Emphasizing Abstraction

Stuart Shils
Stuart Shils
Stuart Shils
Stuart Shils
Stuart Shils


Emphasizing Abstraction
Master Class Intensive with Stuart Shils
April 24 – 26, 2020
Note: Class will start with a digital presentation April 23, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.

Three immersive, fast paced days in the studio are focused on clarifying observation while holding the loaded brush.  Working from both the model and from reproductions including older and 20th century masters, we’ll paint our way through a guided sequence of visual exercises to understand that abstraction – composition with color and shape – is THE foundation, the great engine behind all painting. Significant emphasis will also be placed on developing a deeper familiarity with drawing in concise, abstract graphic language with graphite, collage and crayon. The take away from this class is materials based and experiential and not oriented toward ‘finished’ paintings but rather, on acquiring a more comprehensive knowledge of what a painting can be in the first place.  The class will have dinner together on one of the nights.

As Maurice Denis said at the beginning of the 20th century:

‘Remember: a picture before being a battle-horse, a nude woman or some anecdote is essentially a flat surface covered with colors arranged in a certain order.’

This is NOT a “copy” class, we will not be copying the superficial appearance of paintings, but rather, trying to get inside and see what they are made of and learning to use abstract shorthand to describe both what is there and also what we see and how we see it.
Materials will be crayola crayons, acrylic paints and pencils.

Some painters explored in this scenario might be:
Euan Euglow
Henri Matisse
Simon Martini
Edward Hopper
Piero de la Francesca
Michelangelo, Caravaggio
Morandi, Degas, Duccio,Dekooning
Fra Angelica and more!

On the second day of the course we will work with a live model to introduce and cultivate the perceptual tools of rapid visual summation and notation, both in terms of how to understand what you see and how to remake that into clear and intelligent graphic formats on paper. Working with a live model we learn to apply our studies of the masters to the life drawing and painting situation. Then we use that experience to further our composition work on the final day.

Opportunities for dinner gatherings and ongoing discussion and critique are arranged giving this workshop a broad scope and richness.


Payment Options: Students may pay in full or choose the payment-plan option during registration. The payment plan requires a non-refundable $125 deposit with the non-refundable balance due 30 days before the first day of the workshop.

Stuart Shils

Stuart Shils

Stuart Shils is a sensitive painter of the abstract, as seen through the composition in his urban work, and the dramatic weather depicted in his Irish coastal work. His Italian series seems to be bathed in warm-to-hot sunlight. An ever-evolving artist, his recent explorations have taken an even more abstract turn involving collage and assemblage.

Inspired by work done on his monotype press, his paintings have become abstract fields of beautiful hues, and textures with small accents of surprise that punctuate and shape the broad environments of color. Even more recently, his photography of collages in the making and ever changing street scenes reveal an alert eye that constantly sees the shifting compositions of daily life, revealing just how they can be plucked out of context by the camera, leaving the scene undisturbed.

Shils has shown his work at Rothschild Gallery, Tel Aviv, Tibor de Nagy, NY and Hackett-Freedman in San Francisco among others. He has been awarded numerous grants for his work including awards from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, the Ballington Arts Foundation and the NEA Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. He has been a visiting artist at numerous colleges and arts organizations including University of Washington, Hamline University, Lyme Academy School of Arts, University of Utah, Johns Hopkins University, and the Sedona Arts Center.

There is a rich abundance of material available on Stuart Shils online.

Explore his Website –

An Article on Painting Powers of Observation –

A “Savy Painter” Podcast

Numerous Articles and Interviews on “Painting Perceptions”


Our class will be conducted in acrylic paint, NOT oil paint.

For our purposes I find acrylic to be the best way to escape from many clichés that we carry related to how we use oil paint and often unknowingly beat the life out of it. If you are worried about acrylic because of unfamiliarity, please stop worrying and just enjoy. It will be fine and, it will give you a chance to do something different. Also, it will not fill the air with aromatic toxicity as petroleum distillate solvents do, so we’ll all feel better in our bodies and lungs.


I always recommend GOLDEN in tubes, but if you already have Liquitex or something else, fine. Or if the Golden seem to expensive, use something else. But I can tell you that they have superb coverage and are actually, a better paint, when economy is an issue, anything will work.

Yellow Ochre

Hansa Yellow

Permanent Yellow Medium

Cadmium Orange

Pyroll  OR Naptha Red  (these are strong ‘fire engine’ reds and much cheaper than cadmium.

Quinacridone Red

Ivory Black or Carbon Black

Cobalt Blue


Cerulean Blue

Titanium White, Blick, 8 0z jar or several tubes so you don’t run out.

Please make sure to have enough White as it is the mother of the palette.

If you have other colors also you can bring them. I’m reluctant to list more than these because sometimes people scream when there are too many colors.

*A BLACK CARAN D’ARCHE CRAYON or the equivalent:


*WOODLESS PENCILS, a few weights, like 6B,8B. for example:




Please bring 1 of these CANSON 9 X 12 MIXED MEDIA PAD:


AND one of the following:

Dick Blick item # 13329 – 2017,

BLICK BRISTOL PAD 14 X 17 INCHES, SMOOTH SURFACE (please DO NOT bring the 9×12 inch size.) 


when you click on this, the 9×12 might come up but look below and you will see the 14×17.


*very small container of elmers glue like this:


OR a better yet, a GLUE STICK

*A SCISSORS of any kind, something very simple on the small side.

*ROLL OF WHITE ARTIST TAPE, 1 inch thick (DO NOT bring standard hardware store tape):


this is the white archival artist tape. And very important to have a roll.




*BRUSHES: I recommend Blick’s white synthetic ROUNDS. #05381

I would get #’s 14, 12, 10, 8.


MOST important is the 14, 12, I want you using large brushes.

PLEASE do not bring the stiff oil painting ‘hog hair’ type brushes, they are terrible with acrylic paint.

*PALETTE KINFE, please being this style with a long blade and NOT tiny little painting knives, the kind used for placing a highlight on a mouse’s nose in a mouse portrait:


maybe bring two in case one breaks.

*DISPOSSABLE PALETTE for acrylic paint, 16 X 20 INCH, lots of room to mix: I cannot over emphasize the importance of a large palette and not one of those tiny little ones. I do NOT recommend grey colored palettes, instead get white.


*GLOVES for your hands:

I suggest protecting your hands, even with acrylic, you don’t want it all over your skin. But it’s up to you. Here is a good glove, choose the size best for your hands. I use a medium for a snug fit. You can call Grainger and order them. Or perhaps you can find something similar at the hardware store.


Just want to extend a huge thank you for having Stuart out to do the 3-day "Emphasizing Abstraction" workshop. The art center is such a great facility. Sedona is an important venue for Stuart's workshops, as he does comparatively few on the West Coast. The workshop itself was totally mind-blowing. Not only is Stuart an exceptional teacher and thinker (as you well know), but he also offers unique insights into how artists can extend exploratory inquiry into their own creative process while giving a strong foundation for doing so. The evening discussions examining Stuart's own work - a retrospective of sorts - deftly illustrated the importance of risk-taking and revisiting one's own personal and developmental history as an artist. Thanks again for a great learning experience. Best wishes for another 60 years of success in promoting a diverse and progressive art tradition in Sedona. -Sandy Honda

It’s taken me some time to process all you shared with us in Sedona. As I’ve told my all artist friends & family, “Experiencing your workshop has been a game changer for both my work and life!” A complete lifestyle shift. You’ve taken me from ‘going through the motions’ of the ‘busy-ness’ of art making to fully embracing my creative/experimental self. Guiding me back to my complete identity as an artist. Having worn many hats during my life, I’d lost touch with my true nature & my life purpose. Your workshop has reintroduced me to my most natural, intuitive self. You’ve revealed & reawakened within me what it truly means to BE a painter. You’ve armed me with the sharpened visual & conversational habits which I’m integrating into my daily painting practice. I am completely confident that both my new self & my new work will exponentially evolve. Because of your workshop, I’ve shifted from being a ‘surviving artist’ to a becoming a THRIVING ARTIST!I’m certain that every participant found it to be transformative. Stuart, you are a renaissance man and your ‘Emphasizing Abstraction’ is the most valuable workshop I’ve been blessed to experience. Far more than a specific art technique or process geared toward hobbyist artists gathering techniques, your workshop is a primer on what it means to Be an artist/painter. A way of being, thinking and experiencing life fully and creatively engaged. Thank you, Stuart, for developing and sharing such an awesome workshop! -Sher

I am writing to let you know how much I loved the recent workshop “Emphasizing Abstraction” with Stuart Shils. It was the missing link in my painting. Stuart is an excellent teacher with the rare combination of being a brilliant working artist who is able to meet each student at their level with encouragement and honesty and inspire and motivate the group as a whole. I was amazed by his energy and generosity, from sharing his process, materials, wisdom, and time (we met as a group beyond the hours of the class). I left feeling not only inspired and motivated but with actual tools/exercises to keep working. I’ve drawn and painted every day since I got back home!The biggest shift is that I’m now able to see why a painting is working and why it isn’t. This is huge for me. In the past it was “I like it” or I don’t, but not really understanding why. I’ve been looking at my own paintings since the workshop and I can see why they are or aren’t working -a lack of rhythm of shapes. It is so powerful to now be able to know what to look for when I am stuck in a painting. It has made both making and looking at painting so much more alive for me.If Stuart comes back to Sedona Arts Center again I will do everything I can to come back!