Technique Tuesday: Allusion

What is it?

Today’s “Technique Tuesday” post is another good example of the way we’d like to use this series to delve into aspects of fine art that go beyond very literal, physical techniques of applying paint to canvas. While fascinating and important, those only describe a few of the many facets that go into the way that artists visually communicate with the viewer. Just as the use of paint in certain ways (impasto, glazing, multi-loaded brush) adds to the way a painting communicates, so do less physical and more conceptual techniques, like bokeh, atmospheric perspectiveand positive and negative spaceStill further, and perhaps most obviously, the subject matter of the painting often does a great deal of communicating as well. Today’s “technique” is an incredibly prevalent one throughout the history of art: allusion!

Allusion is a term that is typically applied to a literary device which involves a passing reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance, without describing it in detail. Literary allusion draws on a stock of knowledge that the author expects the reader will already have, in order to give a context through which the reader will instantly understand the work more fully. (Some more succinct examples: if an author references someone’s “Achilles heel,” and the reader is familiar with the mythology of Achilles, the reader instantly understands that this is a reference to someone’s one weakness. If someone references a nose growing like Pinocchio’s, the reader instantly understands that this references the telling of lies, as in The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio’s nose grew whenever he told a lie.)

Let’s take a look at the way that allusion has been used as a technique in visual art, as well!

Examples in art history:

Paintings with Biblical Allusions: (left) Rembrandt van Rijn, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee”; (right) Caravaggio, “The Conversion of St. Paul”

Narrative storytelling is one of the oldest purposes of the visual arts. During the Renaissance, this became an especially important function of art, as the Christian Church began to use paintings to educate a largely illiterate public about the stories of the Bible, and commissioned countless religious paintings and frescoes portraying a vast variety of moments from the Bible. As European art continued to develop, allusion began to be used more and more frequently. Whether Biblical allusion, allusion to Greek and Roman mythology, or literary allusions, these references help to deepen the viewer’s understanding of what the painting seeks to communicate.

Paintings with Mythological Allusions: (left) Sandro Botticelli, “Primavera”; (right) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Persephone”

Paintings with Literary Allusions: John William Waterhouse, (left) “Miranda” referencing Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and (right) “Morgan Le Fay” referencing the legends of King Arthur.

 

Examples from Principle Gallery:

(left to right) Geoffrey Johnson, “Tower of Babel”; Cindy Procious, “Plastic Paradigm III”; Terry Strickland, “The Seamstress”

Now and then, paintings containing allusion will come through the gallery. Sometimes the allusions are Biblical scenes, such as in Geoffrey Johnson’s “Tower of Babel,” and sometimes they’re a reference to something from pop culture, like the Barbie doll in Cindy Procious’s “Plastic Paradigm” series or the Superman logo in Terry Strickland’s “The Seamstress.”

Never before this month, however, has an exhibition here at the gallery been so full of artworks containing allusion! Robert Liberace’s solo exhibition, currently on display, is an amazing collection of paintings and drawings showcasing the artist’s astounding skill at depicting the human form. And, in learning the inspirations and the names of these pieces of artwork, the viewer learns that many of them are mythological and literary allusions! Take, for example, these pieces from Robert’s “Don Quixote” inspired series:

“Visions of Adventure”

“Knight of La Mancha”

“Hidalgo”

How do you think the references to the classic novel change the way the artwork communicates, and the viewer’s understanding of it? Consider the same with these images of mythological figures Atlas and Orpheus:

“Atlas”

“Orpheus”

To view the entirety of Robert Liberace‘s current exhibition and explore all of the allusions contained, stop by the gallery soon or check out our website here!

 

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Technique Tuesday: Palette Knife

Technique Tuesday palette knife

What is it?

A long-time standard in the artist’s toolkit, the palette knife is a tool consisting of a handle and a blunt blade, and was originally used for mixing paint on an artist’s palette. Since the 1800’s, it has seen an increase in popularity as a painting tool as well as a mixing one. Artists use the palette knife itself to thickly apply the paint to the canvas or panel (sometimes mixing colors directly on the surface with the knife), often to get a nice impasto effect.  Here’s an example of a set of differently shaped palette knives:

Palette Knives

 

Examples from art history:

Palette knives used for applying paint has a relatively recent history, as until the 19th century, these tools were primarily just for mixing paint on the palette. A few artists here and there, including Rembrandt and Francisco Goya, used palette knives in addition to brushes and other tools to create a nice effect, but it wasn’t really until the 19th century when Gustave Courbet started using them to thickly and smoothly apply paint on his landscapes that the technique began to really grow in popularity.  Other well known artists who used palette knives for painting include Camille Pissarro (a student of Courbet), Paul Cezanne, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse. Many of these artists used palette knives in addition to brushes and other painting tools. It was in the 20th century, however, that more artists began to experiment with painting an artwork entirely using palette knives. Many artists today who use palette knives dabble in a bit of both methods!

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(Left to right) Gustave Courbet, “The Wave”; Francisco Goya, “Two Old Men Eating Soup”; Henri Matisse, “Odalisque with a Tambourine”; Paul Cezanne, “Uncle Dominique”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Palette knife painting can give a really gorgeous texture and accentuate colors on a canvas or panel. Many techniques that we’ve discussed in the Technique Tuesday post, such as impasto or the multi-loaded brush, can also be accomplished using a palette knife as well as a brush! Principle Gallery carries several artists who excel in the use of palette knives for paint application, as well as some who have dabbled in it from time to time, with some lovely results. To see more great examples of palette knife painting, check out our website, specifically the pages for Barbara Flowers, Mia Bergeron, and Lisa Noonis! Here are some cool examples, including a brand new work from Mia Bergeron titled “Somewhere Else.” To keep up with all our new incoming works and upcoming events, be sure to join our mailing list! To sign up, just fill out the form here on our website, or shoot us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

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(Left to right) Barbara Flowers, “Sunflowers”; Mia Bergeron, “Somewhere Else”; Lisa Noonis, “Morning Sky”; Cindy Procious, “Deer”

Technique Tusedays: The Mahl Stick

Technique Tuesday mahl stick

What is it?

Today’s Technique Tuesday takes a look “behind the scenes” at a handy artist’s tool known as the mahl stick (sometimes spelled mahlstick or maulstick). A mahl stick typically looks something like this:

mahl stickThis kind of mahl stick is held in the non-painting hand, though some mahl sticks (like one we’ll see in just a moment) are designed to be hooked over the top of a canvas. The word comes from the Dutch word maalstok, or “painter’s stick,” as this took is used to support the hand with which a painter holds their brush. Not all painters use a mahl stick, but many find that it’s very helpful when working on an area with a lot of detail or a very large work, as it can act as both an arm rest and a tool to prevent accidentally touching wet areas of paint with one’s hand or wrist.

Examples from art history:

The mahl stick has been around a very long time, and has been depicted as part of a paitner’s equipment since at least the 16th century. You can spot it in many paintings depicting an artist at work, or self-portraits of artists at the easel, as in these examples below.

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(left) Johannes Vermeer, “The Art of Painting”; (middle) Edouard Manet, “Portrait of Eva Gonzalez”; (right) Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-portrait

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Artists who prefer their brushwork to have a looser, more free appearance might not choose to make much use of a mahl stick, but an artist who works with a lot of fine and precise detail can certainly appreciate this handy tool. One such Principle Gallery artist is Cindy Procious, who we just featured last week in a post showing the awesome in-progress shots of her painting “Yin and Yang in a Crustacean World.” In fact, if you look at one of those in-progress shots, you’ll spy Cindy’s mahl stick making a guest appearance!
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When you take a look at Cindy’s precise and detailed still life paintings (check them out on our website here!) it’s easy to see why a mahl stick could be a big help. If you happened to attend last year’s Face Off live painting demonstration, you also got to watch Cindy in action with her trusty mahl stick!

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We love having live painting demonstrations at the gallery; it’s such a fascinating chance to see firsthand how these beautiful artworks that we show come to life. This year, you don’t have to wait for the Face Off to come around to watch some live painting at the gallery– mark your calendars, because May 15th from 6-9 PM, Teresa Oaxaca will have a live demo, followed by Robert Liberace on May 29th! Both events will be incredible, so if you can, be sure to stop by!

Yin and Yang in a Crustacean World

Remember last November, when Cindy Procious and Mia Bergeron had that fantastic two person exhibition with us? One of Cindy’s largest paintings in that show was “Yin and Yang in a Crustacean World”. Check out these in-progress photos Cindy took to see the awesome journey these two lobsters went on!

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And the finished product….

Yin and Yang in a Crustacean World HR

Cindy Procious, “Yin and Yang in a Crustacean World”

For more awesome artworks by Cindy, click here to check out her page on our website!

Technique Tuesdays: The Multi-Loaded Brush

Technique Tuesday multi loaded brush

What is it?

Most everyone would probably be able to guess what exactly is meant by the phrase  “loading the brush” as it relates to painting–you dip the paintbrush in the paint! It’s pretty simple. There are all sorts of ways, however, that artists adjust the way that they load their paintbrush in order to achieve the effect they desire. An artist might adjust the amount of paint they apply to the brush, the wetness of the brush, the consistency of the paint, etc. Today we’re going to take a look at a fun and simple technique with an awesome effect: the multi-loaded brush. Essentially, this refers to the technique of dipping the paintbrush in more than one color of paint, so that multiple colors appear together and blend when the brushstroke is made. Here’s a pretty clear visual example of a double-loaded brush, courtesy of the website wikiHow:

670px-Double-Load-a-Paint-Brush-for-Rosemaling-or-Decorative-Painting-Step-7

Examples from art history:

This technique was one that was frequently used for several centuries as a method of decorative painting. When painting a design onto furniture, ceramics, or other small decorative objects, the method of using a double-loaded brush, sometimes referred to as “one stroke painting,” was often employed as a simple way to give a bit of highlight and definition to the simply painted shapes and forms. (See a video example of the method by clicking here.) The double-loaded brush effect became especially characteristic of  “rosemaling,” which is the Norwegian term for decorative art and a word that has become associated with the beautiful folk art style that evolved in Norway. Here’s a good example of rosemaling painting on a bowl:

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In fine art painting, however, visible strokes of a multi-loaded brush were not commonly seen until the late 18th century, when the Post-Impressionist movements began to celebrate a looser, more expressive manner of painting. As brushstrokes became less exact and precise and more free-flowing, many artists used a double-loaded or multi-loaded paintbrush (meaning even more than two colors on the brush at once) to achieve a fresh and interesting effect to the look of their brushstrokes. It was a way to blend colors without doing so too seamlessly, and it gave an attractive an multi-dimensional appearance to certain areas of the work. Unlike with the more precise style of decorative painting, the artists did not always use a neatly divided and even distribution of paint across the tip of the brush, but rather added the colors with a bit more freedom and looseness. Here are a few examples from the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century of fine art paintings that include some visible strokes of a multi-loaded brush. (You can click on the image to see it a bit larger.)

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(from left to right) crops of Marc Chagall’s “Bonjour Paris,” Henri Matisse’s “Portrait of Madame Matisse (Green Stripe),” and Edvard Munch’s “Love and Pain”

 

Examples from Principle Gallery:

There’s something free, interesting-looking, and vibrant about the effect of a multi-loaded brush. Colors appear blended, but not too perfectly blended, and it’s very visually appealing. Typically, artists whose work is very realistic looking (for instance, Larry Preston, Jorge Alberto, Cindy Procious, and many others) will carefully and precisely blend the colors and brushstrokes in a painting to give a sharper and more true-to-life appearance to the finished work, rather than leaving visible brushstrokes from a multi-loaded brush. But there are also many artists at Principle Gallery whose brush work is a bit more loose, expressive, and energetic, and some of these artists make beautiful use of the effect of a multi-loaded paintbrush. Here’s just one example of a landscape by Lynn Boggess that includes several details of areas showing the technique:

details (left) of Lynn Boggess's "7 November 2014" (right)

details (left) of Lynn Boggess’s “7 November 2014” (right)

You can spot creative and lovely use of a multi-loaded brush (or more accurately in Lynn’s case, palette knife or cement trowel, not brush) in nearly every single one of Lynn’s vivid landscapes in his solo exhibition, currently hanging at the gallery. Visit the online preview here and click through the paintings to see if you can spot them!

Another artist who makes brilliant use of a multi-loaded brush is Barbara Flowers, a talented painter whose gorgeous work we have begun to show this year. Click here to check out all of our available works by Barbara on our site, and take a look at the image below to see how Barbara’s use of a multi-loaded brush gives gorgeously subtle yet vibrant effect to each facet of her still life painting.

details (left) of Barbara Flowers's "Two Peaches and Hydrangea" (right)

details (left) of Barbara Flowers’s “Two Peaches and Hydrangea” (right)

Join us next week on Technique Tuesday as we continue to explore these amazing tricks of the trade utilized by our talented artists here at Principle Gallery!

Face Off 2014

We were thrilled that so many were able to join us (both in person and online via the three live streams) for the Face Off live painting event on Friday, August 8. With three talented painters faced with the nerve-wracking task of painting a portrait from a live model in under three hours (and in front of an audience!) it promised to be a memorable evening…and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Mia Bergeron, Cindy Procious, and Elizabeth Floyd set up their paints and easels in the gallery, we covered our big skylight to give the space just the right lighting, and local restauranteur Franco Landini of Landini Brothers acted as our live model.

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With a webcam pointed at each of the three canvases, we were able to share the experience live via the internet as well! And it was an experience well worth sharing, as each of the three canvases gradually came to life, the painters creating a remarkable painted likeness of Franco’s face, each with their own unique style.

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A great number of visitors to the event stayed through the majority of the three hours. It was pretty fascinating to watch the three artists work, and to watch Franco’s portraits come to life. All three artists praised Franco’s abilities as a live model, and he was certainly impressively still over the course of the three hours!

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When time was finally called, it was amazing to see three such incredible portraits, each different but each a great likeness, and all finished in such a short amount of time! The Face Off is always a fun and exciting event, and the 2014 Face Off was one of the best ones yet. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel to see the full footage of all three live streams from that evening, along with a time-lapse version of each artist’s portrait, from beginning to completion! Watch them all here.

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Progressions of portraits by Cindy Procious (top row), Elizabeth Floyd (middle row), and Mia Bergeron (bottom row)

The WPW Collector’s Preview is now available at the link below!

Women Painting Women : Collector’s Preview

SNEAK PEEK of all 86 paintings juried into 2014 WPW out of 743 international submissions, and also a few words from Guest Juror Allison Malfronte + Principle Gallery about the Women Painting Women movement – ENJOY!