FROM THE WORKSHOP OF THE ARIZONA RENAISSANCE ART GUILD

The Taos Society of Artists had about six to ten members, the Hudson River School up to twenty-five.  Our Arizona Renaissance Art Guild is small, with eight to twelve members, so if we’re talking about numbers, the Guild is in good company.  Who knows what history’s retrospective look at us will be….

Anyway, I’m back from the workshop, having had the most grueling week of fun ever!  We literally painted from morning until night, sometimes as late as midnight, only to begin again the next morning around eight a.m.  If we had had some bunk beds and a shower, I think we might have just stayed at the museum. The Gilbert Museum is a wonderful place for us to work and they have been so very gracious to us over the last eight or ten years, especially the museum’s director, who always goes out of her way to make sure the facility is top notch.

Some of us copied the Old Masters, and some did original works.  And speaking of retrospectives, I will be providing individual pictorial ones on some of our artists at a later date, but I just want to give you a photographic overview of the work we did this past week, and the environment we work in.  Some of the unusual colors you may see are underpaintings designed for specific effects later on.  Also, keep in mind these photos are just snapshots.  We all know what a picture is worth, so here it goes:

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In related news, I got a new easel. I used a French easel until I wore it out, so I bought a new, more robust travel easel.  After much research, I settled on the “Belmont” by Jack Richeson.  It can support the larger size boards I often work on, can tilt forward for pastels, and lay flat for oil glazing or watercolor. Yes, other easels can do all this as well, but this one is special in important respects: it is made of renewable lyptus wood AND it’s on wheels so I can use it for a sort of hand truck when loading my supplies after a workshop (Of course, never put heavier things on it–it’s not really a hand truck, after all :-)).  I got it from Madison Art Supply who had the best price at the time.  They provided quick delivery, too.

What sold me on this particular easel is that another of our members had one, and one day, he showed me how easy and FAST it was to set up and take down.  I was amazed and “sold” at the same time.  The fact that it was from Richeson was a plus, because their company is at the top when it comes to customer service.  They will make sure you are happy with your purchase, especially if you have a problem.  And in this case, I did have a problem: the bottom tray didn’t grip well enough and wanted to drift downward (over the course of hours of painting) and I had to readjust it periodically.  It wasn’t an urgent problem, but I called them about it anyway.  They sent me another tray and made sure it got to me by the second day of the workshop!  These people are incredible so consider Jack Richeson brand the next time you need art supplies.

The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild does one-week workshop intensives three times per year, and in addition, we get together to paint all day on the third Saturday of every month.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and are interested in finding out more or possibly joining our colony, please let me know through this blog.  ~Marsha

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AND IN THE END…

Here are the remaining painting photos we took at the Getty and the de Young museums. The experience was unforgettable and I’m happy to have shared it all with you.  I will see you here again after my workshop (see April 17, 2013 post).

GeorgesDeLaTourTheMusicians'Brawl

The Musicians’ Brawl, about 1625, Georges de La Tour (1593-1652), French, oil on canvas

“In this painting, a brawling musician lifts his hand squeezing lemon juice into the eyes of his supposedly blind opponent. The imposter’s guide gasps with dismay while the two spectators all knowingly laugh at the spectacle of deception revealed. An early work by La Tour, this painting exhibits sharp diagonal rhythms, rapid calligraphic brushwork, and swift modulations in coloring to resonate with the violence of the subject.”

Interestingly, my husband made an important observation in this narrative painting that was not mentioned in the museum placard: the hurdy gurdy has the crank going into the right side of the instrument, yet the figure is holding the crank in his left hand. There is a reason for that–he has a knife in his right hand, prepared to stab the man that has called him out for being a fake. Can you see it?

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The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist, 1640-42, Italian, Guido Reni (1575-1642) oil on canvas, 68 x 56

“In this depiction of a meeting between the young Christ and Saint John the Baptist, Guido Reni eliminated unnecessary detail and concentrated on the scene’s emotional qualities. The eyes of the two children meet as Mary looks on. The doves that the Christ Child gives to his cousin are an allusion to both Jesus’s future role as the King of Peace as well as his eventual sacrifice. Joseph enters through a doorway in the background.”

“Although using oil, Reni applied his color with the broad brushwork of fresco painting. He outlined important details with dark, jagged strokes. It was once thought that the sketchy appearance of Reni’s late works meant that they were unfinished, but like many aging artists, Reni pared form and color to the bare essentials for purely expressive purposes.”

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The Alchemist, 1663, Dutch, Cornelis Bega (1631/32-64), oil on panel, 14 x 12 1/2

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Another view with a better angle, of this tiny painting packed with information and detail, The Alchemist.

“Oblivious to his cluttered surroundings, the unkempt figure of an alchemist sits among a chaotic jumble of paraphernalia. He holds a scale while weighing out a substance for one of his experiments in making gold. By the seventeenth century, alchemy was no longer considered to be a respectable science, and its practitioners were often the subject of ridicule. ”

“In this genre scene, Cornelis Bega commented on time wasted on materialistic and futile pursuits. Like other Dutch artists of his time, Bega was a close observer of natural appearances. Textures and surfaces of the assorted cracked clay and glass vessels are accurately described. Light pouring in through the open window and the harmonious tones of brown, gray, and blue give the painting a cozy warmth.”

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Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner Sargent), 1763, John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 39 1/4

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The Last Moments of John Brown, ca. 1884, Thomas Hovenden (1840-1895), oil on canvas

You must go here and learn much about this artist, Thomas Hovenden, who seems to have “slipped through the cracks” of the American artists’ cannon: http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/8aa/8aa547.htm

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

FRANK COVINO WORKSHOP ANNOUNCEMENT!

I know how ridiculously short notice this is, as I didn’t think to use my blog venue to get the word out, but Maestro Frank Covino, my long-time teacher and mentor, is flying to Phoenix from Vermont to teach our one-week workshop. The cost is $675 for five days of the most intense, informative hard work you will ever LOVE! I wrote  about him in earlier posts (See March 5, 8, and 9).

If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and would like to join our small group (the Arizona Renaissance Art Guild) for this workshop, contact me ASAP to reserve your space. As I have said in earlier posts, you will learn more from Frank in one week than in probably all the other workshops you have ever had, put together. Also, our group of artists are extremely friendly and helpful to newcomers–no shyness here–and we do it all with good heart and encouragement. We are all in varying degrees of progress, so don’t feel intimidated and know that none of us will ever try to make you feel that way. Come to the workshop with an open mind, leave your preconceptions at the door, and you will be amazed at what you will accomplish!

Following is our materials list that presumes you are new to painting.

Materials for board preparation and graphing:

Masonite board

renaissance gesso

Golden acrylic matte medium

metal yardstick and ruler

clear 18” triangle

acetate

extra fine and fine Sharpies

General’s charcoal pencils

photo of Old Master painting to work from, 8”x10” one color, one grayscale, glossy photo paper

Materials for sketching and charcoal:

grayscale 8”x10” photo

General’s charcoal pencils

vine charcoal

blending stumps (tortillions)

Exacto knife

India ink and liner sable brush

Drawing and Painting Materials:

pens/pencils

ultra-fine permanent markers, black, blue, green, red

acetate pad

charcoal pencils

vine charcoal

blending stumps

metal yardstick

metal 18” ruler

transparent triangle, 18”

kneaded eraser

India ink

spray workable fixative

Exacto knife

clear tape

artist’s white tape

Golden acrylic matte medium

Masonite or hardwood board

sandpaper very rough #40-60, very smooth #100-200

natural sponge

Knox Gelatin

paint roller for application of gesso

retouch varnish

Liquin

turpentine for brush cleaning

olive oil for brushes, cleaning hands, oiling palette

leak proof turpentine container

easel

plastic wrap

blue paper towels

mahl stick

notebook

palette knives

**Renaissance Gesso

**Covino Controlled Palette

**Covino Medium

Brushes:

bright sable #2, 4, 10

flat bristle #2, 4, 10

round sable #1, 8

round bristle #0, 8

mongoose flat #6

mongoose round #0

mongoose filbert #4, 8

Paint:

*titanium white

*flake white

ivory black

mars black

chromium oxide green

pthalo blue

cadmium yellow light

yellow ochre

raw sienna

raw umber

cadmium orange

burnt sienna

burnt umber

cadmium red light

alizarin crimson permanent

cobalt violet

ultramarine violet

French ultramarine blue

cobalt blue

cerulean blue

viridian green

Shiva cadmium green

Grumbacher pthalo yellow green

Winsor and Newton Winsor orange

Indian yellow

napthol red light

That’s all–enough, right? We hold the workshop in a museum so, once we get set up, we don’t have to pick up our stuff all week–we just lock it up and leave it all there until the next morning.  Also, everyone has their own large 6′ table and the space of a dance hall, so you can dance, or go back 30 feet and walk up on your painting to check your progress.

Needless to say, I will not be posting next week, but I’ll be back ASAP after the workshop.

REMBRANDT AT THE MUSEUM–NOT AN ALL FOOLS’ DAY JOKE

Here are more museum postings, which I will continue to do in order to give you the flavor of all we saw. Please keep in mind that there were many unavoidable light reflections, not only from the skylights and track lighting, but also from the surprising fact that many of the works were covered with glass; and no matter how good the museum quality of that glass, there were still added light aberrations in a few of the photos.

Today is Rembrandt’s day:

An Old Man in Military Costume, About 1630-31, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel

“This fantasy portrait belongs to the type known as a tronie, or a character study of a head. These pictures were created for sale on the open art market in Holland. Rembrandt frequently dressed the models for such portraits in fanciful costumes, as in the case of this man in military garb. The attire probably symbolizes Dutch fortitude and patriotism during the struggle for independence from Spain.”

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The Abduction of Europa, 1632, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel (2 photos)

From the Getty:  “In the Metamorphoses , the ancient Roman poet Ovid told a story about the god Jupiter, who disguised himself as a white bull in order to seduce the princess Europa away from her companions and carry her across the sea to the distant land that would bear her name.

During his long career Rembrandt rarely painted mythological subjects. Here he conveys a narrative story through dramatic gesture and visual effects. Bewildered, Europa grasps the bull’s horn, digs her fingers into his neck, and turns back to look at her companions on the water’s edge. One young woman falls to the ground and raises her arms in alarm, dropping the flower garland intended for the bull’s neck into her lap, while her friend clasps her hands in consternation and watches helplessly. The carriage driver above rises to his feet and stares at the departing princess in horror. In the background, a city shrouded in mist extends along the horizon, perhaps serving as an allusion to the ancient city of Tyre as well as to contemporary Amsterdam.The dark thicket of trees to the right contrasts with the pink and blue regions of the sea and sky. Sunlight breaks through the clouds and reflects off the water, but the sky behind the trees is dark and foreboding.

A master of visual effects, Rembrandt took pleasure in describing the varied textures of sumptuous costumes and glittering gold highlights on the carriage and dresses.”

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A Portrait of a Rabbi, About 1640-45, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel

“Rembrandt painted and drew numerous elderly male subjects in contemplation throughout his career. Here, strong light illuminates the man’s chest and face, which is energetically modeled with fine, textured brushstrokes. In contrast, the heavy folds of his gown and soft material of his hat are more loosely executed. Rembrandt was sensitive to Jewish tradition, and sought to capture its character through the representation of physical appearance and an internal spiritual state.”

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Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold Trimmed Cloak, 1632, Rembrandt Harmensz, van Rijn, Dutch, 1606-1669, Oil on panel

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And from the Getty http://www.getty.edu/art/installation_highlights/rembrandt.html:

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn‘s Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak is on temporary view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. The work, which has not been on public view since the 1970s, is on loan from a private collection in New York.

The sitter, an unknown woman, is richly dressed in the fanciful costume Rembrandt favored for biblical and mythological paintings. He scratched in the thick, wet paint to create the pleats of the subject’s white shirt, and rendered gold embroidery on her black gown with almost an abstract series of daubs. Light from the painting’s upper left creates atmosphere behind the sitter and strongly illuminates one side of her rounded face, along with the strand of pearls in her hair and one of her large pearl earrings.

Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak inspired the facial types of many of Rembrandt’s heroines in the early 1630s.

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We’re off on a three-day job, so more photos in a few days….

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

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.”

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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.

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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.

ANOTHER VERMEER, JUST DOWN THE ROAD…

well, almost.  I just found out about it so we have decided to visit the Getty Center as well, on our way to the deYoung in San Francisco.  Here are some of the details:

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/vermeer/index.html

Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (ca. 1663-64), on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, is being exhibited at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, daily through March 31, 2013.  It will then go back to its home for the grand reopening of the Rijksmuseum on April 13, 2013, after extensive renovation.

From the Getty Museum site:

“Woman in Blue Reading a Letter represents one of Vermeer’s most enigmatic depictions of a new theme in Dutch genre painting (subjects from everyday life): well-to-do women in domestic settings, often so preoccupied that they are oblivious to the viewer’s gaze. This special installation highlights the variety of artistic contributions to the popular theme of the intimate interior in the 1660s to complement Vermeer’s quiet, harmonious reader. Gerard ter Borch’s Music Lesson, Jan Steen’s Drawing Lesson, Pieter de Hooch’s Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy, and Frans van Mieris’s The Doctor’s Visit from the Getty Museum’s collection, as well as Gabriel Metsu’s An Elegant Lady Writing at Her Desk with a Dog beside Her (on loan from a private collection in New York) share refined brushwork and dazzling illusionism in the rendering of highly-constructed private spaces.”

In addition, they are exhibiting a pair of large Franz Hals‘ paintings which will also go back to Amsterdam on March 31st.

Lucas de Clercq by Frans Hals (ca. 1635)

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Feyna van Steenkiste by Frans Hals (ca. 1635)

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Here is more info from the Getty:

“About the Sitters–Lucas de Clercq (about 1603–1652) was a wealthy Haarlem merchant who dealt in potash (an alkaline material used in bleaching), bleached linens, and linen yarn.  Lucas married Feyna van Steenkiste (1603/4–1640), whose family was also involved in Haarlem’s linen and bleaching enterprises, in 1626.  Lucas de Clercq and his wife were prominent members of the extensive Mennonite community in Haarlem, most of whom were involved in the city’s textile industries. Proponents of non-resistance, Mennonites strove to follow the example of the apostles and to live a modest life. Both Lucas and Feyna are dressed modestly in sober black garments that do not ostentatiously display their wealth and social standing.”

Apparently, these paintings have never been in the Western United States until now, and who knows when they will return.