FRANK COVINO, LONG-TIME FRIEND AND MENTOR, HAS PASSED

Covino Portrait1P1070431PaintingWorkshopCovinoFrank4-2015

Dear Artists and Friends,

It is with ineffable sadness in our hearts, that I must report this news.  Our friend and long-time art teacher and mentor, Maestro Frank Covino, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, after being pronounced “cleared of cancer” just last week.

If I may use a bold simile, his loss feels like looking up at the mountains in Sugarbush, where Frank worked hard to build the home he loved, and seeing that the grandest of summits has disappeared from our sight.

Here is a note from his wife, Barbara Covino, that you will all want to read:

Subject: It is with a deep abiding sorrow in my heart that I write this letter…forgive the delay but it has taken time to believe this is true…

Beloved friends and family , one and all,

After two days of profoundest shock, and countless tears I realize I must write you.  It is with a heavy, heavy heart that i must inform you that dear Frank has passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday night, February 16th.  It was quick and he did not suffer–a death we would all prefer–but he had been progressing so well, it was a gut-wrenching shock that still is unbelievable.

I truly cannot imagine a world, or a life without him…32 years of happiness and adventure.  Life was never boring with him!!! What an amazing talent, a brilliant man with a wealth of knowledge, a gentle and sensitive man who had to excel in everything he did, and was thus an inspiration to all who knew him.  He encouraged others to strive for excellence and to believe in themselves, giving them the tools to create a positive reality in their lives, whether it be art or health.  We all can repeat that golden maxim: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO AMELIORATE! Wise encouraging words, those.

But he was more than the sum of his parts; he was a genuine force of nature, a real Renaissance man, but above all else, he had a kind heart and a very great soul. We all loved him so; there will never be another Frank.  But I know it is now time for each and every one of us who was touched by his life, to take that spark and pass it on.  He gave us wings and it is time for us to fly…Make him proud!!!

I am too choked up to continue writing.  God Bless each and every one of you who had a place in his heart…family, friends, students….He loved you all sincerely and without guile….

We are in the process of collaborating with the family and planning both a smaller family funeral as well as a larger set of celebrations of his life and legacy open to all who loved him–one in Vermont and one on Long island.  As soon as the Covino south clan and Mark and Jennifer and I hammer out the details, I will email you all, soon as can be done.

We are going to give that wonderful man a send off he won’t soon forget!!!

Love and blessings , Barbara Covino

PS: PLEASE FORWARD THIS to everyone you can think of. It has grown into a cast of hundreds, and forgive the delay but it has taken time to believe this is true.

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PART 6, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, CHARCOAL DRAWING AND INDIA INK

Kind Readers,

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.

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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.

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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.

Velázquez_-_Felipe_IV_(Museo_del_Prado,_1634-35)

Here are additional steps in the process:

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This is the completed verdaccio underpainting, ready for color:

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All the best,

Marsha

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.

PART 5, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, MARBLE GESSO

Did you complete your cartoon transfer yet? (See Part 4)  Keep in mind that working from a photo is not a lifetime sentence–it is a great beginning and learning tool, becoming simply reference material later on as you gain skill and begin to build a morgue of artist references.

At this stage, you should have transferred what is in each acetate grid section, box by box, triangle by triangle, to each identical grid section of your painting panel.  If you begin to think about your drawing as specific objects, turn the panel and acetate upside down and continue.  This way, it helps you to stay in the abstract and be more objective.

PaintingProcessStep2

Are the acetate and panel drawings exactly the same?  When the acetate tracing and the panel look exactly identical, you can either erase most of your grid lines, or just leave them in case you need refer to them later at some point during the charcoal drawing and underpainting.  I usually just leave them.  If your drawing has been accurately reproduced, spray it with fixative so it won’t disappear on you.  Remember that the Old Masters taught and used this same grid method to execute extremely accurate drawings, so you are in the best of company.

Now, it’s time to move on to the marble dust gesso and gelatin padding, and inking of the drawing.  Your surface should look sculpted when complete, but only to the degree of the Golden Mean.  In other words, you should aim for about thirty-three percent or less, or sixty-six percent or more of your surface area “sculpted,” but never 50-50.  Of course, this will generally be applied in areas throughout, so you will have to guess the aggregate amount.  Also, make sure you emphasize the illuminated, higher-value areas only, areas you want to advance.  The lighter the area, the more gesso or gelatin you can add.  Darker-valued areas should remain smooth and recessional.

If you plan to add any gesso or gelatin for textures, do it now during the drawing/charcoal/inking stage. Remember that the process of sculpturing your work with the marbled gesso is completely optional.  I don’t do it for every painting, but whenever I do, I never regret having the additional dimension that oil paint alone can simply not provide.

Here is an example of Rubens’ Roman charity painting, “Cimon and Pero,” where I extensively padded on the marble dust gesso to varying degrees on the man’s muscles in the light.  You can see why it is so important to study your anatomy and know the shapes of the musculature.  On the daughter, I added extra gesso to the face, breast, forward arm and hand, and on the dress folds, only on areas of light and those nearest the viewer.  Gelatin was added to stone areas only.  It is finely granulated, totally permanent and used just as it is, right out of the box.  It can be used in gesso or mixed directly in the paint, and creates a more crude surface–perfect for things like rocks, stone and bark:

Colony Website Pics1 020

If you zoom it on your computer, you can actually see where I have added marble gesso (those areas appear whiter) on this painting in progress of Titian‘s “Venus at her Toilet.”   I have built up gesso on the pearls, hair, face, the sternocleidomastoid, the breasts, abdomen, hip, arms, hands, jewelry, the angel and wings, and spent a great deal of time on the tiny trimwork of her wrap.  It’s an amazing tactile experience to literally feel the shapes as you run your hand over the painting and yes, it takes time, but it is so much worth the effort:

TitianVenus

Remember that not just any old plastic-y gesso works for this–you MUST have quite a bit of marble dust in it AND have a surface with tooth to apply it to.  You can make your own, or buy Bonded Marble Gesso from Frank Covino.  Several other companies are emulating Frank and finally beginning to make it also.

Working on a marbled board allows you to scrape, carve, and shape without ruining your surface.  Just remember that this gesso dries very quickly and becomes quite hard (like marble), so whatever your plan is, you should execute it as soon as the gesso is touch dry.  For instance, when I build a muscle, I keep adding coats with an older bristle brush until it’s the thickness I want.  Then, I sand it thoroughly, paying very special attention to the edges, as soon as the gesso will let me.  If you let it cure and come back a couple of days later, you’ll find it nearly impossible to make the edges smooth–it’s just too hard to work at this point.  Remember that paint will not cover up whatever textural accidents or sloppiness you leave.  The texture will still telescope through the paint, so make sure you are thorough with those edges.

All the best,

Marsha

P. S.  Just a note to remind you of the upcoming workshop

Hello, dear readers.  Here is some information I just sent out to all members of The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild, and I would like to share it with you as well.  We are having a one-week workshop where we intensively work on our paintings for one committed week.  If you will be in the Phoenix area on October 7-11, 2013, we would like to invite you to attend and perhaps make some new painting friends.  Respond to this post if you are interested.

Dear Artists:

Great news!  Karen has confirmed the dates for the Arizona Renaissance Art Guild’s one-week workshop. So, are you ready to paint those gorgeous works of art???

It’s PAINTINGPALOOZA time, one whole week to devote to your Classical painting for about $60 – $85 (total for the week), where we artists help each other make our work better and better.

The workshop is scheduled for the week of October 7 – 11, 2013, at the museum.  Workshop hours each day are from 9:00 a.m. until ?.

Signing up is simple–just send us an email and please include your phone number in case we need to contact you.  We have space for a maximum of 12 people. The more people that sign up, the less the cost!

There is no need for you to send a deposit ahead of time: just RSVP via email to confirm your attendance, and then pay your share when you get there.

And as always, if you see someone who didn’t get this email but who should or wants to be on the mailing list, please feel free to forward this on to them and us so that we will be able to include them in our next mailing.

Call if you have any questions.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Karen and Marsha
Arizona Renaissance Art Guild

AN AMAZING ALTARPIECE, MOSAIC, AND WOODEN SCULPTURE

Even though they didn’t fit into my “paintings” category, I just had to show you three unique pieces I saw at the Getty and de Young museums.  The altarpiece room was exceptionally dark, so the following photos are the best I could get. Click on the text photos to make them readable.

The first is the Ecco Homo Altarpiece by Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), Netherlands. About the artist:

HeemskerckNetherlands

About the Ecco Homo Altarpiece:

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EccoHomoAltarpieceHeemskerck

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EccoHomoRevealed

The central panel:

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About fading and discoloration:

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The reds:

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The blues:

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The greens:

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When the altarpiece is closed, the following two figures are what you see:

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StMargaretOfAntiochHeemskerck

EccoHomoStJohnVerso

StJohnTheEvangelistHeemskerck

Here, you can see another exceptionally worthy altarpiece, the Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck with extreme closeup, X-radiography, infrared macrophotography, infrared reflectography and so much more, at http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be/#home/sub=altarpiece

Next, look at the amazing artistry and detail of this mosaic:

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Portrait of Camillo Rospigliosi, about 1630-40, glass mosaic, by Giovanni Battista Calandra, Italian, 1586-1644

“This mosaic depicts Rospigliosi, brother of Pope Clement IX and Knight Commander of the Order of Santo Stefano, whose cross insignia he wears. Because mosaics are composed of many pieces of small stones, ceramic, or glass tiles, they preserve their color more permanently than paintings–thus making them an appropriate medium for the commemorative art of portraiture. Like the painters of this period, Calandra rendered his subjects with great realism.”

Here are some closeups:

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And finally, this sculpture is made of wood, believe it or not. It is called Saint Gines de La Jara, about 1692, by sculptor Luisa Roldán (aka La Roldana), Spanish, 1650-1706. The one who painted the sculpture (aka polychromer) is Tomas de Los Arcos, Spanish, born 1661.

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It was so tall that this upward shot was the best I could get. See the hands?

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And the feet?

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“Saint Ginés de La Jara exemplifies La Roldana’s artistic talents. The body is relatively straight and self-possessed, while the arms stretch outward. La Roldana masterfully worked the hands and feet, sculpting the veins and bones so that they dramatically push against the taut skin. The painting by her brother-in-law, Tomás de Los Arcos, enhances the carving. The statue displays the realistic expression found in Spanish religious imagery made for churches and convents in the second half of the 1600s.”

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

RUBENS AND BRUGEHEL COLLABORATE

I had an impossible time photographing this painting due to the skylight reflections, a problem I’ve mentioned previously.  I took a general one (had to get my picture beside it :-)), and then I took a few closeups. Here is the painting and the information posted alongside:

RubensBrughelMarsha

The Return from War: Mars Disarmed by Venus, 1610-12, Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577-1640; Jan Brueghel the Elder, Flemish, 1568-1625, Oil on panel

“In a secluded corner of Vulcan’s forge, Venus disarms her lover Mars, the god of war, with the playful help of her cupids. Love’s victory over Strife was understood in this period as an allegory of peace, and the subject may reflect contemporary hope for concord following the signing of the Twelve-Year Truce that ended the decades-long conflict in the Netherlands. The harmonious combination of reflective armor and creamy flesh resulted from the collaboration of Brueghel, who painted the setting and armaments, and Rubens, who painted the figures.”

Here are some closeups:

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The Calydonian Boar Hunt, about 1611-12, Peter Paul Rubens, oil on panel

“This recently discovered painting is Ruben’s earliest hunt scene. In the early 1610s Rubens devised new and highly influential imagery of great physicality and emotional intensity–heroic combats between man and beast that transformed Baroque art.”

“The hunt of the Calydonian boar, a terrifying beast sent by the goddess Diana to punish King Oeneus, was a rare subject in painting. Rubens depicts the climax of the myth, when Meleager delivers the mortal thrust of the spear into the boar’s shoulder. The robust figures recall the classical sculpture from which he drew his inspiration. Rubens’ energetic and varied brushwork relates both to his brilliant oil sketches and to his polished cabinet paintings. He may have kept this work in his studio as a source of inspiration.”

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A second take:

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And some closeups:

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And lastly for today, a Rubens’ sketch:

The Meeting of King Ferdinand of Hungary and the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain at Nordlingen, 1635, Peter Paul Rubens

“This sketch was made for a monumental canvas that decorated a triumphal arch erected for the ceremonial entry into Antwerp by the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain. It celebrates an alliance between Catholic rulers shortly before their combined armies scored a victory over Protestant forces in 1634. Rubens’ oil sketches are admired for the spirit and economy with which they present the main elements of his grand compositions.”

RubensSketchTheMeetingOfKingFerdinandOfHungary1

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

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.

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Portrait in progress by Marsha Rhodes Gilliam

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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:

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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.

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

FIGURE DRAWING PRACTICE

Here is a figure drawing site I just have to tell you about. I’ve been using it for years and it is fabulous. I don’t know exactly how many poses it has but certainly over 1,000 assorted males, females, a few children, and some hands, all categorized in a variety of ways for easy navigation. You have the option of making them full-screen, and you can rotate each pose a full 360 degrees to choose the one just right for your composition. The program is also able to give you a series of thirty-second poses so that you can do some quick-sketching practice, or study the notans that are available. This is a free site but if you find it as useful as I do, I’m sure the site owner wouldn’t mind a contribution. It’s called “posemaniacs,” located at:

www.posemaniacs.com

I hope you enjoy it!