Artist Profiles

Kamille Corry: Tradition Alive

by Mark Dicosola

Kamille Corry Studio Space

Kamille Corry Studio Space

When it comes to the European tradition of the old masters, classical realism is rarely seen and almost lost in the State of Utah.  With these techniques and methods of training and artistic expression so rare, I am grateful to have found Kamille Corry.  After studying classical painting techniques for years in Europe and the States, Corry is now offering the same opportunity to serious artists in Utah, with the opening of her new atelier in Salt Lake City.

As I enter Corry Studios there is a pigment-grinding table with glass bottles of colored powder and earth ready for mixing. Next to the table is a bookshelf packed with retrospectives of the old masters: Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Rodin, to name a few.  Just beyond are numerous wooden easels ready and waiting for figure studies.  There are plaster casts of classical sculptures, torsos, heads and hands. Student drawings of the sculptures are framed on the wall.  The draperies are open to natural, western sunlight.  Kamille Corry sits on a model riser and prepares a mahogany panel with linseed oil. Jazz is playing. The true romance of creation comes alive here, inspired by generations past and taught from one generation to the next.  The tradition of the old masters, the techniques of mastery, the dedication of passion, and the foundation of art is alive in Salt Lake City.

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Since early childhood, Kamille Corry knew she was going to be a painter.  Growing up in Ogden, she always sensed something missing in Utah with respect to art.  After going to Europe right out of high school, she became fascinated by the history of art there.  She was surrounded by it.  Returning to Utah to begin a four- year scholarship at the U’s art department, she became disenchanted by the program.  She remembers thinking that when she was enrolled in local community art classes at a frame shop in Ogden  she learned more useful skills there than at the University.  She says, “My teacher taught me perspective drawing, and he’d put something in front of me to draw from nature, render it, a three dimensional object and all of its perspective.  I loved it and I could just sit there and draw forever.”

Corry ended up quitting the University’s program and then spending time doing a lot of abstract, modernist expressionist pieces and experimenting with different mediums.  She says,  “ It was fun, but I never felt creative.   Oddly enough, because I grew up believing that abstract, expressionistic work was always more creative than anything realistic or representational.”  She took some classes at the Salt Lake Art Center in etching and lithography where she realized the importance of skills acquired in her career as a painter.  She realized the importance of learning a craft and learning skills necessary to express a vision.

Kamille moved to Italy a few years later, searching for artistic training. She avoided the “study abroad” programs, where Italian art schools are filled with American students, because she wanted to immerse herself in Italian culture.  By chance, she discovered Studio Cecil Graves, a small atelier, founded by American painters Charles Cecil and Daniel Graves.  She was hesitant to enroll in the studio because the classes are taught in English.  Then she met another painter, a friend of the professors at the atelier.  “He would critique the drawings that I was doing, and he was a very harsh and thorough critic on my work.  He strongly urged me to go to this atelier and study with Cecil and Graves because they were keeping the tradition alive of how the masters for hundreds of years learned techniques to draw and then to paint.”

Kamille says, “I rejected it [the training] at first because I thought it was too limiting or restrictive.  Once I did it, it was exactly the opposite.  I was really learning something.”  It was exhilarating for Kamille to learn skills and keep learning them, getting better and seeing progression.  She begins drawing and painting from nature.  She says, “It opened up a whole new world and once I started studying… that was it.  I had no desire to ever go back and slap paint on fabric or throw it at a canvas and call it art.  I wanted to express myself using the human figure or nature because that’s what inspires me: a beautiful landscape, an expressive face or hands, the colors of rock in the Utah desert.”

Kamille Corry continued her training in Europe for about three years, at which time she came back to North Carolina to study with Jeffrey Mims, a classical realist painter she met at the atelier.  The “atelier” experience became crucial to her training.  The “atelier” or academy for traditional and classical methods of drawing and painting arose in the 19th century in France.  At the time in Paris, students and teachers begin to rebel outside of the big art institutions and open up their own smaller studios, called ateliers, and develop a following.  In the classic tradition, these studios would not even allow a student to touch a paintbrush for several years.  The students of art drew from the vast collection of sculptures in Paris museums.  A lot of the drawing training, like learning the notes on a piano, is universal.  Every old master learns from a master before him and so on for hundreds of years.  Until you copy an old master, the technique will not make sense.  It’s like someone trying to become a musician.  It’s possible to analyze a Beethoven but until you can play a Beethoven, it’s impossible to really understand.  “ It’s a very valuable tool, to copy an old master.” Corry says.

Kamille Corry returned to Europe to extend her artistic training when she received the Elizabeth Greenshieds Foundation Grant.  She went to London to study sculptures in the museums.  Though painting remains her main medium, the influence of sculpture can be seen in her work.   She says, “ I can still stand in front of a Michelangelo and get chills down my spine.  Michelangelo’s sculptures move me.”

Corry eventually returned to Utah, where she has taught art lessons privately for the last ten years.  Recently, Corry opened a new studio in downtown Salt Lake City, where she hopes to continue the classical training of artists she experienced in Europe.  She is currently focusing on recruiting a handful of students completely dedicated to becoming figurative painters.  She’s committed to students who are serious about learning to draw and paint the figure.  Corry Studios will be offering intensive workshops starting in March 2003.  The workshops will include figure drawing, figure painting, and portrait painting and drawing.  Artists of all skill levels and backgrounds are welcome in the workshops.

Deirdre Contreras, one of Kamille’s students says, “ She’s probably one of the few artists who’s not only a great artist but also a very good teacher.  She’s patient and she has a way of presenting to the student that pushes a person to work their hardest to produce their finest work.”

Corry’s atelier will provide opportunities for other artists as well.  On Monday evenings from 6:00 to 8:30 there is open figure drawing with experienced models.  The cost is $7.00 per person.  The first half hour is five-minute gesture poses and the last two hours are spent drawing a long, dynamic pose.  The models repeat for one month.

For more information on workshops, training with Ms. Corry, and open figure drawing on Mondays at Corry Studios contact Kamille Corry at kcorry@xmission.com or phone her at 485-4309.   Some additional recent works can be viewed at annlongfineart.com

This article originally appeared in the February 2003 edition of 15 Bytes.

UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Categories: Artist Profiles

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