Friday, November 27, 2009

Sharing my own approach to painting Sixteenth Century Venetian Way

Venetian painters at the time of Titian used a different technique from that of
later painters. The modern artist usually paints the forms directly on the canvas
with color mixed in his palette. This is essentially a one‐step method, although
the artist may paint over a preliminary sketch. By contrast, theVenetian painter
from the sixteenth century used  a two‐step method. First, he defined the forms
of his composition in monochrome, and only after that was completed he applied
color. When he applied color, he did so in translucent layers called glazes.

To demonstrate the Venetian method of painting for this book, I have illustrated a
step by step of the process. The intention is not to show how exactly someone like
Titian painted this picture (The Gipsy Madonna) but to illustrate the main steps of
work in a simplified demonstration of fundamentals. By emulating this process one
can understand the importance or order, structure, discipline and patience involved
in making a painting. Something that most of the contemporary art world has forgotten.

This is the original Gipsy Madonna  painted by Titian in 1510

The following is part of a demo I used in a class on how to paint like the Old Masters .I taught this class at the Maitland Art Center. 

Step #1: “Bozzetto” ( Preliminary Sketch)
Prepare a pencil preliminary study of the composition on paper

Step #2: “Disegno” (Drawing)
Transfer and draw the composition on to canvas with vine charcoal.

Step #3: “Sotto Disegno” (Underdrawing)
Draw and re‐define lines with Burnt Umber and Turpentine
(This is called “The Sauce”)

Step #4: “Imprimatura “(Toned canvas)
Over the underdrawing, apply a light tone of Venetian Red or Red
Ochre (PR101) with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine.

Step #5: Togliere Strofinare” (Wipe out technique)
Wipe out the strongest lights in the composition. This is done with a dry
fine cotton rag and gently rubbing out the selected areas where the
lights are supposed to be.

Step#6: “Sotto Dipinto” (underpainting)
With black, white and yellow ocher paint and define values with grays
present in the composition.

Step #7 Velaturas (Color Glazing)
Thin color glazes are applied using the “motherload” glazing medium. Semi‐dry
paint scumbling is applied over the dry glaze. Additional elements in the
background are added to the composition. You may apply various layers of glazes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Latest painting: El Juicio (The Judgement)

"El Juicio" 23" x 24" Oil and Goldleaf on Wood

In this latest piece titled "El Juicio" or "The Judgment" I am inspired on various old master compositions on "The Judgment of Paris" This famous episode from Classic literature tells the story that led to the Illiad by Homer, of young Prince Paris before he learns about Helen and abducts her to the city of Troy. In this scene he is accompanied by Hermes and holds a golden apple that reads καλλίστῃ (kalliste)"To the fairest". Hermes sent by Zeus, the king of the gods, gives Paris the task of choosing from three of the Olympian goddesses who is the most beautiful. The goddesses stand in front of Paris awaiting for him to judge who might be the winner. Each one of them bribes the prince with tempting rewards. Hera holds a scepter and offers him to become king of the known world. Athena offers him infinite wisdom and victory in war. Aphrodite offers him the heart of the most beautiful mortal woman living at that time, Helen. Paris chooses Aphrodite's gift and there after Homer's story of Troy begins. I have reflected much on the idea of this famous "apple of discord" and seen an interesting relation with the apple of the tree of knowledge in the book of Genesis. The apple in many ancient civilizations signified many different things but many coincide with the idea of being blessed and cursed at the same time with knowledge beauty or immortality by consuming a special fruit. There is also the theme of free will and choice. Today we have many beauty contests and juried art shows that seem to be very subjective in their means of defining whats beautiful and who deserves to be called a great artist or gorgeous Miss universe. The problem of judgment goes back to the story of Paris. Who is to decide? By bribing, how corruptible is the jury? Today the apple of discord may well be called money and still we fall for these shows where someone well respected and apparently "on top" decides what we should consider adorable and beautiful, what we should spend time looking at and consuming. This painting is not only a tribute to the classical theme of the Judgment of Paris but also an open reflection on the question of judgment. There are many symbols hidden and not so hidden in the work  and I could write a lot about the meaning of these. But  in the end all brought together in this context ask the same eternal question QUIDNAM JUDICARE (Who is the judge?)

"El Juicio" (triptych doors closed)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Allegory to Foreclosure

At last I finished two more paintings today. Tomorrow I should be able to photograph and post them later on my blog. One thing I've noticed: Paintings are taking me much longer to finish. One thing is to start a painting and have it sketched with colors on panel or canvas and even look semi-finished but to really finish the work requires more than that. A painting takes me from one  to two weeks and in some occasions even a month. One of the paintings that I left at Comma Gallery is titled "Allegory to Foreclosure". I consider this piece to be part of the new series as it moves away from religious subject matter. It is as the title suggests an allegory or symbolical narrative representing the current critical situation of the loss of property that can be quite evident not only in Florida but elsewhere.

Allegory to Foreclosure Oil on Canvas and 
Goldleaf on wood 24" x 24" (2008)

Even though it is not one of my most common studio practices I did use  for this painting a dressed mannequin I made myself with newspaper and junk mail I received when I lived in Altamonte Springs, Florida. This mannequin served as my model for the work, I also took pictures of the beautiful Florida skies and worked from one of the pictures I took. The houses are inspired on the cookie cut houses of Clermont. The demons represent bills, banks, mortgages and other economic pressures that besiege the poor mother and child. These small creatures have been inspired on the work of Hieronimous Bosch.

Example of a hand made miniature mannequin

This studio practice has been used since antiquity and  many painters like El Greco, Vermeer, and Josep Sert had their own miniature or even life-size dressed mannequins posing for their paintings. This enabled them to pay more attention and study fabric and draperies and how these intricate patterns of clothing responded to light. It has been widely used by royal portrait artists who painted the King or Queen and then had a wooden mannequin dressed up as the royal character so the person portrayed did not have to sit for long hours while the painter replicated in his painting the effect of jewelry, armor and silk of any kind of richly ornamented clothes. This studio practice is also very useful when one wishes to paint unreal characters such as flying angels or resurrected beings floating over clouds. By using simple materials such as wire, tape, newspaper and fabric a spotlight and some imagination you can recreate your own character and model for your work.