My sincerest apologies for the extended hiatus since my last post. There has been a long illness in my family that required my full attention, but gratefully, the outcome was positive. Thanks to some dear art friends inspiring me today to start posting again, I am doing this one especially for them. I’ll try to make it up to you all in this post by adding additional pictures of the process for you to at least see where we’re going. I’ll comment on them as needed in later posts. Feel free to posit your questions or comments as well.
A few more points to make about handling the marble gesso before we go on with the process~~Remember that you must smooth the edges of each successive application of gesso either with your finger while it’s wet, or with sandpaper (about 100 grit) after it’s dry. It is easiest to do it with your finger, followed by the sandpaper only if necessary. Some illuminated areas you may want to sculpt, in addition to those mentioned in Part 5, are clothing (especially folds) , the nose bridge and tip, the forehead, the forward shoulder, the forward knee, and the part of the lower lip in the light.
At this stage, remove the gridded acetate cartoon, and render a complete charcoal study by referring to the grayscale printout of the artwork reference. It’s best to start with the easiest squares or triangles, piece by piece, then progress to the others as you gain more confidence. Use a tortillion to really blend and push the charcoal into the gessoed surface. You can always lay the grid back on to check your drawing if you lose your place or make a mistake. Repair mistakes on your drawing with a kneaded eraser, or scrape it carefully with an exacto knife or single-edged razor blade. Periodically, take the drawing outside and spray it with fixative as you progress and are sure it’s correct. As you continue with the rendering, keep asking yourself, “What value is it on my reference?” Then place that value on your surface. If the values are right, it will look like the form when you’re finished.
When your drawing is complete, take it outside with a final coat of fixative, sprayed rather liberally. Be careful with this stuff–it’s toxic (see the label). The photo below shows the wet fixative reflecting on the lens. At this point, put the fixative away. It will not be used again for the duration of this painting and, for the sake of archivability, you do not want to accidentally mix it up with the retouch varnish.
As far as India ink is concerned, inking can be done at any stage of the drawing. I personally like to do it after I have applied the gesso or gelatin and have refined my cartoon into a full-value detailed charcoal drawing. Use a very fine brush and keep some water handy. It’s very difficult to remove dried India ink, and it dries very quickly. Or, if you prefer, you can use the greyscale prefilled Faber-Castell Pitt brand India ink brush pens.
For example, in the charcoal drawing above, I have inked the entire background, the edge of the upper eyelid, the edge of the iris, the deepest recesses of the nose hole, the crease of the eyelid, and the pupils of the eye. Ink only the areas that are either black, or value 1.
Regarding the pupils, always make sure that the one farthest from the viewer is slightly lighter than the closest one. Even though the naked eye cannot really see this difference, you must nevertheless paint with aerial perspective rules in mind, whether it’s visible in the photo or not. Aerial perspective rules say that dark-valued objects become lighter and grayer in recession. Thus, the pupil farthest from the viewer will be ever-so-slightly lighter. The converse rule is that light-valued objects appear darker and grayer in recession. Keep these rules in mind with any painting because you cannot trust what you see in the photograph.
Some other areas to consider inking are the center edge of the lower lip, where the lower lid touches the iris, and the very thin line between the lips.
When inking, refer to the grayscale printout of the Old Master artwork you are duplicating. Ask yourself, “Where are the black areas located on this painting?” As you identify them, no matter how small, that’s where you put ink. Ink everything that is receiving no light. Forget what object you are painting and just look for values, remembering to refer to the photo and not your acetate sketch.
Remember that any mistakes made with the ink must be ameliorated–you cannot just cover them with paint. Why? Because over time, oil paint becomes translucent and your mistakes will begin to show through. The Italians call this “pentimenti,” meaning “the emergence of earlier mistakes that have been painted over.” Take a look at Velázquez’s horse that now has five legs.
Here are additional steps in the process:
This is the completed verdaccio underpainting, ready for color:
All the best,
P. S. Just a note to let you know of an upcoming workshop—
Hello, readers. The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild is hosting a one-week workshop with Maestro Frank Covino, art teacher extraordinaire. If you will be in the Phoenix area on April 6-10, 2015, we would like to invite you to attend and make some new painting friends. The cost for the week is $695. Respond to this post if you are interested. We still have two spaces available.