Bright Light Fine Art is a collaborative art instruction site featuring three well-known contemporary painters: David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw and Jacqueline Kamin (links to my posts).
The site has bios and sample galleries by each artist, listings of workshops and other news, and a store for books by Leffel and McGraw.
The essence of the site, however, is the “Artists Guild Library”: a subscription-only online library of streaming (not downloadable) instructional videos, for which a yearly membership is $50.
The Bright Light website itself offers little actual information about the videos; for that, you have to go to YouTube, where Kamin, who is apparently taking something of an administrative role for the project, has been posting short (3-6 minute) excerpts from them. Oddly, the Bright Light website has no link to or mention of the YouTube excerpts, which I would think would be a major selling point for library membership.
There are perhaps 30-some videos in the Artists Guild Library at this point, with more being added over time. They are of varying lengths, degrees of production and quality, but the core selection is pretty good. There are a couple of earlier videos of Leffel, produced by Liliedahl (one of which, The Art of Painting, is particularly good); the majority are more recent and are being produced by the Bright Light group. Some, shot at workshops, suffer from a few audio issues, but most are produced well for the purpose of learning, which is of course the point.
These videos do several things right that producers of instructional painting videos often get wrong. They are blissfully free of the pointless time-lapse shortening and annoying music tracks that plague some art instruction videos (particularly those often found on YouTube). They go pretty much right to the point, starting at the beginning and following through to a painting brought to a reasonable degree of finish, given the time constraints.
I much prefer this to compressed time videos. The essence is that of a virtual workshop, watching accomplished painters work in real time in order to understand their approach, step by step. Even the commentary, though often insightful, is to my mind secondary to simply being able to watch a painter you want to learn from work through the process of creating a painting.
The Bright Light videos also do other things right, like showing the artists’ palettes frequently through the process. (Too often in painting instruction videos, the artist’s brush disappears offscreen to be loaded up with just the right color by color mixing elves, then reappears so that artist can simply apply the color — magic!)
The Bright Light videos also linger on welcome close-ups, and the works in progress are generally well lit, giving an advantageous look a the creation of the painterly surface qualities at which these painters excel.
There are videos in which they experiment a bit, one with McGraw and Leffel painting a still life and portrait side by side, and another with McGraw and Kamin simultaneously painting the same subject, presented in split screens. Some are short lectures on things like materials choices or setting up a still life, most are longer, an hour to an hour and a half each, and some are two hours or more, split into two sections. The subjects are still life, portraits and figures.
I’m not entirely certain how many videos have been added in the year I’ve been a member, but the library is expanding.
If you admire the work of these artists, and would like to learn about their approach to painting, I recommend the site.
On a side note, there is currently a retrospective of the work of Sherrie McGraw at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, until November 30, 2014. Unfortunately, the institute’s website does not have a preview gallery. There are a few pieces previewed on the Bright Light News page.
In the meanwhile, you can view McGraw’s work, and that of the Leffel and Kamin, on their own websites, linked below.