Sharon Sprung Paints a Portrait

Sharon Sprung, the cover artist for The Artist’s Magazine‘s April 2008 issue, paints the figure from life but positions that figure in abstract fields. A double life is what Sprung admits to when it comes to her art. Her portraits are beautiful as fields of color sometimes heightened with ornament, yet they provoke the viewer into feeling each subject’s soul and guts. Sprung wrestles with the dichotomy between realism and abstraction.

“There’s a beautiful freedom in the mergence of the two that allows me to speak visually to more people,” she says over coffee in a cafe near her teaching gig at the Art Students League in New York City. “I’ve grown to dislike the hard edges and flat planes of the photorealist. I strive to give my paintings the life and energy of modern work, yet suggest the depth and craft inherited from the great tradition of realist painters.”

A gifted and generous teacher, whose classes at the Art Students League and the National Academy School typically have long waiting lists, Sprung gets high praise for her ingenious approach to the class demo, which involves her completing a portrait in sequence during a typical semester.

“Rather than cut into valuable student studio time, on the first day of a new course, I ask for a volunteer who will commit to pose during the regular model’s long breaks,” she explains. ”In that way, the class gets to see me develop a painting from start to finish—including tackling any challenges along the way.”

Nine-Image Painting Demonstration 
(shown at right)
By Ruth Callaghan, student at the Art Students League

Each day while the class’s regular model was taking a 20-minute break, Sprung painted a student, Lester. (Be sure to scroll down to see and read about all nine steps.)                                          

Meet Sharon Sprung

“Because I’m a realist, my pet peeve is a painting that tries to be a photograph,” says Sprung, who studied at Cornell University, and at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design, taking classes with Harvey Dinnerstein and Daniel E. Greene. Gallery Henoch of New York City will host a one-woman exhibition of her paintings in the fall of 2008. Her work is part of the collections of Bell Laboratories, Princeton University, Chase Manhattan Bank and the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2006 her Folding Chairs won first place in the Portrait/Figure category in the 23rd Annual Artist’s Magazine Competition. The artist can be reached through her website at

Louise B. Hafesh is an award-winning writer and artist. You can see examples of her work at


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