Sunday, January 23, 2011


So, I have been using a Leonardo calendar to get large reproductions that are clear enough to copy in detail and I am learning a great deal about his techniques... enough to know that it will take a long time to reproduce it myself.

One of the big challenges is this thing called "Sfumato" or "smokey" which is the Italian word for his incredibly subtle shading. The blend of changes from darks to lights, and the overall gentleness of his figures is a result of this sfumato thing.

In one of his notebooks, he describes it as drawing "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."

It's very much the opposite of chiaroscuro, the high-contrast light/dark juxtaposition that is so much in Caravaggio and later Italian painters.

Mastery of sfumato is going to take a while, but it is the reason I look at my version of his drawing below, and think, "Well, it's a pretty good drawing of a pretty woman" but I look at his original and think, "It's a magical depiction of a supernatural being". Orders of magnitude of difference.

I was grumbling about my frustration at not being able to do this and of course, when I articulated what the problem is, it sounded ridiculous. "My drawings aren't as good as Leonardo Da Vinci's!!! Wahh!"


Ah, yah.

Sometimes you have to say out loud what your brain is thinking to see how dumb you really are.



Robert said...

For those of us who could no more draw or paint a recognisable human likeness than we could fly to the moon, the standard of your own artworks, Miss White, seems pretty incredibly high.

Hank Rhody said...

It's amazing how often stating the question gives you the answer.

Hank Rhody said...

Also, I spent at least a minute trying to guess what "Sfumato" was a rude internet acronym for.

Y'gotta admit that it's a likely candidate.

Anonymous said...

An artist I know who comes close says he builds up his layers of color or shading so thinly that you cannot see a difference between one session and the next, but maybe three sessions. Possibly the key to sfumato is enormous patience, or more patience.
Hugh of Niagara(verification word "synedru"