The Middlebury Campus

Visiting Artist, an Ohioan, Gives Intensive Drawing Workshop


Artist Brian Novatny finished a weeklong residency as part of the Cameron Visiting Artist of the Studio Art Program on Friday, Oct. 6. His visit included numerous intensive drawing workshops for students, as well as a lecture about his own artwork and other artwork that inspires him.

The Cameron Visiting Artist Program brings artists to Middlebury to teach students about art through lectures, workshops, and discussions. Past visiting artists include Rona Yefman, an Israeli photographer based out of New York City, and Austrian painter Gerlind Zeliner. The program aims to give students a wider perspective on the art world and inspire their artwork. “Making art teaches one how to question and probe what we think, see, and experience,” said Hedya Klein, the studio art chair who helped organize the week’s events. “Visual art is a means of communication. We rely on it and therefore must understand what we are looking at. Artists are part of an ongoing conversation that incorporates different aspects of lives such as materiality, process, history, philosophy, science, politics, beauty, literature and more. Artists are curious, and their curiosity leads them to questions that are addressed in their work. [We hope that] Novatny’s talk will incite curiosity, invention, reflection and growth in our students.”

Novatny came to Middlebury from Brooklyn, NY. However he first began making art in Columbus OH, his hometown. Novatny earned his B.F.A from Columbus College of Art & Design and his M.F.A from Yale University School of Art. His artwork has been shown in exhibitions from Berlin to New York to Beijing and is also housed in a number of permanent collections.

Novatny’s art is a mix of drawings and paintings, primarily using oil, pencil, and ink on paper and canvas. His earliest works are mostly simple figure drawings with colorful bursts of patterns drawn on paper. However, Novatny said he began to feel “constrained by the isolation of a figure,” and he began diversifying his style. While figures have remained a part of his work, his art has since become more abstract, and figures he depicts are often fragmented or obscured.

Novatny described the progression of his art in his lecture as, “morphing into something more collage-like, [with] no centralized iconic figure.” During the progression of his work, he also began experimenting with tools other than a brush, such as fast-drying oil and a palette knife. Finding different ways to manipulate paint was a way of breaking out of his constraints and having fun with the art.

Novatny’s residency also included numerous drawing-intensive workshops. In his workshops, Novatny aimed to teach students that drawing is an investigative tool and can allow them to open up the “visual thought process.”

The workshops were open to all students, even those who had never taken an art class before.

They investigated art through the use of two different mediums: pencil and ink on paper. Though both are rather basic mediums, Novatny sought to highlight the difference between the two. Where pencil is erasable, ink is much more permanent. Thus, he said, “one has to be more deliberate with applying a mark on the paper given that it is permanent and immovable.”

Novatny’s most recent body of work is a collection of black and white oil paintings on canvas based on “obscure 19th century portraits.” It was on display in April at ADA Gallery in Richmond, VA.

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Visiting Artist, an Ohioan, Gives Intensive Drawing Workshop