Je Suis Humain – Nude and Möbius

Another painting concerning our common humanity, ‘Je suis humain’ is a French phrase implying ‘ that we are all one and should support one another. A female nude is embraced by the protection of a Möbius – effectively science as the protector of humankind rather than the deceitful hand of religion and all its double speak and bullshit. You work out the details for your self but science is supported by secular humanist values, whereas religious intolerance and dogma, often supports oppression, a little spoken of example being the catholic church’s support, for the Nazis during the 2nd. World War. You religionists can dress your Popes and your Imams in all manner of jewel bedecked cloth but your fairy tales become no more believable.

‘Je suis humain’ is a ‘shout out’ to all who reject fear and superstition and instead recognise our common humanity, the title is a call for justice for all. Who we are at our best, is represented in this painting by the beauty of womankind and all that womankind means to the nurturing and continued existence of our species. The female figure stripped of artifice, represents knowledge, the transcendent, freedom from the tyranny of ignorance and the super-natural, and the building of hope for our species.

So I start with a blank canvas, I bought the 130cm x 90 cm frame from Jackson Art and stretched a cotton canvas over it. I then sized it with rabbit skin glue, two coats for the front and one for the rear. I wanted a fairly smooth surface to enable the rendering of fine detail in the figure, this is achievable on canvas if you know how. My method is to use a primer, called ‘distemper’, I discovered it after reading the blog of the sadly murdered young artist Margaret Muller, I always think of her every time I use this primer and I am seriously grateful to her, as this primer is fantastic R.I.P. Margaret.

The distemper is made from water, oil, egg yolk and pigment, I apply several coats sanding between each to achieve a lovely silky smooth painting surface. I applied six coats for this painting. I then go about sealing the canvas and primer from the oil paint to follow. Firstly a light grey imprimatura, translucent  in this case is applied, followed by the toned ground for the painting, here it’s a mixture of burnt and raw umber and titanium white, applied thinly. I then complete an under drawing, putting in as much detail as necessary to help me finish the painting. I seal the ground and the under drawing by spraying on three coats of skimmed milk, using paper towels to wipe of the excess milk. The canvas is then ready to work up the paint layers.

As my method is to use C.S.O. paint, all layers are fat, this is another benefit of painting solvent free.
After the under drawing was completed and sealed, I experimented with different techniques of applying the turquoise paint to the canvas, sponges, knives and brushes, eventually settling on knives with some sparse brush work. Sometimes you just don’t know what is the best way to achieve a particular effect and it’s necessary to dive in and use your experience and imagination to find the solution. This a real problem for auto-didactic beginners but we’ve all been there, my advice is – don’t be afraid of making errors, just paint!

I wanted to preserve the form of the Möbius fairly accurately so I made the job easier by masking all around it.

the next stage will see the fundamentals of the Möbius in place.

Palette for the Möbius is : Rembrandt burnt senna, M.Harding phthalocyanine turquoise, Old-Holland, hookers green lake deep extra and some black and lead white.

Palette for figure : Blockx lead white, M. Harding lead tin yellow light, M. Harding venetian red, Daler Rowney ‘Georgian’ burnt umber, Daler Rowney ‘Georgian’ ultramarine, Winsor and Newton raw umber (green).

Continuing to build the painting via grisaille, it’s just a simple, elegant method for creating an accurate representation of the reality trying to be recreated on the support.

Further progress on 18.12.17, should have the painting finished by Xmas.

16.1.18

I’ve been unwell quite a lot so I haven’t made the progress on this painting that I intended to but – I have ordered a new camera, A Nikon, DSLR camera, so touch wood, once I get to grips with it, I’ll be able to post progress on this work, in some sort of decent quality.

13.2.18, so here’s the finished item, I haven’t had time to set up the camera properly but I think this photo is a reasonable representation of ‘je suis humain’. From a painter’s perspective, there are a few things I could have executed better but each painting presents different artistic and technical problems, that often need to be solved ‘on the fly’, so to speak. Overall, I’m fairly happy with the emotional content of the painting and its technical execution.

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The End

I’ve finally made a decision on which poem of Wilfred Owen’s to use as the inspiration for my third and last painting based on his poetry. ‘The End’ which is partially chiselled into his grave stone, will provide the combination of closeness that I feel towards him, (something that I want to make manifest) and also again realise the transcendent quality of the central panel of the Spring Offensive Triptych.
I came to this decision after reading an excellent article on the wilfredowen.org.uk website

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Spring Offensive

The second realisation in oils of a series of paintings inspired by the poetry of Wilfred Owen. ‘Spring Offensive’ describes the awful moments of waiting for battle and then the horror of the blood sacrifice, as a regiment of young British soldiers of the 1st. world war, charged at their enemy.

Halted against the shade of a last hill,
They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept.
                               But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.
Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge,
For though the summer oozed into their veins
Like the injected drug for their bones’ pains,
Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass,
Fearfully flashed the sky’s mysterious glass.
Hour after hour they ponder the warm field—
And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up,
Where even the little brambles would not yield,
But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands;
They breathe like trees unstirred.
Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word
At which each body and its soul begird
And tighten them for battle. No alarms
Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste—
Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced
The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.
O larger shone that smile against the sun,—
Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned.
So, soon they topped the hill, and raced together
Over an open stretch of herb and heather
Exposed. And instantly the whole sky burned
With fury against them; and soft sudden cups
Opened in thousands for their blood; and the green slopes
Chasmed and steepened sheer to infinite space.
Of them who running on that last high place
Leapt to swift unseen bullets, or went up
On the hot blast and fury of hell’s upsurge,
Or plunged and fell away past this world’s verge,
Some say God caught them even before they fell.
But what say such as from existence’ brink
Ventured but drave too swift to sink.
The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,
And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames
With superhuman inhumanities,
Long-famous glories, immemorial shames—
And crawling slowly back, have by degrees
Regained cool peaceful air in wonder—
Why speak they not of comrades that went under?

Reading the poem as a 12 year old for the first time made a deep, lasting impression on me, perhaps because I’m English and realising that if I had been born into a different time, it could have been me. The words are leaden, I find nothing uplifting in them, they are a stark warning to those who might love life.

Those young men were conned into believing that they were serving their country, in fact they were disposable, their deaths serving only to settle disputes between the corrupt monarchies and politicians of the day, (nothing much has changed).

This painting is my second triptych, this time on hinged wooden support panels, onto which I glued, aluminium painting panels, the outer panels are hinged to fully close, so two paintings in all, the closed front panels showing a seated Wilfred Owen, in his Captain’s uniform. The abbreviated letters of the title of the poem painted in blood red and asking a question ‘SO?’, what now, what have you done, why the vile carnage? The panels once opened, reveal the poem to the right and left and in between them, the central panel with its scene of battle and the hands (my hands) open to receive the fallen, remembering and immortalising their sacrifice – for us. These images are photoshop ‘sketches’ and are used as my guide to realise the idea finally in oils.
So to technical matters –  here’s the aluminium panel fixed to its marine ply support panel, I was excited to paint on this material, it is a relatively new thing for these panels be commercially available and affordable. I believe that this material maybe the future of panel painting, it is easy to work with and once prepared the painting surface is super smooth. I’m going to prime with two coats of lead white, with a touch of chalk and sun thickened linseed oil, this will provide a little tooth and aid drying, very important for the first few layers. The panels are available from here

8.11.17 –  I’ve been making steady, calm progress on this triptych, realising Wilfred Owen’s seated portrait in oil from the poor photos that exist of him is proving difficult, however I think that I’ve managed to get his expression and the rest is now falling into place. Some work to do on the shadows and values generally. I’m considering ‘sepia toning’ the finished item with a thin glaze of burnt umber to mimic a period photo. If so  I’d do the same for the inner central painting

The central panel is going to take a lot of work to bring to completion, once I’m happy with the achromatic grisaille (under painting in grey values) I’ll start to add transparent red paint to the heart, the hands and the poppies. Colours will include Venetian red, vermilion, cadmium red, alazarin crimson, burnt sienna burnt, and raw umber, vandyke brown, yellow ochre, ivory black and of course my favourite paint, lead white. Anyway here’s progress as of 9.11.17.

The following photo shows the extra pieces needed to realise the triptych’s support, the hinges, the beading that surrounds and protects the panel’s edges and of course the poem ‘Spring Offensive’ printed on canvas, at a local printers and glued to the marine ply panels using rabbit skin glue.

 

Some further progress 14.12.17 on the grisaille for the centre panel before I add the first transparent reds to the heart, the poppies and the hands.

Progress as of 10.2.18, the two outer panels are looking more like the finished thing as I add further transparent coats of paint, invent a few new details and refine established ones.

progress on the centre panel, 12.2.18 All day I’ve been adding to the hands, velaturas of Venice red, lead white, antimony, yellow ochre and a few complimentary colours. My new Nikon camera is helping represent the paintings much better.

Further progress on the centre panel, 28.2.18 I’ve added some veins to the heart and continued to glaze the hands, I’ll add more details to them next and I’ve integrated the heart more into the background with some soft cloud detail on the left of the heart. I’m also thinking of ideas for my final painting in this Wilfred Owen trilogy, I want more red, ghostly figures, the canal at Ors and perhaps his gravestone. I intend to visit that place one day, if you read the story of the battle and imagine that you have been commanded to cross the canal under heavy fire, you realise the madness and the ‘badness’ of war in an instant and also the ‘pity’ which Wilfred Owen was so keen to express.

Almost simultaneously I’ve been steadily adding details to the two outer panels, the red of the poems initials, painted in cadmium red with a little burnt sienna. The the fine coats of translucent cad’ red are faintly illuminated from the rear painted in white, then light pink. Details like this are the difference between a good painting and one that really ‘pops’.
The background scene further envelops Wilfred Owen as he sits there in his rather tatty uniform. I’m painting him from old photos, found in books and on the internet, none of which are in a good state of repair, so some invention is called for and of course, artistic licence.
After the whole is complete I’m considering an overall glaze of burnt umber to give a sepia effect, the sort found in old photos.

The painting finished and the beads attached.

I’m very excited by how this all looks now, although the hinges are not yet attached to the panels this is how they look when opened to reveal the poem at either side of the central painting. I’m very happy with how the text printed. The material is a canvas/paper that was stuck to the wooden panels with R.S.G.

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Vanitas_August 17

I was thinking of a particularly arrogant American ex-friend when I painted this, someone who claimed to be liberal but was in fact a believer in American exceptionalism without even realising it.

Vanitas is an old form (in simple terms) of expressing the paradox of life and death. There are many great Vanitas painters but I think the main source of inspiration for this particular painting was Pieter Claesz, he was a Dutch painter working in the 17th cent.

I’m looking into getting a better camera, as once again I have to apologise for the shameful photo.

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Le Paradoxe Eternel de la Croix.

 

So I painted this some time ago and then repainted some parts of it recently but I’ve never really written about what it means. As per usual in my allegorical style paintings there is a fair bit of symbolism. Here religion is represented by the preying mantis as both fascinating and dangerous. Extremely dangerous to man – religion, as Christopher Hitchens said, ‘poisons everything’ and it surely does. But religion is on its back foot, losing believers by the boat load in the West, its apologists like the  master of word salad, William Lane Craig, (demolished in debate with Hitchens and Sean Carroll to name but two) try to inform themselves of science, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum physics etc. in order to somehow prove their God through science. My advice to them is give up, you have faith, stick to that, you don’t need to confuse yourselves with science.

The Mantis is held out to the viewer in a way that suggests this is the big question of the time and has been for some centuries and ironically by a faceless virgin, representing all the faceless women who have served the church for absolutely no reward or acknowledgement by the Catholic faith in particular.

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méditations sur Bosch et Giorgione

I enjoyed very much ‘Renaissance Unchained’ a series of short films broadcast on the BBC in 2016 by Waldemar Januszczak, so much so that I was inspired to paint something that felt related to this early but hugely important era in the story of art. I finished this painting sometime back in in 2016.
So what’s the painting about, the short answer is look at it how you want, it is certainly meant to be curious and humorous. Bearing in mind that I use allegory to reveal my inner thoughts, you could look at it thus, as if analysing a renaissance allegory – there are symbols everywhere.

The helmet, at this period in history, (it surely has to be a helmet for battle and a particularly fine one) represents here, man’s lust for power, a flawed idea, the character from Bosch’s ‘Last Judgement’ exits stage left, knowing the stupidity and in the same moment realising the shallow vanity of the idea.

Or – perhaps the helmet is hiding man’s darkest flaws, trying to keep them secret from his peers. Once again the curious character has seen it all before and runs off ashamed of what is hiding in mankind’s shadowy psyche. And talking of shadows, the setting, a cave perhaps, underground, adds to the mystery, as the flickering torch light illuminates but darkly, the tragi-comic scene.

On the technical side, it is Oil on Panel 40cm x 30 cm. I prepare the wood panels to a very high standard, coating them with a chalk gesso that I make up here, based on a renaissance recipe. I apply six or so coats of gesso, sanding between each to arrive at a silky flat even surface, perfect for painting detail. The painting was realised using Alchemist Mediums products and finished with two coats of amber varnish.
The only thing I am not too happy with is the amount of dust and general crap that fixed itself to the surface. I am going through the process of laser eye surgery to correct cataracts and last year as I painted it, I was having particular problems with slight double vision and poor contrast. So I missed quite a few specs of crud that I would have normally removed. C’est la vie.

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Christianity weeps for its lost influence.

christianity weeps (for its lost influence)_webThe title ‘Christianity Weeps for its Lost Influence’, arose from a visit to have cataract surgery on my eyes near La Rochelle in 2014. I found a magazine in the waiting area called, ‘Pèlerin’, not expecting to read anything challenging from a magazine for religious apologists I was surprised to find the image of Christ, so effortlessly beautiful in its decrepitude. I liked the idea of something failing but at the same time surviving, rather like me, and so I decided to challenge my technique by making a fairly faithful copy of the photo, which is only slightly larger than the painting. It is a technical challenge, particularly in realising the form of the face as it falls to bits. You have to convincingly place the cracks and the flaking paints tiny shadows.
Christians are basically forgiving themselves for being completely immoral on the question of punishment from their god. When you ask Christians if they like the idea of a ‘non-believer’ spending eternity in hell they say ‘no, that is what god wants, so it’s ok’. This is the same as a Nazi (a German citizen or soldier) in the second world war saying, ‘I don’t agree with the gassing of Jewish people, homosexuals, disabled people, artists and intellectuals but if Hitler says it is fine, then it is with me too’.

How can Christians worship something that they can see is morally questionable and morally inferior to themselves, ask them, I did. All I have discovered is that the question is massively side-stepped either by a theological rant of epic proportions that makes no sense except in a Disney cartoon or a fantasy novel, or Christians dismiss the importance of the question, citing ‘faith’.

 

 

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The Last Judgement of Pope Francis

I’ve been spending time locked away in my studio against the cold of the French winter. I’ve had my plans for 2016’s painting projects drawn up for some time, surprise additions excepted, so I’ve been making copies of Great Master paintings, small, mostly done on A4 sized canvas from a book. I’ve been fairly happy with progress so now it is time to turn to ‘The Last Judgement of Pope Francis’. At 54″x32″ it is, in terms of size, the most ambitious painting I’ve yet attempted, I bought the stretcher bars and then stretched cotton canvas onto them, sizing with RSG and priming with a white RSG based primer, I made here. Old school but worth it for the peace of mind it gives. I achieve a snare drum tight painting surface, which I like and know that my painting should survive with care for at least a few centuries, unless someone destroys it for its ‘heretical’ qualities………lol. I’ll post progress, if I remember, it is not a complex painting but needs careful treatment of the light and the nude’s skin tones.

One major technical feature I’ve learned whilst working on th painting is that I should have chosen to paint on Belgium linen instead of 12oz. cotton canvas. Being a auto- didactic I have no one around to offer advice on such matters. I always paint detail and the 12oz canvas doesn’t have a fine enough weave to achieve the finish that I envisage but – I can live with it, it has still turned out rather well so far.

The subject of the painting is the hypocrisy of religion, the Pope is presented with a moral dilemma, the viewer should make up their own solution to the problem.

Arriving at the gates of heaven, Pope Francis faces a challenge to enter. St. Peter explains that all his life, the Pope has been passing judgement on his fellow man, particularly on the right of a woman to manage her own body. Where is it written that mostly old, balding men can pass judgement on the reproductive rights of young women? To have a chance of entry to heaven the Pope must re-consider his position on women out of wedlock having sex and their need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease. He’s confused, he isn’t told what decision he makes would guarantee him entry to heaven.
Having to decide will seriously compromise the teachings of the Catholic Church on sex and hence his core beliefs.

So the Pope’s moral conundrum is thus, he must ask himself, ‘do I go back to earth and re-think this whole anti-condom issue and the rights of women to manage their own bodies, or do I go against my whole life’s preaching, stick to my core beliefs and risk being judged unfavourably?’

 

For those morally outraged or so challenged that they feel the need to commit barbaric acts of violence, I don’t care! Rage all you want, for too long the Catholic church has preached and butchered those who regard its sick fantasies of an afterlife based on ‘original sin’ as the teachings of children for children. For too long it has continued to exploit the minimal wages of the poor to retain power and maintain its splendid gold filled and jewel bedecked temples in Rome. So don’t be offended if a voice of protest sticks its head out of your arse now and again and lets you know that your shit stinks!

Progress so far, a blank canvas!

Last Judgement

Some progress July_under painting
underpainting_1

Further progress, early August
underpainting_2

 8.9.16 _ This is, as I thought proving to be  a great challenge, I’m aided though by a return to painting completely with C.S.O. oil and its wonderful range of benefits, not least of which is the simplicity of preparation and the use of good old eggs, truly a wonder of nature.  Painting at a high level requires great skill and concentration and can’t be rushed without spoiling the end result, many great paintings have taken months even years to complete, yet some academics who don’t and in fact can’t paint, think that they know how this was all done centuries ago and more to the point how quickly it was done. Good luck with that, know-it-alls!
Progress on the door mantle and the scene unfolding there, white steps and fire pits to be added.

progress_left exit

Sketch for the left rear exit to hell. 13.9.16

underpainting_4

So footnote – 2.9.16 the State of California has revised the statute of limitations period for rape and sexual crimes, extending it to have the same time limit (none) as murder. In opposition to this is the Catholic Church, it doesn’t need me to explain why that would be, it beggars belief how a cult that supports the hiding of criminal acts by its priests can still retain any credibility. Religion like witchcraft is based in superstition and ancient unscientific beliefs, I guess if you are gullible enough to buy into magic, you’ll support pretty much anything.

So, the journey continues, painting geometrically straight lines on top of textured oil paint is tricky, I used low tack masking tape as my solution to the problem. A lot of work bu the result is worth it.

underpainting_4

as you may agree, clearly I have to paint in the horizontal rails on the gates and then finish the shading details and add the crosses but it’s coming together.

underpainting_4

it’s great when a painting begins to ‘pop’ as I say. All the elements start to work in a ‘realistic’ way and you can laugh at comments made by people along the way who can’t even draw. For instance one mouthy fool remarked that the centre vertical of the right hand wall (in the under drawing) wasn’t straight. I told her that it didn’t matter as it was just a guide. Fair enough she couldn’t see what I could in my mind’s eye but a stupid thing to say never the less.

underpainting_4

9.1.17 Just a note on technique, as I’ve previously stated I don’t use heat bodied oils Used in the renaissance, I think that perhaps had artists had better access to sun-thickened flax oil, they would have chosen this oil. It has even better drying properties than walnut or other heat bodied oils and is clearly archival. There is little evidence for the use of resins in paintings by Van Eyck for instance, so I won’t comment further on that, except to say, those promoting the idea that Van Eyck, Vermeer etc. used resins are usually trying to sell you something.

I’ve used for some years amber varnish and similar heat bodied mediums and I think that they are a technical ‘dead end’. When compared to the wonderful qualities of cold pressed sun-dried flax oil, (which has been cleansed of mucilage), they hold no advantages for me. Sun thickened flax oil when mixed with chalk makes a wonderful painting/grinding medium and when added to paint makes for a superior paint film. This can only be known to a painter rather than an academic, or a non-painter who spends his days trying to prove the ‘secrets of the old masters’. Amber mixed into a paint pile works as a very nice painting medium, don’t add it to whites as they will yellow, not because of a chemical reaction but because amber varnish is tinted towards orange/brown. Use it most effectively in transparent shadow glazes but don’t use it as a finishing varnish as I previously mentioned it yellows white, your clouds, surf etc. I think amber varnish is most effectively used on small paintings, where tinting of whites is not an issue.

A way to go yet but this is the progress on 26.1.17

progress 261117

And some more progress 31.1.17

progress 261117

So as I continue to work up this painting to its finished state, I’ve completed the left and right gates.

left gate

right gate

 

Elsewhere the American Republican Party are continuing to prove that they are a regressive, xenophobic cabal of corrupt white Evangelists. And let’s understand what is meant by corruption here, politically corrupt in the sense that they will sell their souls to the highest bidder (donor, they say) morally corrupt in that they are to a man, hypocrites of the first order. One classic example being their treatment of women.

Whilst claiming that Muslim men in every way treat women appallingly, specifically when it comes to making decisions about their own lives, here, this week the G.O.P. met at the White House with the orange President, to decide how the new health care bill would impact women – specifically. This room filled with balding middle aged bigots and more elderly grave dodgers pronounced on the reproductive rights of young women with not a young woman in sight. In fact the two women in the room were there to serve sandwiches and beverages.

My painting is specifically about the Catholic church’s relationship with women but it could just as easily be about the Islamic faith, the G.O.P. or any other misogynistic sect or organisation. You would never know from such sects and political groups, that women are man’s equal and man’s partners in the journey that is life. Why as a man am I so concerned about women’s rights? Well if we were to use those rights and the treatment of women in general as a barometer of how healthy a society is, then we can see that as a species, we have a long way to go. In other words (and in some countries more than others) there is room for improvement. Furthermore I have empathy and I care about my fellow man/women.

Update from last night’s session 26.3.17, I painted the first coat on the nude figure, Just lead white, yellow ochre and Venetian red, with the orange skin tone resulting from mixing the red and yellow, toned down in chroma with cerulean blue.

premier couch

16.4.17 I’m pretty happy with the nude, perhaps I could make the skin tones a little more ‘contrasty’, I’ll live with it for a few days and see how I feel, meanwhile I’ll be adding finishing touches all over the canvas.

more velaturas

plus velaturas

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Copy of Giorgione, ‘Warrior and his Equerry’_1509

giorgione

For anyone interested in how fine art is created, here is one approach to creating an under-painting, which is a less highly coloured and less detailed version of the finished painting. Upper layers are then added, either with transparent coloured paint or/and with opaque coloured paint. It is a way for the artist to build a painting retaining the details of a detailed drawing as long as possible and thus render the detail more easily, it is called ‘Grisaille’, literally painting in greys.
There are inevitably variations and it has been at various times in art history a finished painting technique, not just an under-painting.
Variations on grisaille painting occur when the artist adds another tone for instance burnt umber or burnt sienna, enabling a slight variation in tone but still relatively uncoloured, this can create a beautiful effect in its own right as well as aiding the artist to separate difficult tonal areas.
In portrait or painting of nudes, artists in the Renaissance often painted their grisaille by mixing yellow ochre and black to create a green tinted black which is then mixed in various amounts to white to create the different tones of grey/green. This green tinted grisaille complements skin tones, red and green being complementary colours on the artist’s colour chart and is known now as ‘moonglow’. When choosing to finish a painting in grisaille style, this is my favourite tonal choice, it gives an eerie, ‘other worldly’ effect. It is apparent in the closed front panels of the triptych by H. Bosch, ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’_1490/1510.

The photography of my under painting for the Giorgione copy giorgione1
is rather rough but you get the idea, the next stage for me once this layer is dry, (less than 24 hours) is to refine it, evening out variations in tone and adding fine detail which I have hurried previously to complete it quickly.

I’d like to mention that to paint this, I used mediums by ‘Alchemist Mediums’ which are recipes used in the Renaissance and are found in the translation of the De Mayerne manuscript found in Donald Fels’ book.

The next layer, the first colour layer will involve transparent colour ‘glazes’, (thin layers of paint) applied in various depths to refine the tonal values and contrasts. I like to paint my shadows transparently where possible as this gives a greater sense of depth to them and thus adds realism to the finished painting. Here I’ve already added shadows as I know from experience that in such a dark painting, almost ‘chiaroscuro’ like, they will work with the transparent shadows I add in the upper layers. Once this layer is dry, the whole painting will be adjusted for detail, tone and contrast in any other added layers to create the finished painting. equerry
It is understood by taking paint chips that Jan Van Eyck finished his wonderful early renaissance paintings with relatively few layers but by the time of Rembrandt, many layers where being added, Rembrandt is known for the his amazing photographic technique, which involved the painting of many layers.
As I’ve said in previous recent blogs, these copies are a way for me to build stamina and get back into extended painting sessions after illness most of last year. figures

This is one in a series, from the renaissance to Bouguereau.

I should have posted progress as it was made but certain factors have prevented me from making rapid progress, so paintings became a priority over net updates. Anyway here on 28.3.16 is a near finished version, Sorry once again for the dodgy photo.

warrior

 

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Realisation in oils of the only known Self-Portrait by Hieronymus Bosch

Bosch portrait

I’ve admired the paintings of Bosch ever since discovering them as a teenager, in fact admired should read as fascinated by his paintings, who wouldn’t be? Well those who don’t wonder about the world I guess, or who can only judge paintings by technique. In fact Bosch is a very accomplished technician as well as a great ‘composer’ in oils, he was largely an ‘alla prima’ painter but there is much glazing in evidence too. The long and short of it is, he is very much an artist that I look up to and draw inspiration from, I never tire of looking at his work.

As someone who is appreciative of craft and technique, I used as mentioned elsewhere in my blogs, mediums that are made from recipes written in the renaissance, they are contained in the De Mayerne Manuscript from the seventeenth century and now made here in France, not a million miles away from chez moi. And so it is apt that I should paint an artist who painted right at the beginning of the renaissance with ancient mediums. I don’t use raw pigments often, although I do intend to much more so in the future, the oil paints that use are high quality contemporary tube paints.

For this painting I used an old canvas, (painters of Bosch’s epoch would have painted on a wooden panel), with a few wrinkles in it to add to the ancient look of the painting, I generally make my own canvases, I buy the supports and canvas or linen and stretch and size with RSG. I then cook up a primer, either distemper or just RSG and pigment. I prefer distemper, egg/oil/ water and pigment. I discovered distemper through my own, on-line research into renaissance techniques distemper, (egg/oil emulsion), it is an excellent primer, providing the artist with a silky smooth but still ‘toothy’ canvas to paint on. I apply between six and eight coats of thinly applied primer, sanding between each coat to achieve a very high quality painting surface. I prefer canvas to panels but I do occasionally use wood panels when the need arises, I use a chalk gesso on wood with many coats needed to produce a super smooth finish and thus enable micro-detail, if required.  For the moment I’ll continue completing my under drawings with graphite and charcoal but it should be noted that Van Eyck drew in fine detail with silver-point and I believe this technique made a significant contribution to the remarkable results he achieved.

After the canvas was ready I traced the self-portrait onto the white primed canvas and sealed it with non-fat milk, I then created a grisaille, following Boschs’ drawing but adjusting it where I thought necessary, he seems to have fired it off pretty quickly and there are a few errors of proportion here and there. I had in mind to make him weather beaten, like my Uncle Tom who was a farmer and this approach seemed to work from the start. There is considerable glazing and some impasto and alla prima elements involved too.

The eyes are glazed twice with amber varnish, to create extra depth and then glazed again as part of an overall amber varnish glaze.

Next year 2016, is the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, he is established as one of the greats and in this crazy world where fundamental religionists try at every moment to drag us back to the 7th century or earlier, the subject matter of his paintings is just as relevant as ever.

Very disappointed about the awful photo but it’s the best that I can do for now.

NB. Margaret Muller, I have to thank her memory and her family for keeping her website running, as without her I may never have started using distemper as a primer. Margaret Muller was brutally murdered in London while studying art on February 3rd 2003 which is coincidentally my birthday. I’m sure we would have enjoyed each others company and I dedicate this painting to her, it is the least I can do after what she has given to me.
her paintings and more information about her can be found here.

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