Technique Tuesday: A Painting Within a Painting

What is it?

Well, this week’s “technique” isn’t a difficult one to understand by any means, but it’s still plenty of fun to come across, and well worth a post! All kinds of art can be depicted in a painting– sculpture, architecture, jewelry, pottery, fashion, etc.– but today we’re going to take a look at paintings featuring paintings! (To my knowledge, there isn’t a concise term for this, but my personal vote is “paint-ception.”)

Examples from art history:

This is not a technique that’s going to go back as far as ancient times, but it does go back quite a ways and began to show up more regularly (you guessed it!) during the Italian Renaissance and in the centuries following. In fact, with the flourishing of artists and galleries in the Netherlands during the 17th century and the rise of “genre” paintings (scenes of everyday life), artists like Vermeer began to use the artwork he painted into his backgrounds to add to the message or story of the work. Let’s take a look at “The Love Letter” as an example:

Here’s a painting showing a young woman receiving a love letter, and there are two paintings visible on the wall behind her. The subjects of the paintings, it can be argued, relate to the receipt of this letter– the man walking a path in the top painting might speak of a lover who is on a journey of some kind, and the ship on a sea (often a metaphor for romantic relationships) depicting smooth sailing likely means the letter contains good news. It should be noted, however, that the artwork depicted in a painting doesn’t always have a deeper meaning; as art has become more and more a part of our lives over the years, it’s bound to show up in scenes depicting daily life! Here’s a look at a few more examples from art history (click for a better view):

(left to right) Diego Velazquez, “Las Meninas”; James Abbott McNeill Whistler, “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1”; William Merritt Chase, “The Tenth Street Studio”; Rene Magritte, “The Human Condition”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

We’ve had many artists paint works featuring other paintings here over the years! Here’s a peek at a few:

(left to right) Lisa Noonis, “Red Couch”; Jeremy Mann, “Morning Light”; Hyseung Marriage-Song, “Studio Interior”; Philip Geiger, “Times Table”

If you happened to see Geoffrey Johnson’s fantastic solo exhibition last year, then you might remember “American Wing” and “American Wing II,” two paintings depicting figures observing paintings within a museum:

Geoffrey Johnson, “American Wing” (left) and “American Wing II” (right)

Well, we are THRILLED to be opening yet another spectacular exhibition from the unique and immensely talented Geoffrey Johnson. This exciting exhibition is set to open May 12th, but we already have a digital preview available, so feel free to email us at info@principlegallery.com if you’d like to see one! This year’s exhibition from Geoffrey includes several of his signature scenes of New York City, as well as several interior scenes, a Biblical scene, another museum scene, and to our delight, several scenes of Washington DC! Given the topic of this week’s post, let’s take a look at some of the paintings depicting paintings:

“The Impressionist”

“The Sitting Room”

“Alvin’s Porch”

In case you’re curious, the painting depicted in “The Impressionist” is “Boulevard des Italiens, Morning Sunlight” by Camille Pissarro. As for “The Sitting Room,” the work shown is loosely based on Rembrandt’s “Descent from the Cross.” And for the final one, the large landscape shown in “Alvin’s Porch?” Well, that’s a lovely piece out of Geoff’s own imagination; this painting is a two-fer! Two original works by Geoffrey Johnson in one!

Technique Tuesday: Glazing

What is it?

The term “glazing” when applied to paint refers to the play of colors and luminosity built up through applying thin, transparent layers of paint over an opaque layer of a different color. This is done with the use of a suitable type of paint (not all paint colors can be easily manipulated to glaze with, but anything with “lake” in the paint name is a good bet!) and the addition of a glazing medium to thin the paint and help with transparency. It’s a simple concept, the idea of a transparent overlay of color over an opaque layer, but it takes a lot of practice and care to ensure that the right effect comes across in actual practice of the technique. If an artist can get it right, however, it adds a gorgeous depth and sense of the movement of light within the colors of a painting. We often see this effect of transparent color overlay in real life by observing light through a colored glass, like a stained glass window or the “rose colored glasses” of the old familiar idiom– it has a lovely resulting depth and brilliance!

Examples from art history:

Glazing used to be used sometimes out of necessity in addition to being used for its visually appealing effect. For instance, back when many artists did not have access to certain brilliant colors of paint pigment– often strong greens, purples, and oranges– they achieved the color by glazing one color over another so as to optically, rather than physically, blend them. Many artists throughout history (as well as many currently practicing artists) also apply these thin glazes of color over a base that is entirely painted in grays (called “grisaille”) or browns (called “bistre”) so as to add a depth unachievable from applying opaque layers of paint alone.

Johannes Vermeer’s exquisite paintings contain many classic examples of glazing. See here below, on the left the reconstruction of Vermeer’s “Girl With a Red Hat” shows some of the initial layers that would have been painted, upon which Vermeer would then apply transparent glazes to deepen and darken to his liking. You can observe the brilliance in hues and the effect of light pouring through that this creates on the finished work, also shown just to the right. Also shown here is a detail from another painting, “The Milkmaid,” in which Vermeer’s technique of glazing a transparent yellow layer over the blue layer underneath creates a unique green effect in the middle area of the fabric of the milkmaid’s sleeves:

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Two years ago, we discussed the 2015 Kevin Fitzgerald Solo Exhibition in a Technique Tuesday post when we addressed another type of layering effect in paint, known as “scumbling” or “dry brush.” Basically, this indicates that the top layer of paint is an opaque layer, and not a transparent, thinned layer as with glazing, which creates a different affect, more hazy and blurred and well-suited to Kevin’s frequent depictions of clouds, treelines, and ocean waves. To read more about it, check out the older post, here!

But the glazing technique is also highly prevalent in Kevin’s work, and is one of many ways that Kevin achieves the amazing effects of light, depth, and atmosphere in his peaceful, hazy landscapes. Take a look at each of the images below and try to pinpoint areas where Kevin applied transparent layers to add depth, color shifts, and luminosity (as well as those opaque, “scumbled” areas!)! And to take a look at the whole exhibition in person, stop by the gallery or visit Kevin’s page on our website here!

“Ocean Joy”

“Inlet Daybreak”

“October Light”

“Ocean Dawn”

Technique Tuesday: Genre Painting

Thanks for bearing with us as we’ve juggled a very busy September at Principle Gallery! Between the International Guild of Realism Exhibition, the GC Myers Artist Talk this past Sunday (check out his new works here!), and the upcoming opening of the Casey Childs solo exhibition “Observations,” followed by a live painting demonstration Saturday….suffice it to say, things have been awfully exciting! We’re glad to get back to Technique Tuesday this week, as the subject is a fun one and particularly appropriate for Casey Childs’ soon-to-open exhibition.

technique-tuesday-genre

What is it?

Today’s topic, genre painting, is something that many art appreciators today often take for granted. In essence, genre paintings depict scenes of ordinary, everyday life. This doesn’t sound at first like such a radical concept, but in the history of fine art, it’s actually a fairly recent development!

Examples from art history:

Think for a moment about the types of scenes that were commonly painted by fine artists (especially in Europe) for centuries, even through the Renaissance. Religious subjects were clearly prominent, as well as formal portraits, mythological scenes and historical scenes. Eventually, depictions of still life arrangements and landscape scenes became more common as well. It wasn’t really until the seventeenth century, though, that fine artists really began to delve into depictions of ordinary, everyday life. Scenes of people in domestic settings, out at markets, performing chores, socializing, and even just walking down the street began to form the category of art now referred to as genre painting. The Dutch were particularly fond of genre painting, and some of those works are now among the most well-loved paintings from Dutch art history.

Johannes_Vermeer_-_Het_melkmeisje_-_Google_Art_Project

Johannes Vermeer, “The Milkmaid”

The trend continued on through the following centuries, in many varied cultures, and it has served to create a special and beautiful aspect to art through recent history as artists delve into what it means to exalt the ordinary through artistic expression.

A Laundry Maid Ironing c.1765-82 Henry Robert Morland 1716-1797 Purchased 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01403

Henry Robert Morland, “A Laundry Maid Ironing”

paris street, rainy day

Gustave Caillebotte, “Paris Street, Rainy Day”

Breakfast in Bed Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt, “Breakfast in Bed”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, once wrote that, “The true artist is the man who leaves pictures of his own time as they appear to him.” It is this appreciation for the loveliness and wonder of everyday moments that contributes to the immense charm and beauty of the artwork of Casey Childs. Casey’s upcoming exhibition features a range of figurative art, from drawings of historical figures to alla prima sketches of contemporary models, but it is perhaps the genre paintings that are most striking. Through careful interpretation of light, color, and composition, Casey turns these depictions of modern life into special, timeless moments. Check Casey’s page on our website here later this week to see all the incredible pieces from the “Observations” exhibition, or send us an email at info@principlegallery.com to see the whole digital preview! And if you’re in town, be sure to join us as we welcome Casey himself for Friday evening’s opening reception from 6:30 to 9 PM, as well as a live painting demonstration Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 PM!

Playlist 72

Casey Childs, “Playlist”

Casey Childs, "Non-Fiction"

Casey Childs, “Non-Fiction”

Last Light 72

Casey Childs, “Last Light”

Technique Tuesdays: Positive & Negative Space

Technique Tuesday positive negative spaceWhat is it?

The concept of positive and negative space is a fairly simple one. The subject of a work of art occupies the positive space, while everything else is considered negative space. Nearly every piece of representational art contains positive and negative space. The way that artists make use of positive and negative space to enhance their artworks is less simple, but very visually interesting. Negative space can be used in a number of creative ways, from balancing a composition to focusing the viewer’s eye to  adding to the visual interest of the positive space. To start, let’s look at a fairly simple and well known illustration of the concept, called “Rubin’s vase.”

Rubin2This example illustrates the manipulation of positive and negative space, as depending on how your eye determines what the positive space actually is, two different images can appear. If the central shape is interpreted as positive space, it appears to be a vase, but if that same shape is viewed as negative space, the profiles of two faces become apparent. Some artists focus primarily on the subject when determining their overall composition for a painting, but many enjoy playing with negative space and using it to balance the work.

Examples from art history:

Chinese art has always been an excellent example of the use of negative space to create a simplified, quiet, and somewhat “zen” atmosphere in a work. Especially with traditional calligraphic painting, the delicate use of black ink meant that utilizing the negative space well could be extra eye-catching and effective. As art has progressed, many well known artists have incorporated a deliberate use of negative space to add interest to a composition and to enhance the mood of a work. Check out how the negative space balances and affects the mood of these works:

AH Collage 1

(left to right) Wang Hui, “Ancient Temple in the Mountains” 17th century; Johannes Vermeer, “Young Woman with Water Pitcher” 1662 ; Francisco Goya, “Courtyard with Lunatics” 1794; Edgar Degas, “Ballet Rehearsal” 1873

Art in the twentieth century has seen a bit of a different and new trend when it comes to the use of negative space, as artists begin to play with optical illusions and the creation of images with the negative space itself. (This has become an even bigger trend within the realm of graphic design, and is a technique often utilized with logos, like the arrow formed between the “e” and “x” in the FedEx logo.) Here are some cool examples:

AH Collage 2

(left) Coles Phillips, “A Young Man’s Fancy” 1912; (middle) M.C. Escher, “Sky and Water I” 1938; (right) Rene Magritte, “Decalomania” 1966

 

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Everywhere you look here at Principle Gallery, you’ll spy examples of skilled and thoughtful use of negative space. For some artists, however, it is an especially important design element. Consider the work of Laura E. Pritchett:

Pritchett Collage

(left to right) Laura E. Pritchett, “Faith”, “Projection”, “Passing Through”

Laura’s thoughtful and liberal use of negative space as part of her compositions plays a big role in the way these works possess a sense of stillness and peace, as if a moment has been captured. Imagine for a moment if Laura had continued to fill the positive space of these works with more background imagery, more colors and textures and objects. It’d really change the impact of the paintings, don’t you think? You can check out all of Laura’s gorgeous, peaceful work at Principle Gallery on our website here.

Now check out these other awesome pieces at Principle Gallery, and take a moment to consider how and why you think the artist might have played with positive and negative space the way that they did:

PG Collage2

(left to right) Valerio D’Ospina, “Rainy Day in NYC”; Colin Fraser, “Highwayside”; Kevin Fitzgerald, “St. Martin Snow”; Mia Bergeron, “Limitless”

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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.

AH Collage Mahl stick

(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!