Grand Central Atelier Celebrates Winners of Figure Drawing Competition

By Milene Fernandez, Epoch Times
July 8, 2016 10:33 pm Last Updated: July 11, 2016 5:02 pm

NEW YORK—Eleven artists drew the same model in the same studio together for 40 hours over five days, with $10,000 on the line for the first prize of the Figure Drawing Competition of Grand Central Atelier (GCA). Their intense concentration culminated with a lively awards reception on the evening of their last day of drawing on July 6.

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People attend the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

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People attend the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

People attend the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
People attend the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Jacob Collins, the artist and founder of the respected atelier, announced the winners to a drum roll in the casual, intimate setting of Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, Queens.

Before announcing the prizewinners, Collins thanked the other judgesJordan Sokol, the academic director of The Florence Academy of Art-U.S. branch (also a leading art school in the realist tradition), and Katie Whipple, a GCA alumnaas well as the monitors of the competition, the artist model, the students, and artists present.

 (L–R) The judges of the competition, Jordan Sokol, Jacob Collins, and Katie Wipple, at Eleventh Street Arts, July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)
(L–R) The judges of the competition, Jordan Sokol, Jacob Collins, and Katie Wipple, at Eleventh Street Arts, July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)

“In all these competitions—in which I have years ago been a participant, a contestant, as well as a judge, and an observer—the point of course isn’t to win. Maybe it is, a little,” Collins said, pausing for the laughter in the room to subside. “It’s never going to feel fair unless you get first place, and I hope that whoever feels that they got chafed can accept that we did our best … but if you think yours was the best one, then good for you because that’s how you have to be,” he paused again, as more people laughed. “Either way, go back to drawing and painting, keep up the good work,” Collins said to enthusiastic applause.

Savannah Tate Cuff, a second year GCA student going into her third year, received the top prize of $10,000.

Savannah Tate Cuff with her drawing, after winning first place in the Grand Central Atelier Figure Drawing Competition, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Savannah Tate Cuff with her drawing, after winning first place in the Grand Central Atelier Figure Drawing Competition, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I didn’t expect it, but it’s a good surprise. I’m happy,” Cuff said after receiving the award. Reflecting on her experience over the five days of intensive drawing, she said, “I think everyone should take a figure drawing class at an atelier like this one because you learn to appreciate the human form. It’s just an incredible experience.”

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GCA students congratulate Savannah Tate Cuff at Eleventh Street Arts gallery on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)

Patrick Byrnes, a GCA artist in residence, received $3,000 for second place.

This is the second time he has participated in this competition.

Patrick Byrnes with his drawing, after winning second place in the Grand Central Atelier Figure Drawing Competition, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times).
Patrick Byrnes with his drawing, after winning second place in the Grand Central Atelier Figure Drawing Competition, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times).

“I did this competition three years ago, and it was such an unpleasant experience for me because I was so stressed out. This time, it was very different because I was relaxed. I just focused on the experience of making a beautiful drawing,” Byrnes said. “I actually like my drawing style and I’m happy with what I achieved. It was an intense week. I’m obviously thrilled that I won a prize.”

Epoch Times arts writer Milene Fernandez interviews second place winner Patrick Byrnes. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)
Epoch Times arts writer Milene Fernandez interviews second place winner Patrick Byrnes. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)

Kevin Muller Cisneros, going into his fourth year of study at GCA, received $2000 for third place.

“Everybody’s drawing was really strong. When you are competing, you do think about who might be a possible winner. I would say at least five people were really close for third place,” Muller Cisneros said.

Kevin Muller Cisneros with his drawing, after winning third place in the Grand Central Atelier  Figure Drawing Competition, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Kevin Muller Cisneros with his drawing, after winning third place in the Grand Central Atelier Figure Drawing Competition, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Muller Cisneros thinks about the importance of creating realistic art all the time, he said.

“It all comes down to teaching people how to see the world again. Sitting in front of a model or an object, observing them for hours on end, trying to capture that visual impact on a two-dimensional surface, with all the tools and skills you learn in the academic tradition, you are able to describe the world and tell people, ‘Look, this is another way to see the world,'” he said.

Detail of Savannah Tate Cuff's drawing, which won first place. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Detail of Savannah Tate Cuff’s drawing, which won first place. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

The quality of all the participant’s drawings—each quite unique in representing the same subject—where top notch. The judges used various criteria, based on the visual vocabulary of fine art, to choose the prizewinners, including anatomical clarity, proportion, gesture, light effect, rendering, and contouring.

“All the drawings were really beautiful so it was quite difficult to decide. We had a lot of discussions about why we thought the particular ones that won should win, but generally we were in agreement with everything,” one of the judges, Jordan Sokol said.

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(L–R) Amaya Gurpide, Jordan Sokol hugging Patrick Byrnes, Jacob Collins congratulate Byrnes for winning 2nd place, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times).

In terms of identifying technical skill and artistry, Collins sees them as being inseparable.

“The drawing is all of its qualities. The spirit is expressed through the method, so I don’t think they are exactly separable,” he said.

Jacob Collins, artist and founder of Grand Central Atelier, looks at one of the drawings at the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception in Eleventh Street Arts gallery on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)
Jacob Collins, artist and founder of Grand Central Atelier, looks at one of the drawings at the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception in Eleventh Street Arts gallery on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)

Lively conversation with a pianist playing lounge music in the background continued late into the evening. Collins reminisced about the days before he founded Grand Central Atelier, showing much appreciation for how many more artists are dedicated to creating realistic art than when he started over 20 years ago.

People attend the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Charles Mister plays the piano during the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Reception of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“I’m so happy I’m part of this project of all these artists learning how to draw. I do remember when I was a little kid and I looked around and as far as I could see, I didn’t think anyone in the world—it wasn’t true, but as far as I could see—I didn’t see that anyone knew how to draw. It was like that tradition was completely lost,” Collins said. “It’s nice for me to see and to be in the middle of a scene where there are people really figuring out how to do it.”

The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund supported the artistic competition.

(L-R) Kevin Muller Cisneros, Jordan Sokol, Jacob Collins, Savannah Tate Cuff, Patrick Byrnes, and Katie Whipple at the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Ceremony of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)
(L-R) Kevin Muller Cisneros, Jordan Sokol, Jacob Collins, Savannah Tate Cuff, Patrick Byrnes, and Katie Whipple at the Figure Drawing Competition Awards Ceremony of Grand Central Atelier at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)

Paintings of Grand Central Atelier artists in residence on display at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)
Paintings of Grand Central Atelier artists in residence on display at Eleventh Street Arts gallery in Long Island City, New York, on July 6, 2016. (Benjamin Chasten/Epoch Times)