Tag Archives: part 1

Research Point 2 – Chiaroscuro

Caravaggio - John the Baptist

Caravaggio – John the Baptist

‘The term chiaroscuro (chiaro meaning light, scuro meaning dark) originated in the Renaissance when it referred to a technique .of drawing on coloured paper by building light tones with gouache and working down to dark tones with ink. It later came to refer to modeling of light in paintings, drawings and prints. The extreme contrast between dark and light areas allowed subtle graduations of tone to create illusions of volume, most notably that of the human form. Chiaroscuro became a common composition device in religious paintings such as those of Caravaggio.

‘Explore the works of some of the artists whose work exemplifies chiaroscuro effects such as Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Rubens. Look at the candlelit studies of some of the northern European artists, most especially Rembrandt and Joseph Wright of Derby. (Remember that until relatively recent, life was lived in pools of candlelight or firelight after the sun went down.) Make notes in your learning log.’

Titian Saint Jerome in the Desert

Titian Saint Jerome in the Desert

Towards the end of the 1500’s, with the new religious appreciations due to the Catholic Reformation, night scenes depicting the life and Passion of Christ became increasingly popular. The artist Titian embarked on a new technique which involved the disintegration of matter in light, particularly in night settings. He would continue to explore the dissolution of light through matter until the end of his days. The Next generation of artists would take over and perfect these dramatic effects of light and colour.

Night scenes would later become known as Nocturnes (a phrase coined by James Abbott McNeill Whistler). It describes a painting style that depicts reminiscent of the night  or subjects as they appear in a veil of light, candlelight, twilight, or in the absence of direct light.

Tintoretto - Lamentation over the Dead Chris

Tintoretto – Lamentation over the Dead Christ

Jacopo Tintoretto

Throughout his long career Jacopo Tintoretto dramatised his nocturnes by drenching them in heavenly lighting, with colours distorted by bold contrasts of light. These lively effects of lighting added drama to his stunning compositions.

Jacopo Tintoretto - The last Supper

Jacopo Tintoretto – The last Supper

Examples of this ‘supernatural lighting’ can be seen in both the Lamentation over the Dead Christ and the last supper where light is depicted coming from a source other than a natural one as to Titian’s St Jerome above which depicts natural moonlight.

Caravaggio

Before moving to Rome, Milanese painter Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan under Simone Peterzano, a former student of Titian.

Caravaggio - Doubting Thomas

Caravaggio – Doubting Thomas

In Rome the Catholic church were in need of a stylish replacement to Mannerism in religious art, a move that they thought would help counter the threat of Protestantism (the counter-reformation), and so there was a demand for paintings to fill the many new churches and palatial buildings being built there.

Caravaggio revolutionized chiaroscuro with a radical form of naturalism combining close physical observations with a dramatic, somewhat theatrical, use of chiaroscuro this came to be known as ‘tenebrism’.

Caravaggio - Saint Jerome Writing

Caravaggio – Saint Jerome Writing

Looking at the paintings of the three artists above you can see the evolution of nocturnes and of course chiaroscuro as a major technique in night paintings. From works of Titian that used the background as an important part of the painting with figures whose forms didn’t wholly employ the technique that it would later become; to the paintings of Caravaggio who had pretty much perfected the technique, at least to where he need to be depicting up-close three dimensional compositions with a clear message that appear to almost leave the canvas.

Peter Paul Rubens

If the paintings of Caravaggio were a Drama then the paintings of  Flemish Baroque painter, Rubens would be a musical. Originally from Cologne in Germany, he was as a catholic by his mother in Antwerp, Belgium.

Peter Paul Rubens - The Fall of Phaeton

Peter Paul Rubens – The Fall of Phaeton

His paintings featured religious scenes in complicated and very dramatic compositions. Rubens became one of the leading voices for the Counter-Reformation style of painting and standing behind what he had worked so hard to ‘promote’ he stated, “My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings”.

It is clear from his paintings that he was a man of faith, something was clearly moving him through these paintings, if not just belief.

Peter Paul Rubens - Adoration of the Magi

Peter Paul Rubens – Adoration of the Magi

Where Caravaggio painted close-up dramatic scenes of a biblical theme with detailed expressions and drapery Rubens’ painted religious scenes in action, depicting flowing drapery and strong movement in his figures, with complicated compositions with several main figures and even horses.

In a lot Rubens paintings it is very clear to me that he started on a dark background particularly in the two paintings that I chose here, ‘Adoration of the Magi’ and

Peter Paul Rubens - Night Scene

Peter Paul Rubens – Night Scene

‘Night Scene’ but then again I now know what I am looking for, to others that don’t,  they see every bit of the composition as if everything in the painting was completed in detail, what the eye doesn’t see, the brain fills in.

 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Rembrandt)

For the best examples of chiaroscuro in Rembrandt’s paintings one needs to look no further than his self-portraits. Rembrandt created nearly one hundred self portraits in his lifetime. Of those one hundred self-portraits seven were drawings, thirty two were etchings and fifty were paintings. Included in those were candelit studies, painting by candle light.

Rembrandt - Self portrait 1657

Rembrandt – Self portrait 1657

Rembrandt’s candlelit studies are great examples of the use of chiaroscuro, I looked at several of his self portraits the technique but ‘Self Portrait 1657’ was one that really stood out, the reasons for this being that you can see how the face and highlights in the hair and hat have been painted building up the light tones on the dark background. I can imagine him painting it, where he started and can even guess some of the brush techniques that he used.

Joseph Wight of Derby 

The artist Joseph Wright of Derby was unknown to me, as an artist that is but is name was famiiar and when I did a search fore information about the artist I came across the Joseph Wright college and it clicked.

Joseph Wright of Deby - An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

Joseph Wright of Deby – An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

Wright is notable for his use of Chiaroscuro, and for his paintings of candle-lit subjects. His paintings of the birth of science out of alchemy, often based on the meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of very influential scientists and industrialists living in the English Midlands, are a significant record of the struggle of science against religious values in the period known as the Age of Enlightenment. – Wikipedia

Joseph Wright  did for the industrial revolution and science as Titian, Tintoretto and Caravaggio did for the counter-reformation, ‘using their own tool against them’ comes to mind. It’s ironic that using chiaroscuro effect was the best way he could describe the candlelit scenes of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ when the chiaroscuro effect had been employed by so many earlier artists who had described religious scenes through their art. His style was very similar to Caravaggio but using more detailed, technical compositions and painting them from a distance. What makes his paintings different from earlier works however, his is exceptional use of shadows.

Bibliography:

http://mini-site.louvre.fr/venise/en/exhibition/holy_nights.html

http://www.wikipedia.com

 

Transparent and Opaque 1 – Tonally Graded Wash

Set up length-ways and look through your colours for either a strong red (such as cadmium red) or Ultramarine. Then put a small amount of pigment on your palete and work inwater or turps until you have a strong fluid mix of the colour. Load a medium wide brush and work from the top to the bottom of the sheet with increasingly dilute mixes of the colour until, at the bottom of the sheet you have a very pale wash, almost faded out to white.

It was eveming and I had neither a string red or so I tried mixing two blues together to start and the only paper I had was a thin 150 gsm watercolour paper. I learnt my lesson, the two acrylic blues werent mixing together as well as i thought they would and the dilute wash was very streaky and between that and the thin paper the results were horrifying.

I decided to start again the next day after I purchased some Ultramarine paint and some nice Canson 300 gsm watercolour paper as well as a good quality medium brush. With the new quality tools i started to produce quality washes.

i found it wasn’t as straight forward as working my way tk the bottom with increasingly dilute mixes, occasionally I had to load up the brusb with a thicker mix and work my way back up to get the graded wash.

intitally started out by bulldog clipping the sheets to the drawing board but as i got better at the tonally graded washes i let the bulldog clip alone.

 

1st Successful Wash Ultramarine

1st Successful Wash Ultramarine

2nd Successful Wash

2nd Successful Wash

3rd Successful Wash

3rd Successful Wash

4th Wash Tonally Graded Wash More Improvement

4th Wash Tonally Graded Wash More Improvement

5th Wash Couldn't ask for better

As the brief instructed I practised this several times until I had a satisfactory progression from deep tones to the very palest tones. All the time controlling the load on the brush and the flow of paint on the paper to avoid the paint running, then I put the ones with the most steadily graded wash aside to dry to be used in the next exercise,  overlaying washes. I then did more washes in a dilute mix of violet as it is close to the original colour on the spectrum (as instructed) and set those aside for the next exercise as well.

6th Wash in Violet

6th Wash in Violet

7th Wash in Violet

7th Wash in Violet

Then i worked wet-in-wet and painted a graded wash of the second colour (violet) on to one of the sheets with the second colour (ultramarine) and vice versa allowing the colours to merge in the centre, what i found was that the violet and ultramarine formed layers of purple as they blended into each other which reminded me of an horizon seen from over the wing of an aeroplane.

8th Wash Wet and Wet

8th Wash Wet and Wet

9th Wash Wet and Wet

9th Wash Wet and Wet

Basic Paint Application 3 – Painting with Pastels

If you’ve got some pastels amongst your art materials, try this exercise.

Luckily for me I have just studied the OCA Drawing 1 Courseand so I have plenty of pastels, in fact I have so many because I have to keep buying boxes just for the white pastel.

Pastels are both a drawing and painting medium, and nowadays are used more in the latter category. The application of oil pastel and soft pastel is very different, particularly in relation to painting:

  • Oil pastel is usually used with turps and can be used to layer and blend.
  • Soft pastel picks up the tooth of the support and can be blended with paint using a damp cloth or brush and water scumbling techniques.

You can cover large areas with the side of a stick, lay one colour over another, and blend colours and tones. Use the points of the sticks for linear details. Practise making marks and blending with pastels; if you have time, use the techniques you’ve discovered to make a simple picture.

I was actually planning to just use oil pastels for this exercise as i the box of soft pastels that i have is a portrait box and yhere isn’t a great deal of contrasting colours in there. However, I decided to give this exercise a go with soft padtels first and the results were satisfying.

With the soft pastels I used a number of techniques, squiggles, hatching zig-zag, smudging, blending with a hard cotton bud ( I lost my tortillon in the move) and a new technique that I wish I had a name for and that was to blend a dark with a deep pink using a wet cloth and then to add lighter colours to the blend. The lighter colours sat on the top of the damp blend and could lightly be rubbed in with a finger or cotton bud. If I put pressure on while rubbing they would disappear into the darker blend below. The results can be seen in bottom right of the image below.

1 - Experimenting with Soft Pastels

1 – Experimenting with Soft Pastels

From there I wanted to use my new found technique which I still don’t have a name for in a simple picture, I was watching Peaky Blinders which gave me an idea, which I realised in the drawing below.

2 - A Simple Drawing with Soft Pastels

2 – A Simple Drawing with Soft Pastels

From there I went onto using oil pastels. I used mostly hatching techniques which was nothing new but what was new was how I blended in the hatching (with my finger). I found that by moving my finger across the hatched lines I could manipulate the oil pastel or drag it horizontally across the hatching. Other techniques I used were using the side of the sticks to cover bigger areas and then ‘dragging’ that into another colour as well as squirkling and blending with the cotton bud.

3 - Experimenting with Oil Pastels

3 – Experimenting with Oil Pastels

It was now time to create a simple picture with the oil pastels and I had something in mind but first it was time to christen my sketchbook. I chose a pose from the last part of the Drawing 1 Course which was actually quite a dramatic pose but I had only used squirkling with oil pastel and this was an opportunity to do more with it, luckily I held on to some photos that I took from that exercise Using Colour.

4 - Painting with Oil Pastels - Getting Familiar with the pose

4 – Painting with Oil Pastels – Getting Familiar with the pose

I picked out the simple details from the pose as I wasn’t working on massive sheets of paper so I needed to know I could recreate in oil pastels.

This time I used a 50/50 white spirit/linseed oil solvent with cotton balls and cotton buds to blend, something I had never done before and it was quite messy. Using this technique I found it quite difficult to get te colours right as lighter colours sat on top of the solvent and would not blend in, it is also taking a very long time to dry. I feel that it would have been better on a larger sheet of paper using my finger/cotton bud/tortillon to blend the colours like in the experimental stage above.

5 - Painting with Oil Pastels and Solvent Mixture

5 – Painting with Oil Pastels and Solvent Mixture