Tuesday, May 31 2016
My painting called, "Classic Elegance" was completed a few weeks ago. I've been so busy with new work and teaching art classes it has taken until now to write about how it came to be.
It all started about three years ago when I did a sketch of a lady I knew rather well, and loved the poem, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats. It has also always been one of my favorites. She posed in my studio for it but not in that setting, of course, nor in the gown. Actually her hair wasn't anything like that either. I guess she was the muse who gave me the initial idea.
The painting is 36 x 24 inches in oils and was started from various small sketches. I drew the painting on tracing paper and then copied it to the canvas which I had toned with a pale cerulean blue wash. I than did an underpainting in white and cobalt blue. The next day I gave the chair a glaze of purple, the hair darkened with burnt sienna and cobalt blue, and the skin a thin glaze with a pink from cadmium vermillion and naples yellow. The flowers were tinted with a pale cadmium red glaze.
All this was done a few years ago. I didn't know how I wanted to proceed. Besides, I wasn't seeing the lady any more. [grin] So, I put it aside, and sort of forgot about it.
A few months ago I ran across the poem again. I also found myself with a new muse. That made me think of the painting so out it came. By this time I had different colors in my mind and in most of my work. I did drawings of the column and of the urn. I traced them on the painting. I then went at it with the new more vibrant color scheme. I added the background in what might be a simple sort of "Klimt-like" patterning. I added the imagery to the urn as part of the Keat's poem. The part where the two lovers can never complete their kiss but will always have that same longing and antisipation. Love will endure.
Most of the painting, after the drawing was done and the new items roughed in with semi-opaque paint, was done with glazes. The figure, always the most important part for me, was done with various layers using my three standard colors for skin, cerulean blue, naples yellow and cadmium vermillion.
||As so often happens, the final work was much different than what I first envisioned. I admit I was happy with the result. IF you are interested you can see a larger photo of it in my gallery or if you would like a print you can purchase one from Fine Art America.
Sunday, March 13 2016
The painting above called, "Grandma's Kittens" is one I did several years ago of three kittens sitting in what was my grandmother's favorite rocking chair. It was 20 x 30 inches and done in egg tempera. The painting method of today's discussion.
Egg Tempera is a painting medium used throughout art history. It was the primary painting method used from the first century CE to about 1500 when oil painting took center stage.
This is a painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a glutinous material such as egg yolk. This isn’t to be confused with the paint called “Tempera Paint” used in school more commonly called “Poster Paint” which is made with different glues and sizes.
Egg Tempera, most often called just “Tempera.” is most often painted on hard surfaces such as wood panels or in modern times in such things as untempered Masonite.
The origins of tempera painting can be found as far back as on Egyptian sarcophagi. It took over as the medium of choice from “encaustic” painting, (using heated beeswax, more on that some other time) throughout the Byzantine world and Medieval and Early renaissance Europe.
Tempera paintings are created by mixing the colored dry pigments with water and then adding small amounts of egg yolk to the mixture. This paint is applied to an absorbent surface. This surface is most often created by coating the panel with a form of “gesso.” This gesso is made by combining chalk or gypsum with a glue, most traditionally a rabbit skin glue to make a brush able thick paint with which to coat the panel.
The tempera paint is applied with brushes. The amount of egg yolk used can control the transparency as well as the drying time of the mixture. With the use of just water with the egg it dries very fast. At times something like vinegar or even wine is added to the egg yolk to slow down the drying time.
The paint is applied in thin glazes or with small brush strokes since it will dry quickly. Unlike oil paints it cannot be applied in thick passages or with thick oil layers so the colors do not have a deep color saturation and do have a matte finish. The final work is water resistant but not waterproof.
Some of the famous painters and paintings done in tempera are:
All surviving panel paintings by Michelangelo are in egg tempera. (late 1400’s to early 1500’s)
Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” 1486
Andrew Wyeth “Christina’s World” 1948
Angélique Bègue “Odalisque in Yellow Turban” 2014
"Madonna and Child" by Duccio
Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”
Andrew Wyeth "Christina's World"
Angélique Bègue “Odalisque in Yellow Turban”
I have painted may egg tempera paintings. Some are shown here. Mine were done in untempered Masonite with I prepared with the traditional method of home made gesso. I used dry pigments mixed with just enough water to make them a soft paste, and then added small amounts of egg yolk to each painting mixture as I painted with it. I used both glazing techniques as well as small brushes to do a cross hatching to build up depth and paint colors.
Sunday, March 06 2016
This is a continuation of the blog I posted last week. I realized there was just way too much going on around the time Leonardo painted the “Mona Lisa” to not expand on that time period.
So here is a bit more:
It was in the year 1504 that Michelangelo completed his marble statue of , “David.” The statue stands 17 feet tall. The marble block from which it was carved had a long history of not being worked on, but finally the contract was given to Michelangelo who worked on it for two years.
It was in 1505 that Michelangelo was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II. This started a relationship that lasted 40 years. In1508 he started working on the Sistine Chapel which took four years to complete. He painted it standing up not lying down as some stories tell.
It is a fairly well documented fact, Michelangelo and Leonardo didn’t get along. They were completely different types. The fist was a stone mason first who worked long hours alone, and didn’t have many social skills. Leonardo, on the other hand, enjoyed the finer things in life, and even though he was always working and experimenting, he did use his talents to further his position in various courts.
The third of what is sometimes called the “Great Trinity” of artists from the High Renaissance period is Raphael. (1483-1520). Even though he died at a young age he left a large body of work, probably because he ran and very large workshop. His masterpiece or best known work is his, “School of Athens” painted between 1509 and 1511. It was painted for the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It portrays Philosophy. It is said to portray all the great philosophers from antiquity. However, there is no real way of telling who is who. The only ones known for certain are at the center. They are Aristotle and Plato. There have been many speculations as to the meaning of the positioning and posing of these figures.
Raphael, School of Athens
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel.
Some other things around this time:
1487 - In Mexico the great temple in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was dedicated. A ceremony that may have lasted from 4 to 20 days it is speculated as many as 20,000 people were ritually executed by having their hearts sliced from their bodies.
From about 1496 until the middle of the 16th century approximately one million people contracted what was called the “French Pox” because it was first seen in French troops stationed in Italy. The disease was actually syphilis. It was most likely brought to Europe by sailors returning from the New World.
In literature, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote “The Prince” in 1513. This work has become famous as what some call the first work of modern political philosophy. The essence of his writings is in very simplistic words, “Any methods, no matter how immoral or untruthful, justify the end of winning the post desired.” Playing to the ignorance and fears of the public is a quicker route to success than taking any moral high ground. These writings might be something important to think about during modern elections.
1492 was also the year the Spanish took over Granada in Southern Spain. This ended the near 800 year occupation of Islamic Moorish rule in the Iberian Peninsula. During the Moor’s rule of the city of Granada was famous for its intellectualism and religious tolerance with Arabs, Berbers, Christians and Jews living in separate quarters. With the conquest of the city by Ferdinand and Isabella’s troops this ended. What started was the beginning of the Christian persecution of heretics, namely Muslim and Jews, which became known as the Inquisition.
In 1517 the Ottoman Empire was fully established and then controlled the Middle East and Egypt. This gave them control over the “spice route” which was in conflict with the Portuguese.
About this time the Portuguese fleet arrived in China with the idea of opening up trade routes. However the Chinese considered the Europeans uncouth barbarians so not much came of the encounters.
I think that is enough for today. I’ll be posting more next week about this time. Maybe next week we will look at some of what is known as Byzantine art. When, what, why, how.
Sunday, February 28 2016
This post as well as many to follow are going to be a little of art history along with some world history to give the reader an idea of what was going on in the world at the time a famous painting was done.
The idea of these posts comes from talking to my students about art, and learning many of them really don’t know what was going on in history around the world at the time paintings were done. I think knowing these things makes for a deeper understanding of the paintings.
I think the best painting to start with might as well be the most famous. No, it isn’t one of mine. It is, of course, the Mona Lisa.
Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, in 1503 to maybe 1506. (There are always some arguments about these dates as well as some of the other facts but I’ll do my best to go with the majority views.) It is a half-length portrait of a lady named, Lisa del Giocondo and was commissioned by her husband. The name, Mona Lisa, is from the Italian name for what was originally “ma donna” or my lady but was shortened to Mona in time, and most often in Italian as Monna Lisa. It is painted on a wooden (poplar) panel and is about 30 X 21 inches in size.
I won’t go into a lot about the painting. That can be found almost anywhere on the Internet. The purpose of this blog is to place it in world history.
So what was going on in 1503 or the early part of the 16th century?
First it was painted in Florence, Italy even though it has lived most of its life in France, in modern history at the Louvre.
This period in Western history is known as the Renaissance which went from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Some think it really started in Italy, Florence in particular, where the Medici family ruled, and promoted all forms of art and science. It was a period of humanism. Scholars studied text from the Greeks, Turks, as well as other from antiquity, and around the known world.
Linear perspective, the system for artists to accurately portray nature was invented by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 –1446) in Florence.
1500- Giovanni Bellini paints the tempera painting, “Christ Blessing.”(Venice)
1500- Durer painted his self-portrait. (Netherlands)
1502- Durer paints the watercolor “Young Hare.”(Netherlands)
1501- Michelangelo returns to his native Florence to begin work on the statue David.
1508–1512: Michelangelo paints the Sistine Chapel ceiling.(Rome)
1506- Giorgione paints “Laura.” (Venice)
Around 1490 – 1510 Hieronymus Bosch paints the triptych, “Garden of Earthly Delights.” (Netherlands)
1420-1506 In Japan, Sesshū Tōyō creates the art form for vertical scrolls, called "Haboku-Sansui" (Landscape with ink broken)
Bellini, "Christ Blessing"
Giorgione, "Sleeping Venus"
Durer, "Young Hare"
Hieronymus Bosch, "Garden of Earthly Delights"
The early 1500’s was mostly church music in the form of masses and motets. The invention of the printing press allowed composers to have their work printed and put out to a much larger public. Printing also meant that from this period forward we have documentation of a much larger variety of works. With this came the advancement of many musical forms. Secular music was in many forms for folk singing and dancing in all cultures. It isn’t until a little later that we will see some of the familiar names of composers.
1368-1644 The Ming dynasty is in power in China. This causes a resurgence of Chinese art in both porcelain and brush painting.
1336 to 1573 The Muromachi period in Japan bring on a newly flourishing artistic tradition, influenced by Zen Buddhist culture as well as samurai and court society
1492- Columbus reached land in the Caribbean Sea.
1498- Portuguese traders arrive in India.
1502- It is believed the first African slaves were sent to the New World.
1519–1522: Spanish expedition commanded by Magellan and Elcano first to circle Earth
1485 to 1603 Begins the period of the Tudors in England. Henry VII is king after defeating Richard III. (Later to become one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays)
1509- Henry VIII become King of England.
1517- Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses and the protestant reformation begins.
1519- Charles V become Holy Roman Emperor and rules most of Europe.
1440- Movable type, invented by Gutenberg allows for all forms of printing.
1512- Copernicus writes Commentariolus, and proclaims the sun the center of the solar system.
Saturday, February 20 2016
This is a pencil drawing done for a basic drawing class I taught a while back. The idea was to show perspective, with angularity of the basket , It was also an exercise in working with soft lines to show a gentle or subtle change in tone or value. It seemed to work for the class. This was done with on Strathmore sketching paper with a series of graphite pencilss, ranging from 4H, to 4B. It was done from a photo I had found many years ago. This took about four hours to complete.
Monday, February 15 2016
Since it is now snowing and very winter I felt it was timely to post a few pen & ink drawings I just found. These were done a while back as illustrations for some book publishers as well as being used for a class in drawing. I have made these into small prints for anyone interested. These were done on a bristol paper with a fine point Sharpie. I first drew the basic shapes with a 6H pencil to create the composition then went to work with the pen. Working in pen and ink this way can be very relaxing and a sort of meditation when there is a great deal of detail. I recommend keeping them sort of small. Big is a lot of work. [grin] These are all around eight inchs on a side or near that.
Thursday, December 13 2012
Since I’m planning on visiting Florida in January I decided to do a little preparation by painting a few small works from photos I have taken there in times past or from the mental images I have of those previous trips. What better subject to paint when outside my door it is 22 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing?
This first one is completely from my imagination. It reminds me of the times spent on the beaches of the northeastern coast of Florida. I started with a small canvas, 12 x 16 inches that had been primed with a few coats of gesso and then toned with a thin wash of burnt sienna. This is a very normal way for me to begin an oil painting except in figure work I spend much more time on ground preparation to get a smoother surface. I very seldom will sit down and start with a white canvas. Painting first a toned ground in something such as burnt sienna or raw sienna gives a slight warm color over which I can paint with initial lights and darks to create a value pattern right from the start. I also prefer the warm glow this gives to the final work. At times I do something different but that is for another discussion.
I don’t show any drawing here because there was none. I started in with a mixture of white, cerulean blue and a touch of yellow ochre to paint the sky wet into wet using one flat brush with long horizontal brushstrokes. Working wet in wet in this way I can get a smooth and misty look to the sky with a hint of clouds. The water at this stage was done with the same colors and technique. A little burnt sienna was used to sort of rough in the weeds to the right and some of the same with white was used to give the beach some definition.
In the next stage I reinforced the water with more of the same colors and added some green made with various combinations of yellow ochre, naples yellow, cerulean blue and ultra marine blue. I also used the ultra marine blue to add a little darkening on the bottom of the whitest areas of the water to give it a sense of small waves. These were darker and larger nearer and lighter and smaller in the distance to enhance both the object and atmospheric perspective.
In the next stage most of the work was done on the weeds. Using the same colors as I mentioned earlier I just kept adding more dark spots near the bases and longer strokes with a thin sable brush for the long weeds. I was shifting colors around constantly to keep things from getting boring to the eye.
I let the painting dry over night. Very often the first question I hear when someone looks at my work, especially the figure work, is, “How long did it take you to paint that?” My standard answer is, “Most of my life.” In the case of this little one it is worthy to note it was about and hour and a half to this point. Then the next day I looked at it, gave the sky and water a very thin glaze of alizarin crimson (I don’t think it shows on a computer screen) and just spent a few minutes adding some darker blues to some of the waves, a few darks to the shadows of the sand and a few final darks and lights to the weeds.
So it is done in less than 2 hours and was a fun project. It was a good thing to paint on a day when it is below freezing outside and snowing. At least while I was painting I could imagine the Florida beaches I hope to be walking on after the first of the year, at least for a while. You can a larger image of the final painting here. [Florida Beach Scene]
Wednesday, August 03 2011
This is a small work originall done in pen and ink. It was then scanned and the colors added via the computer. It is the first experiment in what I hope will be many in a sort of "art nouveau" style. I expect I will eventually make this into an oil painting but it was fun doing it this way so I can make many of them experiementing via the computer with different colors. Maybe she should be a blonde.
Tuesday, May 03 2011
This is the second in a series of oil pastels. This is, 17 x 7 inches on museum board.
Friday, January 28 2011
First I will explain the inspiration and some thoughts then on to the technical stuff. This painting is 24 x 36 inches in oils. Perhaps I should keep all my thoughts to myself and allow the viewer to make up her or his own story. However, I find patrons and purchasers of my work always ask me to tell the story around its creation. Many ask to have it written and printed for them to put on the back of the canvas when they buy and hang it.
So here it is, as brief as I can make it. The original idea for this came from looking at the work of Klimt and a few others while talking, texting and emailing with a lovely lady who was a sort of muse and inspiration to my work and me. I often thought of her home alone, late at night, dreaming of what could be in the night or maybe just the blessings she has in her life at that moment. The sky, the stars and the moon are as abstract as her imagination yet as golden as I know her heart to be. Her long red hair has always been an inspiration for me, so many colors to paint and setting her on soft flowing drapes seems appropriate for such beauty. It is always interesting to me how just a simple thought or word can bring an image nearly full blown into my head and force itself to a canvas. Those are the best of times. As I painted this I listened to the music of MARCOMÉ (pronounced Mar-ko-may) and old Chicago blues as well as jazz guitar by “Eclectic Dee”. A strange mix but they all seem to get me in the various needed moods for the moment.
I go into the technical part because there seems to be a number of painters who enjoy learning of the how more than the why. After the initial inspiration and the image coming to life in a series of scribbles in a sketch book I took it to a pastel to do the drawing necessary and get the colors and mood as quickly as possible. Pastels allow me to go fast and make many changes on the fly without being intimidated by making mistakes on the canvas. This pastel is, 15 x 22 inches. I already had the canvas prepared and knew I wanted it to end up a 24 x 36.
I then photographed the pastel, put that on the computer and then blew the figure up in pieces to be able to easily get that to the canvas. I like to do this with my drawn figures since it saves a lot of grid work or tedious redrawing. The canvas was linen on standard stretchers and gesso primed at least 6 coats put on with a knife to get a rather smooth surface. I’m not much of a fan of the weave showing. It was then tones with burnt sienna.
After the figure is traced I go over it with a thin line of burnt sienna and then fill in the hair some just for body. Next I put in some rough color for the sky to push it back and then rough in the drapes for composition.
The body is roughed in just enough to give it some sense of form and muscle structure. The hair is given just a quick brush stroked look to start building shape.
The next step is work on the sky. I felt I couldn’t work on the figure until the sky was about done. It was controlling the mood of the whole work. Most of the gold colored paint is what is known as “gold” by Gamblin but is made from powdered bronze. I like the way it handles and looks. It also mixes well with other colors. I then added some to the drapes in the foreground to give them more form.
In the next stage I have darkened the sky and given the figure, hair and drapes more shape. From here I went more to the figure. I added more hair to the right and took out some that was there. I started to work on the figure with more color. I wanted her to be rich in colors, not so realistic as much as to fit the mood of the sky.
In the final version the flesh tones are deeper and more colorful but still kept somewhat realistic. I have been trying to find a way of painting that was less photographic but still used some of my many years of study of the human form.
More colors used then my usual by the end. Burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium red, cadmium vermilion, yellow ochre, that gold, raw sienna, chrome yellow, Naples yellow, alizarin crimson, Windsor violet, phthalo turquoise, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, titanium white, only medium used was Liquin light gel. (prefer the original)
This is my first attempt at a new direction and there is a lot of loosening up to do in the weeks to come. From a simple conversation about clothing colors a new image has found its way to my sketchbook. Before that gets to a canvas I have a few others I’ve started and need to finish. Working on a moon series. I am also working on a landscape where I hope to be able to work that type of subject matter into this same relaxed style. I will just have to wait and see what happens.
Questions or comments are always welcomed, even the bad ones.