PART 4, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, THE CARTOON

Although you are copying an Old Master and placement has already been decided for you, here are some thoughts to keep in mind in the future when you begin composing your own work:  if you leave a large space above the head, you will signal to the viewer that the person you are depicting is diminutive, whereas, with less space above, you will give the impression of a taller, more imposing figure.  This knowledge is especially useful psychologically when you want to make a woman seem more feminine, or a man more masterful.  For example, you would probably not want to paint a commissioned portrait of a farmer, a CEO, or a king, with a lot of space above their heads.

Drawing well requires an extensive understanding of proportion, so to help you get a headstart on drawing and line, we will adopt the OMs’ method of using a graph to facilitate a highly accurate enlargement of your chosen painting.  Then, as you progress in skill and knowledge of the “rules,” you can begin to break them because you will find you need these guidelines progressively less and less.

Now that you have collected your painting supplies and materials, it is time to do an acetate overlay cartoon, or line drawing, over your 8″ X 10″ reference.  Then, you will transfer that same cartoon onto your painting board.    Both the acetate AND the board will be gridded.  Remember those algebraic equation days where what you do to one side of the equation, you do to the other side?  Well, the same idea applies here: what you do to the acetate, you do to the board, no matter how short a guideline may be.

The Cartoon
Work from your grayscale reference from the grided transfer and cartoon, through to the rendering stages.  When you “scale up” your reference material to fit your painting surface, the proportions of that reference material must be maintained; otherwise, you will have a final drawing that is out of proportion with perhaps ears too big or fingers too long.  Here is an easy procedure to ensure you get it right.

Procedure for Enlarging Reference While Maintaining Correct Proportion
Let’s say you are working from an 10” X 8” photo reference, and you want to paint it as a 26” X 20”.
1. Divide the long length of your desired enlargement by the long length of your photo reference to get a ratio:

26 ÷ 10 = 2.6″

2. Multiply that ratio by the short length of your photo reference.  This will tell you what your enlargement’s short side should be in order to maintain correct proportion:

2.6 X 8 = 20.8″

Your painting size will be 20.8″ X 26″

In this example, the size you wanted was 26″ X 20″ but the closest you can get is 26″ X 20.8″—so what can you do?  You have a choice at this point of either:

a) increasing your desired painting size to 26″ X 20.8″ (which would leave you with an odd size for framing),
b) rounding down to 26″ X 20″ (more standard size), or
c) decreasing the photo image content by leaving off a small bit of the sides.  This would be a very slight adjustment and probably worth it to be able to maintain a more standard size frame.

The Graph
Once you have the correct proportions, use a thin-point red or blue Sharpie and draw a rectangle on the acetate that corresponds proportionately to the size of your board and place it over your drawing.  Use pieces of masking tape to secure each side or corner.

  • Very lightly draw a big “X” on your surface from corner to corner.
  • Draw a cross through the center of the “X.”
  • Connect the cross around to make a diamond.
  • Finally, divide the graph into fourths by adding two horizontal and two vertical lines.

PaintingProcessStep1Grayscale

Lay another piece of acetate on top of the grayscale reference and grid.  As with the gridded acetate, also tack this one down with tape.  Trace the figure, including as many detailed features as possible.  You can use dotted lines or denser lines to indicate shadows or clothing folds.  If you make a mistake, remove it with alcohol and a cotton swab, as mistakes made at this stage will only look even more pronounced in your enlargement.  Strive for perfection–it will pay off and save you time later on.

*You can take your cartoon outline further, if you find it helps you, by turning it into a value study.   Do this by continuing to draw on the acetate to create a value study with lines–closer together indicates darker–farther apart creates lighter areas.  When your acetate drawing looks exactly like the reference and you would deem it a good drawing by itself, you are ready to begin transferring it to the painting surface.

On your board, and just as you did on the acetate, draw an “X”, then a cross, then a diamond, then divide it into fourths, both horizontally and vertically.  You can use charcoal or pastel pencils for this.  Do not use graphite because it can telescope through oil paint over time.  You can draw additional lines to aid you, connecting any two points at any angle.  Use as many of these as you need to help encase difficult areas like eyes, nose, and mouth.  Keep in mind that whatever you do to the board, you do to the acetate. Note where I placed my extra lines:

PaintingProcessStep2

We’ll continue with inking and gesso/gelatin buildup in later posts.

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

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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″

TitianFlora1515-22x31
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.

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