The focus of this course is on perceptual painting.

• The objective is to record with great sensitivity the qualities of light and atmosphere which are present through capturing precise color and tonal relationships…I firmly believe that the best way of teaching and learning these skills is to work from life…at least for the first 10-15 years of an artist’s development.

• I discuss all the mechanics of representational painting; i.e. drawing, perspective, form, light, space, color, color harmony…and there is a great emphasis on composition and discovering a personal vision.

• I greatly encourage my students to discover their personal way of looking at the world and to avoid painting the “cliche landscape” which is so prevalent in the world of landscape painting today.

• I approach composition in a very abstract way, working with he student to help them look at nature as a mosaic of form, color and shape.

• There is a strong emphasis on developing compositions via the thumbnail sketch, which I think is the best and most efficient means to distill what the student finds compelling about the subject at hand.

Morning Presentations: 

Here are a couple of the topics Dean will focus on in the presentations over breakfast: 


Using the thumbnail sketch as preparatory work for the painting, working to flex one’s creative muscles by exploring various compositional possibilities of the motif through massing tones and finding the large mosaic of forms to distill and communicate what one finds beautiful and fascinating about the subject. All while working to avoid the cliche plein air landscape! 


Thinking about the large structure of the forms of the landscape and how they relate to the light source, the sun or in the case of an overcast sky, the entire sky. When one develops a conceptual model of the large planes of the landscape it helps to avoid being distracted by all the complexity of the minutiae outside and allows the painter to carve out a convincing sense of space and light and also helps to give weight to forms. While speaking about these topics, I always show at least 6-10 great examples of paintings past and present which illustrate the ideas.

Each day of the course will be structured as follows:

I give a presentation in the morning over breakfast, always with a different focus, showing visual examples of former and present masters and then I often follow it with a painting demonstration at about 9am, which usually lasts for 45 minutes to an hour. Then all the students go out and find their painting spots and I spend the next 6-7 hours going from student to student and give them individual instruction. I feel this kind of personalized instruction produces the best results as each student is at a different level and is grappling with her/his own set of painting issues.

Then at the end of the day about 7:00pm, over prosecco and antipasti we have a group critique before dinner. This is extremely productive because it always generates a constructive group conversation about the work.