Monday, December 22, 2014

Photos of Sorolla Painting [feedly]



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Photos of Sorolla Painting
// Gurney Journey

JoaquĆ­n Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923) executed many of his famous paintings outdoors under the most challenging conditions, and fortunately there are photographs to show his ingenious panting setups.

I can't imagine a more dynamic and difficult subject: children, fabric, moving water, animals, and boats in the surf, contre-jour lighting, and probably sand, spectators, and worst of all, wind. All in a day's work for Sr. Sorolla.
He's working on a folding wooden tripod easel that was pretty typical for his times. His palette is resting on a low folding chair or table to his left. Even with the wide stance of the tripod, a gust of wind would blow this thing over. He always has a nice suit of clothes, good shoes, and a different hat.

The palette is in the left hand, and there's a chair on the right with the paint and brushes easy to reach. There's probably a farmer out of frame with a bowl of scraps doled out slowly to keep the pigs in place.

He's sitting this time, which lowers the center of windage. The paint box is on the chair at right. If that's an assistant, he seems to be holding another chair. 

The kids are taking turns as models. There seems to be a weight hanging from the easel to stabilize it, and the top of the panting appears to be resting against the rope. Judging from the fabric bellying out at right, the wind is a factor.

Now he's working much larger. The stretched canvas is mounted on a hefty wooden base structure, perhaps with some wood pieces driven down into the sand. The ladder/scaffold lets him reach higher in the picture. A couple of assistants are there to help. 

Here's what he is working on. Even with models for the kid and the horse to look at, there's a lot of memory work involved here.

Now he's working on the epic mural project on the peoples of Spain. He has enlisted local models to pose outdoors in costume. The large canvas is held vertical with weighted diagonals, and the base of the canvas is about a foot off the ground.

In his studio, he often has his palette on a low table and used long brushes to be able to paint with a full arm reach, backing up as far as he could to compare the painting to the model.


Here he's painting in the garden of the manor "Vista Alegre." He has portable stairs to stand on and a wooden box for his paints. There's a box-like structure built around the whole gigantic painting, and some shear fabric held up on both sides, which was described as "an awning to protect the paint." 

It looks like a set-up that he could leave deployed for a while. An observer recalled seeing "the construction of a large boardwalk outdoors where he could install his paintings and a scaffold to support the frame weight." The models were employees of the estate, and he also needed to hire a translator because he had difficulty understanding Galician. (Read more about this on a Spanish website.)

The big painting seen in the photo is "Galicia," one of the murals from the Hispanic Society in New York.
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"Fire and Ice" backgrounds [feedly]



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"Fire and Ice" backgrounds
// Gurney Journey


Detail from Frank Frazetta's poster art for Fire and Ice, from Frazetta.net
Director Robert Rodriguez announced a few days ago that he has completed a deal with Sony to produce a live action version of the 1983 Ralph Bakshi animated film Fire and Ice, based on the artwork of Frank Frazetta.

I was one of two background painters on the film. The other was my friend Tom Kinkade, who later on became the "Painter of Light." Each of us had to produce about 600 paintings at a rate of about 11 per week, while working on our instructional book "The Artist's Guide to Sketching" on the weekends. 

 Some background paintings were fairly large — this establishing shot of the volcano city of Fire Keep is about 16x20 inches, and it took me three days. It's painted with cel vinyl animation paint and airbrush.

The layouts were drawn by Tim Callahan on illustration board. He started with photos of the actors, who blocked out each scene on a soundstage. Animators used the rotoscoped live action as a starting point, but then used their imaginations to create the action. The soundstages had ramps and scaffolding, which we had to turn into jungles and volcanos and ice caverns.

We painted the foreground elements on acetate overlays. Each sequence was held within a specific color gamut, usually with the color of the sky keying the mood of everything else.

Here's one of the paintings I did of a spooky forest. We were looking at Frazetta's paintings for inspiration, but also at N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Frederic Church, and a lot of other artists. Frazetta and Bakshi often visited the background room to hang out with us and talk about art. We had a lot of good laughs together. 

Here's another establishing shot that I did, influenced not just by Frazetta, but also by Roy Krenkel and the Orientalists. It will be fun to see what Rodriguez does with filmmaking tools that are very different from what we had in the early 1980s.

Here's the trailer for the original film (YouTube link)
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Haddon Sundblom [feedly]



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Creating Light by Alternating Warm and Cool Color [feedly]



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Creating Light by Alternating Warm and Cool Color
// The Artist's Life

My new book, Universal Principles of Art, presents one hundred chapters, each dealing with a single idea about making art. As well as laying out these concepts in simple, jargon-free English, the book provides roadmaps for their use in the practical business of making art. The chapter, Color as Light, deals with the Impressionists' discovery that a sensation of light could be recreated on the canvas in a way that was radically new. One of the principles they put into play was that of alternating warm and cool color.

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas.

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son
by Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas.

I take as my example Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet. To understand how the extraordinary sense of air and light is achieved in this painting we have to examine how the artist organized the color relationships throughout the picture.

Monet had discovered that by breaking up colors into their components a painting could be made to feel more vibrant. Shadows that might have been painted grey or brown in previous generations were now composed of small strokes in a variety of more saturated hues. The viewer would recombine these to an optical equivalent of a more subtle color as he looked at the painting. The resulting sense of shimmer and life provided a more present sensation of light. 

But just breaking up the color wasn't quite enough. In order to achieve light the artist had to put a further principle into play, the alternation of warm and cool color. This is a fundamental idea in color perception.

In any given visual field the viewer will sense that some colors read as warmer or cooler than others. Further, when a form takes on light, the viewer will perceive that the color temperature tends to alternate as light moves across the form.   

This can be seen in the white dress in Monet's painting. There is a warm, red brown ground underneath the painting and the darker shadows are painted in a heavier warm brown. The halftone shadows, which comprise most of the dress, are painted in blues alternating between cool turquoises and warmer violets. Farther up the dress a much warmer yellow works as reflected light thrown into the shadow. The sudden highlight on the edge of the dress is a clear, cool white.

Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas. Detail.
Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas. Detail, umbrella.
Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas. Detail, shadow.
This alternation of warm dark shadows, cool halftone shadows, warm mid-lights and cool highlights is taken up again and again in Monet's painting. In the parasol, for instance, the green in the shadow shifts from a warm green in the darker part of the shadow to a cooler blue green in the lighter part. 

A full range of darks to lights can be seen in the grass where the deeper darks are dominated by warm red browns, the half tone shadows go to a cool blue green, the mid-lights are warm yellow greens and the highlights cool off.   

Of course to achieve an illusion as successful as Monet's the precise color combinations have to be judged quite accurately and the painter must be alive to exactly how each passage is reading.  No principle or idea will guarantee a successful work of art.  But looking for warm-to-cool alternations on forms as they take on light will allow you to create a much greater sense of illumination.

Universal Principles of Art is published by Rockport Publishers.  A sneak preview is available on Amazon

--John

 


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