Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vanitas II – Etiquette – WIP

Here is an update and progress shots of my second Vanitas painting. I've made a couple of passes over the underpainting and I'm starting to model the form. Looking for a very sculptural feel, I want the illusion of space to govern this piece and to have all the objects sit and recede with a sense of dimension, which moves the viewer into the picture by means of light, form and depth. This is very important to the narrative of this Vanitas.

My still life set up is a shelving unit draped and boxed in with black fabric to block out any light.  I light it from within and balance the same light on my canvas and palette. I often use my pochade box as a standing palette, and will normally use a hand held palette in unison to work out color mixtures.

On the palette I premix mix a string of colors for each object representing it's hue, value and chroma. If I see there is any color shift as it moves from light to dark along the string I will tap warm or cool into it from my color palette as needed. This way I am never tied to those premixes and as I see reflected light or a temperature shift I can quickly punch it up or tone it down without breaking the flow of the painting process. Because if am really way off on my judgement, I can make those finite adjustments as I return for my second or third pass. Each time I visit a passage, the subtle differences in color and value become easier to find.
This way I can just stay in the zone.

The Vanitas or memento mori imagery is a fascinating genre to explore and is full of interesting symbolism. My concept of the Vanitas or certainly the core idea behind them is to use it not just as a platform to speak about the struggle of life and death, but of art and life.

I will save more of that conversation for later and as I work through this piece I will share those thoughts. I do want to share this link to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the amazing series “The ArtistProject” in this episode’s artist Roland Flexner discusses the 16thcentury Vanitas painting by Jacques de Gheyn II.

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Vanitas II – Etiquette - Drawing and Underpainting

Preliminary pencil drawing for my next Vanitas oil painting, originally it was intended to be a simple contour drawing to transfer to canvas, but I was just having too much fun with a pencil.
The majority of my still life works begin with a simple but descriptive contour drawing, which works out the composition and suggests the shadow side or turning point on the form. This is typically more than enough information to move on to the next stage of paint. Especially for any monochrome underpainting.

I pushed this one quite a bit further. In a preliminary drawing you can do a great deal of problem solving. By simply dissecting the imagery, exploring the shapes, form and value relationships. You really familiarize yourself with the subjects and those nuances that first attracted you to it. This process seems the most natural for me and the most challenging. I feel that I am looking through a lens and slowly turning it, focusing in on the subject through my mind’s eye, interrupting it as I go. Becoming more aware and knowledgeable about this thing before me as I progress through the process of creating the image.  As I describe the effects of the light, it becomes more and more dimensional and real to me. And enjoyed fleshing out the value relationships in this drawing.

I transferred the drawing to board. With the subject in front of me and the value study as reference, I painted a quick wipe out umber underpainting, to truly reinforce the value relationships before my first color pass.

If we attempt to translate the natural world into paint with some type of optical fidelity (faithfulness to how that object looks in real life), what you paint is light. I know this is the vague common answer you hear when you ask an artist - what do you paint? But it is the simple truth, the truth of physical properties when describing form, what is illuminated and what is in shadow? No matter what the subject is; skulls, flowers, apples and oranges, I paint the effects of light first and the narrative second.

Our perception of everything in this world is described by light or the lack of.
It is the universal narrator, the chronicler, storyteller and poet.

"The purpose of art is to stop time." — Bob Dylan

Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 

Link: Fun with a Pencil By Andrew Loomis

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