Technique Tuesday: Tondo

What is it?

Happy Tuesday! We figured today we’d “circle” (ha!) back around to a Technique Tuesday post and talk about the tondo! A tondo (plural “tondi”) is a term for a circular work of art, and comes from the Italian word “rotondo,” or “round.” While in many ways just like any other shape of artwork, the tondo still gives artists a unique challenge when it comes to creating the best composition and use of space within a circle, but the results are wonderful!

Examples from art history:

Round paintings date back as far as Ancient Greece, when a “kylix,” a vase or shallow wine glass, was frequently decorated with artwork. In the Italian Renaissance, the circular painting (and sometimes sculpture!) came back into fashion, and could be seen on dishes, plaques, medallions, etc. in addition to being framed works of fine art for the wall! One of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s most unique pieces was a tondo entitled “Holy Family” which he was commissioned to paint as a wedding gift, and which hangs today in the Uffizi in a magnificent frame of the artist’s own design. Though small, round paintings known as miniatures had been popular in England for a very long time, it was not until the 19th century that the tondo began to appear again in a large, full-size fine art format. Below we can see two examples from Victorian-era Pre-Raphaelite artists Ford Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Let’s check out just a few examples of these circular works of art through the ages:

Top row: Sosias, “Achilles Tending Patroclus Wounded by an Arrow”; White-ground kylix found in a tomb at Delphi — Center row: Raphael, “Maddona della seggiola”; Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Holy Family” — Bottom row: Ford Madox Brown, “Last of England”; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Belcolore”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Many artists today are experimenting with and celebrating circular works of art, and it so happens that we’ve had a few come into the gallery recently and some which will be included in upcoming shows! Let’s take a look!

Greg Gandy, “Old Car Pileup”

Greg Gandy, “Consumption”

Jeremy Mann, “SF 12”

Laura E. Pritchett, “Elsewhere”

To see the other amazing (though non-circular) artworks from Greg Gandy included in the show from September this year, check out Greg’s page on our website here! Join us Friday, November 17th as we open the fantastic solo exhibition for Jeremy Mann, including the amazing cityscape tondo shown above, and check out this lovely little Laura E. Pritchett work in the Small Works show, opening December 2nd! To be put on the list to receive a digital preview of each of these shows as soon as they are available, send us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

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Technique Tuesday: Bokeh

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What is it?

“Bokeh” is a Japanese word that refers to the way that a lens renders points of light that are out of focus. In Japanese, the word means “blur” or “haze.” You’ve probably seen a lot of images with bokeh in them, even if you weren’t familiar with the term! Any image that includes a lot of relatively small points of light and highlight can be photographed in a way that features the bokeh– the blurred areas, particularly the circles of light.

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An image of Boston by night featuring multiple areas of bokeh — photographer unknown

Examples from art history:

This is a tricky one! Giving examples from art history is pretty difficult, as photography itself is a relatively recent development in the span of history, and more advanced lenses that allow photographers to manipulate and take advantage of the pleasing effects of bokeh have come around even more recently. The term didn’t even show up in photography books until the 1990’s!

There were, however, some early 20th century pioneers of nighttime street photography who were beginning to capture the charming, multi-dimensional, glittering effect of blurred lights, as you can see in these two examples below:

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(left) Brassaï, “Les Amoureux sur un Banc”; (right) Alfred Stieglitz, “A Venetian Canal”

“But Pam,” you must be thinking, “Principle Gallery doesn’t carry photography. Why write a Technique Tuesday post about something that isn’t going to be featured in Principle Gallery artwork too?”

First of all, I’m impressed that you knew it was Pam writing this post; well done. Secondly, that’s what is so cool about art– as time progresses as the world changes and technology moves forward, artists find amazing ways to incorporate brand new concepts into their age-old practice of painting! The act of applying colored pigment to a surface to create art may be ancient, but the creativity of artists and our changing world makes sure it never ever gets “old”! Let’s take a look.

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Bokeh is an effect that works really well with images of city lights. In fact, three artists instantly came to mind who have used a bokeh-type effect of blurred lights and highlights to give a glittering effect to their work:

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(left) Nobuhito Tanaka, “Taipei Night”; (middle) Jonathan Gleed, “Night Lights; (right) Jeremy Mann, “After the Storm”

Another visually pleasing way to take advantage of bokeh is in macro photography, when images featuring a super-close-up of something also have points of selective focus to add to the texture, depth, and atmosphere of the work. It’s a bit difficult to just describe this photographic effect, so here’s an example of this in action, in a macro photo by photography Dimitar Lazarov:

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Take a little of the city lights effect, a little of the macro-photography aspect, and add in a fresh and uniquely modern subject matter, and you have the magic of Glen Kessler’s circuitscapes.

Glen’s circuitscapes focus on close-up images of computer circuitboards and depicts them in a way that seems to transform them into something else: a city scene, a seascape, or something else familiar! Check out some of the amazing examples below (including one actually titled “Bokeh!”), which are all part of our Local Art, Local Eats exhibition, hanging now!

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Glen Kessler Circuitscapes (top left) Circuitscape 15: Midnight in the Valley; (top right) Circuitscape 73: Fire and Water; (lower left) Circuitscape 25: Downtown Stadium; (lower right) Circuitscape 72: Bokeh

Jeremy Mann’s New Book!

mann vol 1-3 release

Jeremy Mann is a world renowned artist and one of our most sought-after painters. 2016 has been a big year for him; in addition to a documentary about his life and work being released this year, we are thrilled to announce that Jeremy has also had another book published! This book focuses on Jeremy’s plein air landscape painting. Here’s a bit of the description from Jeremy himself about the book’s contents:

“The book is a 6 x 9 inch wide, 176pg, hardcover book which comes in two editions, the regular edition and the Collector’s Edition. The majority of the book is comprised of practically an exact duplication of the sketchbook in which I’ve painted my plein air studies from life throughout the last several years at home and abroad in Europe.  Following this is a section of selected plein air paintings which were done on panels during the same time, and now hang in my home, none of which have ever been exhibited.  The book then ends with a few pages of film photography from the journey, as well as a few digital images of myself and others painting, an index of locations, a page of publishing info, and lastly a few environment sketches from life from other sketchbooks.”

This book will be available in TWO VERSIONS, both available in limited quanities! The regular edition, as described above, will be priced at $40 USD.

There will also be a limited available number of the collector’s edition book, which includes an ORIGINAL PLEIN AIR LANDSCAPE by Jeremy permanently bound within the book! The collector’s edition will also have a special cover and come packaged in a fine quality clamshell box. This version will be priced at $600 USD and we will have a very LIMITED QUANTITY available!

Call the gallery at 703.739.9326 to reserve your copy TODAY!

Please note: We are able to ship these books, even internationally, but cannot estimate shipping costs for you until we know the specific delivery address.

Mann Plein Air

Technique Tuesdays: Jeremy Mann Cityscape Compositions

Technique Tuesday Mann Compositions

Welcome back to Technique Tuesdays! First of all, on behalf of all of us at the gallery, allow me to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who attended this past weekend’s opening for Jeremy Mann’s exhibition, as well as the live painting demonstration–especially to Jeremy, for being so kind as to treat us all to that live demonstration!

In just about an hour and a half, Jeremy created before our eyes one of his cityscape compositions. These compositions are typically done in just one or two colors (in this case, black paint and some Prussian blue) and, while Jeremy does consider these to be finished works in and of themselves, they are also a glimpse for the rest of us at exactly what the first stage of his more detailed and colorful cityscapes entails. Each time he paints one of these detailed, colorful cityscapes, Jeremy begins by creating the composition. It was such a thrill to watch how he does it!

Jeremy started with a prepared panel covered in acrylic gesso. This type of gesso is more absorbent than oil gesso, and is Jeremy’s preference for this type of painting. In appearance, this beginning panel was smooth and white.

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Initially, Jeremy used a measuring tape and some translucent emulsifier called Liquin on a squeegee to mark his horizon line and help him mark out the general shape of the composition. Next, large blocks of paint were laid onto the panel using an ink brayer, typically a tool used in printmaking.

The method which he then used to create the different values, and therefore shapes in the composition, is called the “reductive” or “subtractive” technique. Rather than creating value and shapes by adding paint in varying amounts and colors, Jeremy rolls paint onto the canvas and adjusts the value by removing a certain amount of that paint. He does this in a variety of ways. Using a myriad of tools, including squeegees, paper towels, a silicone nib, and his own fingers, Jeremy lifts the paint back off of the panel in varying degrees. If there is an area that he wishes to lift the paint to a more extreme degree, sometimes he employs the use of turpenoid or liquin. Interestingly, no paintbrushes are used at all in the creation of his compositions. In the case of one of his more detailed and colorful cityscapes, paintbrushes are not even used until the final phase!

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The resulting cityscape compositions that Jeremy creates are truly incredible. The movement, harmony of composition, dynamic variations in value, and the elegant simplicity and effectiveness of his bold mark making all serve to create a stunning finished product.

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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:

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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: Painting from Photos

technique tuesday painting from photos

Happy Tuesday! Today’s post is part one of a mini-series of posts looking at the different methods artists use for reference when they’re working on a painting. Essentially, there are 5 ways an artist might paint:

1. From life (this applies to both plein air painting and indoor painting from a still-life set or a live model)
2. From photographs
3. From images on a computer screen
4. From imagination
5. Any combination of the above!

Today’s going to be a bit of a 2-in-1 post, since we’ll be taking a look at both methods 2 and 3 today, and examine the way artists use photographs to help create a painting.

What is it?

Painting from photographs may sound like an incredibly simple concept, but there’s actually a lot to it. As we’ll see, the history of using ocular devices to aid in the creation of artwork goes back quite a ways! These days, with the proliferation of cameras and printers, photographs are becoming a more and more popular tool for artists to use for reference. Painting from photos gives an artist a lot of freedom. They can work from the comfort of their home or studio (where they can control elements such as lighting), and they can paint without a strict time constraint (fresh cut flowers will eventually wilt, and models can’t sit still forever), and it allows the artist to manipulate the image they’d like to paint before they actually put paint to canvas. With today’s technology, artists can manipulate photographs on editing software to give it any effect they’d like before they render it in physical paints.  (For instance, Valerio D’Ospina, one of the artists featured in our current exhibition, often desaturates the images he uses before he begins painting, as this allow him to better visualize and refer to his limited palette.) Some artists feel there are big disadvantages to painting from photographs, such as the loss of the full range of colors and values we can see with the naked eye, but other artists work around these issues with incredible results.

Examples from art history:

For several centuries, even before the advent of modern photographs, artists made use of ocular devices to help plan and execute paintings. The most well known of these devices is something called the “camera obscura.” Here are a couple of neat images to give you a visual of the way a camera obscura works:

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The camera obscura is a device that led to the invention of the modern photographic camera. Essentially, it involves a space–either a room or a box–that has a very small hole in the side. When light passes through this small hole, the image of what is outside the hole will appear in the room or box, just flipped 180 degrees. This super cool phenomenon was discovered as far back as Ancient Greece (and possibly, even further back than that!), and ever since,  artists have made use of it to create more realistic paintings. As the nineteenth century began and the first of the modern cameras were invented, artists began to make use of printed photographs for reference when painting. Check out some of these awesome examples from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (click to view the image larger)!

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Reference photographs for paintings by Edgar Degas (left), Alphonse Mucha (middle), and Frida Kahlo (right)

Examples from Principle Gallery:

The artists we show at Principle Gallery have a wide variety of reference methods for their work, and many make use of a combination of photographs and references from life. There are a few artists, however, who truly love the method of working from a photograph and the effect it achieves. One excellent example is Delaware-based painter and photographer Laura E. Pritchett. Laura is both an avid painter as well as a photographer, and has gained a lot of notoriety and a sizable following on Instagram, where she goes by the handle @bythebrush. (Check out her Instagram here!) One of Laura’s specialties is her self-timer photography, which features Laura herself as the model, usually captured in motion outdoors. She takes her art one step further though, by using her photographs to create her beautiful, contemplative paintings as well. We just recently got some new work from Laura, which you can check out on our website here!

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Laura Pritchett, “Horizon” (left), “Faith” (right)

Sometimes, a painter will go one step further and paint from a photograph while it is displayed on a computer screen. Not only is it convenient with today’s large, bright digital screens, but painting from images on a screen also often gives the image a kind of back-lit glow. You can often observe the way this glow’s effect appears subtly in the finished painting. Two Principle Gallery artists who sometimes enjoy painting from a computer screen are Anna Wypych and Jeremy Mann–check it out!

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from left to right: Anna Wypych, “Loading”, “Safe Place”; Jeremy Mann, “Requiem”, “Stature”

Check back to see the upcoming Technique Tuesday posts about painting from life and from the imagination! To get our new blog posts sent right to your email inbox, subscribe by entering your address in the bar at the top right of the page!

Technique Tuesdays: Tenebrism

Technique Tuesday Tenebrism

Remember the Technique Tuesday post where we took a look at chiaroscuro? Today’s post is going to take a look at a very cool technique, closely related to chiaroscuro: tenebrism.

What is it?

Tenebrism, like chiaroscuro, is all about the use of lights and darks. Where chiaroscuro is used to create a sense of depth, three-dimensionality, and realistic texture, tenebrism involves using the stark contrast of light and dark for dramatic effect in a composition. It’s sometimes called the “spotlight effect”, and almost always features a stark, black background with the foreground, or at least some parts of it, dramatically illuminated.

Examples from art history:

The quintessential master of tenebrism in art history is the Baroque era Italian painter Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s work always bore a characteristic sense of drama, partially from the emotionally charged subject matter he would choose, but mostly thanks to the intense tenebrism. The concept of dramatic illumination became a popular one during the Baroque period following the Renaissance, and is seen frequently in both Italian and Dutch works from that time. Tenebrism has an exquisite way of creating a dramatic and powerful feel in a painting, but it also has a way of making the illuminated forms and colors absolutely glow.

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Works by Caravaggio: “The Conversion of Saint Paul”, “The Taking of Christ,” and “The Calling of Saint Matthew”

You can get an idea from just these three works how Caravaggio manipulated contrast and areas of light and dark to not only set the mood, but also to draw the eye of the viewer to the most important focuses of the composition. Here are a couple of examples of the way tenebrism was used by painters further north, in the Dutch “Golden Age.”

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(left) Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Night Watch”; (right) Abraham Mignon, “Still Life with Fruit”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

As art has evolved over time, popular trends have come and gone, but tenebrism is an effect that can still be seen used frequently by today’s artists, each in a way that complements his or her unique painting style. Here are a few examples of dramatic tenebrism on works here at Principle Gallery: (click the artist’s name to see more works by Jeremy Mann, Richard Murdock, and Brian Martin)

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(left) Jeremy Mann, “The Melancholy Passerine”; (middle) Richard Murdock, “Wrapped Lilacs”; (right) Brian Martin, “Departure”

And last but not least, here’s a truly gorgeous example of a still life featuring tenebrism. This work by Greg Gandy is titled “Flowers with Insects,” and is a part of the current two-person exhibition, “Tempo and Pause” featuring works by Greg Gandy and Valerio D’Ospina. (Click here to view all the works in the show on our website!) Click the image to get a closer look, and check out how beautifully the contrast between the dark background and the illuminated flowers and vase makes the colors really glow!

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Greg Gandy, “Flowers with Insects”