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Plein Air Classes, Critiques and Private Lessons

William E. Elston offers ongoing landscape instruction during the Spring, Summer and Fall months.

If you would like to sign up, you may do so below. Space is limited, so the classes you desire may be full. If that is the case, you can request to be put on the waiting list here.

Discounts are available for first time signups, and for senior citizens. Other discounts and rewards programs may also be available to enrolled students.

Payment is via PayPal, major credit cards are accepted.

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Greater Seattle Plein Air Classes, Lessons & Critiques

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Winter Lectures: Full Package

I will be offering a series of lecture/demos this winter. They will take place in my studio and will cover the following subjects:

Lecture 1: Painting Really Large in a Really Small Studio
Lecture 2: Studio Practice for the Plein Air Painter
Lecture 3: Realism - Two Centuries of Revolution

Dates: Lecture 1, November 10, 3pm; Lecture 2, December 8, 3pm; Lecture 3, January 19, 3pm

If interest exceeds capacity, new dates may be added. Dates are subject to change.
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Details re. the three Winter Lectures are as follows.

Lecture 1: Painting Really Large in a Really Small Studio: This lecture/demo will focus on strategies for executing a large studio canvas. The primary example will be a piece that I've been working on for a couple of years. It measures 76 x 96 inches, or 6.3 x 8 feet.

Working at this scale presents a unique set of challenges, from developing the composition using studies, montages and photographic sources, to figuring out access to areas of the painting that would normally be out of reach. The painting in question is about three fifths finished, so it is in a perfect state to see how the image was constructed.

In this lecture I also hope to throw some light on the creative process itself. Michelangelo said that great art consists of thousands of tiny adjustments. Any art consists of thousands of small decisions, and in this lecture I want to expose some of those choices and explain how they are made.

The presentation will include slides, including some documenting the progress of the painting from cartoon to present, live demo, and will also include historical examples.

At the same time, the lecture will be a travelogue, since the painting is based on a plein air study that was done in Buenos Aires in 2008. I’ll try to place the painting in context, as a moment in time’s continuum, as well as a reflection of universals that are true anywhere that humans inhabit and engage in social interaction and display. Plaza Guemes is a world within a world, and like most worlds, it is now much different than the Plaza Guemes that served as inspiration for this painting.

Lecture 2: Studio Practice for the Plein Air Painter: When the plein air (painting outdoors) season ends, often the painter is left with a handful of unfinished paintings. Traditionally, before the advent of paintouts, plein air competitions and the like, the artist would finish the painting in the studio, often relying on sketches, photographs, memory and other source material.

In the heyday of the 19th century, plein air was often seen as a way of collecting data about the landscape in order to produce what were called the "grand salon machines", i.e. oversized paintings intended for the Academy's annual exhibition. Much of this lecture will be devoted to this history, from the advent of plein air painting in the 1830s, and in contrast to the contemporary plein air movement.

Ideas will be presented for setting up one's own studio, whether dedicated or just a corner of a room. Other strategies for integrating studio and plein air work will be discussed.

This lecture/demo is intended to explore and celebrate a more expanded and traditional view of plein air than what is common today. It will serve as a counter to the fetishization and commercialization of contemporary plein air events and practice. The history of plein air and the importance of the artists’ social life, centered around traditional art colonies such as Skagen and Cos Cob will be discussed.

Lecture 3: Realism - Two Centuries of Revolution: This lecture presents the history of Realism from Courbet to the present, a philosophical thread in art that is relatively unbroken despite the Modernist hegemony. The thread is traced from Realists like Courbet through Impressionism, Naturalism, American Scene and Social Realism, the Socialist Realism of Russia and China, the shin hanga tradition in Japan and the Realism of the present.

A primary goal of the Realists was to undermine and upend hierarchies, both social and perceptual. Some were active politically as well as culturally. Courbet was a socialist that was imprisoned for his role in the Paris Commune. The objective was always to see things as they are, not as they pretend to be. He maintained that “the only possible source for living art is the artist's own experience.” Courbet once said that he wanted his epithet to read that “He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.”

One finds some of these same sentiments in the writings and works of the Social Realists of the 1930s and 40s. Artists like Ben Shahn, Jack Levine, Philip Evergood, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus and others depicted the social dislocations and political corruptions of the Great Depression.

The Realists carved out an aesthetic space for the depiction of labor that contributed to the development of the labor movement itself, in much the same way that the painters of the American wilderness helped to create the conceptual foundations of the environmental movement. I hope to show that the Realist movement, the intent to “see things as they are,” still has a great deal to offer in the present day.

The lecture will be accompanied by a brief demonstration of the sight-size method, a 19th century practice that is ideal for training perceptual accuracy.

Refreshments are included, and senior citizen discounts are available for those 65 and over.
  1. Senior Citizen
$120.00

Single lecture tickets can be purchased if space is available.
Inquire re. availability here:

Introduction to Plein Air - 4 Sessions

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Introduction to Plein Air - 4 Sessions, is an easy way to become involved without committing to a full 8 or 16 sessions. If you enjoy the experience you can extend your sessions to the full 8 or 16 sessions by simply paying the difference.
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Plein Air Sessions are held in the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Valley, Snohomish Valley, Eastside, Pioneer Square, Washington Park Arboretum, Discovery Park, etc. Plein air sites are selected based on aesthetic interest and relative convenience.

The Introduction to Plein Air provides an easy way to get involved, without committing to a full 8 or 16 sessions. When the 4 sessions are complete, an additional 4 or 12 classes can be added by paying the difference between the Introductory and the regular 8 or 16 sessions.

This class meets from approx. mid-April to approx. mid-November, depending on weather conditions. Students can attend the class sessions that are convenient to their schedule. The student does not lose session credits if a particular class is missed, and if session credits remain at the end of the painting season, they can be applied to the following year’s plein air season. Class times are 10 AM to 2:30 PM on either Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Alternate days may also be offered if weather is inclement on designated class days.

Session fees do not cover the cost of equipment and painting materials, including easels or other required items.

Classes are scheduled based on the number of students enrolled. If insufficient enrollment results in a full cancellation, then a full refund will be made.

Refund Policy for Plein Air Classes: Refunds are not available for any other reason than full cancellation of class.
Introduction to Plein Air - 4 Sessions
$180.00
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    Purchase 8 Plein Air Sessions

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    Plein Air Sessions are held in the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Valley, Snohomish Valley, Eastside, Pioneer Square, Washington Park Arboretum, Discovery Park, etc. Plein air sites are selected based on aesthetic interest and relative convenience.

    This class meets from approx. mid-April to approx. mid-November, depending on weather conditions. Students can sign up for either 8 or 16 sessions, and attend the class sessions that are convenient to their schedule. The student does not lose session credits if a particular class is missed, and if session credits remain at the end of the painting season, they can be applied to the following year’s plein air season. Class times are 10 AM to 2:30 PM on either Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Alternate days may also be offered if weather is inclement on designated class days.

    Session fees do not cover the cost of equipment and painting materials, including easels or other required items.

    Classes are scheduled based on the number of students enrolled. If insufficient enrollment results in a full cancellation, then a full refund will be made.

    First time signup discounts are available for either first time students or for students that have not been in class for two years or more. If either of these apply to you, please select the "yes" radio button to receive your discount.

    Refund Policy for Plein Air Classes: Refunds are not available for any other reason than full cancellation of class.
    1. new student discount
    $380.00
    Plein Air Class
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    Purchase 16 Plein Air Sessions

    More Details..
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    Plein Air Sessions are held in the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Valley, Snohomish Valley, Eastside, Pioneer Square, Washington Park Arboretum, Discovery Park, etc. Plein air sites are selected based on aesthetic interest and relative convenience.

    This class meets from approx. mid-April to approx. mid-November, depending on weather conditions. Students can sign up for either 8 or 16 sessions, and attend the class sessions that are convenient to their schedule. The student does not lose session credits if a particular class is missed, and if session credits remain at the end of the painting season, they can be applied to the following year’s plein air season. Class times are 10 AM to 2:30 PM on either Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Alternate days may also be offered if weather is inclement on designated class days.

    Session fees do not cover the cost of equipment and painting materials, including easels or other required items.

    Classes are scheduled based on the number of students enrolled. If insufficient enrollment results in a full cancellation, then a full refund will be made.

    First time signup discounts are available for either first time students or for students that have not been in class for two years or more. If either of these apply to you, please select the new student discount checkbox to receive your discount.

    Refund Policy for Plein Air Classes: Refunds are not available for any other reason than full cancellation of class.
    1. new student discount
    $680.00
    Plein Air Class
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    Senior Plein Air Discount (65+)

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    Senior Plein Air Session packages are available for students that are 65 years or older. They can be purchased in groups of three sessions. There is a general discount for these classes over regular price, as well as a bonus session if you purchase two groups of 3 sessions, and 2 bonus sessions if you buy 3 groups of 3 sessions.

    If you are a senior that is an active student, i.e. you have a minimum of one remaining session credit, you are eligible for additional discounts. You will have to login to the student website with your username and password to access these savings.

    Plein Air Sessions are held in the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Valley, Snohomish Valley, Eastside, Pioneer Square, Washington Park Arboretum, Discovery Park, etc. Plein air sites are selected based on aesthetic interest and relative convenience.

    This class meets from approx. mid-April to approx. mid-November, depending on weather conditions. Students can sign up for either 8 or 16 sessions, and attend the class sessions that are convenient to their schedule. The student does not lose session credits if a particular class is missed, and if session credits remain at the end of the painting season, they can be applied to the following year’s plein air season. Class times are 10 AM to 2:30 PM on either Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Alternate days may also be offered if weather is inclement on designated class days.

    Session fees do not cover the cost of equipment and painting materials, including easels or other required items.

    Classes are scheduled based on the number of students enrolled. If insufficient enrollment results in a full cancellation, then a full refund will be made.

    Refund Policy for Studio Classes: Refunds are not available for any other reason than cancellation of class.
    $100.00
    Plein Air Class,Senior
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    Purchase Private Lessons

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    Private Lessons are available for both studio and plein air work. A typical lesson is 4 hours and costs $250. There is a discount available for pre-payment of 2 or more sessions.

    Private Lessons are intensive and can either be held at your studio or Mr. Elston's studio, or at a site of your choosing in the Seattle metropolitan area. Availability is dependent on Mr. Elston's schedule and prior commitments. All Lesson sessions must be scheduled in advance, via email or telephone with Mr. Elston, before payment is made.

    Private Lessons are discounted based on the number of lessons that you sign up for. Please select the quantity that you are interested in purchasing.

    Refund Policy for Private Lessons: Refunds are available only in the event that the instructor is unavailable or unable to fulfill the lesson or critique commitment.
    $250.00
    Critique / Lesson
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    Purchase Private Critiques

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    Private Critiques are available. These are generally held in the artist / student's own studio, provided it is located in the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

    A typical critique is approximately 2 hours and costs $200. There is a discount available for pre-payment of 2 or more sessions.

    Private Critiques are intensive. Availability is dependent on Mr. Elston's schedule and prior commitments. All Critique sessions must be scheduled in advance, via email or telephone with Mr. Elston, before payment is made.

    Private Critiques are discounted based on the number of critiques that you sign up for. Please select the quantity that you are interested in purchasing.

    Refund Policy for Private Critiques: Refunds are available only in the event that the instructor is unavailable or unable to fulfill the lesson or critique commitment.
    $200.00
    Critique / Lesson
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    Purchase Online Critiques

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    Private Online Critiques are available via a private, secured webpage.

    Students of drawing and painting, and even professional artists, occasionally need a “third eye,” someone that can tell them how their artwork “reads” to an audience. It is a real advantage if that “third eye” belongs to a professionally trained artist, a draughtsman or painter, in their own right. A critique can provide critical analysis of a painting’s composition, color, brushwork and narrative. Ongoing critiques can help the student develop the critical faculties essential to producing expressive and well executed art.

    This service has been developed to provide critique on a per session/painting basis, with discounts for packages of multiple sessions.. It utilizes image annotation software in order to provide a comprehensive critique of a specific painting. The critique covers positive aspects of the painting, and highlights problem areas that the student may not be aware of.

    Online Private Critiques are implemented on a private website, accessible only by the artist and the student. The process begins with the student signing up for the service, at which time they will be sent a username/password for the private website. They can then upload an image or images, depending on the number of sessions, using the page’s dropbox. Once the artist has reviewed the image, an annotated version will be made available on the website.

    Refund Policy for Online Critique Services:
    Refunds are available only in the event that the instructor is unavailable or unable to fulfill the Online Critique commitment.
    $35.00
    Critique / Lesson
  • Redeem Bounty - 8 Sessions

    Student Only Discount

    This discount or upgrade is only available to enrolled students. If you are already enrolled you can sign in here to purchase this discount.
    Forgotten?
    Plein Air Class, Bounty
  • Redeem Bounty - 16 Sessions

    Student Only Discount

    This discount or upgrade is only available to enrolled students. If you are already enrolled you can sign in here to purchase this discount.
    Forgotten?
    Plein Air Class, Bounty
  • Continuing Student Discount

    Student Only Discount

    This discount or upgrade is only available to enrolled students. If you are already enrolled you can sign in here to purchase this discount.
    Forgotten?
    Plein Air Class, Continuing
Refund Policy for Plein Air Classes and Studio Classes: Refunds are not available for any other reason than full cancellation of class.
Refund Policy for Private Lessons, Private Critiques or Online Critiques: Refunds are available only in the event that the instructor is unavailable or unable to fulfill the lesson or critique commitment.

William E. Elston

aritst/owner: w. e. elston fine arts
William E. Elston is a professional artist and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. He has exhibited for over 40 years, and has works in numerous public and private collections.

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William E. Elston

aritst/owner: w. e. elston fine arts
William E. Elston is a professional artist and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. He has exhibited for over 40 years, and has works in numerous public and private collections.
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