and suggesting to them ways to progress. Alex Kanevsky’s comments point towards a more in-depth study of universal pictorial concepts: composition, visual perception, completion, focal point, colour, sincerity and the search for clarity, which is a mark of identity of his own painting. He said at the start of the workshop: “The aim is not for you to take home a nice painting at the end of the week, but to plant a seed in your mind that will help you to consider your artistic path in a more profound way”.
Alex Kanevsky; an interactive workshop
The format of Alex Kanevsky workshop is not focused on certain set of information or knowledge to share with students. It is responsive and entirely defined by what students do in the classroom and what they need. It is different every time. That way, Alex Kanevsky supervised one by one the progress each artist made with regard to their exercises, providing guidance and suggesting courses of action based on both the works themselves and what they revealed about each painter’s individuality. He also gave three short lectures – on composition, Diebenkorn’s rules, and his own work.
Alex Kanevsky does not usually do live demonstrations, but everyone wanted to see him in action. And so, probably imbued with the same magic that had enveloped the rest of the group, he set about painting one of the models amid the collective excitement of all of us who watched, engrossed, the progress of his painting. He felt so comfortable that the next day, in order to indulge the silent expectations of the group, and because he has as much a need to paint as he does to breathe, he again picked up his brushes and delighted the devoted students, already appreciative of the dedication and commitment of this master painter.
An essential aspect of his philosophy regarding work – one he shared with those attending – is the need to break down the mental barriers that limit artistic expression. This involves taking risks and daring to move out of one’s comfort zone. Art is not something that is comfortable, and inspiration and artistic discovery are not found by treading well-worn paths.
My notes about Alex Kanevsky workshop
I have made a summary of a few unconnected notes of things that came up in conversations during the workshop. It is not a treatise but have the value of freshness and serve as testimony of some thoughts from the master. I want it to be for all of you; as a reminder for those lucky enough to attend the course, and to give those unable to do so the chance to understand some of the concepts that the master painter Alex Kanevsky shared with a fortunate group of artists over the course of a magical week in Madrid.Get the Notes