Students from the Chelsea Classical Studio compete in a live portrait painting rally.
The other night marked the first ever Student Portrait Rally from Chelsea Classical Studio, the school of fine art begun by New York portrait painter Brandon Soloff. Eight students from Soloff and fellow teacher Rick Piloco’s classes fought through anxiety and nerves to paint a live portrait of a model while more than thirty onlookers watched.
The nearly deaf model, could have been Charles Manson’s doppelganger and sported a long unruly grey beard, past-the-shoulder red-brown hair, and donned a black tee-shirt with hand-painted hippy-inspired work shoes. The sitting lasted for three hours, each twenty minute sitting bringing the students closer to a semblance of the model.
Don Giavanni’s thin crust pizza, red wine, and sweet biscuits were served to the onlookers who ranged from fellow students to curious public. The space, provided by DRIFT STUDIO, a loft-like modern white box rented to photographers and the movie industry was open and relaxing.
Most impressive was the student’s ability to begin their paintings, “I am blown away by the student’s starts,” says Soloff, “these are some of the best beginnings that I have seen many of the students do. Perhaps the added pressure of an audience egged the students on.” Two students stood out in their painting development, Dylan Keefe and Masayuki Mitsumori. Both students have been learning from Soloff for several years. Also of note was Satoshi Okada’s Lucien Freud-style painting of the model featuring thickly apply white paint.
The relaxed evening was punctuated by Soloff’s two young children, Rafael (named after the famous painter) and his older brother Lucca. Lucca informally emceed the event, bringing a much needed levity to the often intense working moments. His openness and love of strict timekeeping kept the students and onlooking crowd jovial and smiling.