Artist Spotlight: Allana Benham and Eric Mannella

Landscape painting

On Saturday, September 2, 2023 from 1 – 4pm, we’ll be hosting a “bièrenissage” to showcase new work by artists Allana Benham and Eric Mannella. Come on out to meet the artists and see some of their latest work featuring local Hudson landscapes. Live music with Eric’s band Space Base will follow at 7pm.

Since 2003, Allana and Eric have been proud to offer intensive training in figurative art to students in the Montreal area through their studio Atelier de Brésoles. They maintain a studio in the Old Port, as well as in Hudson, and also offer plein air landscape painting classes in Hudson as well as online classes to students from around the world.

About the artists

Eric Mannella and Allana Benham

Allana is a contemporary figurative painter. She published the first English translation of Dr. Paul Richer’s New Artistic Anatomy: Female Morphology, in 2015. Ms. Benham has an MFA cum laude from the New York Academy of Art and a BA with honours in Museum Studies from Brown University, and studied landscape painting at the Florence Academy. She has taught specialized courses at Ubisoft and Syn Studio, and given lectures and demonstrations at the Sadie Valeri Atelier, the Academy of Realist Art, Boston, and Algonquin College. She is a specialist in artistic anatomy and has attended dissections and surgeries for her anatomical research.

Eric is an award-winning artist and an inspiring teacher who has taught students of all ages for more than two decades. In addition to teaching at Atelier de Brésoles, Eric Mannella is an instructor of artistic anatomy and drawing at the world-renowned Syn Studio in Montreal. He has an MFA cum laude from the New York Academy of Art and a BFA from York University in Toronto. His personal work focuses on portraiture and the human figure.

Q&A with Allana Benham and Eric Mannella

What led you to become an artist?

Allana: I was always interested in drawing and painting from a very young age, but I didn’t consider it as a career until I met Eric and we worked out a vision for starting our atelier in Montreal. We met at a graduate program in New York City at the New York Academy of Art, and moved to Montreal the year after we graduated. It turned out to be the perfect place for us! We found a beautiful loft in historic Old Montreal, and we have had students from all walks of life in a culturally vibrant city that has a deep respect for the arts.

How would you describe your work? (style, theme, media, technique, etc)

Allana: We are both realist artists, working primarily in oil paint and drawing materials. We both enjoy painting landscapes, plein air  or in the studio. For this show, we wanted to focus on local landscapes that people may recognize and feel a connection with. I also make copper-plate engravings and print them on my printing press. In addition, we also represent the human figure in drawings, paintings, and portraits. 

Do you have a favourite piece you will be showing at Cardinal? If so, which one is it and why? 

Eric: I like the view I painted from Jack Layton Park, a vertical composition with an emphasis on the water. The view is always beautiful from there, no matter the season or the weather. 

Allana: I like Eric’s painting of the Lake of Two Mountains, as you pass over the Galipeault bridge. It’s a small horizontal view on the back wall at Cardinal, and it is perfectly done: beautiful colour and composition. 

What brought you to Hudson?

After living in cities for 20 years, we both felt a need to live in a place with more nature and open space. We had visited Hudson a few times, and when our daughter was ready to start school, we decided to move here. This town is marvellous! So many musicians and artists, and a real community where people are actively engaged. We felt at home right away. And we can still maintain our presence in Montreal, which is important for us.

What are some of your favourite places or things to do in this area? 

We love the trails around town, at Sandy Beach and Jack Layton Park. Jam nights and performances by local musicians, and the special events that come up each year: Porchfest, Hudson Day, all the events for kids. Also apple picking at Verger Hudson!

You also have a teaching studio, Atélier de Brésoles, with a location in Hudson and in the Old Port downtown. What kinds of classes do you offer?

Allana: We focus on drawing and painting skills to help people represent their visions accurately from observation. Everyone begins with a drawing class to teach some important concepts from the start: how to draw accurately with a good sense of proportion, how to apply drawing materials to convey the effects of light and texture that convince the eye of an illusion of form on a 2-dimensional surface. For those that are interested in painting, we build on these concepts by discussing relationships of value and colour, and how the properties of oil paint can be utilized by the artist.

We also teach a program of anatomy classes for artists that present the structure of the body in great detail: proportions, structure and function of the skeleton, major muscle forms and movements. I translated an important text on the structure of the female figure for the purposes of the artist: Dr. Paul Richer’s Female Morphology, which is available on Amazon. We are influenced by the way art has been taught in European art academies through the early 20th century and emphasize skills and technique with our students, with the understanding that they will employ these ideas in their own unique way. 

As artists, what are your proudest achievements?

Eric: We are extremely proud to have maintained our atelier in Montreal for 20 years. Being able to support our family through my teaching is probably my greatest achievement. We were so fortunate to have had truly amazing and inspiring teachers in New York, and I am very proud to step into their shoes and carry on the traditions that I learned from them. When I was a student in New York, I won the Prince of Wales scholarship, with a trip to a château in Normandy. That was also a high point for me. 

Allana: Publishing my translation of Dr. Richer’s book is my greatest achievement to date. I hope to have another book ready for publication by the end of next year. 

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