Project 2 (Optical Value)

September 16, 2020

Hello students,

For project 2 we will be working with “optical value” using 3 different techniques. You may choose to format each image within a 3 x 3 inch square on your paper using a vertical, horizontal, diagonal or staggered arrangement just as we did in the previous assignment. Each image should represent the same visual elements of shape, light, shadow, etc., however the techniques will vary.

When using optical value you must plan ahead, taking careful consideration of your full value range. Dark areas will be built up slowly with a series of marks, lines or dots depending on your technique. All of your pure whites will be a result of the paper with the absence of marks. One thing to consider is the values which fall between your darks and your lights which will act as mid-tone grays.

For this assignment I encourage you to search for reference images which display a large amount of dark and/or mid-tone values and a very limited amount of pure white. You can also sketch out and shade an image in pencil or charcoal first to help you decide upon the value structure that you’ll be using.

When you are ready to draw your final images, I would encourage you, once again, to start with pencil. Take your time drawing out each shape, including shadow shapes and light shapes, then fill in the areas of optical value with your Micron pens.

The techniques should be rendered in the following order:

Parallel Lines

(All lines are moving parallel to one another. These can be drawn as vertical, horizontal or diagonal lines, however, once you choose a direction, you must stay with that direction! The lines cannot altar. Please see the example below.)

Cross Hatching

(Lines can move in opposite directions either diagonally, horizontally or vertically as seen in the examples below.)


(This technique uses small dots in various arrangements as seen below.)

Good luck!

2 Dimensional Design (project 1) – Line Unity, Unity w/ Variety & Variety

September 9, 2020

Hello students,

Below are instructions for project 1 (line unity, unity w/ variety & variety).

For this project you are to draw out three equally proportioned squares measuring no smaller than 3 x 3 inches on your 11 x 14 inch Bristol paper. We will discuss all formats for positioning these squares on your paper in class tomorrow. Please be sure you are measuring for accuracy!

You will be creating a different non-representational (abstract) linear composition in each square using the following formats:

1.) Line Unity

All lines should be of equal width & length, have a consistency of direction and equally spaced. With this format, you may choose to use vertical, horizontal or diagonal lines. Your choices are quite limited, particularly if using horizontal or vertical lines, however, if using diagonals, you have the option of varying the direction provided that the lengths and widths are consistent as seen in the examples below. We will discuss additional formats in class. This format lends itself well to geometric pattern.

Below are a couple of examples of line unity.

2.) Line Unity w/ Variety

With this format, there will be a general, dominant pattern to the direction of your lines. You can vary the spacing, width and length. You may also altar the direction of a few lines to add variety provided that there is a dominant direction to most of the lines within the composition. The idea here is to create unity with variety. Below are a few examples.

3.) Line Variety

This format provides an opportunity to vary every line in as many ways possible. You can use broken lines, dotted lines, diagonal lines, wavy lines, thick lines, thin lines, etc. The possibilities for this are endless! Below are some examples.

For each composition you want to be sure that you are not leaving a lot of negative space. The dominant aspect of these designs are lines, so they should fill up the space. Think about an 80% line to 20% negative space ratio.

I would encourage you to work out your ideas in a sketch book first. There are many possibilities for this assignment, so try drawing out several renditions for each composition – think of your sketch book as a visual journal. Once you have an idea of your designs, carefully measure out your 3 boxes on your Bristol paper and draw your designs in pencil first. After you have everything drawn out, you can reinforce your lines with the black ink Micron pens.

Materials needed:

Strathmore smooth Bristol paper

Micron black ink pens (sizes .01, .03)


Ruler or T-square

Due date:

This project will be due on Tuesday, 9/15

Good luck!

Two Dimensional Design (project 10) – Imagery Inspired by Words

April 20, 2020

Hello students,

Below are instructions for project 10 (imagery inspired by words).

For this project you are to create an image based on a literary source. Your source could be a poem, lyrics from a song, a passage from a short story, etc. and should inspire a visual image. You may incorporate any of the styles and/or techniques that we’ve done in class for this project. Please be sure to include your literary source in a separate document or photograph.

The length of your text can be a few sentences up to a few paragraphs. If you select a longer source, you may take a smaller passage from it.

Below is a list of a few things to look for when selecting your literary source.

1.) words that describe something visual (a person, place or thing).

2.) words that describe a color

3.) words that evoke emotion (colors can be associated with certain emotions – see notes below for examples)

Red – Anger

Blue – Sadness

Gray – Solemn

Bright Colors – Joy/Excitement


This is an open medium project. Paint, pen, markers, pencil, colored pencil, collage, etc. are all acceptable mediums. 

The image should be done on a 15 x 20 inch hot press illustration board with a 1 inch border.

Due date:

This project will be due on Tuesday, 12/15.

Good luck!


2 Dimensional Design (project 9 – pointillism with primary colors)

April 6, 2020

Hi students,

Below are instructions along with a brief video demonstration for project 8 (pointillism with primary colors).

Pointillism is a style of painting (also referred to as Post-Impressionism) that uses a series of small dots in various color arrangements to explore optical color effects. The logic behind this painting style, is that each color is isolated visually, therefore it’s brilliance and purity is untainted by other color mixtures. The impressionists attempted to simulate the filtration of light by using small dashes of color. The pointillists took that approach one step further, which resulted in a splendor of optical color effects.


Using a palette of primary colors, you are to create an image that displays an arrangement of at least 2 secondary and/or tertiary colors. The image is to be created in a pointillist style. In addition to your secondary and tertiary colors, you may choose to have other colors present. Below is a list of color choices and variations that may be used.

Primaries (red, yellow, blue)

Secondaries (green, purple, orange)

Tertiaries (variations of secondary colors such as red-orange, yellow-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, yellow-green, blue-green)

Neutrals (neutral colors can be created by combining all 3 primary colors equally or 2 complimentary colors such as red & green, blue & orange or yellow & purple)

All color effects are to be created optically using the 3 primaries in specific arrangements as described above. Below is a short video demonstration of this technique.


Fine tip colored markers or pens


Acrylic paint

15 x 20 inch hot press illustration board

Tips: if using paint for this project, you may use the back of a brush handle or other narrow, rigid tool to apply your marks to the board

The image should be no smaller than 5 x 7 inches or up to 11 x 14 inches. The image should be centered within your board.

You may use any reference material you like for this project.

Due date:

This project will be due on Tuesday, 11/23

Below are some examples.

Good luck!

2 Dimensional Design (Project 8 – image Transformation)

March 30, 2020

Hello students,

Below are instructions for project 8 – image transformation.


For this project you are to create a series of images that display a progressive transformation. This progression will show subtle differences from one image to the next (as one would see in a storyboard). In creating this transformation, think about the following:

– transformation of shape

– transformation of value or color

– transformation of texture

– transformation of scale

When creating the images for this project, try to think about objects that bare certain similarities to each other in order to make the transformation more natural. An example of this would be something like the transformation of a leaf into a lollipop. The similarities would be in the shapes (the stem of the leaf transforming into the lollipop stick and the leaf itself transforming into the lollipop circle). With this option however, there would still be plenty of differences such as the scale, color, texture, symmetry, etc. Because the transformation needs to happen gradually, I would recommend a series of no less than 5 images.

The images may be arranged on the board in any way you like, provided that it reads like a storyboard from left to right or top to bottom. I would strongly recommend positioning your starting image and finishing image first and then decide on the phases in between. I would also recommend working this project out in a sketch book first to decide exactly how you would like to show your transformation.


As with the last project you may use any medium or combination of mediums you wish. The images should however display some degree of color.

The images should be created on a 15 x 20 inch hot press illustration board.

Due date:

This project will be due on 11/12. Once complete please photograph it and send it to for a grade submission.

Good luck!


Rivera Fine Art Studios Online Classes

March 25, 2020

During this unsettling time where most of us have been quarantined due to the Coronavirus pandemic, (COVID-19) I’ve decided to offer all of my studio classes and lectures online through Facebook live. To see my class schedule, please visit To attend any class or lecture, please email me at and I will provide you with all of the details to sign up.

It is so important to have creative outlets during times when there is so much uncertainty in the world. As we all change and adapt our daily routines to deal with life’s curve balls, we must try to maintain some sense of positivity by continuing to do the things we enjoy. Fortunately we live in a day and age where so much of that can be done online.

Just because we are stuck at home and can’t attend an actual class doesn’t mean that the creativity has to stop. I am here to help facilitate that with online instruction. By using Facebook live, any live class is saved into the feed, so even if you can’t attend a session, you can still watch the material at your convenience.

So please, do yourself a favor and pick up that pencil or paint brush and do what you love the most! I am here to help. For more information, go to or send me an email,

2 Dimensional Design (project 7 – surrealistic collage w/ mixed mediums)

March 23, 2020

Hello students,

Below are instructions and examples for project 7 – surrealistic collage w/ mixed mediums.

”Surrealism” is a style of art which depicts an unusual or impossible scenario by distorting or changing what we perceive as normal. A surrealistic image can evoke a dream-like quality and is often associated with the unconscious mind. It is also a literary style. A few artists who worked in a surrealistic style were Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Rene Magritte.


By combining mediums of your choice including cut outs, you are to create a surrealistic collage. In so doing, you want to maintain a similar style between the cut outs and your own images, so that there is a seamless quality to the final piece. Ideally the hand drawn or painted images should blend visually with the cut outs. You may add your own marks to a cut out image if necessary to help disguise it.

When creating your image think about which parts you’d like to draw or paint versus which parts you’d like to cut out (does your painting dominate or do your cut outs dominate?). Also put some thought into the various elements of your scene. For example, what space do these images exist in? An interior? A landscape? What is the lighting like? What is the perspective? Thinking about these elements will help give organization and clarity to your images rather than having it appear as a bunch of random cut outs.

Below are a few ideas to help you create this image.

– changing the scale (large objects become small and small objects become large)

– combining two or more environments ( natural elements such as trees or shrubbery in an interior space)

– floating objects, people or things

– juxtaposing negative and positive shapes

– transformations (a figure that is half animal and half human)

– changing the color and/or texture of an object

These are just a few ideas to give you a starting point. There are limitless possibilities for this assignment.

Below are a few examples of artworks done in a surrealistic style.


For this assignment you may use any combination of mediums. You MUST use some cut outs (this could be posters, photographs, other illustrations, etc.) and the remainder is your choice. Any of the following mediums (including combinations) would work:

– charcoal

– pencil

– colored pencil

– watercolor

– ink

– acrylic paint

The image must be created on a 15 x 20 inch hot press illustration board with a 1 inch border.

Due date:

This project will be due on 11/3. Please photograph it and send it to me via email,

Painting Eyes (part I)

January 24, 2020

Hello all,

I’ve recently started a series of studio lectures in order to provide students with a deeper knowledge of the anatomy and structure of specific facial features. Understanding the underlying structure as it pertains to skeletal or muscular anatomy can be a huge advantage when drawing and/or painting the features of a live model. As we begin to understand these forms we can apply them to a portrait intuitively along with proportional measuring techniques which will result in creating a more convincing likeness of our subject.

In painting the features, I’m always drawn to the eyes first – maybe because this is the feature we look at when we are trying to gauge someone’s emotions. If we don’t get the eyes right, we miss out on capturing that soulful spark which breathes life into our paintings. One trick to portraying a particular expression, is to focus on the area around the eye rather than the eye itself. The “expression” is formed by the tightening, stretching or creasing of the skin. This is a direct result of where the muscles insert and how they contract.

Although gauging proportions and anatomical forms will give your drawing clarity and structure, it isn’t always enough. The life-like portrayal of human expression requires an understanding of the local value and color as well as a variety of edges. Without these qualities, a painting will appear stiff and life-less.

If this is something you wish to learn more about, I would recommend watching the video below which was taken from a recent lecture. This is meant to serve as a starting point to branch off from. I would suggest applying the information in a way which best suits your painting style. One thing however which I can’t stress enough, is the importance of practice. As you draw more eyes, noses, mouths, etc., you will begin to improve your powers of observation.

In the video I discuss what I’m thinking about while I’m working which relates to everything I’ve written about above. I’ve also provided a still photo of the demo. Because the file size of this video is so large, I will upload the second part in my next post. Enjoy!

Eye painting (part 1)



Comparative Measuring for a Portrait

October 25, 2019

Hello Students,

Below is a short excerpt on comparative measuring taken from one of my portrait drawing classes. This lesson covers how to develop the “envelope” using width to height measurements. A portrait has many angles and shapes to it, and if we understand the principles of comparative measuring, we can find solutions to the potential proportional problems that may arise. Every line and shape within the drawing can be verified with a measurement. This technique relies on vertical and horizontal measurements and may be used to construct the entire drawing, or simply to double check the proportions at various stages throughout the process.

When using this technique, remember to take your time. With practice this will eventually become a quick and convenient way to verify your judgements in any stage of the drawing process. If you are interested in another video on this topic, click here,

Advanced Online Portrait Drawing Master Class Preview

September 4, 2019

Hello all,

As we enter into the Autumn months, I am hard at work on developing some new online class content, and wanted to share with you a few clips taken from my advanced portrait drawing master class. This class covers so much material, combining perceptual drawing methods with informed anatomical knowledge. The key to rendering a masterful portrait is understanding the balance between what is directly observed and what is lying beneath the surface. When we are able to do that successfully, we are observing the fourth dimension, which allows us to describe our subjects with much greater conviction.

I put this course together, after discussing with my students the challenges that they face with portraiture. One thing that comes up time and time again is “I can’t render realistic skin texture”. The trick is, when it comes to rendering a realistic form, 99% of the realism is achieved with shading. The subtlety of the surface texture Is always subordinate to the general form. If this concept isn’t understood, the textural details simply won’t make sense. After watching my video lessons and following along with my narrated instruction, I guarantee you will have a much better understanding of how to tie together the underlying anatomical structures of the face with shading techniques and surface details which will give your drawings a hyper-realistic finish. Check out the video below to get an idea of some of the content that I offer. For more info on this class and others like it, go to