“Fab Five Favs!” #17 features Costa Vavagiakis


“Your reputation precedes you!” This was the first thought that came to mind when I started to write about my first experience modeling for Costa Vavagiakis, a man whose reputation I encountered long before meeting him. Costa, Instructor at The Arts Students League of New York for Anatomy for Artists, Life Drawing, Painting, was the recipient of a 2000-2001 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and the 2001 Gregory Millard Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. His work is featured in the publication Curve: the Female Nude Now, and in articles in American Artist, American Artist Drawing and The Artists’ Artists, among others.

His most recent exhibition was at, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York City. He also appeared in exhibitions at Lesley Heller Gallery, New York City; Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, California; the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, The Perception of Appearance: A Decade of Contemporary American Figure Drawing; the Staten Island Museum, Staten Island, New York, About Faces: Portraits Past and Present; and at ACA Galleries in New York City, Continuum: Celebrating the 130th Anniversary of the Art Students League of New York.


“The first step is a great place to be, because it’s the initiation,” says Costa Vavagiakis. “Then comes the process of finding the tools that will lead to a personal vision, if you keep yourself open.”

His detest of cheap materials and stubby pencils is as passion filled as Joan Crawford’s detest of wire hangers in the film classic, “Mommy Dearest.”

Each moment with Costa and his students was reminisce of Sunday morning at church as he preached his Sermon “Excellent Materials Produce Excellent Works of Art!” His charming Greek accent and handsome looks make his strict guidance and mentorship more easily digestible.

Costa Vavagiakis – Drawing a Portrait from Life


This first time artistic collaboration with Costa and students proved to be a profound metaphor during a time of great transition in my life. The two-week pose for Costa’s 1-4:30PM Drawing Class was one of the most painful poses in my modeling career. My commitment to see the pose through was rewarded by many inspired artist receiving Blue Dot Awards in honor of their talent. Now, as I face challenges in my day-to-day life, I will remember the value of sticking it out, bearing the pain, and realizing the dream!

Blane & The Blue Dots!

This was my premiere model session with COSTA and I’m thrilled to have inspired such talent. This weeks “Fab Five Favs” features the “Blue Dot” awarded work of five students of Costa Vavagiakis that I had the opportunity to interview.

Christopher LoPresti


Christopher LoPresti


“Blue dots are honorable mentions; small blue stickers that mean your drawing caught a judge’s whim. After the second or third time around you start asking yourself , ‘Why don’t I ever get the red dot ?’ I would be happiest getting the nefarious black dot. That would be really cool.

My mentors are artists like Frank Porku,  Michael Grimaldi, and my current teacher Costa Vavagiakis. These are guys who have so far stuck their necks out for me and I can go to them for technical direction and know how. I really don’t think they care much for the typical conventions the immediate, contemporary art world has to offer. I respect their unique approaches to art making and teaching. They also genuinely seem to care about their students, something I don’t really see much in New York.

I don’t feel like I have many worthwhile achievements to mention. I recently won the Phyllis/ Frank Mason Scholarship, and that was an honor and a thrill. It helped me not have to work a ‘real’ job for a year and concentrate drawing and painting. I don’t really feel like visual art in general is terribly important anymore, like curing AIDS or feeding the hungry important, so I try to keep my little ego in check. It’s hard for me to have a lot of respect for what is out there, your typical artist has no sense of perspective. Most of what I do is just menial labor and training for future arenas, no room for glorification or romanticizing. The real art occasionally shines through the cracks. It would nice to have a studio one day, a little space of my own to call home. I’ve managed to go a whole year without menial job flipping burgers, waiting tables, or schlepping coffee at Starbucks. I consider this to be a real achievement.  I like what I do because there is a minimal connection with people and a lot of alone time.

My mission through with my work is to create art that comments on society and takes a stab at people in general. It would be ideal to make a living selling what I paint on a whim, and hopefully someday I’ll get around to paying back my student loans, and taking care of my debt to society. Ten years from now I would love to have my own working and prosperous atelier where I can employ all my friends and make a living, many large breasted women interning for me; isn’t that the American dream? In reality though, I’ll probably be (still) hanging around the Art Student’s League, dirt poor, trying to figure out how to pay my next model and still cover next months rent. I am available for commissions!”

Eleanor Adam


Eleanor Adam



Eleanor Adam “seeks to paint in a way that reflects above all an intimate and emotional connection to her subjects.” Her work can be seen at The Alex Adam Gallery in Harlem.

Matte White


Matthew White



To me, the blue dot means that I’ve done something that doesn’t suck, but that I need to keep working because it’s not yet the best.

My Mentors are Barney Hodes, who taught me how to see and feel form, Frank Porcu, who taught me how to make form, and my grandfather, who taught me to work tirelessly to be successful.

My greatest achievements in art have been acquiring an understanding of the figure and the way it works and learning to abstract essential information about shape and form.

I hope that my work will express life in a way that is profound and meaningful but also visually interesting and entertaining.

If I have my own studio and am making art for which a home can be found, I will be very happy.

Isaac Pelepko


Isaac Pelepko


Ling Yang

Ling Yang


The Blue Dot is absolutely an encouragement for me.

I started learning painting on Oct. 2009. Joseph Peller was my first teacher in the ASL. He is a great teacher. He taught me many things, from how to arrange my pallet to how to put paint on the canvas. I learned a lot from him.

Then I started Mary Beth’s summer class and I fall in love with the class and the teacher. Mary Beth is a very bold artist. She draws dark lines which I did not know we could do. She opened another wild view of art in front of me.

There is a woman in Mary Beth’s class, she told me she is taking Costa’s drawing class and she told me the teacher is very good. So I joined Costa’s drawing class. I had very little training of drawing. Costa is such an amazing teacher that after taking his class, I got the blue dot. So my blue dot is also a recognition of teacher’s good job.

I always worked in other professions. But when I paint, I feel real, I feel alive and love.

Art is a life long journey. It will always involves lots of struggles, frustrations and excitements. I wish ten years from now, when I am doing arts, when I am struggling in doing art, I struggle more purposely and more consciously.

There were actually six Blue Dot winners, but Daniela Nadira Amawi was not available for my interview. It was a wonderful experience working with and I found her commitment to excellence refreshing!

Daniela Nadira Amawi

Blaise McDaris was the Red Dot recipient and many of the students felt that his sketch of my pose would have won him the Red Dot ( the highest honor given at ASL).

Blaise McDaris

“For me, the Blue Dot is like a pat on the back from the league. I couldn’t really call him a mentor, but I definitely have a hero. His name is Aida Makoto (会田 誠) and he has been my main source of inspiration since I stumbled upon a book of his works four years ago.  He is currently in an exhibit at the Japan society of New York which is up until mid summer 2011. I suggest you check it out.

My Mission with my work is to give people a glimpse into my thoughts (generally an amusing case of arrested development), and hopefully get a laugh out of that.

I have handpicked a few endless endeavors that I plan to enjoy for the rest of my years, so if I’m lucky I will be lost amidst my hobbies in ten years just like I am now. And maybe with kids.”

McDaris Consulting

167 Sands st suite 103

Brooklyn, NY





Mission Statement: "ELEMENTS of FIERCE!" is a celebration of artistic expression! The founder, Blane Charles, explores not what people wear, but who is wearing it? He feels that we all have a special style waiting to be shared with the world. Blane also wants to celebrate freedom of expression, uniqueness, individuality, and authenticity! Stay tuned to my "FAB FIVE FAVS!" where I feature five works of inspiration and beauty from my day to day travels.
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One Response to “Fab Five Favs!” #17 features Costa Vavagiakis

  1. Ken says:

    Really nice article! The format is great with focus given to six distinct voices, centered around a whole slightly off-center topic. Thanks!

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