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 on a Thursday: Sgraffito

Apologies! Due to a technical error, this post is up a couple days late, but please enjoy!

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What is it?

The term “sgraffito” comes from the Italian word meaning “scratched.” It’s a technique that is usually applied to either wall decor, both interior and exterior, or to pottery. Essentially, the basic idea is that multiple layers of plaster or glaze are applied, and the top layer is methodically scratched through to reveal the contrasting layer beneath. This scratching is usually done in such a way as to form a pattern or an image using the two contrasting layers.

Examples from art history:

Sgraffito has been around quite a while, in all parts of the world. Check out some examples of it on pottery below– including Navajo pottery, ancient Greek ceramics, and African pottery.

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The technique also experienced popularity as wall decor or part of a building facade in Europe, since classical times. As with many artistic techniques, it saw an increase in popularity in the 15th and 16th century in Italy, particularly in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Transylvania, and later experienced a revival during the Art Nouveau movement of the early 20th century. Below are some examples, including an Italian Renaissance-era sgraffito building, a hammer-and-sickle sgraffito design on a Czech building, and an Art Nouveau facade on a building in Barcelona.

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Examples from Principle Gallery:

The sgraffito examples we’re going to showcase today from Principle Gallery are in fact neither pottery nor wall decor, but rather paintings! Jeff Erickson‘s unique, highly abstracted paintings are eye-catching and full of texture, depth, and visual interest, and part of this is due to his creative use of sgraffito!

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Jeff Erickson, (left) Approaching Storm; (middle) Thin Ice; (right) Wine Country

Oil paint straight from the tube is extremely thick and not terribly “workable,” so most artists use some kind of solvent to help thin the paint and make it more spreadable on the painting surface, in addition to helping it dry a bit faster. This substance added to the paint is called the “medium” (this can be confusing, because “medium” has multiple meanings when talking about art, but think of it as synonymous with “additive”) and while most artists use linseed oil, turpentine, poppy oil, or similar mediums, some artists, like Jeff Erickson, use something called a cold wax medium.

The cold wax medium is pretty much what it sounds like– it is an additive containing beeswax that can be used cold (as opposed to encaustic, a different technique in which the wax is heated– but we’ll save that for another Tuesday!) and in addition to aiding in workability and drying time, cold wax medium gives the artist a few different options for building unique textures and layers as well! In Jeff’s case, it allows for some really cool sgraffito. You can see some examples of Jeff’s unique paintings below, but trust us– they are best viewed in person, so come on by the gallery and see them, and many more in this month’s Local Art, Local Eats exhibition, on display now!

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Jeff Erickson, (left) Glimmering Light; (right) Whitecap

Technique Tuesday: Silverpoint

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What is it?

Welcome back to Technique Tuesdays! After high demand, we decided to revive the blog series with new discussions on techniques, genres, and art history. With that said, we would love for our readers to participate in this series, as well. If you are yearning to learn more about a topic or have a burning question on the process behind a work, feel free to comment below and we will be sure to get on it!

Alright, back to the topic of the day – silverpoint! Compared to other metal drawing methods, like those of lead and tin, silver is capable of rendering fine lines and does not create a blunt mark like the other metals. Drawn upon a surface prepared with gesso, gouache, or primer, a silver rod can produce very smooth stroke marks. How this happens is that the tooth of the surface’s preparation mix takes away from the actual silver rod, thus producing a mark! If the surface is unprepared – which was more typical in the past -the silverpoint evokes a lighter color.

Though these qualities make silver a great medium for detailed work, it is however less forgiving. The way that silver digs into surfaces and the inability to erase it calls for intense artistic training for perfecting the medium. Also, when silver oxidizes or is exposed to air, it tends to tarnish and change to a reddish brown – you may have seen this reaction happen with outdoor sculptures, too. However, the intensity of its tarnish depends on how much copper the silverpoint contains. More copper equals more tarnishing.

So next time you run into a silverpoint piece, you can be an expert on the silver’s components and whether the surface was coated or not!

Examples in art history:

Silverpoint was popularized around the early Renaissance era in the Flemish and Italian regions – of course, where Renaissance art reigned! It was heavily used by goldsmiths for their design sketches and served as the primary method for artists’ sketches as well. Some of the most well-known Old Masters of silverpoint include Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The most notable, I would say, is Albrecht Durer who is famous for his mastery of etchings and line drawings. Unlike Rembrandt who used silverpoint for more of a sketching gesture, Durer drew disciplined, hard lines to create his pieces. It goes without saying that silverpoint was thus a top choice for Durer!

As with any art movement, the use of silver soon became outdated. The silverpoint technique was surpassed by the more accessible, more forgiving medium of graphite. The hassle of preparing surfaces mixed with its permanency and rarity quickly led to the technique’s impopularity in the 1500s. Its revival later came about during the modern era, around the 1900s, for the purpose of drawn portraiture. Artists, unlike the past, now have newer resources and more flexibility in creating surfaces easier for silverpoint. They experiment with mixed media, from crayon to casein-coated parchment, to produce such beautiful work.

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Typically, the gallery carries oil and acrylic paintings or works that incorporate wet mediums. It is on the rare, yet delightful occasion that we receive great drawings by our artists. One such instance came about when Susan O’Neill brought in “Woman in Silver” for our upcoming show, “Local Art, Local Eats.” In this particular work, remnants of Rembrandt’s silverpoint style are apparent in O’Neill’s gestural, sketch-like technique.

oneill-woman-in-silver

Another great artist who often practices silverpoint is Robert Liberace. His works are also reminiscent to the Old Masters’ technique, as seen with his work “Serpentine.”

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Come see these magnificent works in person whenever you stop by the gallery or at our opening reception for “Local Art, Local Eats” on Friday, February 17th at 6:30PM! And if you are specifically interested in silverpoint, contact the gallery and we can notify you when we receive such works!

The Language of Objects Opening and Live Demos!

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First of all, we wanted to send a big THANK YOU to everyone, both artists and art lovers, who came out to join us for the opening of our still life invitational, “The Language of Objects” this past Friday evening! We love the variety of folks that this kind of group show brings together, and a still life show in particular can spark some wonderful conversations! From an electric mixer to a pile of sponges, from Twinkies to pears, from flowers to vegetables, we certainly had an intriguing mix of subject matter present as well as a wide array of painting styles to enjoy. To check out the whole show online, visit our website here!

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And we’d like to extend another thank you to all those who joined us the following afternoon for the live painting demonstrations, as well as Elizabeth Floyd, Gavin Glakas, and Jorge Alberto for being amazing enough to paint live for all of us! It was such a treat to get to watch three different painting styles bring a variety of subject matter to life.

If you’re interested in attending our opening receptions and other events like live painting demonstrations, make sure you follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletters to receive reminders of all of these fantastic events! Just send us a message at info@principlegallery.com and we’ll add you to the list!

Technique Tuesday: Studies

Technique Tuesday Studies

What is it?

In regards to art, a study is something that is drawn, painted, or sculpted as preparation for a larger or more finished piece. It may sound pretty similar to a “sketch,” but there is a difference. Sketches allow the artist to plot out in broad strokes the general composition of a piece, with very little detail or precision. If we compare creating a painting to composing written prose, sketches would be comparable to initial bullet points jotted down by the writer. In order to better organize thoughts, play with ideas, and get a glimpse of how things might fit together, the writer moves on to a rough draft–more complete, though with parts unfinished or perhaps a few different angles being tried as an approach to a topic. Such is the study for an artist. It serves as a “rough draft” for them to quickly get a glimpse of how their work might come together, whether their initial ideas for color or composition actually do end up working nicely, and even as a way to discover new things about the subject before the finalized piece is begun. The study might not necessarily even end up looking like the finalized piece will, but may just function as visual notes to help an artist work out how best to portray the subject.  Simply put, a study is practice.

Examples from art history:

Studies in art can be traced back as far as the Italian Renaissance, with studies completed by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo still surviving today. Leonardo da Vinci was particularly known for studies, usually of human and animal anatomy, in his famous sketchbooks, but he also created studies to help him plan out large paintings as well:

davinci collage

a study (left) for Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” (right)

As you can see, da Vinci ended up changing aspects of the composition between the study and the finished work, though you can certainly see that the former is a visual thought process to aid in the completion of the latter. Many, many, many other artists went on to create studies in addition to their more “finished” works. (In fact, studies ended up inspiring some of the 20th century’s art movements, which focused more on the art of the process than on finished results.) Here are a few great examples:

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(left) Peter Paul Rubens, “Four Studies of a Head of a Moor”; (center) John Constable, “Seascape Study with Rain Cloud”; (right) John William Waterhouse, “Study for A Mermaid”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Here at the gallery, we deal mostly with the more finished works of our artists. We do absolutely love, however, when we get a chance to see sketches and studies and get that little peek into the artist’s creative process. We are beyond thrilled about the works included in the upcoming solo exhibition for Jeremy Mann, whose large cityscapes and figurative works are a magical adventure in light, values, color, and unique markmaking. For this solo exhibition, though, we’re also pleased to announce that we’ll have over 15 studies by Jeremy on display and for sale as well! Here is just a sneak peek….to get on our list to view all the works as soon as the digital preview is available, send us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

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Jeremy Mann, “Portrait Study #2”

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Jeremy Mann, “Portrait Study #5”

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Jeremy Mann, “Portrait Study #7”

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Jeremy Mann, “Portrait Study #10”

Technique Tuesday: Nocturne

TT Nocturne

What is it?

Simply put, a nocturne is a painting of a night scene. James Abbott McNeill Whistler was the first to apply the term to paintings (it is originally a descriptor of a piece of music whose composition is evocative of nighttime) and in art circles, the word has come to refer to any scene that depicts the landscape or subjects as they appear during twilight or the darkness of nighttime.

Examples from art history:

Whistler may have been the first to apply the term “nocturne” to paintings, and he did go on to paint a beautiful series of nocturnes in the nineteenth century, but he’s certainly not the first to paint a night scene! Artists during the early Renaissance began to use night scenes to depict Biblical scenes, and by the 16th and 17th centuries, the practice had broadened to include painting a large variety of subject matter in a nighttime light. One notable example is Rembrandt van Rijn’s masterpiece, “The Night Watch.” Rembrandt was among the first artists to paint night scenes on a regular basis, and “The Night Watch” was particularly celebrated for its colossal size (nearly 12 x 15 feet!) and its unusual depiction of a military portrait. Many artists throughout the centuries have continued to paint night scenes, enjoying the challenge it brings as well as the evocative mood set by the lighting.

Nocturne AH Collage

(left to right) James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne in Black and Gold” 1874; Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Night Watch” 1642; Vincent Van Gogh, “Cafe Terrace at Night” 1888; Edward Robert Hughes, “Midsummer Eve” 1908

 

Examples from Principle Gallery:

We at Principle Gallery show many different artists who are incredibly talented at painting night scenes, and some who paint them quite often! Here’s a collage of crops of some of the fantastic nocturnes at the gallery:

PG Nocturne Collage

(top left to right) Gavin Glakas, “Firelight Sonata”; Bethanne Kinsella Cople, “By the Light of the Moon”; Nancy Bush, “Rising Moon”; (bottom left to right) Nobuhito Tanaka, “In the Rain”; Louise Fenne, “The Coming of Spring”; Gavin Glakas, “Night in Seravezza”

One of the undisputed masters of the night scene, Jeremy Mann, will be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition that opens here on November 13th, followed by a live cityscape painting demonstration in the gallery on November 14th from 1-4PM! We can hardly contain our excitement over the exhibition and the demonstration, and that excitement is only growing as we receive more images of the 35 brand new paintings (both cityscapes and figurative works) that will be part of the show! Here are just a couple of fantastic examples of what Jeremy can do with a night scene:

Yellow Night Above San Francisco

Jeremy Mann, “Yellow Night Above San Francisco”

Black Scarlet

Jeremy Mann, “Black Scarlet”

NYC 17

Jeremy Mann, “NYC 17”

Stay tuned as the show approaches for more sneak peeks at the paintings from the exhibition! And if you’d like to be put on the list to receive a full digital preview of the show, just send us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

Technique Tuesday: Atmospheric Perspective

Technique Tuesday Atmospheric Perspective

What is it?

Atmospheric perspective is a visual phenomenon that occurs when we view a landscape. A very simple way of understanding the phenomenon is through the phrase, “fading into the distance.” When we view a landscape, the objects in the distance lose contrast and detail and gain a blue hue. Essentially, this happens because the actual particles of the atmosphere–dust, humidity, pollen, air pollution–obscure the clarity of these objects, and the light becomes scattered. These particles also reflect the color of the sky (typically, blue, although some exceptions include sunrise and sunset) and give these objects in the distance a blue tint. Most of us have seen atmospheric perspective in action when looking at far-off mountains or hills. In art, atmospheric perspective (sometimes called aerial perspective) is especially useful for helping to emphasize distance and vastness in a two-dimensional depiction.

Examples from art history:

Like so many other aspects of art, this feature really started to appear in paintings during the Renaissance. Atmospheric perspective was especially notable in the portraits and figurative works painted by Leonardo da Vinci–just check out the distant blue landscape in the background of the Mona Lisa! It is an effect that became pervasive in nearly all types of landscape painting across cultures and for centuries after, and is still frequently seen in painting today.

atmospheric perspective AH collage

(left to right) Leonardo da Vinci, “Bacchus”; J. M. W. Turner, “Lake Lucerne”; Yuan Jiang, “At Mount Li Escaping the Heat”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

A great many gorgeous paintings here at Principle Gallery contain atmospheric perspective, and today we’ll take a look at just a few, including some from the now open Colin Fraser solo exhibition, “Inner Light”–click here to view the whole show online!

Whitespace HR

Colin Fraser, “Whitespace”

Celestial Sun HR

Colin Fraser, “Celestial Sun”

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Douglas Fryer, “Fog Lifting from the Wetlands”

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Bethanne Kinsella Cople, “My Leaves and My Cascades”

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Casey Childs, “Nocturne on the Reservoir”