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.

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.”

liberace-serpentine-72

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!

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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.

white panel

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!

Collage1

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.

finished

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”

Fog Lifting from the Wetlands 72

Douglas Fryer, “Fog Lifting from the Wetlands”

My Leaves and My Cascades 72

Bethanne Kinsella Cople, “My Leaves and My Cascades”

ccNocturneOnTheReservoir 001

Casey Childs, “Nocturne on the Reservoir”

 

Technique Tuesday: Broken Color

TT Broken ColorWhat is it?

The technique we’ll be looking at today is a fun one: broken color. This term refers to a technique where an artist will apply colors to a painting in small strokes, but does not blend them, so that they blend optically rather than literally. The effect of this technique a life and vibrancy, and a strong sensation of the sparkle of natural light. The idea of blending colors optically is one you may remember from our post on pointillism, though broken color is not a technique limited to small dots of brushstrokes and can be done with a lot of types of mark making.

Examples from art history:

As you’ve probably noticed, a majority of these techniques we’ve been discussing became a big “thing” during one of two times: the Italian Renaissance, and the Impressionist movement of the 19th century. Broken color comes to us from the latter. The Impressionists, especially the French Impressionists, were primarily concerned with emphasizing the effects of light and color, and less about making their paintings appear very neat, tight, and realistic. A huge part of the way they acheived this loose, sparkling effect of light was the use of broken color. By allowing the viewer’s eye to blend colors together, these painters were able to capture the real sensation of light and imbue the painting with a lot of energy. Though it really began with the Impressionists, broken color is a technique that was used by many differet types of artists in many different movements that followed.

Broken Color Collage

(left to right) Claude Monet, “Haystacks”; Edgar Degas, “Woman In the Bath”; Vincent Van Gogh, “Still Life with Lemons”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

This week, the gallery is preparing for the opening on Friday of Colin Fraser’s solo exhibiton, “Inner Light.” Colin Fraser’s work is a remarkable example of the magical effects of broken color. As Colin’s preferred medium is egg tempera, he ends up doing a lot of thin, small brush strokes and careful layering. The way that he handles the blending of colors using this method is truly extraordinary, and the overall sparkle and life of the light in his work is just gorgeous, particularly in person. If you’re able to come to the gallery to view the exhibition, be sure to get up close to these paintings–it’s a whole adventure in color up close!

If you’re able, please do join us for the opening reception for the exhibition, Friday October 16th, from 6:30 to 9 PM. And DON’T FORGET! Saturday, the 17th, from 1-4 PM, Colin will be doing a live egg tempera painting at the gallery, which we’ll be broadcasting live on our YouTube channel!

Celestial Sun HR

Colin Fraser, “Celestial Sun”

Genuflection, HR

Colin Fraser, “Genuflection”

Pastoral Suite Viridian HR

Colin Fraser, “Pastoral Suite Virdian”

Technique Tuesday: Egg Tempera

Technique Tuesday egg tempera

What is it?

Last week, we took a look at oil paints and acrylic paints, but this week’s topic is a painting medium that predates both of them–egg tempera. Egg tempera is an ancient type of paint that is made by mixing powdered dry pigments with egg yolk as a binder, and typically with another ingredient like water, vinegar, or wine added to prevent cracking of the applied paint.

Examples from art history:

Examples of egg tempera painting can be found as far back as ancient Egyptian sarcophagi decorations and ancient cave paintings in India. Egg tempera was occasionally used alongside another method of painting known as encaustic (paint made from pigment and hot beeswax) and eventually took the place of encaustic painting as the preferred medium for panel paintings and illuminated manuscripts. By the beginning of the Renaissance, it was the primary painting medium for nearly all fine art painters. It was at the height of the Renaissance when oil paints began to take over as the preferred painting medium, for many reasons. Oil paint is slow drying, which means that it allows the artist a lot more control in blending colors and creating a three-dimensional appearance to forms. Oil paint also often has a thicker, more glowing color to it than egg tempera, and is more flexible as well. Egg tempera has its own charms, however–it is non toxic, water soluble, permanent, and will not yellow over time– and it made a comeback in popularity in the 20th century with great artists like Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Hart Benton dabbling in the medium again.

Egg Tempera collage

(top left) “Judgment of Osiris,” tempera on papyrus, 1285 BC ; (top right) Michelangelo, “The Holy Family,” tempera on panel, 1507; (bottom left) Sandro Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus,” tempera on panel, 1480s; (bottom right) Andrew Wyeth, “Christina’s World”, tempera on panel, 1948

Examples from Principle Gallery:

The vast majority of our artists here at Principle Gallery choose to work with oil paints, but we do have one artist who prefers and regularly paints with egg tempera. Scottish-born artist Colin Fraser mastered many mediums, including oil paint, before deciding that egg tempera suited him best. Colin paints delicate, exquisitely beautiful still lifes, as well as some landscape and figurative works, and he uses the unique qualities of egg tempera paint to help him achieve the incredible brilliant luminosity of the colors in these paintings. Egg tempera is a type of paint that must be applied in thin, small brushstrokes and the layers and colors built up very carefully, so it is astonishing to see what Colin has achieved with this medium. We are thrilled that Colin himself will be joining us for the opening of his solo exhibition here on Friday, October 16th as well as Saturday, October 17th for a live egg tempera painting demonstration! Here’s a sneak peek at some of the incredible egg tempera works from Colin’s show. If you’d like to receive a digital preview of Colin’s exhibition, just send us an email at info@principlegallery.com!

Halo 15x19 inches

Colin Fraser, “Halo,” egg tempera on panel

West Coast 72

Colin Fraser, “West Coast,” egg tempera on panel

Whitespace 72

Colin Fraser, “Whitespace,” egg tempera on panel

Technique Tuesday: Oil vs. Acrylic

Technique Tuesday oil acrylic

Today’s Technique Tuesday topic is often a hotly debated one in the art world; many artists and art appreciators have very strong feeling one way or another about the type of paint they prefer between oil and acrylic. Before we get into this discussion, then, let’s get one thing very clear.

Great art is not all about what you paint with. It’s about how you paint with it.

In this post, we’ll just be talking about the practical differences between each medium, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. As with many things, this choice is often going to come down to the personal preference of the artist. What’s “best” is often just a matter of opinion. There are a wide variety of materials to use to create art, but when it comes to creating relatively opaque paintings (as opposed to the more translucent effect of watercolor), today’s most popular paints to use are oil and acrylic.

The basics: oil paints consist of pigment suspended in an oil, usually linseed oil, where acrylic paints suspend pigment in acrylic polymer emulsion. Oil paints date back quite a ways, but they really became popular during the height of the Renaissance. Acrylic paints, on the other hand, only came onto the scene around 1934! Their popularity began to really increase in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

AH Acrylic Collage

(left to right) Andy Warhol, “Big Campbell’s Soup Can 19c” (1962), David Hockney, “A Bigger Splash” (1967) Mark Rothko, “Untitled” (1969)

Versatility: Acrylic paints take the upper hand in this category. Although they can be used straight from the tube, acrylic paints are also water soluble, and depending on how much water is used, acrylic paint can be applied to appear very similar to watercolor, very similar to oil paints, or even just take on qualities unique to acrylic alone. Acrylic can also easily be used on virtually any kind of surface, and unlike oil paints which possess a natural corrosive nature, the surface does not need to be treated beforehand to protect it. Oil paint has its own range of versatility, certainly, but it’s just not quite as wide as that of acrylic paint.

Drying Time: Acrylic paint dries a lot more quickly than oil paint, and depending on how the artist likes to work, this can be a great advantage or an obstacle. Oil paints can be applied to an artist’s palette and dipped into for hours, even days, as the medium stays soft and pliable. Acrylic paint will dry very quickly on a palette, often before the artist even has a chance to use as much of it as they wanted to! This requires more frequent application from tube to palette, and sometimes a waste of paint. When it comes to applying the paint onto the painting surface, whether or not it quick drying is desired comes down to an artist’s preference. Oil paints give an artist more flexibility for taking their time to create a work, including taking breaks and coming back to it and still being able to manipulate the paint. If an artist is painting with oils in a technique called glazing, which involves building up paint in very thin layers, then the slow drying nature of oil paint can be a disadvantage since it requires much more time to complete the work, as they’re waiting for each layer to dry before continuing. Some artists prefer this time flexibility, and will choose to work on more than one painting at a time to accommodate for the drying time of each. With acrylic paints, however, thin layers, or “washes”, can be built up quite quickly, and layering paint becomes a much faster process. This does mean, though, that an artist must work quickly when blending paints on the surface itself, as acrylic paint doesn’t give much time for this.

Color shifting: Because of their composition, acrylics will dry slightly darker than they appear when first applied. This can be tough, especially with portraits or other compositions where getting the colors just exactly right is important to the artist. The artist may mix what appears to be the perfect color, only to find that when the binder in the acrylic paint dries, it turns from white to clear, and therefore the color darkens slightly. With some practice, artists can get used to this and adjust the mixed paint accordingly, knowing it will shift, but it is still rather inexact this way. Oil paint, on the other hand, has no immediate color shift. What you see when you’re painting is what you’ll get when it’s dry. The caveat here is: oil paint will maintain its color….for a time. Oil paints have a slight yellow tinge to them because of the oil, and with the passing of years, oxidation can cause the paint to take on a more yellowed effect (this does take quite a long time, though). This is just a characteristic of oil paints, and must be taken into account by users. Laboratory tests show a lot of promise for acrylic’s durability over a long stretch of time, but the catch is, they’ve been around less then a century. Time will tell whether they truly do last well, but all signs indicate that they will.

Flexibility: The drying time we discussed comes into play again when looking at flexibility of the paint. Acrylics dry much faster; this means that if an artist uses thick oil paint to create an impasto effect, even when the outer layer of paint has “cured” and is dry to the touch, the inner part of the thick paint strokes may still be somewhat wet. Improper consideration of drying times of the paint can lead to cracking in the paint’s surface over time (yikes), though these days artists have found that there are certain additives which can speed up paint drying time for oils and therefore help to avoid this. Acrylic is much more flexible, simply because of its composition, and has only been known to crack under extreme cold temperatures.

Safety: To spread the paint more easily on the painting surface and achieve the desired texture and drying time, oil paints are mixed with a solvent or resin. These materials are also used in the cleaning of the brushes. The most effective and traditional solvents are turpentine or white spirits, but these create heavy fumes, which are dangerous to breathe in. This danger can be offset with preparation and proper ventilation, or by using alternative thinning materials with less odor (although these can often be much less effective). Acrylic paints, on the other hand, are odorless and non-toxic, and can be thinned with water. A properly prepared artist can paint safely with either option, but they do need to be aware of the necessary precautions for painting with oils!

Examples from Principle Gallery:

In the last week, we’ve had three incredible events here at the gallery and we all got a chance to learn more about both oil and acrylic paints. Last Sunday, we welcomed artist GC Myers to the gallery for his annual artist talk, and learned some more about his process in creating his vibrantly colored acrylic landscape paintings. Acrylics are especially conducive to creating the bright, saturated colors seen in GC’s artworks, and we were thrilled to receive a large number of new work from him that day, all featuring these lovely vibrant colors. Here are a few cool examples, and you can check out the rest on our website here:

9915183 Seeker of Light

GC Myers, “Seeker of Light”

9915230 Perpetua

GC Myers, “Perpetua”

9915234 Floating Melody

GC Myers, “Floating Melody”

The other two events from this past week involved the opening of Casey Childs’ solo exhibition, “Observations.” Friday night, we held an opening reception for the incredible show, which features brand new oil paintings, alla prima oil sketches, and stunning charcoal drawings. We were so pleased to have Casey himself join us for the opening, not to mention come back the following afternoon to give a live oil painting demonstration in the gallery! We watched fascinated as in just over three hours, Casey painted a beautiful portrait from a live model. Check here to see Casey’s whole show, including these beauties:

Girl with Braids HR

Casey Childs, “Girl with Braids”

Henna HR

Casey Childs, “Henna”

Repose(d) HR

Casey Childs, “Repose(d)”

And here is a collage to show you the stages of painting during the amazing live painting demonstration! We hope to have many more live demonstrations during the Saturday after the opening of upcoming shows–keep an eye out for announcements!

Childs Demo Collage

Casey Childs, “Portrait of Gail” during creation