Last Friday, Phillips Exeter alumnus and practicing painter Benjamin Halpern spoke to the Summer School’s artists about his career in both architecture and painting, while illuminating some of his paintings and the process behind them.
Halpern, who has earned degrees in en- gineering and art from Stanford University, is currently pursuing his graduate degree in architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His website con- tains an abundance of paintings created from photos that he himself took. As he spoke to about twenty five students, in addition to a handful of teachers, Halpern shared his thoughts about his approach to his paintings.
“What I’m trying to do, more than anything else, is represent the emotion in the faces,” he said. “I consider the paintings very photographical.”
Halpern takes as many as one hundred photos of a single subject, all of which are close to his subjects’ faces, before deciding which one to work with. Some of his paint- ings are even based on pictures he took of people who he passed on the street.
“As I’ve explained,” he said, “my paintings have always had a strong relation- ship with photography. It’s really an integral part of the process.”
Apart from describing the process behind his work, Halpern also went to offer some artistic advice to the Summer School’s artistic students.
“I would say to be playful,” suggested Halpern. “Explore what ever interest you have, don’t feel like you have to do any- thing.”
“I think with any art…there’s a correla- tion between how passionate you are and how good at it you are…So I would say just explore, try different media.”
Meanwhile, the very students to whom Halpern was speaking are currently em- barking on several projects of their own. In architecture for instance, students draw a floor plan of their dorm room in addition to designing their own house and floor plans.
“What I like most is that you have the chance to design our own house and see what kinds of ideas we can get from each other,” said Jacob Nixon, 17.
Apart from being allowed to be creative, Jacob also pointed out that the class will have benefits for him during the school year.
“It will also help me in my architecture class in high school,” Jacob said.
Similarly, in ceramics, students are working on multiple creations, such as pots or bowls while also learning some key prin- ciples of the art.
“First, you have to learn the basics,” said Marco Sandoval, 17. “Ceramics is mostly technique and patience because, come time, pots or bowls do come out the way you want, so you have to keep trying.”
Marco cited how the class has helped him to improve in ceramics as well. “I have been better with my technique of making pots and bowls,” he said.