Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Eat Paint Love

The week before we began the next long pose, it was decided that all the students of Bandiera Studio were to spend the week painting! This was a pleasant surprise; usually students work their way up to paint only after finishing the drawing program. I have painted on my own in the past, but haven’t had time to pick up my palette since I started my studies here. It was wonderful to be able to use my brushes again for these small paint-sketches, especially after using more linear methods like pencil and charcoal.

These figure-paintings were done in grisaille; that is, using only the colors Ivory Black, Lead White, and Raw Umber. This is how students are introduced to painting; using only these three pigments, the student can focus solely on the values (range of light-to-dark), and a bit on the temperatures (range of cool-to-warm), without the complications of more specific colors. The goal of the exercise was to capture the general light and dark shapes by organizing these values in their correct relationships.
Here are some examples:
 Day One: not quite enough contrast between the lights and darks, and I think I could have benefited from some more variety in the halftones, but I think the temperature difference works well; I was particularly happy with the effect of the model's red hair contrasting with the cool tones of the backdrop. 

 Halfway through the week: here I think I started to get the hang of the value contrasts. But looking back, I think more raw umber would have helped in the skin-tones, which look a little dull here and too similar in temperature to the background.

Final paint-sketch of this week of painting exercises
I think towards the end of the week things began to come together; the lights and darks are each well-unified, bridged by a few halftones with just enough variety, and all relate to each other and the value of the background correctly. The backdrop is mixed almost entirely with white and black paint, to represent the cooler temperature of the background, while the figure was painted with more Raw Umber, to depict the contrastingly warm skin-tones.

 All in all, a fun and enlightening week!

I didn’t just enjoy myself at school; last weekend, Florence held its annual Chocolate Festival.
Rows and rows of chocolate vendors were stationed near Santa Maria Novella, selling everything from truffles to hot chocolate to chocolate-covered strawberries. 
Almost too pretty to eat...almost

After sampling a bit of everything, I settled on a perfectly lovely bar of dark chocolate with mixed berries 

Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s day!

Italian word of the day: “Dipingere”, "to paint"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lessons Learned

On February 5th I finished my first cast drawing at Florence Academy, after Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. As stated in previous posts, it is a charcoal drawing done on toned paper with white chalk. Here is the finished drawing:

"Ecstasy of Saint Theresa", Charcoal and White Chalk on toned paper

Working with white chalk was intended to be an exercise in organizing values; but, for me personally, this cast has also been an exercise in learning to see the overall light impression. Very often, when working meticulously on the accuracy of each individual shape, I get tunnel-vision and lose sight of the bigger picture. When this happens, every feature individually appears well-drawn and correct, but the overall impression doesn’t tie together. My goal for my next set-up, then, is to think more about the overall light affect from the beginning, to think about value-relationships and understand how to compress the values, and to continue applying descriptive lines more reminiscent of the specific forms.
Two days before finishing

Sight-Size set up

Coincidentally, I managed to time the completion of my cast with the end of the long-pose figure sessions. I have learned a few lessons from my figure drawing; as well as looking at the general light affect, I learned that I should focus more on keeping in mind structure, not just depending on the visual information before me but having an understanding of the planes that make up the body. Understanding the direction of planes and how they relate to each other will allow me to apply the properly descriptive line to convey the type of form as well as push the sense of space.
Finished 4-week-pose Figure drawing
My primary qualm about this drawing is that is looks cut-out; there isn’t much feeling of depth, of the figure being situated within an environment. The instructor suggested, to get a sense of space in my drawing, to consider which planes would come forward, and which would recede. Going back to line quality mentioned in previous posts, this means also asking what type of plane-change I am trying to describe, the severity of the angle-break, as well as the relative distance of one form to the next. Approaching work in this way was a good exercise in understanding the structure of the subject and how to convey that sense of space. 
Based on what I’ve learned from this drawing, my personal goal for the next figure long-pose is to approach the work thinking about the planes of the structure, and to utilize variety in edges to create a sense of depth. 

Next I will be doing another cast, the head of Michelangelo, and will begin another long-pose in the same medium of charcoal and white chalk.

Italian word of the day: “Finire”, to finish