Why I Teach

By Manny Cosentino, Ryman Arts Faculty Member

Some years ago La Monte Westmoreland invited me to make a guest artist presentation for the advanced panting class he was teaching at Ryman Arts. I was so honored and well received by his class as I made that presentation. Shortly thereafter I began to teach advanced painting for Ryman Arts (2004).

Of all of the organizations and schools that I have taught for (I have been teaching art since 1990) Ryman Arts is top of the line and a class act. All the people that I know who are involved with the organization, from board members to administrative staff, teaching colleagues and teaching assistants, are stellar.  Teaching requires extensive planning and preparation and I and my fellow Ryman Arts instructors spend many hours in the studio, developing lessons and working up demos for students before presenting them in the classroom.  Ryman Arts is the only organization that I know of that compensates instructors for such preparation time.

As an artist, I draw and paint the figure, portraits, urban landscape and still life, much of the time from direct observation.  In developing my studio practice, like an archeologist, I unearth practices and techniques from older schools of art that relate to my own work.   I am referring specifically to the early Flemish and Venetian schools of oil painting, with their emphasis on preliminary drawing, underpainting, and the interplay of transparent shadows, opaque lights, and semi-opaque or semi-transparent middle tones that one observes in their work.  Such an approach to painting allows me to emphasize light, an extremely important element in my work, whatever I am depicting.

Even though I teach advanced painting for Ryman Arts in acrylics, I incorporate this classical approach to oil painting.   Students usually begin a painting with a preliminary drawing, over which they execute an underpainting in transparent earth tones.   Once the drawing and underpainting are set, students begin mixing colors and putting paint down.   This requires them to put basic color theory into practice and to explore the various ways of applying paint described above; glazing for dark shadows, scumbling for middle-tones, and painting thick and heavy for light passages.   In a broader context, I encourage my students to always keep learning no matter how old or how far along in their careers they get, and to develop for themselves criteria for what a work of art is, and for what the experience of art entails, regardless of specific medium or content.

The emphasis that Ryman Arts places on drawing and painting from life resonates deeply with who I am as an artist.   Drawing is timeless; we have been doing it since we were in caves.   Nothing can replace human touch and the sensitivity of the human hand that one observes in drawing.   To experience a person, place, or thing and let it go through your eyes into your brain and course through your body like electricity, to allow it to emerge from your hand via a pencil or crayon onto a piece of paper, as lines, shapes, and tones that create the illusion of the thing that it is, IS TRULY MAGICAL AND SUCH A GIFT!

Manny Cosentino is a nationally exhibited figurative painter and accomplished draughtsman. He paints on glass and from 2009 to 2015 he was the lead stained glass painter for the Judson Studios in Los Angeles. Manny’s his own work consists of contemporary portraits, figure compositions, urban landscapes and still lives. He has always enjoyed studying the art and painting/drawing practices of the past to find techniques and approaches that best suit his artistic vision; he is especially fond of Flemish and Venetian painting. He is a dedicated instructor and mentor to young artists and over the last couple of years he has taught Life Drawing and Life Painting at California State University Long Beach and Advanced Painting for Ryman Arts. He also teaches privately in Los Angeles and Malibu. To learn more about Manny, please visit: www.mannycosentino.com.