Sunday, 30 November 2008

A Refined Lady

More Peach and umber have been added to the face here. I also took the opportunity to refine my edges with Cool grey( not as harsh as the black ). I have worked on the shadows a little on the uppermost third of the face and have added more cool grey to the head dress and the shadows beneath it. I have started to colour the eyes. This is just a basic fill in because I want to judge the tones of the face as a whole in order to tell how dark the shadows need to be.
So...tightened edges, eyes and some umber in the face....
Onwards and upwards

Saturday, 29 November 2008

In the Pink

Well here we are again! I've started to warm her up a little with Deco pink and Peach. You will notice that I have added the same colours to the face,head dress and cloak. I have also continued them into the shadows in the good old Flemish tradition. She is starting to come together. I will have to go back into the face with a warm orange because I have underestimated the depth of that colour in the original.
One point to note, I have found that an umber under drawing can be very granular. You can cover it eventually but it does take a considerable leap of faith to believe that the pencils will do so. At the moment the face seems a little dark but that is only in relation to the head dress that I haven't yet finished. When the picture is complete the face will be attracting all of the attention because of its comparable lightness.
Still a long way to go but progressing nicely.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Back to the drawing Board

After the Madness of AML week I am finally back at the drawing board. My thanks and best wishes to those who helped at the show and " Hello! " to all of you who stopped by to see us.

Gloria should be making a return appearance soon with the addition of pinks and browns to the colour scheme.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Short Break

There will be a short break in my progress whilest I am busy organising the UKCPS stands at the Art Material's live show ( NEC Nov 13th - 16th ) If you happen to be in the neighbourhood drop by and say hello. I think I am the only Portrait Artist there this year.

Work on " Gloria" should resume next week.

I'm looking forward to the finishing layers because I have decided that I want to look at
Sfumato drawing skills next and I can't wait.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Back In Black

She may look paler. She isn't!

I have added more Goldenrod and Limepeel to the cloak. More Slate blue to the head dress and of course black to the background.
The background has been covered with quite a close cross hatch of prismacolour black. To produce a smooth covering I then took a piece of kitchen roll with mineral spirits on it and with a circular motion spread the pencil around the paper.
Then taking a small brush and the mineral spirits I carefully tidied the outline around " Gloria ".
This isn't the final black layer but I need to get the initial layer in here so that I can judge the tone of the picture as a whole. It is always a good idea to complete the background before the subject . Now that I have the black layer in place I can see where I need to deepen the shadows.
I think I am nearly finished with the oranges and greens. The next layers will probably be the browns and pinks. Hopefully we should see her miraculously brighten up and become more lively.
Well...that's the plan ...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

How Green is my Dutch Girl..?

Now I am starting to add the Oranges and Greens with Goldenrod and Limepeel pencils.
You will notice that there are shadows of orange and green on the face and hints of the same colours in the darkest shadows...such as below the earring and inside the scarf. Some way to go yet with the Orange and green building up the depth of colour that I need and also building up the blue in the headscarf.
Onwards and upwards.

The Sun will come!

Finally, we can let loose with the colours. Time to be a little brave. I have paused here because I thought that you would all be surprised to see just how much yellow is underlying the picture.

On first glance one would think orange but it actually is this bright and I am going to layer the orange and the green subtle shading over the yellow to mould the contours of the face and the clothes.

There are also little flashes of all of the main colours in each of the shadows. It all helps to create a unified finished picture. The pencil I have used here is prismacolour Sunburst Yellow.

I think " Gloria" is finally starting to have a little life about her!

Now onwards and upwards with the orange and green.

Got The Blues ?

Here we have the start of the second Dead Layer. The Terra cotta pencil has been covered with
a fine cross hatch of indigo blue. Don't be distracted by the texture of the background eventually this will be black and completely smooth because I am going to use mineral spirits and a brush to complete the effect I am after.

Why cover the Terra Cotta completely ?

Well the reference has an almost photographic black background. If I had simply used a black pencil...the result would have had a tinge of grey to it and no colour depth at all. By layering the pencils I am going to give a jewel like depth to the background that will set off the detail of the portrait.

The observant among you will have noticed that I haven't added many further shadows to the cloak or face. This is because the shadows on the figure are a very subtle green ( not an official D Layer colour ) and many of the highlights on both the face and clothing are orange.
This will be my next step.

I have started to deepen the shadows on the head dress with Slate blue.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Pale and Interesting

Here we have the first stage of the Dead layer. I have decided to break this layer into two distinct stages partly because I am

feeling my way with the appropriate colours and partly because I am going to build up the background in three clear layers and this provides a natural break.

So..what have we added to this picture. If you remember the Penumbra colours ( white,black,red,blue) you will see that we have moved some way towards completion of the dead layer.

To the background I have added Terra cotta. I chose this rather than prismacolour crimson because I judged the pencil to be too bright.The prismacolour ochre pencils were a little too yellow for my purpose.
To the head and shadow areas I have added slate blue and periwinkle blue and to the collar,eyes and pearl I have added white.

It may seem a little strange to be adding white pencil to white paper. I could leave the highlights blank and they would perform just as well however I am using a lot of heavier colours and there will be pencil dust. This naturally will stain any areas of paper that it comes into contact with.

The white pencil will create a barrier between paper and dust and will make it much easier for me to remove any staining that occurs further down the line.

Any erasing that occurs is done with white tac...which is cheaper and more effective than putty rubber. Always remembering to press and lift rather than smooth.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Umberly Marvellous

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I please introduce...Gloria ! As many of you will be aware this is actually Johannes Vermeer's girl with a pearl earring without her top layers! Following on from the last blog post I made a small pencil drawing ( step 1 ) transferred this to my cartridge paper
(step 2 ) and embarked on the Umber under layer. I am using Prismacolour pencils because these will allow me to create the number of layers that I need. They are also rich enough to produce a deep and creamy finish . I have pushed more than I normally would have with a basic drawing because a good 60% of the work of the classical masters was completed tonally.
All of the basic tone decisions were made before colour ever touched the picture.
So why am I mad enough to feel that I can re-create an oil picture in pencil ...?
Surely I'm going to come unstuck in the later layers ...?
Well, in truth that is possible BUT there are several reasons why coloured pencils are ideal for layered work. The first being that they are translucent. Like a good watercolour wash or
an oil glaze you can see previous layers reflected through the top layer.
Secondly, many coloured pencils are capable of producing up to twenty layers on certain papers and that certainly rivals the Masters.
Thirdly, no drying time. I can concertina the time taken to complete a picture and you will have to judge for yourselves whether it was worth it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Veneer of Vermeer

We can't really discuss Vermeer without entering into the realms of Flemish Painting technique. There have been many different schools of painting throughout history and each has created their own definitive step by step method for completion of a picture.

The Flemish method is widely regarded as consisting of seven steps, working from dark to light and focusing on translucent shadows. It is the building up of the colours in many layers that gives each picture its depth.

Step 0ne.

The artist would complete a pencil drawing often on paper of the finished composition
This drawing would be transferred to the canvas...small pin pricks could be put through the lines of the drawing to create a dot to dot effect.
The punctured drawing was laid over the canvas and dusted with chalk in a
"pounce bag". This would leave a marked outline on the canvas.

Step two

The canvas would be inked. The outlines would be marked with a dark ink so that the composition could still be seen. Pencil marks would be washed away by the oils and so were useless.

Step Three

Imprimatura...this is just the first oil layer. A light wash in a neutral olive/umber hue was laid over the composition. The darkness of this wash could reflect the darkness of the following picture. For lighter swathes of canvas it was kept light but Flemish painters did not reserve highlights. These are all added in the final layers.

Step Four

The Umber under layer... A tonal painting of the composition is completed. This gives you the basis for all your lights and darks throughout the process.

Step Five

The Dead Under layer...The aim of this layer is Penumbra. The picture should look as though it is lit by moonlight. To this end the colours used are white,light ochre,red ochre,burnt umber,blue and black. You have already chosen the tonality in the umber layer and you rely on it for the dead layer only pushing the darks and lights slightly.

Step Six

First Colour Layer...Finally you get to add the colour.The idea here is to make the shadows more colourful with washes and to build up the highlights with a pastier mix of light colour( Impasto )

Step Seven

Finishing layer...At this stage the objects are given their final colour and shape.
Working mostly on the highest of highlights and of course the signature.

Of course this is just a rough guide. Just as many artists play with the rules these days many artists back then would have used two separate Umber layers and more of them would have completed their pictures with three, four or more coloured glazes...often with weeks of drying time in between.

Now that we have visited the Flemish technique it is time to see whether we can adapt any of this information to work in a different( not oily ) medium.
How about coloured pencil ...?
Can we use a similar technique to gain a similar depth of colour in pencil ? has to be worth a try !

And So It Begins

Welcome to my new venture.
I am a working artist with an interest in the drawing and painting techniques of Past Masters.
With this blog I hope to explore some of the dark and dusty crevices of Art history and pull their
experience and knowledge kicking and screaming into the light of day.

I want to understand how I can use this information to produce my own art. How techniques that have been passed on for generations can be used and adapted to produce the best results in this one.

Do I need to stick to the rules ...?

Some of them yes...some of them no.

I hope you will enjoy this journey of exploration. We will see some old art, some new art and some art that I will probably hide behind the wardrobe because the more you paint and draw
the better you get at producing the good and the clunkingly bad.

Our first stop will be Johannes Vermeer.
How did he produce his light saturated paintings...?
More to the point.....Can I do it...?