A Few Words on my Motivation and Inspiration

 

Lately, I have been asked by several people to explain what it is that drives me as an artist. Specifically, I’ve been asked what is it that so strongly motivates and inspires my painterly pursuits, and why.

I have given it thought and wanted to share a few words articulating, as concisely as possible, my current stance on this.

In my opinion, art, perhaps more than any other social phenomenon, best reflects the shifting tides of human consciousness. So, being involved in arts, and more particularly, being a part of the artistic movement that at its core entails a careful observation, admiration and respect of the natural world around us, gives me a strong sense of purpose and hope. This reemerging naturalistic movement that I consider myself a part of, rests on humility and acknowledgement of how precious, beautiful and fragile our world is.

As an artist who considers it her mission to inhale the beauty that surrounds her, and exhale it as art, I hope to gently remind others of that same truth regarding the miracle and delicacy of human condition. And in doing that, I hope to become a small drop in the river of thought pointing to the more general shift of human consciousness towards a deep respect for our Mother Nature. For we all are, in every aspect of our existence, intrinsically tied to it.

On this note, I leave you with the painting I just completed. If my words weren’t clear enough, I hope at least this last piece of work of mine can shed some light on where my artistic enthusiasm and my sense of purpose comes from.

 

Olive Trees and Wild Daffodils. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.


Figure Drawing

 

With my first trimester at the Florence Academy of Art behind me and the New Year already rolling, it is finally time for a long overdue update.

First of all, let me just confirm my first impression of the school and say that studying at the FAA is well worth it! In the past few months, I have learned so many valuable lessons and, consequently, made noticeable progress in my work. From what I can tell, so has each and every one of my fellow students. It is both wonderful and rewarding to observe this learning curve emerge and I feel very lucky and grateful to be studying with the team of people who know exactly how to make it happen.

I still feel I am learning the most during the figure drawing sessions of a nude model, so I decided to devote this blog post to explaining in a bit more detail what this process entails and what the students are expected to aim towards.

The so-called ‘long pose’ lasts for five weeks. Typically students get a chance to work on two long poses with a nude model during one trimester. Unfortunately, because our first model was involved in an accident (she is ok now), my group only got to complete one long pose this term as visible from the photos below. And by complete, I mean finish the drawing of the model and the simplified background within the assigned period. I should clarify here that students tackle the long pose in charcoal on white paper during the first year of studies at the FAA. In the first part of the second year they continue drawing in charcoal, on toned paper, with the addition of a white chalk. Later, starting with a limited palette, students move on to painting the model in oils.

However, one does not simply start the large charcoal project on the first day of the long pose. Instead, in order to understand their subject matter better, students are first required to complete a series of studies. This includes several studies of the model in pencil from both the chosen standing position for drawing the long pose, as well as one from a different position in the room. This is in order to get a better idea of how the form turns in space. The pencil studies should focus on an accurate description of the gesture, proportions, outline and shadowline. They are very useful for understanding how the pose changes over time as the model settles in it and, consequently, for choosing the exact moment or pose that one is actually drawing.

Another study done in the preliminary stages of a long pose is a value study in the same medium that a student uses for the large project, in our case charcoal. A value study, just as the name suggests is supposed to correctly map out tonal relationships, on a small scale. In a value study, one needs not to focus on the accuracy of the drawing, but rather the correlation between the lights and the darks, as well as the idea of the flow of light.

Once the small (usually A4 size paper) studies are complete, which is normally after 3-5 days, a student moves on to the large project. As far as the size of the working surface goes, the first year beginning students are typically working on a 50 x 70 cm ROMA paper (using the reverse side of it, where the water stamp spells AMOR, because it’s less bumpy), while the more advanced students of the same year often tend to use slightly bigger sized, white Arches papers.

Here is a photo of my working board, in the preliminary stages of the ‘long pose’ project, including the start of my big charcoal drawing and its small accompanying studies:

 

 

As I already mentioned in my previous posts, the method employed in tackling the long pose, along with most other projects at the school, is the sight-size method. When using it, the first and the foremost thing that the students are supposed to get right are the big proportions of the model and the nature of the gesture. The steps we follow in doing that are, as previously mentioned, drawing out the outline, then the shadowline and finally the shadow. In finding the accurate contours, and while moving from a more abstract to a more organic drawing, a student is supposed to pay close attention to rhythms in the line, subtle angle breaks, the variety of shapes and edge quality.

As students progress with their work, they are always being reminded to go back to the big proportions and the gesture in order to establish whether they accurately describe the pose. So, at the beginning of each new day spent on the pose, one is advised to check the major heights and widths – because is that’s off, everything else will be too, no matter how fine the finish is.

The fun part starts when the values are introduced in the picture. Compression of values is here the key, as well as preserving a beautiful flow of light. That’s why students are advised to gradually approach the shading process and squint a lot as they are doing it. One thing that comes in very handy with regards to establishing correct tonal relationships is a black mirror or, in the absence of one, a smartphone with a black, glossy and flat screen (for more info, see http://www.marcdalessio.com/iphone-painting-tool/). I’ve also seen teachers and students ware hats with a wide brim, as it reduces the glare coming from the rooftop windows and helps them establish the values more correctly.

As far as values go, I got some tips from my teachers and found them very useful in establishing the correct tonal relationships in a drawing. One is to press, rather hard and only once, the bottom of the charcoal stick, slightly grated off with the tip of the nail, in areas on the paper where the darkest darks are. Also, I’ve been told that an alternative to squinting, which can make one feel dizzy if done excessively, is tilting your head slightly backwards and looking through your eyes half closed. Another really useful tip is to use the back of the fan brush (the wooden part) to slightly knock down the values in some areas, by quickly and lightly moving it back and forth across the paper. And finally, I’ve learned how cross hatching, both with the finely sharpened charcoal, as well as the finely created tip of the kneaded eraser can help create refined effects.

Speaking of finesse and fine finish, things to look for and improve at the final stages of a drawing are, amongst others: 1) smooth and beautiful transitions, while retaining a clear delineation between planes and a clear description of shadow shapes; 2) finding/reinforcing the variety of edges (with some completely lost in the background); and 3) putting the focus in a chosen area, while achieving the atmospheric effect in others.

This about sums up the process of drawing the long pose in the Intensive drawing program at the FAA. Soon, I’ll be able to report how the process changes in the higher years of studies, as I am very happy to share with you that I’ve been transferred to the Intermediate program (that is the 2nd year of studies), starting this January 🙂 I feel very honoured to have been promoted by my teachers and hope to successfully tackle challenges lying ahead.

In the meantime, I leave you with the results of my larger school work in the first trimester at the FAA and wish you all a very happy New Year!

 

First Bargue drawing in charcoal.

 

Second Bargue drawing in charcoal.

 

Cast drawing in charcoal.

 

First figure drawing – half of the ‘long pose’.

 

Second figure drawing – first completed ‘long pose’.

 


Extracurricular Activities

Since the program at the Florence Academy of Art has started, things have been very busy at school. I promise to write a longer update on my work and education as soon as the holidays start, as there is a lot to report on and not much free time for extracurricular activities.

Yet, despite the very concentrated and intense schedule, I have promised my self to continue painting  as much as time allows. This is not only in order to test how my increased ability to draw informs my painting skills, but also in order to keep thinking in terms of color and to take the needed break from the black and white world (of graphite, charcoal and paper) that I live in when I’m at school. In addition, I find that the ability to paint is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. So, I didn’t want to risk undoing all the work that I have done thus far in the painting sphere by focusing purely on drawing.

For all these reasons, I have continued to paint as much as I could along side my school and here I wanted to share with you the products of my extracurricular work from the past two months.

I hope you enjoy!

 

After the Rain. Watercolor, 9 x 12 in.

After the Rain. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

Stilllife with Quinces, Plum and Grapes. Watercolor, 12 x 16 in.

Still Life with Quinces, Plum and Grapes. 12 x 16 in, Watercolor.

 

Orchids. Oil on Panel, 20 x 30 cm.

Orchids. 20 x 30 cm, Oil on Panel.

 

Flowers from the Garden. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

Flowers from the Garden. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

 

Sunday. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

Sunday. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

 

Chiesa di San Lorenzo. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

Chiesa di San Lorenzo. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

 

In the Garden. 23 x 33 cm, Watercolor.

In the Garden. 23 x 33 cm, Watercolor.

 

Dried Poppy Pods. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

Dried Poppy Pods. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Palette Knives. 20 x 30 cm, Oil on Panel.

Palette Knives. 20 x 30 cm, Oil on Panel.

 

Garden Roses. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor and Gouache.

Garden Roses. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor and Gouache.

 


Florence Academy of Art – First Impressions

My training at the Florence Academy of Art (FAA) has finally begun! Before I get into the specifics, I just wanted to write a general blog post on the school and my impressions thereof. For that purpose, let me first briefly focus on the form and then on the substance.

As of this year, the FAA has moved to a large new space just outside of the city of Florence – which now hosts all students of all years, both sculpture and painting, as well as the teachers’ studios. It also encompasses a student café, a lounge area, large lecture halls, a library, a small shop for art supplies, outdoor spaces for relaxation, administration offices, apartments for visiting lecturers and lots and lots of working space. All in all, it’s a very beautiful and a very functional space, and I feel extremely lucky to be the first generation who will be trained in it from day one.

The biggest advantage to this new space, in my opinion, is the fact that all the students of all levels of education will now be training in the same place, which will facilitate not only their personal, but also artistic exchanges. Until now, each year had their own separate space in different parts of Florence, so students would seldom be exposed to their senior or junior peers and the products of their work. In that sense, moving to one unified little ‘campus’ brings about a very positive change.

Now, to the substance. As a beginning student, I am enrolled in the intensive drawing program. It is exactly what the name says it is: a concentrated program (five days of the week, from 9 AM till 7 PM) in drawing exclusively (in pencil and charcoal).

During our first year, our days at the Academy are divided in two major parts: one half of the day, we draw the figure (live model) and the other half we draw Charles Bargue plates, later to be replaced by plaster casts. In the evenings, depending on the day, we have anatomy lectures, evening drawing of live models, or art history lectures.

So, the school essentially becomes our second home and, I can tell you already, the intensity of the program really pays off. I feel I have learned so much already and I have only been drawing for 7 days now.

The part of the program where I feel I am learning the most at this stage are the drawing sessions of a nude model. There are two reasons for that. First, I never had a chance draw a model before. Second, it is the most challenging part of the program because you are working with a living being who is infinitely more intricate, beautiful and mobile then any Bargue plate or plaster cast you’ll ever see.

So, how do we tackle such complex assignments? It’s actually quite straightforward and goes back to some of what I wrote about in my earlier blog posts on cast drawing.

At Florence Academy, we use the sight-size method and we are taught to construct our drawing in stages.

First, we are advised to look for the big shapes, big proportions, major inclinations and main reference points. We start by marking the top and the bottom of our subject on the paper, as we see it from our standing position. In order to do that precisely, we use a plumb line (a string with small weight attached to one end).

We then look for the major reference points such as the chin, shoulders, the pubic bone and knees. By introducing a vertical into the drawing (which is also done with the help of a plumb line), we are able to construct the major shapes and find the proper inclinations better. This preliminary stage of the drawing, when completed, leaves you with the so-called ‘envelope shape’ for the body.

When one is more or less confident that the major shapes, proportions and inclinations are right, one moves on to giving these very abstract lines (which form a rough outline) a bit more organic form. At this stage, one can also can move on to slowly introducing shadow lines and basic shadow shapes. The key is to constantly compare inclinations, check the distances and relate shapes one to another

During this entire process, the idea is to draw very lightly and keep moving things around until we get them right. If for no other reason, adjustments will be necessary as the model will eventually move a bit.

To make this less abstract, here is the example of the construction of my drawing. It represents a two day pencil study for the five week long pose to be tackled next in a bigger format in charcoal.

fullsizerender

I should mention here that a very useful tool for discovering problems in a drawing is a mirror. So, at school, asides from a plumb line, we’ve each been given a small rectangular mirror to help us in the learning process. Namely, by reversing the image in front of us and comparing it to the drawing, the mistakes become much more apparent and consequentially easier to fix, so a student is advised to use a mirror a lot. Here is Marc demonstrating how to do it.

Obviously, we are not completely on our own in fixing the mistakes we make in our drawing. At school, we have a number of great instructors who will come to give a critique every once in a while during a drawing session. This is very helpful and I would say the foundation of the learning process. Yet, the majority of the time at school does comprise an independent training of our eyes to see better and our hands to draw more accurately. And in that sense, self-correctional tools such as a mirror are highly advised.

All in all, after just a week at the FAA, I feel I have already learned a ton and look forward to see where this training takes me in the future. I will keep you posted and share what I learn here. For the moment, I can say that based of my experience so far, I give the highest ratings to the school, the instructors and the training in general.

To end this, here is a quote we were introduced to on the first day, which reflects well the principles and philosophy taught at the FAA:

“Drawing, which is much like language, is the art of communication with others through the illusion of shapes, and you learn to draw, paint and sculpt by coming to shape conclusions. We draw what we know and not what we see. And when we know something, we begin to see it as it really is.”

– Robert Beverly Hale


Painting En Plein Air – From a Sketch to a Finished Oil Painting

This September, I was lucky to be a part of a landscape painting workshop taught by my husband, Marc Dalessio, and Daniela Astone, a principal painting instructor at the Florence Academy of Art.

The workshop took place at Daniela and her partner Simone’s beautiful property in Tuscany, aka Studio Chianti, and provided me with a great chance to once again return to the basics of plein air painting.

Given the circumstances, I figured I should take it slow this time around in order to learn as much as possible and get all the valuable advice I can from these two great teachers. For that purpose, I decided to go back to oil painting – since both Marc and Daniela work primarily with oil paints, and since I could finally truck along all the equipment I needed (the painting venue was only 30 min away from our Florentine home).

Also, since we stayed at the same location during the whole workshop, I could allow myself to keep working on the same paintings day in day out. Occasionally, I did some watercolors (if my light did not correspond to the chosen effect for my oil paintings), but my primary focus was oil painting.

Now, one of the most important pieces of advice that Marc always gives his students is to draw more and rush less. That is to say, before starting an oil painting, it is advisable to do a pencil sketch of the envisaged subject for a painting in order to get a preliminary idea of the composition and potential problems attached to it. Why? Because what can often go terribly wrong in a painting is the design (I talked more about that in one of my pervious blog post on landscape painting, so I will refrain from discussing it again here). And when the design goes wrong, that’s when you have the so called “turps party” – that is, the not so joyful experience of erasing your entire painting with turpentine.

So, in order to avoid having too many turps parties, one should sketch more. Only once one is satisfied with a chosen subject and the composition thereof, should one move to painting it in oil. At that point though, one (and by one, I mean a student like myself) should still go slowly about tackling their subject in paint in order capture it accurately, in all its variety and complexion.

The problem that often occurs during plein air painting workshops of this type is that students see a teacher do a demo very fast (often even faster than the regular pace at which a teacher paints) and then the students try to paint at that same pace during the rest of the workshop. This frequently results in a mass of rushed student paintings and very little knowledge acquired about the middle and later stages of painting.

In that sense, it was explained to us that students who paint slowly and accurately will eventually get faster, but students who paint fast and inaccurately will never get more accurate. Makes sense. In other words, if you’re a student who likes realism and wants to work in that genre, do not rush through your student artwork.

So, in order to avoid any disastrous outcomes of sorts, I decided to go slowly about my oil paining and make sure I get the most out of it this time around.

Following the given advice, I first sketched my subject out very roughly in my sketchbook.

 

fullsizerender

 

I was aware that this is not the kind of perfect landscape painting view where a foreground, middle ground and background compose well together. To begin with, there is no foreground in my view. Nonetheless, I decided to go for it because I found it interesting and beautiful (for its quintessential depiction of Chianti), yet simple enough to tackle. Also, it gave me a nice opportunity to practice atmospheric perspective in painting. And since we were told a major historic point of landscape painting is to get a sense of distance (depth) on a flat surface, I figured this view would do.

Once I was content with the choice of my view and the sketch thereof, I put my easel in the chosen spot and drew a slightly more precise sketch of my view onto the canvas before starting to paint. They say behind every great painting is a great drawing, so I made sure I literally have one behind mine 😉

 

fullsizerender-1

 

In doing this, I applied the sight size approach, which I talked about in my previous blog posts. With the exception of a few ‘unfortunate tangents’ created by the distant mountains, I made sure to capture the rest of the view accurately and follow the rhythms in nature. Partially, this is the reason why I decided to do a rather detailed pencil sketch on the canvas first (despite the risk of the graphite showing through in time).

Another possibility was to sketch it out in oil paint, which a lot of painters do. But given the intricate nature of all the little bushes and trees in my view, and the fact that I didn’t use oil paint for some months now, I did not want to risk loosing track of the actual shapes of the vegetation and fall down the rabbit hole of dreadful repetition when I actually got around to painting it.

After my sketch was finished, I started applying the first layer of paint. In doing so, I tried to mass out the big shapes and leave any details for later. One of the useful pieces of advice I got from Daniela in that regard was to avoid using small brushes, especially in the initial stages of an oil painting. The reason for that is that students often get caught up in painting the details (like individual leaves) and get the big shapes all wrong (like the overall shape of a tree).

At the end of day one, this is how far I got:

 

fullsizerender-2

 

On day two, I continued covering the canvas with paint and once the first layer was done, I proceeded to improve the accuracy and add variety to the things in my view. Shapes were corrected, some details and highlights were added and smaller brushes were introduced for that purpose.

 

img_6263

 

Yet, despite adding to the painting in many ways, I kept my palette limited. In fact everybody at the workshop was advised to do so, as it results in more harmonious looking paintings. Our palettes were thus very basic, containing only titanium white, cadmium yellow light and cadmium yellow medium, yellow ochre, cadmium orange and cadmium red, cerulean blue, cobalt blue and ultramarine.

On day three my goal was to add some more detail, give texture to my painting and add some variety to my brushwork. I was also very lucky to get some beautiful clouds in my view that day – for the first time since that very first sketch I did – so I made sure to put those in. This is a great advantage to working from life – as the elements improve, you can improve your painting with them.

 

fullsizerender-3

 

While painting the clouds, I was advised to make the closer ones bigger and the further ones smaller, even if this did not correspond to reality. Another thing I had in mind while painting them was the advice given to me previously – about making sure that things get not only smaller, but also lighter and bluer in the distance. Both of these tips are very useful for achieving the sense of depth and atmospheric perspective in a painting, so I made sure to follow them.

And finally, the last important advice given to me was not to overwork it. So, once I was more or less content with the similitude of the painting and the scene in front of me, I made sure to stop and call this painting done.

Et voilà! That was the process and here is the photo of the finished product:

 

Morning in Chianti. Oil on Canvas, 20 x 30 cm.

Morning in Chianti. 20 x 30 cm, Oil on linen.

Although working outdoors can be tricky because of the constantly changing effects, I’m happy I took this one slow and didn’t try to frantically chase those effects. This allowed me not only to achieve batter accuracy, but also resulted in a painting based on informed choices rather than happy coincidences. At the end of the day, this is what the learning process should be all about.

As for my other paintings done during this workshop, I do have to admit they were made on a faster pace. The second oil painting I did was finished over the course of two days and with no preliminary sketching in graphite involved. The watercolors, on the other hand, were completed over the course of a few hours with the obligatory sketch in graphite pencil. But that’s a totally different medium, which requires a vastly different and much faster approach, so I don’t feel guilty about that. Here are the results of these other efforts.

I hope you enjoy them!

 

Orcio. 20 x 30 cm, Oil on Panel.

Orcio. 20 x 30 cm, Oil on panel.

 

Villa Coli. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

Villa Coli. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

 

Young Apples. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

Young Apples. 22 x 25 cm, Watercolor.

 

Daniela's Nest. 26 x 36 cm, Watercolor.

Daniela’s Nest. 26 x 36 cm, Watercolor.


Postcards from Croatia and Some Reflections on a Watercolor Setup

 

I am happy to share with you that, since my last blog post, Marc, Emma (the dog) and I have successfully moved and settled in our beautiful new home in Florence. We absolutely love it and feel so blessed that we have found such a perfect spot to embark on our future projects.

Yet, just as we finished unpacking and started to relax a bit, we were Croatia-bound once again. This time for a very exciting reason, my best friend’s wedding. The ceremony took place in the ancient town of Zadar and was absolutely wonderful.

After an intense month of packing and unpacking, being on the coast and sinking into the easygoing Dalmatian vibe was a real treat, so we decided to extend our stay in Zadar to a full week.

I frankly had no idea whether there would be any time available for painting on this trip, but decided to bring my equipment nonetheless. As it turns out, the pre and post-wedding activities were all very relaxed and spontaneously organised, so I managed to squeeze in a few painting sessions.

Interestingly, I had a bit of a stage fright, so to say, before I started my first painting. I am not sure if it was because I hadn’t painted regularly for the previous few weeks and was worried I wouldn’t be able to pick up where I left; or was it the fact that I was painting en plein air in my native country for the first time and was concerned about doing justice to its beauty; or both.

Either way, it all went smoothly once I got going and I was content with the overall experience – especially with the fact that I got back to painting after a few weeks long break.  

In fact, having done a couple of few hour long workshops this summer in Ireland at the Art in the Open plein air painting festival (which I highly recommend!), I noticed I felt more confident painting watercolours then before. As it turns out, watching my teachers, Claudia Araceli and Grahame Booth, paint taught me how to simplify more and apply washes better. 

I should mention in that regard that, thus far, I was totally self-taught in the watercolour medium. So, I found these teachers’ demos very helpful and felt like I experienced a sort of a breakthrough after taking their workshops.

This reminded me how beneficial it is just to watch someone else (who knows what they are doing) paint and how much one can learn through pure observation of a master at work.

Another thing I realised after these lessons is that my watercolour setup is less than ideal. Namely, so far, I had a sitting setup with a small foldable table next to me, where I would put my pallet and a water container, while my pad would sit on my knees. This is basically what it looks like:

PastedGraphic-2

While it is quite comfortable, this setup is problematic on multiple levels. It provides me with a painting surface which is, first, not very stable and, second, not positioned at a proper angle. As I have learned, one should have their watercolour block (or a panel to which the paper is attached) tilted at a minimum 45 degree angle. This is in order to allow those preliminary rich washes to flow properly, and to be able to get rid of access water if necessary, by allowing it to drip down. 

Another problem I noticed with my current setup is that I often get much better views from a standing, rather then a sitting position. Namely, being up higher in many instances provides a more interesting perspective, and helps me avoid having various obstacles (such as fences, bushes and tall grass) block my view. In addition, since I scout for my views while walking around, it’s easier for me to determine what the view will amount to while standing, instead of sitting.

So, in the near future, I am hoping to figure out a better, lighter and taller setup, which would ideally work both for watercolours, as well as oil painting. I will keep you posted on how it goes. 

In the meantime, I leave you with a few of my paintings from the recent Croatian trip. I hope you enjoy.

 

Petar Zoranić Square. 9 x 10 in, Watercolor.

Petar Zoranić Square. 9 x 10 in, Watercolor.

 

Church of St. Donatus. 9 x 11 in, Watercolor.

Church of St. Donatus. 9 x 11 in, Watercolor.

 

St. Mary's Church. 8 x 9,5 in, Watercolor.

St. Mary’s Church. 8 x 9,5 in, Watercolor.

 


Paintings from England, Wales and Ireland

Here’s a very short update on my last landscape painting trip before our move to Florence. The trip consisted of a brief visit to Salisbury in England, a week long stay in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales and a trip to Ireland for the Art in the Open plein air painting festival. It was very productive and much fun as we got to meet a lot of our fellow painters and friends, and paint in some truly beautiful areas.

Though I am still full of impressions and wonderful memories from all these places, I am finding it hard to organise words in my head while simultaneously organising the rest of my life in boxes. So, this time, I will let the images of some of my paintings from this trip speak in my stead.

 

Stonehenge, Watercolor.

Stonehenge. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Welsh Sheep, Watercolor.

Welsh Sheep No. 1. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Welsh Sheep, Watercolor.

Welsh Sheep No. 2. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Tretower Castle, Watercolor.

Tretower Castle. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Dyffryn Crawnon Valley, Watercolor.

Dyffryn Crawnon Valley. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Ballymore Tractors, Watercolor.

Ballymore Tractors. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Street in Inistioge, Watercolor.

Street in Inistioge. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Woodstock Gardens, Watercolor.

Woodstock Gardens. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Curracloe Dunes, Watercolor

Curracloe Dunes. 10 x 14, Watercolor.

 

Tintern Abbey, Watercolor.

Tintern Abbey. 12 x 16 in, Watercolor.

 

Tintern Stream, Watercolor.

Tintern Stream. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Sorry for keeping it so brief and my apologies in advance if you’ll have to wait a bit longer than usual for the next update from Florence 😉 In the meantime, have a wonderful rest of the summer!

 


Recent Paintings and Drawings from Tuscany

As our move to Florence is getting closer, a visit to Tuscany was due in order to do some house hunting. We were very lucky to have found ourselves a beautiful new home, as well as profit from the beauty of the Tuscan summer. There was not a lot of time to paint, but I tried to get the most out of this visit to the Chianti region, as I find the colours and light to be just right this time of the year.

On this trip, in addition painting with watercolors and doing one drawing in graphite pencil, I decided to experiment a bit with pastels – a medium I like quite a bit, but have used only a couple of times before. I thought this would be a good occasion to do some more work with pastels, since we were travelling by car and I had no weight limitations.

Also, knowing that as of this October I will be working only in charcoal and pencil at the Florence Academy of Art, I feel the need to explore different media at this stage and see what they have to offer.

Overall, drawing with pastels was a lot of fun. It’s a rather straightforward material to work with, it’s not too messy and things tend to move at quite a fast pace when using it. Even more so if one does not sharpen their pastels, which I decided not to as I was more interested in the light and color effects then the precision in my drawing.

What I enjoyed the most when working with pastels is that you can apply them in layers and change things as you go. So, compared to watercolors, they are much easier to handle, in my opinion.

What I didn’t enjoy as much about pastels is that the end result seems to be quite fragile. Because of their chalky nature, one needs to use a fixative on top of a finished drawing. Asides from the fact that it smells like cancer in a bottle, fixative seems to darken a tiny bit the overall colors and never really seems to ‘fix’ a drawing completely – at least not the one I was using. Namely, even after applying it in several goes vertically and horizontally, I would still get some residue of pastels on my finger when I tapped it lightly on the drawing.

I am also not sure if I would recommend pastels for painting outdoors – one of my drawings got pretty damaged by just a few drops of rain and another when the paper on which it was drawn got bended by the wind. So, I repeat – pretty fragile stuff. Other than that, a lot of fun to work with.

To cut the long story short, here are the results of the past weeks’ efforts – starting with the watercolors, followed by a graphite pencil drawing and concluding with a small series of pastel drawings.

Damigiane. 25 x 28 cm, Watercolor and Gouache.

Damigiane. 25 x 28 cm, Watercolor and Gouache.

 

Wild flowers. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

Wild Flowers. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

Noce from la Torricella. 20 x 27 cm, Watercolor.

Noce from la Torricella. 20 x 27 cm, Watercolor.

 

Pomegranate flower. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

Study of a Pomegranate Flower. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

 

Sunflower. 25 x 28 cm, Watercolor.

Sunflower. 25 x 28 cm, Watercolor.

 

Peaches. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

Peaches. 10 x 14 in, Watercolor.

 

Portrait of Marc. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

Portrait of Marc. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

 

Tuscan garden. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

Tuscan Garden. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

 

Wild flowers. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

Wild Flowers. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

 

Bistecca Fiorentina. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

Bistecca Fiorentina. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

 

Cipolle. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

Cipolle. 21 x 30 cm, Pastels.

 


Glazing an Oil Painting

Recently, I learned how to glaze an oil painting, so I wanted to share with you experience. Now, let me first explain very briefly what glazing means. Glazing stands for a procedure usually performed at the middle to final stages of an oil painting, which essentially consists in applying a thin layer of oil paint broken down with lots medium and turpentine over the existing layer of dry oil paint. It is done in order to subtly alter the color effect and add translucence to specific portions of an oil painting.

For reasons yet unknown to me, glazing an oil painting seems to be a somewhat controversial issue in the fine art painting circles. While some think it should never be done, others argue it is the best thing ever. Personally, I like the effects that glazing can create – mainly getting a glow in the color that can’t be achieved with direct painting. So, after being shown how to do it, I have decided to try it on a small section of one of my own recent paintings.

Specifically, in my recent painting of Peruvian lilies, previously featured on this blog, I glazed a lead white highlight. I wanted it to get that glowing yellowish-white effect we see when light hits a copper tone metal surface. In other words, I wanted the previously purely white highlight to get a subtle yellow glow that would make the highlight look more natural. So, I glazed my highlight with a touch of cadmium yellow light and Roman ochre, mixed with a generous amount of medium and turpentine. Here’s the short video of the process:

First, I dipped my brush in the medium (a mix of sun-thickened linseed oil and Canada balsam) and put a small amount on the palette. Then, I dipped the brush into turpentine and added a small amount to the medium already on the palette. I then proceeded to add a smidgen of oil paint to the previously made mix of medium and turps. Once satisfied with the color and transparency of my glaze, I applied it to the highlight.

As you can see, glazing is quite straightforward. The important thing though is that you glaze over dry paint. You should allow your painting to dry for at least 6 months before glazing it. Doing it over a perfectly dried painting not only prevents the muddying of the underlying paint, but also allows you to reverse the process if you don’t like its outcome. You can do that by simply wiping off your glaze with a clean tissue or a paper towel. It’s a simple as that.

 


Recent Paintings and Drawings

In the past few weeks, the road has taken us to North Carolina, South Carolina and New York. We’ve been very lucky with the weather, surrounded by beautiful scenery and friendly folks all along. All this has been inductive to producing some more artwork, which I’d like to share with you here.

Asides from landscape painting en plain air and painting of still lives indoors, I also did some graphite drawings both outside and inside, depending on the subject matter. While I typically start my watercolors by drawing with graphite first and then painting over it, in case of my recent drawings, I started by prepping the paper with a wash of watercolor and then drew on top of that. I found this reversal of process to be quite refreshing and fun.

So, here are the results of some of my recent efforts, in mixed media – starting with plein air paintings, followed by still lives and concluding with the drawings.

 

Charleston Backyard. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

Terracotta Pots. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

By the Toogoodoo River. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

By the Toogoodoo River. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

 

Sunset on the Toogoodoo River, 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

Sunset on the Toogoodoo River, 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

 

Ashe Point Farm. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

Ashe Point Farm. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

Roosters. 7 x 12 in, Watercolor.

Roosters. 7 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

Scarecrow. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor and Gouache.

Scarecrow. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor and Gouache.

 

Feathers. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

Feathers. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

 

Magnolia Blossom, 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

Magnolia Blossom, 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

A Bowl of Freesia. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

A Bowl of Freesia. 7 x 10 in, Watercolor.

 

 Woodcock. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

Woodcock. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

The Mallard. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

The Mallard. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

Bufflehead. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

Bufflehead. 9 x 12 in, Watercolor.

 

Self Portrait. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

Self Portrait. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

 

Old Oak. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

Old Oak. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

 

Young Oak. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

Young Oak. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

 

Catalpa Tree. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

Catalpa Tree. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

 

Copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.

Copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist. 9 x 12 in, Graphite on Paper.