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 riverafinearts@gmail.com 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 http://www.riverafinearts.com. To attend any class or lecture, please email me at riverafinearts@gmail.com 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 http://www.riverafinearts.com or send me an email, riverafinearts@gmail.com.

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, riverafinearts@gmail.com.

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, https://riveraportraits.com/2018/10/12/sight-size-vs-comparative-measuring

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 http://www.riverafinearts.com.




Combined Studio Portrait Drawing/Painting Class

August 7, 2019

Hello students and fellow art lovers,

I’m thrilled to now be offering my first portrait drawing/painting mini-course in my newly renovated home studio located at 1 Hidden Turn, Newtown Pa, 18940! Below is a brief description of the course content and a recommended materials list. Additional information can be found at http://www.riverafinearts.com. If you are planning to attend this class, please email me at riverafinearts@gmail.com with your contact information. I look forward to seeing you there!

This is a 3 week mini-course which runs from 10 am to noon on Friday, September 20th thru October 11th 2019.  Students attending may choose to develop their drawing or painting skills (or both) using the live portrait model. We will have a single pose for the entire 3 weeks, giving students a total of six hours to render their portraits. During this time, lessons will be given on facial anatomy, mapping out values, layering and blending with charcoal & pencil, underpainting, mixing flesh tones and glazing. Because students will be working in different mediums, I will spend a lot of one-on-one time with each student which is the advantage of a smaller class size.


1.)  Drawing pencils (I recommend the Faber-Castell brand) in the following hardnesses;

(4H, 2H, B, 2B)

2.)  Nitram charcoal sticks (HB, H, B, soft round)

3)  General’s charcoal pencils (2B, 4B)

4.)  Kneaded eraser

5.)  Double sided shaders as pictured below – in assorted sizes

6.)  A small chisel blender paint brush and a soft round paint brush

7.)  Razor blades or x-acto knife

8.)  A sandpaper block as pictured below

9.)  Strathmore Bristol medium texture drawing paper (11 x 14 or larger)

– If you have any questions about the materials or anything else, don’t hesitate to email me at riverafinearts@gmail.com.




Jars with lids for mediums
Paper towels or cloth rags
Soap to clean brushes (liquid dish soap works well)
Palette knife (these come in a variety of sizes and shapes; I prefer the 1/2 inch wide metal triangular-shaped ones with the wooden handle)
Art bin or tackle box to hold supplies
Tracing paper (pad or roll)


Titanium White
Naples Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Raw Sienna
Cadmium Red Medium
Transparent Red Oxide
General Rose Madder or Quinacridone Rose
Thalo Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Viridian Green
Cobalt Violet
Raw Umber
Ivory Black

*Note:  Rembrandt, Williamsburg and Old Holland are professional-quality paint brands which I like to use, but somewhat pricey. Windsor & Newton is good choice too and less expansive than the others. Feel free to mix and match brand names.


Rounds # 1, 2, 3, 5
Flats # 3, 5
Filberts (one large, one small)
Liners (at least one # 000 for details)
A soft bristled blending brush, and/or fan brush (watercolor brushes are very soft and can be used with oil paint as well)

*Note:  Loew Cornell and Ebony Splendor are brands which I like, although with brushes it’s more about the feel. I try to select ones where the bristles don’t feel too stiff, yet still hold their shape when touched – particularly if they have a fine tip.  Avoid brushes which look frayed or that seem to have loose bristles.


Cold Pressed linseed oil, Stand oil and turpentine (Windsor & Newton or Gamblin brand)


Pre-primed stretched canvas or wood panels (11 x 14 to 18 x 24 inches)



Above: Newly refurbished studio located at 1 Hidden Turn, Newtown Pa, 18940. If interested in attending a class, please feel free to email me at riverafinearts@gmail.com or call (609) 203-6270. I also offer private lessons. Additional information be found at http://www.riverafinearts.com.

Reference Images for Online Portrait Drawing I

May 15, 2019

Hello students,

Below you will find the reference photos for my online portrait drawing class! The first photo is a simplified tonal study of a skull. I would recommend downloading this image and then having a high-quality print made at Staples or Kohl’s to the approximate size of a real skull. Once you have the print, you can lay transparent vellum paper over it, and follow along with my anatomy lessons. The result of those lessons is displayed in the second photo.

The last reference photo can be used as a way of applying the anatomy covered in Lessons 3 and 4 to a real person. In my final two lessons, I explain this process quite thoroughly. Remember, everything that I teach is simply a way of introducing new concepts. Once you have some basic knowledge of facial anatomy and structure, you can apply this to your own drawings in a more intuitive way. This means that, after you have acquired some of the basic knowledge, you DO NOT need to follow a step by step process, but rather, let that knowledge guide your drawing approach. Although some of this may seem anal at first, learning this information can actually help to make the drawing experience more free and exciting.

For anyone who is interested in signing up for my Portrait Drawing I course, you can simply follow this link, http://www.riverafineartstudios.thinkific.com.
I hope to see you there!


Reference Photo 1.


Reference Photo 2.


Reference Photo 3.



Supplies & Syllabus for Advanced Portrait Drawing

April 10, 2019

Hello students,

For those of you who have signed up for my online advanced portrait drawing master class, below is a brief outline of what will be covered in each class as well as a list of materials. For those of you who are interested in signing up for this class, you will find a link on my website, http://www.riverafinearts.com under my “art classes” page.

First, I’d just like to express how truly thrilled I am to finally be offering one of the most extensive portrait drawing classes online. This class goes well beyond the basics. In addition to learning about the underlying anatomical structures which make up the human face, you will become more skilled in rendering subtle nuances of form, value and texture, which will give your portraits that incredibly life-like appearance that will leave your viewers in awe. If you took my portrait drawing I master class prior to this, you will already be familiar with a lot of the terminology discussed in this course.

1st Class

We will begin with a discussion of the materials, followed by a linear construct from a photograph of our portrait model using comparative measuring. The initial construction will focus on accurately deciphering large shapes with a series of vertical, horizontal and angled lines. This type of construction helps us to understand the width to height ratios of our subject as well as the big relationships. I will discuss and demonstrate this method in a real time video. As we begin to refine our contour lines, we will look for the curves and irregularities within the large forms. We will also tackle the linear construction of the interior forms (including shadow shapes) using the same method.

2nd Class

In the second class, we will discuss the importance of value as it relates to our subject.  I will then give a four part demonstration.

Part 1.

I will start off by discussing how to create an extended value scale. Working with different mediums allows us to increase our value range as each medium has it’s own inherent value.

Part 2.

Next, I will render a simple form with a combination of the different charcoals and pencils to push the light and dark value range further. I will explain ways to transition the mediums together to avoid choppiness or overly abrupt changes within the form description.

Part 3.

I will then create a “value study” of the model, focusing on the big shifts of light and dark, as well as the value emphasis which will strengthen the overall composition. This can often be done as a study for a larger image. The idea here, is to simplify the values into large graphic shapes like a posterized picture.

Part 4.

Finally, we will add a light layer of unified value to the actual drawing, creating a one to one ratio of light to dark. This will set up a strong foundation which we will refine and develop with additional layers.

3rd Class

Now we will begin to push our value range within a small area using the “window shading” technique. As I study my subject, I will explain how to work on layering darker values over the shadows, and gradually move towards the lights. This method will allow us to depict the subtleties of each form, and bring it close to completion before moving on to another area. I will break down the underlying anatomy and structure specific to each part with separate studies of the skull.

4th Class

I will continue to develop my shading with a narrated demonstration. My primary focus at this stage is to accentuate the forms and anatomical structures of the model’s features. In so doing, I will begin to transform the drawing into a life-like portrayal of human expression. I will also begin to talk more specifically about how certain muscles of the face form actual expressions.

5th Class

This is where all of the parts start coming together and the drawing slowly takes on a life of it’s own. As I continue to render the model’s features, I will be honing in on the subtleties which are specific to capturing her unique likeness.

6th Class

In this final class I will demonstrate how to push the “hyperrealism” to the next level by adding skin texture, individual strands of hair, etc. This is the layer where we transform the sculptural form which we’ve spent so many hours refining, and add, yet another layer of  textural detail. As we do this, we will also re-evaluate all of the parts, making sure that our values work as a whole.

(Below is a short clip of me demonstrating how to shade light values with a hard pencil – one of the many things which will be covered in this course.)



Recommended materials:

1.)  Drawing pencils (I recommend the Faber-Castell brand) in the following hardnesses;

(4H, 2H, B, 2B, 4B)

2.)  Nitram charcoal sticks (H, HB, B, 2B)

3.)  General’s charcoal pencils (HB, 2B, 4B)

4.)  Kneaded eraser

5.)  Double sided shaders in assorted sizes

6.)  A small, stiff bristled blending brush

7.)  Razor blades or x-acto knife

8.)  A sandpaper block as pictured above

9.)  BFK Rives white drawing paper (15 x 22)

10.) Strathmore Bristol medium texture drawing paper (11 x 14 or larger)

Reference photo below:

If you have any questions about the materials or anything else, don’t hesitate to email me at riverafinearts@gmail.com.