PART 7, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, MIXING VERDACCIO

Before you begin your verdaccio underpainting, make sure you have completed everything you want to accomplish with India ink, charcoal, and gesso and/or gelatin in bas relief, so that your rendering looks as perfect as it can.  This functions as your value map for the underpainting, and if it is perfect, nearly everything at Value 5 and under can be quickly glazed, rather than painted.  Of course, the need for the perfect underpainting is that glazes are transparent, and everything will show through!

Look closely at the enlarged version of this drawing; can you see the areas where it seems to be especially white? Those are the places where, if you could run your fingers over the board, you feel the bas relief of the gesso that has been built up only in the areas you want to advance, to give the painting extra dimension.  Pretend you are a sculptor and pay special attention to areas like jewelry, headwear, the forehead, nose bone and tip, shoulders near the viewer, lower lip,  muscle structure, illuminated areas of dark garments, fabric folds that are closest to the viewer, and anything else you want to advance.  Make sure you smooth those built up edges so they blend smoothly into the board surface–you don’t want them looking pasted on.  You should not see the physical edges of the build up:

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Mixing verdaccio in nine values is the next step. Here is where you will make your life so-o-o much easier if you have purchased Frank Covino’s Controlled Palette.

PaletteFront

Before mixing any paint on the Controlled Palette, coat it lightly with olive oil.

To mix verdaccio:

*Put 2, 8″ strips of chromium oxide green on Value 2
*Put 1, 8″ strip of mars black on Value 2
(= 3 strips total on Value 2)
Mix together thoroughly for a “Value 2 verdaccio.”
Value 1 is comprised of equal parts of Value 2 with Mars Black.
Values 3 – 9 are made by the addition of Flake White to Value 2, then 3, etc. (aka a “color string”).

Then cover it with Saran Wrap (the most non-porous wrap in my tests) and put it in the freezer until you’re ready to paint. Even better is to buy multiples of the three colors and some empty tubes, and tube your mixtures. That way, you won’t have to mix it again for a year or more.

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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.

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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.

PaintingProcessStep6

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:

PaintingProcessStep13

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.

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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:

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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

PART 2, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, THE SUPPORT

You will need a support for your painting, and rather than make it yourself (what I normally do), you may want to go and buy a pre-primed gessoed Masonite  board for expediency. The reasons for a hard support as opposed to canvas are many, not the least of which are longevity, durability, and more control.  If you absolutely need canvas, make sure to choose a fine linen weave on board, rather than on stretcher bars.

You can buy an 18″x24″ Ampersand Gessobord, uncradled 1/8″ flat panel, at Utrecht for about $17.  It is a sealed hardboard panel with an acid free, acrylic gesso ground that you can start using right away.  Or, you can buy Utrecht’s excellent cradled, 18″x24″ unfinished wood panel and gesso it yourself for about the same price.

Buy the best marble-inclusive gesso from Frank Covino.  If you gesso your own, make sure you protect it on the back as well so that it cannot absorb moisture and warp.  To save on the cost of expensive gesso and to give them a clean, fresh finish, I coat the backs of my boards with oil-based Kilz, a fabulous and reasonably priced protectorant/primer/sealer, then apply gesso on the front only.

Decide on the size of board, based on the Old Master work you have chosen.  For example, for most lifesize portraits on a 16″x20″ panel, the figure will end at the armpits.  A size approximating life is best, as a giant head can look grotesque–unless that’s the effect you want to achieve.  Keep in mind the following parameters for face sizes on the panel–smaller than life is fine but these are LIMITS you should not exceed:

babies:  5″ from chin to hairline
children 3-12:  5 1/2″
teens to age 27:  6″ maximum, male or female
adults:  7 1/2 for men with large heads, 6 1/2 for women with large heads

The other item you will need right away is a 9-value (plus black and white) palette–more about that tomorrow.

PART 1, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH–GET ARTSERIOUS

Artserious–a linguistic invention–so, it’s time to get artserious, begin at the beginning, and learn the classical academic painting process alluded to in this prior post.

As the Dalai Lama says, “Know the rules well so you can learn to break them effectively.” This is probably one of the most important reasons to have classical training and, although it is best received in person, teacher-student, I hope to help you through some of the same processes online that I teach my private students.  (If you are in the Phoenix Metro and want one-on-one lessons, contact me through this blog.)

In coming weeks, I will discuss the following: materials, design, compositional unity, applying the Golden Mean, Munsell’s color system and hue, value, and intensity, seven basic color schemes, aerial perspective, the cartoon, accurate enlargement/graphing and transferring to panel, gessoing masonite board, inking the drawing, sculpting with gesso for bas relief, the charcoal study, underpainting, mixing a flesh palette, and colored oil glazes.

It is a lengthy syllabus, but I hope you will profit from the instruction in some way.

Creating fine art is very much a science; therefore, you should come to this training with an open mind and put your previous painting experience on hold for awhile so that you can see with fresh eyes.  This is not quick art, but I promise you that with proper instruction and following the process outlined, along with self-discipline, persistence, and  patience, you can achieve the high degree of quality in your painting you have hoped for.  It is better to spend weeks on one excellent painting that can be considered significant art, than to spend a couple of hurried days on a piece that will end up in the trash.

Keep in mind there are preliminaries we will skip for now and come back to later, as I am sure you want to get to the actual creation of a portrait.  Beginning with how to get an accurate drawing, our ultimate purpose here is to get an excellent likeness and end up with a high quality, Renaissance-style classical academic painting that will never find itself in a garage sale.  You will be copying an Old Master oil portrait of your choice–you can paint family AFTER you have learned the basics and “mastered the Masters.”

Your first assignment:  Choose an Old Master portrait that you love.  Keep the goal in mind; you are learning the process here, so you will want to choose a picture that is not too complex, has clearly delineated eyes, nose, mouth, hair, clothing, and a simpler background.

I will be using Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Make sure your reference is very high resolution, and high quality.  Two superb online sources are the Getty Museum or Art Renewal Center.  You should never undermine your efforts by beginning with inferior reference, as I have seen students who, despite admonition, try this and give up in frustration.

Print the reference on glossy photo paper, as it shows detail much better than other surfaces.  Print one in grayscale and one in color, ledger size if possible, otherwise 8 1/2″ x 11″.  You can put them on a flash drive or CD and have it printed at FedX or any print shop.  It is helpful to save the references on your computer desktop as well, for quick access.  I use my computer to enlarge certain small areas as I go along and need to get a closer look.  The computer, however, will not replace your printouts in this process.

Some Masters to consider for our purposes are (in no particular order):  Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velasquez, David, Vermeer, Gerome, Godward, Leighton, Alma-Tadema, and Bouguereau are all excellent artists from which to learn, although there are so many more.

GeromeBlackBashi-Bazouk1869-26x32
Jean Leon Gerome, Black Bashi-bazouk, 1869, 26×32″

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Titian, Flora, 1515

Here are the materials you will need for the process:

Oil Painting Materials:
references
pens/pencils
extra-fine permanent markers(Sharpies), black, blue, green, red
acetate
General’s charcoal pencils
vine charcoal
blending stumps (tortillions)
metal yardstick
metal 18” ruler
transparent triangle, 18”
kneaded eraser
India ink and liner sable brush
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

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

*Avoid zinc white (PW4) whenever possible. It is often added to paint colors one would not suspect, such as in titanium white, lead white, and to various other colors to render them more transparent. It is also used as a filler to make them less expensive to manufacture.  Zinc white can make your paintings crack, according to extensive, lengthy studies done with conservators at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Also, buy the best quality paint you can afford, as student grade and many professional grades contain excessive aluminum stearate that causes darkening of the paint film over time.  Good commercial brands include professional grades of Utrecht, Williamsburg (both made in the U.S.), Old Holland (Netherlands), and Sennelier (France).  I like the unique textures of handmade paints as well, and buy from colormen like Robert Doak, Michael Harding, and Natural Pigments.

*marble-inclusive gesso
*values palette
*homemade medium

In the next post, we’ll discuss supports, marble-inclusive gesso, and the 9-value (+black and white) palette you will need.