About Sadie Valeri

Sadie Valeri is an award-winning classical realist painter and instructor based in San Francisco, California.
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Sadie Valeri Atelier is an open and friendly environment for focused study of traditional painting and drawing.> See All Classes


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Sadie Valeri
Felicia Forte
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Hudson River Fellowship 2009

Women Painting Women Expedition


Video Demos

Watch video demonstrations Sadie has made about her paintings and drawings


Since October 2006 I have recorded every aspect of my artistic development on my blog. Here I invite you "behind the scenes" into my studio, where I share all of my materials, class notes, travel journals, and step-by step demonstrations of my paintings and drawings, including video demos


The Cast Collection

We’ve had fun unpacking boxes and boxes of new plaster cast reproductions! Casts of great sculptures are the backbone of any classical atelier. By copying the work of the Ancients, students develop a highly sensitive understanding of proportion and value.

Instructor James Edmonds unpacks our Laocoön

By the way, Laocoön is pronounced with FOUR syllables, like this!

Just part of the cast collection at Sadie Valeri AtelierThe Full Time Program at Sadie Valeri Atelier is now accepting applications. The deadline for applications to start your studies in Fall 2014 is March 28. More information about the program and how to apply is here.


New Logo!

We have a new logo! What do you think? Would you want this on a hoodie?? 


TRAC 2014: The Representational Art Conference

My Atelier is an official sponsor of TRAC The Representational Art Conference held March 2-5 in Ventura, California. We will have a table display with information about our classes and workshops, and my instructional painting video “Indirect Painting” video will be for sale.

Last year’s conference was amazing, generating lots of dialogue about the present state and future of representational art. I’m particularly excited to hear classical painter and atelier director Juliette Aristides deliver one of the keynote addresses.

Sadie Valeri Atelier instructors Felicia Forte and James Edmonds will also be attending. We are looking forward to hearing some great presentations and participating in sure-to-be lively discussions!

For more information and to register visit: http://www.trac2014.org/


Windex for Removing Lint from a Oil Painting

My new favorite painting trick for removing lint in a Layered, Indirect painting is WINDEX! It lifts up lint between paint layers and prepares the new layer to accept the oil out “couch” without resist.

Here’s how:
I squirt a bit of windex onto a makeup sponge, then I wipe a thin layer on my dry layer of paint (2 days dry), and rub with my finger.

It easily removes the lint/dust sitting on the surface, and with a bit of rubbing also pulls up lint from previous layers. It works as well as wet-sanding but without taking up paint. I used to use 600-grit sandpaper and oil medium on every layer, now I rarely sand at all.

Windex is also great with the problem of “resist,” when the new layer of oil beads up on a dry surface. The ammonia “etches” the surface a bit, so I apply a swipe of windex, let that dry a few seconds, and then apply the couch (oil medium layer, applied with a new makeup sponge), and the couch grips nicely.

It’s changed my life already - I used it just the last couple weeks of my most recent painting, and it lifted out tons of lint and texture. After the new painting dries in a few months I plan to swipe on a layer of windex before varnishing, so the varnish sticks.

This tip is NOT in my instructional video, because I just learned it, but I’ll be including it in future video lessons.

Absolutely everything else I know about Indirect painting is in my Instructional Video


The Life of a Painting: "Between Darkness and Wonder"

“Between Darkness and Wonder” 16 x 20 inches, oil on panel

I’ve just completed my latest painting, “Between Darkness and Wonder.” I started it last April, but had to stop working on it for most the summer for reasons I’ll explain soon. In total I estimate I worked on it for about 10-12 weeks.

It was a luxury to work on it so long! I love not having to rush. For about a year now I have resisted committing to gallery shows for yet-unpainted work, because the pressure to make show deadlines was starting to put too much stress on the process of making my paintings. So now I have no show commitments, and I can take as long as I like on each painting.

I started the painting back in April with a detailed line drawing:

Preparatory line drawing, graphite on vellum trace paper

After I transferred the drawing to the panel and refined it, I started a layer of umber monochrome underpainting. 

Open grisaille underpainting, Burnt umber only

In this area you can see the umber “open grisaille” transparent underpainting, with the next layer started on top: the closed grisaille opaque underpainting.

Starting the Closed Grisaille

This stage is after a pass or two of color. The values and colors are still rough, and I’ve left the edges soft and blurry so I can continue to refine the drawing.

Rough color

When the whole painting had a pass of color, I had spent 6 (somewhat distracted) weeks on it, and I was about 50% done.

At this point, my life got even more crazy and I had to put the painting on hold over much of the summer.

For one, I had agreed throughout the previous year to write a few different articles for various publications. It just so happened that the final deadlines for all the articles converged at the same time, in late June/early July.

One article was for The Artist’s Magazine, and it was a Drawing Board column about how I use the principles of light falling on an imaginary sphere to render light and shadow.

The images for the article are simply the stages of my Graphite Value Sphere exercise, so the magazine editor requested a more dynamic image to illustrate the concept. I decided to do a drawing of the hand cast in my still life, since it was already set up and because I wanted to study the shapes of the forms in more detail before moving forward with the painting anyway.

Study of a hand sculpture, 8 x 10 inches, graphite on transluscent vellum

Victorine Meurent portrait by ManetThe next article I wrote was about Victorine Meurent, the model who posed for Manet’s “Olympia,” who was also an artist who showed her paintings in the Paris Salon.

I was fascinated by her life as a working-class music hall performer who became one of the most iconic models in history, and amazingly was also an artist in her own right.

Little is known about her and only 1 of her own paintings has survived, but she studied at the Academie Julian (one of the first fine art schools open to women), lived into her 80’s and indentified herself as an artist her whole life. The article is published in The Portrait Society’s quarterly printed newsletter.

The third article was a step-by-step of my painting process featured in International Artist Magazine. In it I describe all the stages of my painting, Anchor in the Gale, which is the same painting featured in my instructional painting video “Indirect Oil Painting.”

Step-by-step of “Anchor in the Gale”

Meanwhile, another big event was happening at the studio. We had been hosting Carl Dobsky along with his full time students in our space after Safehouse Atelier lost their studio back in February. But Carl’s girlfriend lives in LA, and over the summer he made the difficult decision to stop teaching his full time program, and move to LA to be with his girlfriend.

Me and Carl in my studio right after he moved his students in

Carl is a good friend of mine, and I understood and supported his decision. I knew it was a wrenching choice to leave his students and the school he had spent years building.

His departure meant major changes for the studio, so I had some hard thinking to do. I considered disbanding the full time program, but the students were all set up and working on their cast drawings. I really enjoyed the focus and energy of having a full time program in my space. Carl had assembled a wonderful group of students, and I knew they would be disappointed to stop their studies.

I had not intended to direct a full time program so soon, it was always a distant idea. But the final decision was made easier when Carl highly recommended his former student, James Edmonds, to help teach.

I already knew James since he had been subbing for Carl’s classes occasionally while Carl worked to finish paintings for his September solo show at John Pence Gallery. James was enthusiastic about teaching the full time program, and when I offered him a position at the studio he accepted it. One of Carl’s full time students, Christina Davis, had already begun assisting me at my summer workshop, and she agreed to be my ongoing assistant for all my classes at the same time she is continuing her studies. So by hiring both of them I could continue the program.

Taking on the full time students meant I had to restructure my weekday teaching program, incorporating both part time students and full time students into all my classes. It significantly expanded the resources I can offer to all my students, but it required a lot of financial calculations, space calculations, and the procurement of more studio equipment. So I spent most of the summer planning and preparing for the fall semster, when I would start my program after our summer workshops.

Screenshot of Nowell’s editing software for my instructional videoFinally, on top of all of that, Nowell was at home working long hours every day for months to complete the editing and production of my 3-hour instructional painting video.

As with all major projects, it turned out to be even bigger than we had originally estimated, and we both felt the pressure to get it done as soon as possible.

Nowell generally handles all the “behind the scenes” of running the studio: Keeping us stocked up with supplies, running payroll and bookkeeping, combating the never-ending beurocracies of small business, and running our home life. He managed to keep with all that while producing the video, but he was overworked for months.

So, it turned out to be a pretty busy summer!

Finally, in September my fall classes began again, the full time program (including 5 of Carl’s former students and 3 brand new students) started their school year. James and Christina came on board as employees, and very soon we were settled into a daily routine.

With all the studio’s classes, including our evening and weekend classes, we now have 125 students and 4 instructors working in the studio every week. With this amount of activity, just keeping the space functional, the instructor’s needs met, and the students productive, requires significant organization. I could easily spend all day every day just teaching and running the studio, and never have time to paint.

But I work hard to stay organized so I can preserve my daily painting hours. Once the summer was over and the new schedule of classes were up and running, I could get back to painting my usual hours: 6 hours at the easel a day, 6-7 days per week.

Finally, I was back to my painting - and then the fun part began!

With the drawing and values complete, and the color roughed in, I could focus on the details of subtle light and texture, further refining the hues and values. Every layer gets closer and closer to what I envisioned when I first started the painting.

DETAIL of “Between Darkness and Wonder”

DETAIL of “Between Darkness and Wonder”

The 6-month period of painting this piece has essentially encompassed a tour of my entire art life: Teaching, managing the atelier, writing articles for art publications, and working with Nowell on the videos.

Now that everyone is settled into a routine, and the instructional video has been released, Nowell and I are looking forward to a period of focused creative productivity for both of us.

And perhaps an occasional day off.

“Between Darkness and Wonder” 16 x 20 inches, oil on panel

More information about our Full Time Atelier, Part Time Atelier, weekend and evening classes, and intensive Workshops, is on our Classes page.