PHOTOGRAPHS OF PAINTINGS AND CAMERA LENS DISTORTION

On our trip to the de Young and Getty museums last week, we took photos of paintings wherever possible. Of course I know it’s difficult for photography to capture the true essence of paintings and their myriad nuances of colors and values, but now I really know it. There aren’t many paintings like Girl with a Pearl Earring with which I have such intimacy, so arriving at a more complete understanding of this was a kind of epiphany for me.

During the painting’s latest restoration (1994), they discovered that Vermeer’s original background had a dark green enamel-like surface, accomplished through the application of glazes. However, the pigments available to him faded so much over 350 years, that the background looked blackish. This was corrected by the restorers and now, you can almost see the brushstrokes of the slightly sketchy transparent earthy-green glaze applied over the dark background underpainting.

Here is a photo of a high-quality postcard I bought, since the de Young did not allow photos of the special exhibit on loan from the Mauritshuis, particularly of the “Dutch Mona Lisa,” as she is called. They had her under guard at all times. Although a photo doesn’t pick up on the background color that well, can you see the slightest hint of  green?

VermeerGirlWithAPearlEarring

And here is a photo of the installation of Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. Look at how the line curves where the floor and wall meet–this is an excellent example of barrel lens distortion:

vermeerinstall

And on the subject of picture taking, what photography can and cannot do has been discussed and written about ad infinitum, so I won’t go into it much here other than to say that if you are painting from photographs, a solid understanding of the way the camera plays tricks on you is essential. Certainly it matters the quality of camera and lens you use. However, beyond that, you must be aware of how all cameras visually distort images, and then make adjustments in the painting you create from these photos.

For example, make sure to adjust your composition to account for the camera’s barrel distortion (convex lines), pincushion distortion (concave lines),  flattening; and adjust for the fact that reds will “read” much darker in value than they really were when you took the photo. You can make these changes right on you drawing, or they can be adjusted in Photoshop first. We all love what cameras do for us, but be aware that edges will appear sharper and you will have to soften them in your painting to create recession in your work. As Frank Covino always teaches, “Don’t gray the shadows; gray the shadow’s edges.” You must soften edges where you want to round your images and make them appear recessional.

You can always tell when someone paints from photos and is unaware of flattening, for instance. The subject’s hands or feet will appear larger than they are in real life, and out of proportion with the rest of the figure, because hands or feet are typically in front of the figure. You must know this and make them proportionately smaller in your drawing to compensate and adjust sizes to their correct proportions. In other words, don’t make the hands as big as the head, even though they may appear that way in the photo.

You can find out more about the subject of camera distortion at this excellent site: http://www.kenrockwell.com/index.htm

Also, James Gurney at http://www.gurneyjourney.blogspot.com (the famous creator of Dinotopia) has provided an ongoing and wonderfully thorough exploration into how we humans see.

Something that struck me about these exhibits were that, no matter how much impasto the artist used, they began with the smoothest of canvases or boards. I looked up at various angles and marveled at how perfectly prepared they were. I can never seem to get mine that smooth but I continue to search for the trick to it.

Another thing that surprised me was Girl with a Pearl Earring‘s eye color; they are not light golden brown, or blue, or green, or gray. They are gray-blue with the absolute slightest hint of light golden brown, so difficult to describe. I stood there trying to figure out how he accomplished that and if I were trying to duplicate that color without causing the eyes to become greenish, I would paint them gray-blue first, let them dry completely, and then ever so gently, glaze just a small part of the reflected light area of the iris with a golden brown glaze. I still can’t imagine how Vermeer really did it, but that would be how I would approach it.

Below are some other photos (including 2 closeups) I took that you might enjoy:

A Banquet Piece, About 1630, Pieter Claesz, Dutch, 1596/97-1660, Oil on panel

“A shaft of light from an unseen window poetically illuminates the textures and surfaces of a few objects on a stone ledge. This type of still life, known as a “monochrome banquet piece” for its harmonious though limited palette of browns and grays, was an artful invention intended to astonish the viewer with its beauty rather than a portrayal of an actual meal. Imported items such as a peeled lemon and the overturned Venetian-style glass contrast with local oysters and the monumental Dutch drinking glass with a textured stem. Claesz’s nuanced rendering reveals his interest in optical effects, such as the reflected windowpanes and the fall of light across the luminous lemon rind.”  de Young Museum

PieterClaeszTheBanquetPiece

PieterClaeszABanquetPieceCloseup1

PieterClaeszABanquetPieceCloseup

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, About 1606-10, Joachim Wtewael, Dutch, 1566-1638, Oil on copper

“Here the blacksmith god Vulcan pulls back the fine metal net in which he has trapped his wife, Venus, and her lover, Mars, exposing them to the laughter of their fellow gods. Like other Mannerist painters, Wtewael delighted in complexity and paradox. In this work he presents heroic figures on a tiny scale and Olympian gods in a compromising situation.”

JoachimWte

I had to take this photo through a glass case. I have been experimenting with painting on copper as many of the Old Masters did so, and saw the paintings on copper exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum many years ago. They are exquisite to this day, with no craquelure. Experts attribute this to the fact that copper expands and contracts at approximately the same rate and temperature as does traditional oil paint.

Note: All text in quotes is taken from the Getty or de Young museum placards posted beside paintings.

GETTY AND DE YOUNG TREASURE TROVE

We have returned from our 1,870-mile anniversary vacation and we practically killed ourselves trying to see everything! But alas, we proved it impossible. We allowed a whole day for each museum but it wasn’t close to being enough. Plan for three solid days at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and at least two complete days at the Getty Center in Los Angeles–and that is just to see each piece of art for a mere minute.  To really see the paintings, a much longer analyzing/examining/admiring time is required. And of course, this doesn’t include all the other attractions both museums have to offer.

In addition to rooms full of famous art, we saw Vermeer‘s Girl with a Pearl Earring at the de Young,

GirlWithAPearlEarringDeYoungAd

and his Woman in Blue Reading a Letter at the Getty.

WomanInBlueReadingAletter

Sadly, the de Young did not allow photos of Vermeer’s Girl, or of any other Dutch paintings on loan. The Getty was much less restrictive and allowed photos of Vermeer’s Woman, and virtually all paintings on exhibit. However, the skylights at the Getty were disconcerting at times. It caused some of the paintings to have excessive reflections and made them difficult to see.  It wasn’t a huge problem, but worth mentioning; standing farther back from the works helped with this, as did the time of day affecting the angle of the light.

Both museums are much easier to navigate than their online directions suggest. The de Young is slightly more difficult to drive to, and we found the layout a bit more confusing and involved–like a maze you can’t find you way out of–but that was probably because it’s a bit larger than the Getty, and because the Getty is organized by separate buildings in very close proximity to each other, but that serve to break up the collections in a more logical way.

The Getty was very easy to get to and, once there, a tram takes you to the top of the hill and drops you off. The idea of having to use a tram sounded cumbersome at first, but it was so much easier than traffic and cars would ever be, and the parking garage was right at the base of the tram–a very easy and short walk. The Getty is FREE except for a $15 covered parking fee that also covers the tram ride. You honestly can’t lose your way here, even if you try, and the views are wonderful.

I took lots of pictures and will post many of them over the next few days, so settle in for a mini online tour of paintings.

Note: All text in quotes is taken from the Getty or de Young museum placards posted beside paintings.

WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD (OF PAINTING, THAT IS)

Vermeer's original painting, Girl with a Pearl...

Vermeer’s original painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring from 1665 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember in my first posts I said we were going to see Vermeer‘s Girl with a Pearl Earring at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco, and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter at the Getty Center in Los Angeles? Well, the day has finally arrived!  We’re loading the car right now and we will be on our way ASAP.  We plan to go up Highway 1 for its luscious scenery and photo ops (a.k.a. painting fodder), even though it will take a lot longer. If I can post anything on the way, I will, but no promises since we’re “winging it” for fun. But I’ll show and tell all when I return.

The museums allow no-flash photography only, on pieces they themselves own, but not for anything on loan–bummer, so I’ll have to settle for gift shop prints.

I’m taking a giclée of my GWAPE (see earlier post) so that I can compare it directly with the real version.

We got so lucky with the timing of our visit to the deYoung because it just happens to fall in that one week each year when San Francisco’s floral designers display their creations at the museum for a show called, Bouquets for Art. From the pictures I’ve seen, I imagine it will be exquisite.

Soon, I will be posting lots of photographs for you to see.  Until then, I hope you have a wonderful week.

Johannes Vermeer - Woman in Blue Reading a Let...

Johannes Vermeer – Woman in Blue Reading a Letter – WGA24657 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MORE ON THE IMPORTANCE OF VALUES

Excerpt from French Art: Classic and Contemporary Painting and Sculpture by W. C. Brownell, 1901. Download and read the book for free from the University of California Archive, http://archive.org/details/frenchartclassic00browrich

Manet‘s great distinction is to have discovered that the sense of reality is achieved with a thousand-fold greater intensity by getting as near as possible to the actual, rather than resting content with the relative, value of every detail. Every one who has painted since Manet has either followed him in this effort or else has appeared jejune (a.k.a. simplistic, superficial, dry, uninteresting).

Take as an illustration of the contrary practice such a masterpiece as Gerome’s “Eminence Grise.” In this picture, skilfully and satisfactorily composed, the relative values of all the colors are admirably, even beautifully, observed. The correspondence of the gamut of values to that of the light and dark scale of such an actual scene is perfect. Before Manet, one could have said that this is all that is required and the best that can be secured, arguing that exact imitation of local tints and general tone is impossible, owing to the difference between nature’s highest light and lowest dark, and the potentialities of the palette. In other words, one might have said that inasmuch as you can squeeze absolute white and absolute black out of no tubes, the thing to do is first to determine the scale of your picture and then make every note in it bear the same relation to every other that the corresponding note in nature bears to its fellows in its own corresponding but different scale.”

GeromeEmeninenceGrise1873

PIGMENTS AND ASTM STANDARDS

ASTM Certification of 1947

ASTM Certification of 1947 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am  rather obsessed by the quality of the materials I put into my paintings from the surface, up, for a number of reasons–not the least of which is I want them to be around l-o-o-o-ong after I’m gone. Also, when someone hires me to do a job, I want to make sure it is the best I can give–I feel I owe that to people placing their trust in me.

ASTM stands for the American Society for Testing and Materials and it is the organization that helps to internationally standardize a very large number of materials including paint. The “P” stands for “pigment” and the letter(s) stand for R-red, Y-yellow, B-blue, Br-brown, and so on. The numbers after the letters indicate the specific pigment. This is why you will find that the “PR83” (a very impermanent but much-loved pigment) on your paint tubes means “Pigment Red Alizarin Crimson” in the ASTM standard, no matter what brand of paint.

But you can’t go by the name companies put on the face of their tubes–that is just a label and an oftentimes misleading one.  For example, Utrecht has an oil paint labeled “Titanium White” but in checking the label closely, we find it is NOT just titanium white (PW6), but has zinc white (PW4) in it as well. PW4 has undergone extensive study at the Smithsonian Institute and they have determined it will make your paintings crack over time.  When I learned this, I checked all the tubes in my paintbox and got rid of the ones that had zinc white in them.

Here is what I’ve gathered in my research:

PIGMENT LIST

(* Do Not Use)

 REDS:

Cadmium Red PR 108 ASTM  l (ranges scarlet to maroon, slow drier, hard, flexible, use CP)

Pyrrole Red PR 254 ASTM  l (equal to Cads for permanence. Recommend replacing more poorly performing Napthols, Perylenes, and Anthraquinones with Pyrroles where similar shades exist. Pyrroles are pigments to trust. From auto industry research.)

Pyrrole Alizarin PR 264 ASTM l (BEST replacement for alizarin crimson; gorgeous undertone)

*Alizarin Crimson PR 83 ASTM l l l (brittle, cracks, darkens, too impermanent for enduring art)

*Rose Madder NR 9 ASTM  l l (textile dye, weak color)

Venetian Red PR 101 ASTM  l  aka English Red, Light Red, Red Oxide, Indian Red, Mars Red, Mars Violet, Caput Mortuum (Genuine Venetian Red from the quarry where Titian obtained his supplies is still available from Blockx.)

Quinacridone Magenta PR 122 ASTM l (bright blue-red, transparent, strong, very recommended)

Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Violet PV 19 ASTM  l (true reds to lipstick pinks, deep rose to red-violets)

Quinacridone Red Y  PR 192  ASTM  l (bright, clean color, high lightfastness & tinting strength)

Quinacridone Scarlet  PR 207  ASTM  l (high performance pigment due to lightfastness)

Napthols fade in tints. Even those classed as ASTM 1 barely scrape in. Noticeably less light fast.  There are other reds that are far superior.

*Napthol Red F4HR  PR 7  aka Napthol AS-TR  ASTM  l  (beautiful bluish-red but fades)

*Napthol Red FG  PR 119  ASTM  l (clean, bright yellowish-red)

*Napthol Red HF3S  PR 188  ASTM  l (very pure yellowish-red)

*Napthol  ITR  PR 5  aka Napthol Carmine FB  ASTM  l l (deep crimson red)

*Napthatol AS-OL PR 9 aka Permanent Red FRLL  ASTM  l l (Poor light fastness esp. in tints)

*Napthol AS-OL  PR 14  aka Napthol Bordeaux FGR  ASTM  l l (very dark red)

*Napthol Red AS-D  PR 112  aka Permanent Red FGR, Permanent Carmine ASTM l l

*Napthol Red F5RK  PR 170  aka Napthol Carbamide  ASTM  l l (bright strong bluish-red)

*Napthol Red AS-D PR 17  aka Napthol Red  ASTM  l l l (too impermanent for serious artwork)

*Napthol Red PR 146 aka Napthol Carmine FBB ASTM  l l l  (notice how fading pigments get labeled “permanent”)

Light Red PR 102  ASTM  l (a beautiful, transparent red earth; Cenini gathered it w/his father)

Transparent Red Oxide PR 101 ASTM  l (Beautiful! transparent, redder than burnt sienna)

*Vermillion PR 106  (Poisonous!)

Perinone Red Deep PR 194 ASTM 1 (high performance deep red, recommended)

*Perylene Vermilion PR 123 ASTM l (bright transparent red; ALL perylenes fade in tints)

*Perylene Red BL PR 149 ASTM l (excellent brightness)

*Perylene Red PR 178 ASTM l (excellent lightfastness)

*Perylene Maroon PR 179 ASTM l (excellent lightfastness but lacks brightness)

*Perylene Scarlet PR 190 ASTM l (very good light fastness)

*Anthraquinoid Red PR 177 ASTM l (very transparent, fades in tints)

*Brominated Anthranthrone PR 168 ASTM l l (dull, low-strength tints)

Benzimidazolone Red HFT, aka Benzimidazolone Maroon PR 175 ASTM l (lacks brightness)

*Ultramarine Red PV 15 ASTM l (too pale and weak to be useful)

Permanent Red, aka Thioindigoid Red. PR 88 ASTM l (excellent lightfastness, recommended)

ORANGES:

Cadmium Orange PO 20  ASTM l (get CP grade, otherwise has 15% Barium Sulfate)

Perinone Orange PO 43  ASTM l (perfect alt. to Cadmium Orange if more transparency needed)

Quinacridone Burnt Orange PO 206 ASTM l (beautiful dark reddish, similar to burnt sienna)

Quinacridone Gold PO 48 ASTM l (lacks brightness in tints but excellent light fastness)

YELLOWS:

Mars Yellow aka Yellow Oxide PY 42 ASTM  l (a more pure yellow than the natural ochre)
Yellow Ochre aka Brown Ochre PY 43  ASTM  l (used since the dawn of time, esp. fleshtones)

Cadmium Yellow PY 37  ASTM  l (Although industry accepts up to 15% Barium and/or Lithopone as normal, the Chemically pure Cadmium Sulfide has a cleaner color and is noticeably stronger in tinting strength. The description 99.9% Cadmium Sulfide or the initials CP seen on the label of a few of the best grades of artist’s paint refers to the Chemically Pure Cadmiums.)

*Cadmium Yellow Light PY 35  ASTM  l (Zinc in cadmium zinc sulfide may not be not as stable as the Cadmium component and so the palest lemons are not regarded as light fast as the less light versions. The color is close to being the perfect mixing yellow as it is very close to “primary yellow.” If you use, Chemically Pure—CP— pigment is recommended.)

*Aureolin PY 40 ASTM  l l
Nickel Titanate aka Nickel Yellow or Nickel Titanium Yellow PY 53 ASTM  l (recommended)
*Arylide Yellow PY 65 ASTM  l

*Arylide Yellow GX PY 73  ASTM  l

*Arylide Yellow 5GX PY 74  ASTM  l

*Diarylide Yellow HR70 PY 83  ASTM  l

*Arylide Yellow FGL PY 97 ASTM  l

Nickel Azo Yellow PY 150 ASTM  l (very greenish yellow, excellent light fastness)

Benzimidazolone Yellow H4G PY 151 ASTM l (green-yellow, excellent lightfastness, dull tints)

Nickel Dioxine Yellow PY 153 ASTM  l (a bright yellow, makes dull tints)

Benzimidazolone Yellow H3G PY 154 ASTM  l (excellent light fastness, makes dull tints)

Benzimidazolone Yellow HLR PY 156 ASTM  l (transparent, excellent light fastness, dull tints)

Benzimidazolone Yellow H6G PY 175 ASTM  l (excellent light fastness, dull tints)

*Hansa Yellow Medium aka Arylide Yellow G, Azo Yellow PY 1 ASTM  l l  (Fades in tints.

PY 73 is virtually same color but has better light resistance. Being used less and less. Can bleed.)

*Hansa Yellow Light PY 3 ASTM  l l (transparent, greenish, fades in tints)

*Arylide Yellow 10GX. PY 98 ASTM  l l (bright, greenish, stronger than PY 3)

Anthrapyrimidine Yellow PY 108 ASTM l (transparent,bright,excellent lightfastness, avr.drying)

Flavanthrone Yellow PY 112 ASTM  l  (transparent, reddish, excellent light fastness, avr.drying)

*Zinc Yellow aka Zinc Chromate PY 36 ASTM  l l (Smithsonian says don’t use—it cracks!)

*Strontium Yellow aka Barium Chromate, Lemon Yellow PY 32 ASTM  l l

*Chrome Yellow PY 34 ASTM  l l (quickly discolors, darkens, poisonous, impermanent, avoid)

Naples Yellow aka Antimony Yellow PY 41 ASTM  l (Can get from Kremers. Greenish to pinkish pale. Tubes are often mixed white,ochre,red.Genuine pigment excellent, permanent;lead)

Isoindolone Yellow R PY 110 ASTM 1 (exceptional bright reddish, excellent tinting strength)

*Kings Yellow aka Orpiment PY 39 ASTM  l l  (Arsenic! Impermanent and poisonous)

*Massicot PY 46 ASTM  l l (poisonous, quite impermanent)

*Gamboge NY 24 ASTM  l l (golden glazing yellow, impermanent, replaced by Aureolin)

*Quercitron Lake NY 9 ASTM  l l

*Saffron NY 6 ASTM  l l (poor lightfastness, used in food prep.)

*Turmeric NY 3 ASTM  l l (poor lightfastness, used in food prep.)

Bismuth Yellow PY 184 aka Vanadium Yellow ASTM  l (like cad yellow but more transparent)

GREENS:

Chromium Green Oxide PG 17 ASTM  l (Dull, opaque, great permanence. Photographs under infra red as living foliage and so is used for military camouflage.)
Viridian aka Guignet’s Green PG 18 ASTM l (bright bluish, wise to pay premium for pure grade)

Cobalt Green PG 19, Light Green Oxide PG 50 (better) ASTM 1 (bright; low tinting strength)

Pthalo Green aka Monastral Green PG 7 (bluer), PG 36 (yellower) ASTM l (displacing Viridian)

Green Earth aka Terre Verte, Bohemian Earth, Burnt Green Earth PG 23 ASTM l (weak pigment; manufacturers usually use permanent, stronger mix of Sienna and Pthalo Green instead)

Hooker’s Green PG8 ASTM 111 (Avoid! Mix your own with Cad Yellow and Pthalo Blue)

Cadmium Green PG 14 ASTM l (Hard to find. Mix your own with Cad Yellow and Cobalt Blue)

BLUES:

Ultramarine PB 29 ASTM l (chemically identical to Lapis Lazuli) (30 different shades; brittle)

Cobalt Blue PB 28 ASTM l (Miners believed there were spirits in the mines called ‘Kobalds’ in the local tongue. Cobalt is named after these spirits that inhabited the mines. Fairly flexible.)

Pthalo Blue PB 15, 16 ASTM l (replaces Prussian Blue; especially good for mixing green-blues)
Cerulean Blue PB 35 ASTM l (one of the most opaque colors on the palette; fairly flexible)

Cobalt Chromate PB36 ASTM 1 (Beautiful turquoise–don’t confuse with Cerulean)

*Prussian Blue PB 27, also called Antwerp Blue, Paris Blue, Milori Blue, Iron Blue

*Azurite aka Bremen Blue PB 30 (doesn’t mix well in oils)

Indanthrone PB 22 ASTM 1 (clear deep blue, not as overpowering as Pthalo Blue)

Egyptian Blue aka Blue Frit PB 31 (largely disappeared in the 18th century)

Smalt (direct descendant of Egyptian Blue; weak but very permanent; popular until Ultramarine)

Zirconium Cerulean Blue PB 71 (A beautiful semi-opaque light blue, available from Kremer)

PURPLES:

Cobalt Violet PV 14 ASTM l (absolutely permanent, makes a hard, fairly flexible oil paint film)
Manganese Violet PV 16 ASTM l (reddish or blue shade, low tint strength, fast drying, flexible)

Quinacridone Violet PV 19 (red to red-violet) PR 122 (magenta) ASTM l (There are no inorganic pigments with this brilliance and purity;transparent, hard, fairly flexible, average drier)

*Dioxazine Violet PV 23  ASTM  l l (not nearly as permanent or lightfast as other violets)

Mars Violet aka Caput Mortuum PR 101 ASTM l (Confusingly indexed as a red. Superb! Use for tree trunks/old wood/summer landscapes. Used far less than it deserves. Means “head of the dead” and is the color of dried blood.)

Ultramarine Violet PV 15 ASTM 1 (great permanence; too weak to be of much use in oil paint)

Isoviolanthrone Violet PV 31 ASTM 1 (an excellent pigment of high light fastness)

BROWNS:

Raw Umber PBr 7 ASTM  l (Many color variants. Best pigment is from Cyprus, Turkey)

Burnt Umber aka Turkey Brown PBr 7 ASTM  l (many color variants, best from Cyprus)

Raw Sienna aka Italian Earth PBr 7 ASTM  l (browner than Yellow Ochre, wide color variety)

Burnt Sienna PBr 7 ASTM  l (“Half burnt” light browns to fiery oranges beloved by artists. Worth top dollar for best colors and hunting down color variants–some are extraordinary.)

Mars Brown  PBr 6 ASTM  l (Usually a blend of PY 42, PR101, PBk 11. Smoky brown, harder to find in natural earths. Lacks beautiful transparency loved in the Siennas and Umbers.)

*Van Dyke Brown also known as Cassel Earth or Cologne Earth (disastrous—always avoid)

*Asphaltum, aka Mummy, Asphaltum, Egyptian Brown (Avoid at all costs)

WHITES:

Titanium White aka Titanium Dioxide  PW 6  ASTM  l  (best all round white, very opaque)

*Zinc White PW 4 ASTM  l (28-year study: Smithsonian says take it off  palette—it cracks!)

Lead White, aka Flake, Cremnitz, Underpainting White, and Silver White PW 1 ASTM 1

BLACKS:

Mars Black aka Iron Black, Black Iron Oxide PBk 11 ASTM  l (fast drier)

Ivory Black aka Bone Black PBk 9 ASTM  l (slow drier—never use in underpainting)

*Lamp Black aka Carbon Black, Vegetable Black, Furnace Black PBk 6 ASTM  l

*Vine Black also called Drop Black, Frankfort Black, Peach Black, Spanish Black, Blue Black.

MISC:

*Metals PM 1, PM 2, PM 3, etc.  ASTM – Not tested. All except gold are poor.

Gold  PM 3 ASTM  l

*Mica PW 20 ASTM – Not Tested

Mica Titanate ASTM – Not Tested (New, micronized mica in wide range of metallic colors—appear to be highly light fast and useable in all media.)

MORE PIGMENT INFORMATION FROM:

RGH Paints, Pigment Identification Chart,  http://www.rghartistoilpaints.com/index.html

Explanation of Pigment Identification Chart:

(P Value) Permanence as rated by the ASTMD in Artists’ Oil and Artists’ Acrylic Emulsion Paints, as follows:

1. Excellent     2. Very Good     3. Good     4. Fair     5. Poor

(T Value) Transparency/Opacity as follows:

1, Least Transparent (Most Opaque), to 8, Most Transparent (Least Opaque)

Index Name

Pigments throughout the world are given a Color Index Name. This is an international code.

Remember that the science of paint continues to evolve, bringing us ever-more exciting options to use; so do some research on your own and learn more about it.  I’ll be posting more information on this next time.

HOMAGE TO MY TEACHER AND MENTOR, FRANK COVINO

There is a difference between instructors and teachers–instructors show you how, but teachers provide the “who, what, where, why,” and “how” of a subject.  A teacher teaches you the theoretical aspects of the subject, helps you understand where you are going, why you’re going, and what to do when you get there. To me, that makes a tremendous difference.

All too often, I read articles by painters that parrot my teacher, Frank Covino, but fail to thank him for all they learned.  Since I have been taught by him, I recognize his phraseology instantly. Well, to quote Frank, “It’s never too late to ameliorate,” so, as not to become one of those painters who forgets where they came from, I want to say that Frank’s giving, unselfish nature has truly been a gift I will forever cherish. I learned more about painting in my first week’s study with Frank Covino than I learned in all past workshops (that shall remain nameless), put together. What I learned from him way back then (and continue to learn) led me to see art and painting as truly a process and not a haphazard accident, with logic and a systematic method that removes the guesswork. This allows me to concentrate on creating and making fine-tuned judgments on value and color in my paintings. I will be always grateful to Frank for starting me on this path, as his dedication and striving for perfection in all aspects are inspirational and a great model to emulate. I wonder if he realizes how much so many of his students hold him in awe, and love and respect him for all the lives he has affected in such profound ways.

Covino Portrait1

Photo of Frank Covino

Is there some kind of knowledge transference at birth? Perhaps there is, given that Frank Covino has been painting portraits since he was six years old. His mission: “To pass on the classical academic system of painting to the young so it doesn’t get lost.” This craft has been in the Covino family for centuries and, with over fifty years of teaching experience, Frank has made it his life’s work to impart the secrets of the Old Masters.

He reflects, “I teach because I was given an extraordinary, innate gift which revealed itself very early in my life.  History has proven that the most extraordinary artists and musicians were also the best teachers and I like to think that I stand on the shoulders of those giants. Therefore, to exploit that gift would be a sacrilege. Thus, I will continue to teach as long as there are students who seek my guidance as it is my obligation to preserve this ancient tradition of my Italian ancestors.”

In this blog I’m writing, A Pigment of Your Imagination, I hope to pass on some of what I have learned as well.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GOLDEN MEAN

We recognize whether an art object has good proportion or not by whether it is pleasing to our eye (or not), although we may not always be able to say why.  This phenomenon is related to the Golden Mean, a proportion that goes all the way back to antiquity. It is an aspect of beauty that we can easily adopt in our designs and be assured of success.

A portrait that goes to the waist will look more visually pleasing than one that goes to the armpit.  Why?  It is the Golden Mean.  The head in relation to the torso is the Golden Mean Ratio of 1:1.6, or 3 parts wide and 5 parts tall.

DennisVerdaccioWordpress1

Portrait in progress by Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

DennisVerdaccioWordpress

Portrait in progress by Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

You will find that most Renaissance portraits are done in ¾ view with the model looking back at the spectator because, if you run a central divisional line right down the face, there will be one part of the face to one side of the division, and 1.6 parts to the other side of the division—the Golden Mean.

This Golden Ratio was used extensively by Leonardo da Vinci.  Look at his Last Supper and notice how the primary dimensions of the center, the room and the table were based on it.  You can also see it in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa; here are some Golden Mean divisions, superimposed:

MonaLisaGoldenMean

Image Source From: http://in2visualdesign.blogspot.com/2011/04/week-7-golden-ratio.html

In addition to the Renaissance Old Masters, many other famous painters from Dali and Seurat, to Bouguereau and Burne-Jones have made extensive use of the ratio as well.

THE GOLDEN MEAN WILL NEVER FAIL YOU. 

As a painter, you must create unity in your composition to make its message and visual impact cohesive.  Unity is the constant characteristic of all great art, and designing with the repetition of ratios helps to create and maintain that cohesion. Unity is an essential attribute of superior art, whether a portrait, landscape, or still life, and the repetition of ANY ratio will add unity (but the Golden Mean is best).

Let us say you wanted to do a landscape with 20% ground and 80% clouds (2:10 ratio).  You would make the composition more visually pleasing by including a stand of trees placed at the proper ratio.  Divide your surface horizontally into 10 parts and, at 2 parts of 10, place the trees; that ratio of 2:10 echoes the ratio of ground to sky.  And the more often you echo that ratio, even to the construction of rocks and trees, the more unity your painting will have and the more visually pleasing it will be.

When designing, do a geometric pattern that adheres to the Golden Mean first.  Then drop in recognizable images to take the place of those geometric patterns.

5 is to 13 as 1 is to 1.618.  In other words, since the Golden Mean is actually a hair less than 1/3, one of the easiest ways to implement the ratio in your paintings is to apply the Rule of Thirds on your design to guide you in your placement of important focal areas.  Divide your drawing surface by placing a “tic-tac-toe” of nine equal blocks on it. The four points where the lines intersect indicate the best points for high interest locations.  The human eye likes these areas and gravitates toward them. Avoid centering your subject. In addition, don’t place your horizon line across the center of your composition—use one of the horizontal grid lines instead. You can break any of those nine areas down further by dividing into thirds again, then again, depending upon your design objectives.

RuleOfThirdsCat

Image Source From: http://www.alibony.com/graphics/def_rule_of_thirds.html