Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tenebrism Painting

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I fell in love with an old wooden spool the other day. What fun we had! Perhaps you have read the stories of Giuseppe, the shoe flirt and his father (now flirting elsewhere). I had originally decided that my painting project of Tenebrism would be about the historical music of Firenze, such as in my pastel on black paper artwork “World Traveler.”

However, after the many interesting exchanges with Giuseppe, I changed my Tenebrism subject to something more personally connected to my life. "Mr. Kisses" was generous enough to loan me some old tools for repairing shoes, so old he said he could live without them for about four months. He also gave me pieces of leather, polish, and various doodads that I asked for, not knowing how I would arrange the items. I bought the old shoe forms from an antique market in Piazza Santo Spirito. The old sewing machine is borrowed from another artist friend. And the spool on top of it came from Norway, handed down from a mother to a daughter, who is living now in Firenze and is a sweet friend of mine.

I am using the Sight-Size Method, which is a time-saver for those who can draw, and a crutch for those who cannot. So, my canvas is situated perpendicular to my eye position about two meters away and alongside the grouping of objects in the middle ground of my composition. In this exercise, I have three distinct groupings, with at least seven centimeters between each section. I have arranged them in a way that I hope is pleasing, but also in a way that conveys depth. I want a feeling of space on my two-dimensional canvas. My first image here shows you my work station from my viewing position, where all judgments are made.

I prepared a canvas with a dark campitura of burnt umber, black, and white. Now I will sketch in the basic shapes with charcoal. I have drawn too much in my attempts to get the shapes right the first time, but since this is the first time I have painted this type of painting, I will give myself a break about it. It just means that I have done more work than necessary.

The next step is to take a mixture of raw umber and a smidgeon of white and make a tone painting of everything that is darker than the campitura. I only work on a section that I can finish in one sitting.

I then repeat the process, using black this time with a little bit of black medium. You may see in this image how little of the sewing machine remained in the raw umber stage. Actually, I left too much of it light just because I did not relish the time wasted in redesigning the shapes of some parts.

You may notice, though, that the spool on the top of the sewing machine did not exist when I painted the raw umber tone painting. I find this stage of painting subtlety in the darks glorious fun and wondered how I could ever make myself add any color to this painting! My goal is to keep everything soft, yet rounded as its form is, and in the right amount of light. So, now, I am off to the studio again to finish the black!

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