Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sketch After Pierre-Paul Prud'hon: Head of Divine Vengeance

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (April 4, 1758 – February 16, 1823) was a romantic French painter known for his excellent draughtsmanship and his well-executed allegorical paintings.

Prud'hon was also considered eccentric and unorthodox in his drawing method. No one has quite figured out his method as he would stump between layers of hatches, often obscuring his marks. He never crosshatched though a few marks may suggest he did. But upon closer inspection, the hatches going in a diagonal across previous marks were laid down after stumping and in subsequent layers. Therefore, his marks were not technically crosshatched; his method was too deviant for crosshatches to be considered. Additionally, most of his marks seem to be applied parallel or diagonal to the planes of form.

Prud'hon's drawings transmit an inner light, a great luminosity. He allows a few hatches to show here and there which portray the individuality of the artist.

I copied one of his drawings in an effort to learn a little bit about how Prud'hon worked. I acquired blue Ingres paper made in Germany, some Contes in black and white (grades HB, B, and 2B), a chamois, a putty eraser, and stumps and tortillons.

I first did a graphite drawing, then I outlined the drawing in a hard black Conte. I used the chamois to remove as much of the Conte as I could. I wanted a ghost image but ended up with a darker outline. This problem prevailed throughout the drawing. Perhaps I should have added padding under the drawing? A lighter touch? Or maybe I should make my own softer crayons.

At any rate, I was happy with the drawing and I learned a great deal. One of the things I learned is that I need to loosen up, let my personality come through a drawing despite the fact that I'm "copying." I also learned that Prud'hon's method is more like painting that drawing. I pushed the Conte around a lot with the stump. Drawing is also like painting in that it is a series of corrections.

Copying drawings from the Masters will be a life long adventure for me. Drawing is just as important as painting.

Prud'hons "Head of Divine Vengeance
Black and white chalk on blue laid paper - the blue has faded to a tan
My copy of Prud'hon's "Head of Divine Vengeance"
Black and white chalk on blue Ingres (laid) paper

Monday, May 23, 2016

Morning Ritual: Quick Sketches

I sketch every morning. I've been doing so for over a week now. I am doing gesture, contour, and mass with contour drawings.

Quick figure sketches, 30 seconds to 10 minutes, really teach one how to see. I will continue to sketch daily for the rest of my life. I absolutely love it and I can only begin to recount how valuable daily sketching is. I saw great improvement last week when I attended a figure drawing session at The Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, GA.

As far as tools go, I have quite a few drawing media to choose from: graphite pencils, charcoal (yuk - too messy), Conte crayons, a Tombow ABT dual brush pen No. 899, and various other tools. You can sketch with anything that makes a mark, including children's crayons or oil paint. Supports include an imported Ingres laid paper and various sketchbooks accepting different or most media.

I am compelled by the beautiful human figure and could spend the rest of my life drawing it. Arguments erupt on Facebook forums regarding nude renderings. There is a subset of the ignorant who believe nudes are not art, that such renderings are pornographic. Such small minds should disengage themselves from art forums, and never visit a museum (I don't think they have) nor art gallery.

Quick morning sketch, May 23, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

NEW PAINTING: Study of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

I love architecture. From new gold, brick and glass buildings in Dallas, Texas to gothic cathedrals, I find inspiration.

Monet was in awe when he painted his Rouen Cathedral series. He captured the effect of light on the facade of the Cathedral at different times of day including sunset:

Monet's "Facade at Sunset"
The first stone of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Ga was laid in the late 1800's. A fire in 1898 destroyed much of the structure but the the Cathedral was quickly rebuilt and opened in 1900.

While the Cathedral enjoys an active congregation, it's a draw for photographers and tourists also. There are self-guided tours available though I have not yet entered the Church. However, I knew I would paint the Cathedral and probably more than once, maybe a series!

While driving the squares of Savannah during the golden hour. I saw the spires reaching into the sky from a few streets to the east. Upon turning down E. Harris Street, I had my first view of the Cathedral. I was amazed to see the Cathedral awash in sparkling lemon light, lowering into cobalt blue just as in Monet's Rouen Cathedral, Facade at Sunset. A few minutes later, the lemon deepened into a tangerine with a deeper cobalt blue splashing the bottom half of the facade.

I painted a "study" of the Cathedral today.  A lot of detail has been left out and my drawing is not perfect. Even so, the painting was somewhat difficult.

My aim was to capture my emotional reaction to the scene and I believe I accomplished that goal. I do wish to execute a more detailed painting of the Cathedral...if I can do so without the process becoming a mechanical exercise. It might be best to do a detailed drawing as a work of art if I want detail.  At any rate, I will be painting this lovely Cathedral in different lighting situations.

Study of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
12 x 12
oil on gallery wrap canvas

Friday, May 6, 2016

Passion, Immortality and a Dose of Death

Have you ever wondered why Creatives tend to fall into depression, commit suicide, become addicted to drugs, and have that temperamental personality stigma? The following diatribe is my opinion where I answer the above questions with some caveats.

Innate Creatives, and that includes scientists and inventors with a high IQ, are wired different than noncreatives. But how so? Can't anyone learn physics, writing, guitar, acting, painting or become a surgeon? Yes, anyone can...up to a point. But Creativity or giftedness cannot be taught.

Creativity cannot be taught. Giftedness is innate.

People have aptitudes toward different pursuits. Some people are very gifted. And some people are prodigies.

Detail of "Artemesia"
(Artemesia was executed in acrylics including iridescent Aztec gold and pearl shimmer. Here is an example of an expressionist piece I needed to do which started from a live figure drawing session incidentally. An artist has to follow her dreams...which are often little inklings tickling the brain.)

You can bet if you pursue playing guitar, painting, etc., like a mad dog that you have great aptitude at the very least. If you continue such passion throughout life, you are likely fulfilling your gift.

A gift does not wish to lie down, to be forgotten.  That wiring, I spoke of...forsaking the act of creation causes mental anguish. Creating can be difficult but it is more difficult to be lazy; laziness can lead to a whole subset of personality problems including depression that leads to substance addictions and/or suicide.

When an artist creates they are Becoming. They create themselves though their work. Herein lies a secret: when an artist creates, they are Truly alive; when an artist is not creating, they are dying. With a caveat called focus, a healthy artist is constantly flying in a universe of ideas with many more tickling the brain on a subconscious level.

Doesn't this living and dying stuff sound like some kind of addictive behavior, some kind of friable and histrionic personality disorder? It does on the surface. But what I am describing is a gift that can only be fulfilled with passion and Will. You can't achieve immortality without a relentless drive. You have to manifest the subjective universe (realm of the astral/imagination) into the objective universe (the "world"). Apotheosis is not handed to anyone.

The majority of Creatives who say they cannot create, and become depressed, is because they are not creating. You see, inspiration comes from sitting with pen in hand to write, making a mark on a blank canvas, strumming that guitar, or writing down a mathematical problem. Inspiration lurks in the subconscious 24/7.

Considering addictions, I do believe that the creative brain is wired for addiction. I can't say whether we are born with that predisposition but I think it's possible. There are endorphins released when we create and those same endorphins are released through the intake of some substances. We create greedy little neurological pathways in the brain screaming for an endorphin rush. At an early age, we find great pleasure from drawing or other stimulating activities. We become hardwired to need and want an endorphin flow. Creatives can succumb to overeating, alcohol and drug addiction versus fulfilling their creative passion.  And that will surely become a infinite nightmare of despair and an unfulfilled life. The ouroboros has then fallen from heaven.

What about those "Hollywood types" who die from drug overdoses or the famous artist who is an alcoholic? We think of them as self-indulgent fools who haven't a clue. Well, in some cases, these addictions show what people choose to do with their money and I am not here to judge lifestyle choices that do not impact me or my family. But a lot of disposable income can present its own problems when paired with an addictive personality. Remember the wiring for endorphins; the brain wants, wants, wants. While it is sad to witness other's self-destructive behavior, the loss of real genius, by whatever means, Prince, Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison for example, are true tragedies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Red and Blue are Not Primary Colors

Red and blue can be mixed and, therefore, are not primary colors. This simple statement is true. Ask a printer if you don't believe me. Printers use the CMYK protocol: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. While we could describe cyan as a blue-green and magenta as a red-violet, they are not mixes of other colors but pure pigments. Black in the CMYK format is used to save money on pigments and to tone down colors versus using their compliments (once again saving money).

When I first read about artists using a CMY palette, I had a hunch that such powerful pigments used together would work for me. I did some research to find out which oil-based pigments I would need. Indeed, the pigments I found are amazing together. I already had phthalo blue and permanent rose on my palette but I had not used them in a limited RYB (red, yellow, blue) or CMY arrangement.

Cyan - Phthalo Blue (PB 15) by Grumbacher

Magenta - Permanent Rose (PV19) by Winsor and Newton

Yellow - Transparent yellow (PY 128) by Winsor and Newton and also Rembrandt (the only two companies who manufacture paints with PY 128 as the sole pigment)

The transparent yellow is so saturated that when tinted out with titanium white, it is brighter than cadmium yellow light or cadmium yellow lemon!

I thought I might need cadmium orange or a cadmium red light (scarlet) but no.

Also, the three pigments mixed together make a very saturated black. I mixed cyan and magenta to make the darkest color first. Then I added transparent yellow which created the darkest black you can imagine.

I completed an entire 12 x 24 painting and love the result. The painting went fast, too. Some folks at Wetcanvas claimed they didn't like the CMY palette as mixing was too laborious. I didn't have that problem though I did mix more on the palette versus applying my paint only directly to the canvas.

The only trouble I ran into was forgetting to constantly add white to my mixes. You see, I had gotten away from white because of its tendency to mute/cool mixtures too much.

I believe I will love the simplicity of using only three colors plus white. I suppose I might add black to my palette if I ever have the need to do so. I tend to paint on the brighter side so I probably won't.

I did some color charts and it was odd to see transparent yellow and permanent rose make a fire engine red. Cyan and magenta make blue. Red, blue and green are the secondaries! I can mix the brightest greens to olive to the darkest emerald or viridian greens. Yet again, no need for a tube green.

Transparent yellow and permanent rose make a true red as seen above.
 Brilliant oranges and scarlet are easy to create.

Phthalo blue and permanent rose make a neutral blue.

Transparent yellow tinted out makes a yellow brighter (and safer) than cad yellow light
or cad yellow lemon.
This one is a keeper!

You all may have seen my tubes of paint laid out in one of my earlier posts.  I think there were 40 or so tubes of acrylic. To me, having all of that glorious color was a lot like using pastels; I would just reach for the right color. I gradually reclaimed my impressionist palette of about 13 colors however. I then whittled down my palette a bit more.

I will try the CMY palette for awhile and see how I like it. One thing is for sure:  transparent yellow will replace cadmium yellow light/cadmium yellow lemon.

See the finished painting below.

Woody Pond, Breezy Day (Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge)
12 x 24, oil on linen panel
Painting knife