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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Robert Liberace: The “Living Master”

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The Studio of Robert Liberace

As an artist, Robert Liberace expresses the human body in way that would make the Old Masters proud. His interest in art history, anatomy, and technique are so obviously presented in his work. However, his artistic talent isn’t the only skill that has encouraged the title “living master.” Liberace is also a fantastic and world renowned art instructor. He captivates his students with his insightful lessons and valuable pieces of advice. He refers to individual muscles by name as he captures them on the canvas. He is absolutely adored by art students and art lovers from around the world.

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Robert Liberace’s Live Painting Demo, August 2017

We were able to witness, first hand, the immense following Liberace has established for himself when he presented a Live Painting Demonstration, last Friday in the gallery. We welcomed a young woman named Shelly, who had never modeled before, to be the artists subject. Liberace set up his easel, prepared his paints, then began his creative process. He had Shelly move into a few different poses until he found the perfect one. As the night progressed Shelly’s features became more and more prominent on the canvas.

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Start of Demo

 

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After the first fifteen minutes

 

 

 

 

 

Shelly’s defined jawline and beautiful hair became recognizable in less than fifteen minutes. Another noteworthy feature of Shelly was her well applied makeup. She wore a combination of shimmered eye shadows and completed her look with a dark purple lipstick. Such a look was definitely something new for the artist, but it was something he didn’t shy away from. Liberace grabbed a thinner brush to express her eye makeup and the deep purple color of her lipstick. He matched the color perfectly. DSC_0146

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The crowd watched as the artist developed a spectacular piece and led them through his process. Liberace engaged with his audience by describing the materials he used, how to create certain details, and how to paint the human body.

Meanwhile, other guests mingled, enjoyed the refreshments, and took in the incredible new exhibition featured in the front room of the gallery. Live painting demonstrations are such fun and exciting events, and we encourage anyone in the area to come and join us when we’re able to host them! Mark your calendars, because next month, after the opening of the two person exhibition for Valerio D’Ospina and Greg Gandy, Valerio will be treating us to a live painting demonstration on Saturday afternoon, September 23rd, from 1-4 PM!

To check out a time-lapse video of the Robert Liberace demonstration, check out our latest upload on YouTube here!

If you can, do stop by the gallery in the next couple of weeks to see the Robert Liberace exhibition– his works are just breathtaking in person! To make sure you’re up to date on all the latest news about exhibitions and events at the gallery, like live painting demonstrations, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter by filling in the “contact” form on our website here!

Technique Tuesday: Silverpoint

technique-tuesday-silverpoint

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.

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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!

Technique Tuesday: Pentimenti

Technique Tuesday pentimenti

What is it?

A pentimento (the plural is “pentimenti”) is an alteration in an artwork that becomes apparent by the marks and traces left behind from the artist’s original strokes. Although it is derived from the (you guessed it!) Italian word meaning “to repent,” it’s not quite accurate to call these marks mistakes. For a long time, artists took care to cover the changes they made to a painting and the pentimenti were only visible via infrared scans and X-rays. Take for example this image showing an X-ray of Netherlandish Renaissance painter Jan van Eyck’s famous “Arnolfini Wedding Portrait.”

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Jan van Eyck, “Arnolfini Wedding Portrait” with detail of X-ray

It becomes apparent that the artist originally depicted the hand in one position, later to change his mind and adjust the angle of the hand. From the surface of the finished painting, this isn’t a change we can observe. You might be surprised to learn how many times an X-ray or scan of a well known work has revealed a pentimento showing the artist changed his or her mind about the composition!

Examples from art history:

Until the more free and expressive artistic movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, artists kept this type of pentimento well concealed except for in preliminary sketches. You can see pentimenti evident in each of these drawings by famous artists:

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(left) Leonardo da Vinci sketch of a horse; (middle) Edgar Degas sketches of dancers; (right) Vincent van Gogh sketched self portrait

Paul Cezanne was among the first to actually embrace pentimenti as something more than just evidence of a work in progress; he began to deliberately include a lot of pentimenti in his drawings to enhance the expressive nature of a work, as well as the three dimensional appearance.

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Paul Cezanne, “The Artist’s Son Writing”

 

Examples from Principle Gallery:

As art has progressed and the realm of what is considered “proper” and “good” art has immeasurably broadened, pentimenti have evolved into an element that is often deliberately left in a finished work to add richness to it. One Principle Gallery artist who has mastered the use of pentimenti to add a sense of motion, expression, and visual interest to his work is the great Robert Liberace.

A locally based painter and painting teacher, Robert Liberace has been dubbed a “Living Master” for his incredible artworks, particularly his figurative paintings and portraits. Robert excels in portraying a figure in action, and his clever use of pentimenti heightens this effect. In the more active scenes, the lines of the pentimenti are particularly bold.

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Robert Liberace, “Throwing Figure” (left); “Study in Motion” (right)

Robert also varies his use of this technique, as sometimes it becomes very subtle so as to unobtrusively add to the sense of motion, as in the image on the left. Other times, he leaves the pentimenti highly visible but “unfinished” in the background to give a sense of time elapsing during a motion, as in the example on the right.

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Robert Liberace, “5th Circle” (left); “Telemon” (right)

We are thrilled to exhibit a large group of new works by Robert Liberace alongside his former student Teresa Oaxaca this month. In addition, following Teresa’s live painting demonstration on May 15th, we are so looking forward to another live demo as Robert Liberace paints a model live in the gallery on May 29th! Join us for the demonstration between 6 and 9 PM this coming Friday, and be sure to check out all of the new works in this exhibition on our website here!

 

 

 

Technique Tuesdays: Imprimatura

Technique Tuesday Imprimatura

Welcome back to Technique Tuesday! Today’s post is going to look at a technique that we all saw in action at Friday night’s fantastic live painting demo with Teresa Oaxaca. If you missed it, be sure to keep an eye out for when we upload the photos and videos from that night, as well as check out our intern Barbara’s fantastic blog post on what it was like to model for the demo!

What is it?

Imprimatura is a technique that falls into the larger category of underpainting. There will be several Technique Tuesdays where we take a look at different underpainting techniques, but today’s post will focus on the basic concept, something called “imprimatura.” It’s another word that comes to us from (you guessed it!) Italian, and literally means “what goes before the first.” Imprimatura is a transparent or semi-transparent layer of color (usually an earthy tone) that the artist uses first, and it sets the tone for the color story of the finished painting. It’s an incredibly daunting task to handle a stark, white canvas, and many artists find that a layer of imprimatura helps them to achieve the look and the values they desire more easily than just a truly blank canvas would.

Examples from art history:

Imprimatura is a technique that goes way back in the history of art, but like many other techniques, artists really began to use it to its full potential during the Italian Renaissance. Works like da Vinci’s “La Scapigliata” show us clearly that lovely tea-colored layer of imprimatura that he often started his works with.

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Leonadro da Vinci, “La Scapigliata”

Another Old Master who made excellent use of imprimatura was the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens created a whole series of unfinished oil sketches that allow us to glimpse the layer he used to set the tone for the work underneath all of the added paint. An especially interesting example is this piece, a study in which Rubens used two different colors of imprimatura on the same canvas, experimenting with differing tones:

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Peter Paul Rubens, “Two Studies of a Young Man”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

If you’ve ever made it to one of our live painting demonstrations, or the Face Off events each summer, you have no doubt seen for yourself the application of the imprimatura layer. On Friday, when we gathered to watch Teresa Oaxaca’s live demonstration, she began with a truly blank canvas.

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As we watched, Teresa painted her first layer, and it was not the sketchy outline of her model–nope! It was the all important imprimatura.

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This initial layer helped Teresa to set a mid-tone foundation on which to create her painting, building on that foundation first by sketching in areas that were darkest in value, then working up to the lighter-value highlights. The process was an amazing one to watch, and the finished painting truly lovely.

Teresa's work develops over 25 minute intervals.

Teresa’s work documented over 25 minute intervals.

We so enjoyed having Teresa in the gallery painting live for us. It is always such a fascinating and exciting event to witness an artist in action. That makes May an especially exciting month for us here, as we’re thrilled to host another live painting demonstration coming up on May 29th, featuring the incredible Robert Liberace! Join us at the gallery between 6 and 9 PM to watch this immensely talented painter bring a piece of artwork to life!

 

Perspective of a Model

Perspective of a Model

Following Friday night’s demo with Teresa Oaxaca we asked our lovely intern Barbara to share her experience as a model for Teresa. Here is what she had to say.

My favorite part about interning at Principle is the rare glance into an artist’s creative world. You can read up on their background or ask them about their techniques, but I think that an artist’s process is too personal and particular to try to comprehend. This past Friday though, I got a pretty cool glimpse into that world—by modeling for Teresa Oaxaca at Principle’s live demo. This was the first time I’ve ever modeled for anyone and it was definitely a daunting job. I wasn’t sure if I could sit in a chair for two and a half hours, and maintain the same expression and stare throughout. Though I was a little stiff the next day, I’m so glad I decided to model for Teresa.

Visitors watch Teresa work.

I remember entering her name into the gallery’s inventory and uploading her work onto the website. Then, she was just a name associated with some amazing paintings, but such close exposure to Teresa in her element made me realize that artists are normal people. They have their individual practices and preferences—some like to eat sushi before they work and some line up their paintbrushes in a specific order. I used to think of an artist’s vision as intangible, something I couldn’t recognize without a textbook’s explanation. But in watching Teresa work, I saw that vision unfold: it was in her quick dabbing on the palette, in her rocking back and forth behind the easel, and maybe even in my own posture and expression. That’s why I think demos are such a valuable, interesting experience. You get this unique exposure to artwork as a cumulative product of the artist and their surrounding atmosphere. And then that seemingly mysterious and foreign process of an artist becomes a little more relatable.

Teresa's work develops over 25 minute intervals.

I hope you enjoyed my perspective of modeling for Teresa. I would highly recommend coming to Principle’s next demo so you too can get a glimpse into an artist’s creative process. The next one features Robert Liberace and is on May 29th at 6:00-9pm. Below are links to the Facebook event and to the gallery’s website.

Michele, Pam,  Jessica, Barbara, Teresa, and Clint.

Robert’s Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1451121928514100/

Principle’s website:http://www.principlegallery.com/Alexandria

Technique Tuesdays: Sight-Size

Technique Tuesday sight size

What is it?

If you’ve ever amused yourself by holding up your thumb and noticing how someone across the room appears to be tiny and thumb-sized next to it, you’re well on your way to understanding the sight-size method of painting and sculpting. Sight-size is a technique long used in schools and ateliers to teach art students the fundamentals of correct proportions. Essentially, it involves the artist setting up to create their painting (or sculpture) at a vantage point where the subject appears to be exactly the size they plan to depict it. The closer to life size the finished image, the closer to the subject the painter and his or her canvas will be arranged. Here are a couple of visual examples:

sight size collage

Example from art history:

Sight-size is a method with roots far, far back in art history. For centuries, it was a popular and effective way to teach students to draw and paint with accurate proportions. It went out of fashion for a time, but its popularity was revived by ateliers such as that of R. H. Ives Gammell, Carolus-Duran and Léon Bonnat. The latter two names were teachers of the great American portrait painter John Singer Sargent. Sargent’s use of the sight-size method was a large contributing factor to its renewed popularity in both America and Great Britain.

Sargent Collage

A photograph (center) of Sargent painting with the sight-size method, alongside two of his incredible portraits, Theodore Roosevelt (left) and Madame X (right)

Example from Principle Gallery:

Not many artists these days continuously use the sight-size method throughout their career, and event those who do do not always use it exclusively, for all their work. But Teresa Oaxaca, a Principle Gallery artist with extensive classical training from the Florence Academy and her private teaching with Robert Liberace and Odd Nerdrum, gave us a glimpse of sight-size in action last year during her live painting demonstration.

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Teresa Oaxaca painting live at Principle Gallery, April 2014

We are more than thrilled to have Teresa back with us this year for yet another live painting event (followed by a demonstration by the amazing Robert Liberace two weeks later!) on Friday, May 15th. Join us on the 15th in the gallery from 6-9 PM for an incredible opportunity to watch Teresa paint a live model from start to finish! It is truly fascinating to watch her step back and forth, studying the model as she brings the resemblance to life on canvas with the sight-size method.

Even if you are unable to join us in person, keep an eye on our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, because we’ll be broadcasting a live video feed of the event that evening! We’ll be sure to post links where you can go to watch the live stream as soon as we can!