Monday, December 06, 2010

Almost finished another one this weekend

A study by Michelangelo for one of his ignudi for the Sistine Chapel.

I've solved the problem of finding inexpensive prints of the great painters to copy. The ones in books are fine but they tend to be very small, and small is difficult.

Solution? Calendars. There are a lot of Italian art calendars around this town.

My idea lately is to try to learn to eyeball as much of it as possible, using the plumbline to plot points as little as I can. I started the contour outline with just about ten plotted points.

Then as the contour line was finished, I mostly did the halftones and cast shadows by eye.

The face will need some serious point-plotting however. I had to re-do that mouth about three times, which in sanguine is really problematic, since once you have erased it is very difficult to get the pencil to lay down a mark over the erased bits.

The suddenly-disappearing-line: one of the exciting quirks of sanguine pencils. Scrub at it as much as you like, no line will appear on any surface that has been interrupted with erasing, or has had too much oil rubbed into it from your fingers.

I think I'll be buying a mahl stick soon too, since I ended up using a square of tissue, held in the crook of my little finger so I could rest my hand on the page without marking it or smudging.

I toned the lighest parts, the left forearm, the right thigh, where the light fell, using sanguine powder I collected when I was sharpening my pencil with sand paper. I just took a little watercolour brush and dusted it as evenly as I could. I found that with the lighest parts, the untoned paper left too high a contrast and the cool tone of the greyscale paper looked just a little odd with the warm tone of the sanguine. I tried it at first just because it seemed a shame to throw away all that sanguine powder. Now I think I'm going to collect it in a little jar and keep it around.

I found that I just couldn't get a dark enough mark with the sanguine pencil for the darkest shadows, so I cheated a little and shaded in the darker contrasts with an HB. I wondered how Michelangelo managed to get such dark lines but thought he was probably using a stick of pure sanguine, rather than a modern manufactured pencil and that I had no idea how big the original was. For all I knew, the original was big enough to use a sanguine stick as thick as my thumb that would make very dark marks. Or maybe he used a bit of charcoal on the darker bits and blended them together.

Going to try to finish tomorrow.

I've discovered that sanguine is an incredible pain in the butt to work with, but I like the results so much that I think I'm going to stick with it. Graphite is easier but not nearly so pleasing.

My pencil collection. I go through odd phases where I obsessively buy HBs.

Andrea working. She hates having her picture taken, but I thought this was a good one. And it gives a nice idea of the calm and quiet atmpshere in the studio. Outside, the Big City roars and rages; inside all is calm and good sense.

The tomb of Blessed Fra Angelico in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, my favourite of the Big Churches in Rome.


S. Petersen said...

Your work is very fine. Some of us seem to do so little but you are good at art and blogging and, presumably, are a good Catholic. And you're staying in Italy.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Never presume.

Louise said...

Love the photo of Andrea. Why do I think Vermeer?

hjw said...

cause you saw that movie?

Louise said...

That must be it. For whatever reason, it is a lovely photograph.