Category: Art blog

Browse drawing lessons, painting techniques, art show reviews, art history lessons, and studio notes in the art blog by Veronica Winters

Judge Roy Moore represents worship of power and money

I’ve changed my belief that heroes are right saving everyone. Heroes should save children. Assholes will save themselves trumping over everyone around them in any situation. Assholes find a way out by cheating, lying and ignoring principles of morality.

Predators, like the Alabama GOP candidate for US Senate judge Roy Moore stay in power because they reflect the society. Not everyone, but enough people who support a child molester for greater good. When I’ve heard of Roy Moore’s allegations I was also skeptical at first. But his interview made it clear. Roy Moore admits that he “always asked for mother’s permission” to date a girl. There is no need to ask for the permission, when the girl is 18. Moreover, how creepy could you be to be banned from a mall or to call to school? I think 9 women who have already stepped out make plenty of evidence to investigate the case. Yet, many support a person who is for Christian values pissing on the Bible with his actions. Society closes its eyes on Roy Moore because it’s important to win the election to resist the democrats and to unite in a “fight.”  For what I wonder? Definitely not for the rights of teen girls that are traumatized for life by Roy Moore and men like him.

You can’t vote for this man because of other beliefs he supports. Principles of morality can’t be separated and compartmentalized to cherry pick one over the other. His supporters are in denial of the obvious and pretend that those women just came out because of the election. And I agree it’s the case. Why? Because it’s the only time when they finally have a chance to bring him down. They wouldn’t be able to do this 20-30 years ago because women were shamed for actions like this one. Now is their time to come out of obscurity, and to stop being afraid.

Where do we go from here? Why do we fire one man for sexual harassment instantly and this one gets ‘forgiven’ for what happened decades ago? How could he possibly stand for conservative values, proclaiming himself as a defender of marriage when it’s one big problem he doesn’t want to deal with.

And if Roy Moore wins this election, it only means that the society as a whole is not ready to think and act in terms of love and compassion for others (abused children), rather people still prefer thinking in pragmatic terms of monetary rewards and promises. If child molesting is your principle, please don’t justify it by your Christian values. That’s precisely why some people like me don’t believe in the institution. This worship of power and money won’t make America great again.

salvator mundi by leonardo da vinci_veronica winters blog, fake orb

The Salvator Mundi painting of Leonardo da Vinci: is it real or fake? da Vinci’s orb is not his.

 

The Salvator Mundi oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519)

After reviewing all available information online, images and other literature I’ve found about this work, I believe that the Salvator Mundi is not pure da Vinci. If not a skillful forgery, this painting has passages painted by Leonardo with the rest filled in by his student at best. The more I study this painting, the more inconsistencies appear in the entire image of the Salvator Mundi. In the following text you’ll find why the authentication process of da Vinci’s work is so speculative.

da vinci salvator mundi after restoration
“Salvator Mundi” Oil on walnut panel, 25 13/16 x 17 7/8 inches (65.6 x 45.4 cm), Private Collection

The last artwork authenticated as Leonardo’s – the Benois Madonna (the Hermitage, St. Petersburg) was over 100 years ago. With just about 15 paintings coming down to us, finding a new da Vinci is extremely rare, which partially explains its price. Now we know that it’s the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. Salvator Mundi  or Savior of the World sold for the astronomical $450,312,500 (that includes buyer’s premium) at Christie’s New York. While you can find plenty of information online about the artwork’s ownership and how the Salvator Mundi arrived at Christie’s, I’d like to talk about this painting from the artistic point of view and what inconsistencies I see in it, despite the fact that I’m not a Leonardo’s expert. When art sells for millions we want to question its origin from the get go. We can also say that when art sells for millions, every expert would agree on its provenance, right? I’ve changed my mind after listening to the interview with an art dealer Robert Simon who made me believe it’s the real Leonardo because of a very slow process of discoveries he outlines in his story (Suggested Donation podcast: http://www.suggesteddonationpodcast.com/blog/2015/9/15/episode-21-robert-simon). After listening to the podcast, I got interested in researching the available documentation and imagery, and therefore the more I looked, the more doubtful I became of its origin once again. Here is why.

The over painted version of Salvator Mundi is on the left, while the restored version is on the right.

In his story Robert Simon describes the terrible condition he found the artwork in. Although he saw the beautiful hand immediately that didn’t correspond stylistically to a harshly overprinted face, Mr. Simon had no idea it would be art by da Vinci when he got this artwork. In the interview you’ll learn how slow the process of discovery actually was, working closely with the restorer Dianne Dwyer Modestini, Senior Research Fellow and Conservator of the Kress Program in Paintings Conservation at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Both of them found clues to the fact that this artwork may be by Leonardo, and eventually Robert Simon introduced this painting to the Leonardo’s experts in London to see if it were his indeed.

 

The strongest references leading to the existence of the Salvator Mundi by da Vinci

In the scholarly article by Joanne Snow-Smith she traces the whereabouts of the artist by looking at the trail of paperwork registered in royal courts. She concludes that Louis XII, the king of France, ordered a direct commission to Leonardo da Vinci in 1507, made payments for it between 1507-11, and demanded its completion and turn over in 1513. So the artwork was painted between 1507-1513 (painting on and off for years is a lot like da Vinci). And the artist turned it in in 1513 to the king’s intermediaries. Next year the king’s wife died and he donated the artwork to a convent in 1514 where it remained for over a century until it got to Charles I royal collection. Below you’ll find images with dates that don’t quite correspond to this timeline. For instance, Leonardo’s studies of clothed arms and chest were done between 1504-8 and many paintings with similar composition are dated before 1507. Joanne Snow-Smith proposes that Leonardo painted two copies of the Salvator Mundi based on similarities and differences in the etching, copy paintings and the Windsor castle drawings. ( Source: “The Salvator Mundi of Leonardo da Vinci” by Joanne Snow-Smith, Arte Lombarda Nuova Serie, No. 50 (1978), pp. 69-81).

So the Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi painting existed for sure,  maybe even in two versions, which is also possible because the artist painted two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks. What raises questions if the etching was done from that da Vinci’ painting hidden in the convent for a century. The etching by Hollar becomes important because it’s one of the strongest visual references to the proposed original, or perhaps, it served as a prototype for a beautiful forgery. I’ll explain why.

 

Wenceslaus Hollar’s etching, 1650 | Before the modern printing process ever came to existence, it was common practice to produce etchings of masterworks for wider distribution among the royalty, wealthy and public. It’s definite that Leonardo worked on the concept of this painting because he gave it to Louis XII in 1513, and one etching (3 versions of the etching) completed by Wenceslaus Hollar after the original were registered in the royal collection of Charles I of England. Hollar signs and dates his etching, with Latin inscription that ‘Leonardo da Vinci painted it.’ This etching was done from Hollar’s previous drawing that he could have sketched while on a visit to the convent.  According to Robert Simon the etching has a large jewel in the clothing that was painted over and then re-discovered in the original painting during the restoration. Yet, there is no clear evidence that the Leonardo’s painting was indeed the prototype for this etching.

(What is etching? Intaglio or etching is one of the oldest forms of printmaking where an artist would draw an image with a needle on a metal plate, engrave it with an acid, then charge with ink to impress the picture on paper with the press.  A single image could have many stages or states in its development when the artist increases contrast by building up strokes in the shadows. Every new state goes through the same process of acid corrosion, inking and printing.  Because the artist hand-inks the plate and decides how much ink to remove from it, the final image may appear much lighter or darker. Not a single stroke can be removed, so artists exercised great control over the quality and quantity of their strokes. Master etchers among the old masters to check out are Rembrandt and Durer.)

If we begin to compare this etching to the discovered Salvator Mundi we can observe three things. The eyes look in different direction. Christ has a definite beard in the Hollar’s etching unlike in the presented painting, and the depiction of the orb’s reflection is not what the scientist artist would actually see but is repetitive in both etching and da Vinci’s painting, and even copy paintings. If the etching was done from the original da Vinci, it raises questions how the artist could have ignored the effects of optics he studied so carefully. (Below you’ll find my photos of the orb and how it appears placed in a hand).

The second strongest visual reference to the existence of the Salvator Mundi are da Vinci’s studies located in Windsor castle collection.

two drapery studies for salvator Mundi by da Vanci
Two drapery studies – preparatory drawings for the Salvator Mundi by da Vanci  in the royal collections at Windsor Castle, England, 1504-1508. These two drawings is a clear evidence that Leonardo studied the folds and disposition of Christ’s tunic and its sleeves. The drawings are modeled in two colors in chalk characteristic for the classical method of drawing in that period.  These studies of drapery show that Leonardo’s was influenced by Greco-Roman art and must have studied classical sculpture during his travels in Rome and wanted the clothing look natural and graceful. It also proves that he worked on the concept of the painting. 

We can also see that the drawings show two different positions of the arms with folds falling differently. One of the hand positions is captured fairly closely to the original drawing in the etching and painting. This serves as evidence to connecting the painting to these prep studies for the Salvator Mundi. (Images: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/912525/studies-of-drapery-for-a-salvator-mundi | https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/912524/a-study-of-drapery-for-a-salvator-mundi).

 

Albrecht_Dürer and school of da vinci_mundi
1. Albrecht Dürer, c.1505, (unfinished), The Met        2.   School of Leonardo da Vinci, c.1503           3.  Cesare da Sesto, 1516, Wilanow Palace, Poland (Images source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvator_Mundi_(Leonardo) )

There are also many copy paintings made from either the original or the etching, letting us believe that the artists were familiar with the original composition of the Salvator Mundi and painted either copies or their interpretations on the theme. By looking at these painted copies we can see striking similarities to the etching and the da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in the depiction of both hands, the orb, and the figure positioning painted by various artists. However, based on the existing documents and style, the da Vinci painting was painted between 1507 and 1513, while he was in the service of king Louis XII, which places some of the copies before  da Vinci finished working on his painting. Unless da Vinci had conceived and began working on this composition before 1503 (Mona Lisa was begun between 1503-6), and other artists had already seen it, it’s difficult to believe that this composition is original Leonardo.  Leonardo’s drawings of clothed arms are dated 1504-8. Therefore it’s either the fact that these paintings were done after a different painting (and not from the da Vinci’s), or Leonardo borrowed the composition and its elements for his work from the Flemish painters and the Vera Icon (Head of Christ) by van Eyck (now lost and existing in contemporary copies of his workshop). Or Leonardo made the first version of his painting before working on the Louis XII commission, which is less likely.

Salvator Mundi, Workshop of Hans Memling, Flemish, 1475-99, the Met. “Christ is shown here as the Savior of the World, holding in his left hand a cross-topped globe representing the earth, while his right hand is raised in blessing. This was a popular type of image in fifteenth-century Flemish painting and merged the themes of the Holy Face (Christ’s features miraculously imprinted on a cloth) and Christ in Majesty.” (Source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437061)
Vera Icon (Head of Christ), Jan van Eyck workshop

 

Hans_Memling veronica holding her veil, 1470 and christ in turin
Hans Memling, Veronica holding her veil,” 1470, early Flemish painting (left) | Veronica’s Veil with the image of Christ on display in, Turin, Italy

 

What looks like Leonardo?

His Face

By looking at some copy paintings above it’s easy to see that these artists were able to copy the beautiful hand, orb and delicate pattern of the clothing. However, none of them could copy the same glowing face of the da Vinci painting. The ambiguous face in the Salvator Mundi is so much like Leonardo. Illusive. Ethereal. Glowing. The artist achieved such appearance by glazing very thin layers of oil paint mixed with the medium (walnut oil) to produce this effect – the sfumato technique, the very style we see in the Mona Lisa, the Saint John the Baptist, and in the Virgin and Child with St. Anne. And by looking at the painting for the first time without studying it carefully, it’s easy to conclude that it’s by Leonardo because the painting style is so similar to other works of this period by the artist.

da Vinci faces taken from his paintings from left to right: 1. Angel from the Madonna of the Rocks 2. Salvator Mundi 3. The St. John the Baptist 4. Virgin of the Rocks 5. The Virgin and Child with St. Anne (bottom) 6. Mona Lisa 7. La Belle Ferronniere 8. drawing for The Virgin and Child with St. Anne .

In traditional way of painting the artist sketches out the form in a warm brown paint on panel or canvas, and develops color and volume in subsequent layering. In the technique of the old masters multiple layers were very thin to achieve the desired atmospheric effect. The da Vinci’s sfumato technique involves multiple glazing of thin paint, so thin that some areas don’t even show up in the X-ray examinations. In his podcast interview Robert Simon describes how they took a probe on the face of the Salvator Mundi to reveal 17 layers of paint.

However, while the painting style is so Leonardonesque, the crooked tip of the nose and the cross-eyed appearance of Christ raise questions for me as an artist. Being a scientist, Leonardo’s anatomy drawings show exquisite understanding and perfection of human form of that period, so these anatomical discrepancies look like obvious flaws. Why would the artist paint the body of Christ with such symmetry and ignore the symmetry of the eyes and nose? One explanation is that the panel has cracked and warped so much in five centuries that it changed the appearance of the drawing in the nose and chipped off some paint in the eyes (which is hard to believe because the pupils look so uneven, and the shape of the eyes is different).   I would like to hear the restorer’s explanation to understand this. If you look at this picture where I overlay straight lines over his face, you can see how really crooked the nose is, which lines up with the mouth but not with the top part of the face. The eyes don’t line up either, each having a different shape. In other Leonardo’s drawings and paintings you can see a more complicated rotations of the head that demand a perfect line up of facial features.

Moreover, In the Hollar’s etching we can observe that the Christ’s eyes look in a different direction compared to the painting. The man also wears a definite beard in the etching unlike in the da Vinci’s painting that looks illusive.

The face has a beard. The eyes look in a different direction than the found da Vinci.

On top of that the presented Salvator Mundi has a non-existent neck. When you look at the line up of faces from da Vinci paintings above, you see a different style of handling neck painting by the artist. All of them are cylinder-like and quite definite.

His Hand

The Salvator Mundi blessing hand is the most realistic, da Vinci-like element in the entire painting. It’s elegant design and unbelievably well-painted anatomy make it the best hand by Leonardo I’ve seen in comparison to his other paintings.

The Salvator Mundi’s hand is the most beautiful element in the entire painting.
Details of hands painted by da Vinci.

His Hair

Details of the curly hair painted by da Vinci.

While we can see the Leonardonesque hair in this portrait where every strand is observed, this visual element is actually prone to copying well by other artists (see the image above of Salvator Mundi, School of Leonardo da Vinci, c.1503 ). And it was a popular element in Italian painting too that makes it much harder to make a statement that Leonardo was the only artist painting these beautiful curls in this manner. Leonardo got his initial training in the Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop in Florence where he assisted the master artist in completion of art, working among many other students.

Here is first known work where da Vinci painted the angel to the left.

Verrocchio,_Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Battesimo_di_Cristo sm
Verrocchio with the assistance of Leonardo da Vinci, the Baptism of Christ.

 

Verrocchio, Tobias and the Angel | This painting shows how Verrocchio himself painted the curly hair.

 

These are examples of other artists painting the curly hair before and after da Vinci. They have similar style that makes it fairly possible to copy da Vinci’s hair. | From left to right: Italian painting details, Turin and Durer’s self-portraits.

How the painting gets cleaned

1. The removed overpainting reveals the image beneath it.      2. Overpainted version                                              3. The restored painting

 

In general, paintings get cleaned by removing the varnish, which is a protective coating that traps the dirt and UV light, and protects the oil paint from damage. Usually the removal of old varnish, reveals a much lighter and brighter painting with the original, beautiful colors painted by the artist. High-quality paints wouldn’t fade as much, rather would become more transparent with age. What we see in the first image is the removal of the overpainted image that reveals the original painting underneath it. White lines look like gesso marks crudely painted over the cracks of the original painting trying to fill them in. Oil paint is applied over the gesso to create a painting. By comparing the first and the last image we can see how much restoration was done. In the interview Mr.Simon says that the Salvator Mundi came to him in terrible condition: the walnut panel had a big vertical crack that was poorly repaired and repainted multiple times over. Smaller cracks and hastily repairs damaged the surface to a great degree.

Dianne Modestini made an incredible job cleaning and restoring the artwork. She didn’t just create a new version of Christ like we see in the overpainted image in the center. Rather, she stripped the painting down to its original state, fixing the “scratches.” The Da Vinci’s signature style – sfumato and the ethereal appearance of the face, are present after 500 years from its creation. The original color of clothing may have been different, however, probably having brighter blues in the beginning. Here is what the restorer says about the painting on Christie’s website.

“Dianne Modestini explains that the original walnut panel on which Leonardo, who was known for his use of experimental material, executed Salvator Mundi contained a knot which had split early in its history. However, she concludes that important parts of the painting are remarkably well-preserved, and close to their original state. These include both of Christ’s hands, the exquisitely rendered curls of his hair, the orb, and much of his drapery. The magnificently executed blessing hand, Modestini notes, is intact. With regards to the face, Modestini comments, ‘Fortunately, apart from the discrete losses, the flesh tones of the face retain their entire layer structure, including the final scumbles and glazes. These passages have not suffered from abrasion; if they had I wouldn’t have been able to reconstruct the losses.’

During the conservation process, pentimenti — preliminary compositional ideas, subsequently changed by the artist in the finished painting, but not reflected in the etching or painted copies — are observed through infrared imaging, and duly photographed. The most prominent is a first position for the thumb in the blessing hand, more upright than in the finished picture. IRR imagery also reveals distinct handprints, especially evident on the proper left side of Christ’s forehead, where the artist smoothed and blotted the paint with his palm. This kneading of the paint in order to create soft and amorphous effects of shadow and light is typical of the artist’s technique in the latter part of Leonardo’s career. ” (source: http://www.christies.com/features/Salvator-Mundi-timeline-8644-3.aspx )

da Vinci’s materials and the preparatory ground

Because the artwork’s creation is placed close to the Mona Lisa painting in its style and dates, one of the clues to the authentication of the Salvator Mundi  would be the examination and analysis under a microscope of preparatory ground (gesso) underneath the oil paint. It’s known that Leonardo tinted the ground in two colors: blue under the top/ landscape area; red under the bottom area in Mona Lisa, La Belle Ferronniere, The Musician, and St. Anne. ( Pietro C. Marani, Leonardo da Vinci, the complete paintings, Harry N. Abrams, inc. publishers, p. 198). Such examination would also reveal marks of an underlying drawing traced in the ground. Christie’s website mentions spolveri — pouncing — can be seen running along the line of the upper lip. “The rest of the body has a much looser, brushy underdrawing, with further small changes of mind. This combination of careful preparation for the head and much greater improvisation for the body is characteristic of Leonardo.” The X-rays would show different positions or variations of features from the finished painting. Because da Vinci painted in very thin glazes, some elements like an illusive smile or hair may not show up in the X-rayed images.

On the Christie’s website you’ll find this statement. “Powerfully convincing evidence of Leonardo’s authorship was provided by the discovery of numerous pentimenti — preliminary composition ideas, subsequently changed by the artist in the finished painting, but not reflected in the etching or painted copies. The most prominent of these — a first position for the thumb in the blessing hand, more upright than in the finished picture — was uncovered and photographed during the conservation process.” Further examination with infrared imaging would show additional pentimenti- changes in the drawing, which are recorded on the Christie’s website as subtle changes found in the contour of the hand holding the orb.

While these discoveries of pentimenti and spolveri are good indications of the old master work, they are not exclusive to Leonardo’s method of work. And if we think of a careful forgery, this method of working on a painting could have been forged after reading a comprehensive book on Leonardo.

Da Vinci was famous for his experimentation with materials and techniques (Look at the terrible condition of the Last Supper mural). While most artists of his time painted on poplar panels, he chose the walnut one. (Half of his paintings are on poplar wood). He also was one of the first painters to use the walnut oil, which slows down the drying time of oil paint and thus allows for a prolonged painting period. While the walnut oil doesn’t yellow unlike the linseed oil, it’s less stable and may contribute to a weaker bond between many layers of paint and thus makes the painting more susceptible to damage in the long run.

“Technical examinations and analyses have demonstrated the consistency of the pigments, media, and technique discovered in Salvator Mundi  with those known to have been used by Leonardo. Syson notes particularly the use of precious lapis lazuli in the Christ’s celestial blue clothes, a practice that was unusual at this date, suggestive of the opulence of the commission.”

Da Vinci was not the only artist to use precious pigments in his art.  Florentine artist Giotto (c. 1266-1337) comes to mind. Therefore it can’t be a strong argument to authenticate the painting based on the precious pigments used, in my opinion.

What’s fake? (or added after Leonardo)

The da Vinci’s orb is not by da Vinci

The orb’s reflection makes this painting the hardest thing to believe that it’s by da Vinci. It’s painted with transparency of glass that’s impossible to achieve, considering the shape and properties of the orb, regardless its material. da Vinci was a scientist who studied the effects of optics and light extensively. His knowledge of optics is shown in his atmospheric quality of layering paint on figures and landscape backgrounds. There are many scientific drawings made by Leonardo that show his curiosity and understanding of nature. As an artist he was exceptional at perfecting every aspect of a painting: composition, atmosphere, color, anatomy, etc. While in the following pictures you’ll see how the orb’s reflection actually looks like, I want to speculate that Da Vinci’s original was unfinished at the time he needed to give it to the king Louis XII, and it was hastily completed by one of his students. Leonardo was notorious for not finishing his projects (and not just paintings), and like in the Mona Lisa case, it’s presumed the painting traveled with the artist, and he worked on it on and off for about 5 years.

 

da vinci orb a fake?
I took these pictures of the orb under different lighting conditions and points of view to illustrate the essence of a problem we see in the painting. The orb’s real reflection is very different from the painting’s. The orb can reflect in three ways. 1. The image of the surroundings turns upside down in the orb when you partially hold it or place it on a stand. 2. The orb reflects the surroundings without turning them upside down. In the second row you see my studio and me reflected in the orb. 3. The orb magnifies the palm of the hand big time (the last row). Depending on the viewer’s point of view, you may also see a weak reflection of the surroundings besides the reflected hand. But in no circumstances the orb can be as transparent as you see in the Salvator Mundi painting.

Isaacson believes that this was “a conscious decision on Leonardo’s part”,[33] and speculates that either Leonardo felt a more accurate portrayal would be distracting, or “he was subtly trying to impart a miraculous quality to Christ and his orb”.[32] Kemp, on the other hand, says the doubled outline of the heel of the hand holding the sphere—which the restorer described as a pentimento—is an accurate rendering of the refraction produced by a calcite sphere.[27] 

Both of these statements are weak on substance because a change in material of the orb wouldn’t make it glass-like, and it seems close to impossible that Leonardo would override his scientific side in favor of creative interpretation. ( da Vinci considered himself a scientist, not a painter by writing a letter to L. Sforza of Milan offering his services to the court as a military engineer.)

Composition and background

Many are concerned with the provenance of artwork due to its tight, so-unlike-da-Vinci composition and a dark, empty background. While the background itself is of a lesser concern here because da Vinci painted several artworks with similar, dark background, what’s unclear why the figure is so frontal and sits so close to the edge.

The_Lady_with_an_Ermine and st john the baptist by da vinci
The Lady with an Ermine, 1489 and St. John the Baptist by da Vinci | These two works are attributed to da Vinci. They both have a single figure placed in a very dark background. The rotation of the figures is characteristic of Leonardo as well as the 3/4 view unlike what we see in the Salvator Mundi.

 

No realist artist would allow himself to place a figure so tight to the edge of the frame like we see in the Salvator Mundi. While this is a common mistake for a beginner, artists like da Vinci just couldn’t afford sacrificing composition to this degree. When the form is so close to the edge, it creates tension, which every good artist tries to avoid making. If the sleeve or hand get cropped, it should look intentional and more definite (like we see in the Impressionists). In this painting we observe Christ’s hands and arms sitting so unbelievably close to the edge of the painting, the figure barely fits in the frame. The only explanation of such positioning is cropping of a wood panel at a later stage in history of the painting. But we can see the same cropping of the figure in the Hollar’s etching and copy paintings! How would this be possible? Was the original painting cropped within the first 100 years of storage in a convent? What would be the reason for doing so? No adequate frame was found around to fit it in? Was the etching done not from the original da Vinci, which makes this painting forged from the etching itself?

In his art Leonardo rotated the figures to get a more dynamic position of a sitter. He either twisted the figures or used three-quarters view in portraiture art.  Was it his intention to reverse to the iconic imagery of the Medieval art to create a more universal image of Christ? There is a long history of iconography with frontal depiction of Christ that makes me think if Leonardo could make himself skip on his innovations in composition, reverting to this Medieval, symmetrical image of Christ.

Some argue that it’s work by Leonardo because of the triangular composition (hands and head form a triangle). However, triangles were widely used by many artists as a design element in painting. We can also argue that the Salvator Mundi is either a forgery or an inspiration for other artists by comparing its composition to the Durer’s self-portrait at 28. What’s interesting here is that although Durer was German, he traveled to Italy around that time and may have seen the da Vinci’s work-in-progress in person, because this self-portrait is drastically different from his previous two. Or we can argue that the forger tried to create this universal, frontal image of Christ basing it off of the etching and Durer’s portrait.

 

Dürer_self_portrait_28
Durer, self-portrait at 28, 1500, oil on wood

 

Conclusion

The more I study the Salvator Mundi, the more questions it raises. And the deeper I go, the more puzzling the inconsistencies become, placing a veil of serious doubt over this painting. Despite my first impression that the portrait has this da Vinci signature look where every detail is carefully observed and the skin has his glow, all the problems I’ve listed above make me think that it’s either Leonardo’s underpainting finished by his student (considered the Old Master’s work), or it’s a complete forgery.  What’s clear is that it’s not enough to compare da Vinci artworks visually. Only a thorough examination of all written documents as well as modern chemical analysis of the painting (and the etching) could authenticate the present Salvator Mundi by giving us the original dates. No matter how much time the experts would spend comparing this work to others done by da Vinci, there is still a lot of doubt in place if it’s his. And if it’s not a skillful forgery, the Leonardo’s style is most definite in the face and the blessing hand, not in the orb, hair or fabric, which are fairly easy to forge.

Of course, this painting and its origin may deserve the criticism it receives from people working in the field that includes many experts on da Vinci’s art. Perhaps it may receive some criticism from art critics like we see here by Jerry Saltz. However, if someone is not an artist, hasn’t held a brush long enough to understand how hard realist painting is, or has meager knowledge of art history should refrain from posting negative comments about the artwork and moreover about the restorer herself on social media, which I’ve seen a lot. Please don’t troll without substance.

Resources:

Scholarly papers database http://www.jstor.org | Snow-Smith, J. (1978). The Salvator Mundi of Leonardo da Vinci. Arte Lombarda, (50), nuova serie, 69-81. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43105161

Pietro C. Marani, Leonardo da Vinci, the complete paintings, Harry N. Abrams, inc. publishers

Windsor Castle royal collection: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/page/1

Christie’s timeline: http://www.christies.com/features/Salvator-Mundi-timeline-8644-3.aspx

Christie’s http://www.christies.com/features/The-last-da-Vinci-Salvator-Mundi-8598-3.aspx

Suggested Donation: http://www.suggesteddonationpodcast.com/blog/2015/9/15/episode-21-robert-simon

contemporary art

King Woman: contemporary art show review

King Woman

King Woman is a contemporary art show with epic impact. Occupying two floors, the exhibition features several strong pieces in contemporary painting, photography and sculpture. This art show is a rare gem, sparkling in a landscape of mediocre art galleries in New York. Both abstract and realistic, artworks have a single vision where a woman is King. The curator of the show is Mashonda Tifrere. She said, “My goal for this show is to highlight work by women who question history and deny limitations, persevering in their art despite social mores and norms. These artists have also found a way to acknowledge their gender but at the same time move beyond it by owning it in an unabashed way – showing that women can be more than Goddess or Queen, that they are capable of being ‘King,’ at the pinnacle of power and strength and skill.”

Art transcends the gender roles, and while it shouldn’t be about the division between the sexes, it’s important to see women have equal say, being presented in exhibitions. While we don’t see male artists showing in groups where their art challenges stereotypes and disparity they often face, women seem to unite in their message channeled through their art. That vulnerable is beautiful! Women artists often feel unimportant and invisible, working alone in  their studios, walking the streets, interacting with people around them. However, their art becomes very powerful once the forces are united in the show like this one.

Carole A. Feuerman

Carole Feuerman is a pioneer artist in hyper-realist sculpture who started the hyper-realism movement in the 70s. She portrays women in steel, bronze and resin so lifelike, you can’t help it but to reach out and touch the sculptures. Tiny eyelashes, hair and droplets of dew make her figures appear incredibly real.  Large and small, her figurative sculptures can occupy a small space in a room or in the entire garden. The sculptures are often integrated into their environment, like you can see in Venice. http://veronicasart.com/venice-biennial-2017-a-crappy-show-with-rave-reviews/

On the artist’s website Feuerman explains her work. “She creates visual manifestations of the stories she wants to tell of strength, survival, balance, and the struggle to achieve.”

Chrysalis, 2017, resin, 33 x 36 x 18″

Ingrid Baars

Artemis, 2017, C-print face mounted on dibond, edition of 7, 45″x 59″

This incredibly powerful photograph is inspired by African culture, fashion and women. Romantic at heart, the photo manipulation is the image of  striking beauty and ethereal contemplation.

 

Yvonne Michiels

Royal Flowers, 2017, Fuji Crystal on dibond with perspex

Based in the Netherlands, the artist creates incredibly moving digital collages of women with floral crowns.  At first sight her portraits of women express confidence and beauty. Women’s faces look so magnificent, you stare at the image speechless, yet we can feel some hidden vulnerability behind the perfect looks.

 

Roos Van Der Vliet

 

Roos Van Der Vliet, Storytellers XX & XV, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 37 x 29″

These intimate portraits of women feel incredibly sincere and down to earth. Dutch artist paints women realistically to express her inner desire to replicate reality as close as she can. Her paintings give a sense that women are hiding yet want to be seen. Painting process is always a path to understanding oneself. Here we see the artist making discoveries about her own vulnerability and unimportance in a world around her.

 

Reisha Perlmutter

Iris, 2017, oil on canvas, 40 x 60″

Reisha paints women floating in colorful water. Abstracted patterns of body and water channel their healing powers where women are allowed to dwell freely in their ever changing environment.

Victoria Selbach

Kali Ma, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50″

This painting surprises with its size that creates instant sense of power and control found in a figure. She looks like a goddess or warrior who is ready to concur the world.

 

veronica winters colored pencil drawing
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The list of artists in King Woman includes:

Rebecca Allan; Azi Amiri; Ingrid Baars; Hunter Clarke; Donna Festa; Carole Feuerman; Lola Flash; Meredith Marsone; Yvonne Michiels; Stephanie Hirsch; Kharis Kennedy; Kit King; Lacey McKinney; Jane Olin; Reisha Perlmutter; Renee Phillips; Trixie Pitts; A.V. Rockwell; Victoria Selbach; Lynn Spoor; Swoon; Tiara; Roos Van Der Vliet; Elizabeth Waggett; Lynnie Z

Where:

King Woman is the contemporary art show that runs between October 12th-December 9th, 2017 at Pen+Brush nonprofit art gallery in New York (29 East 22nd street). To read more about the show: http://www.penandbrush.org/articles/press-release/upcoming-exhibition-king-woman 

19th century Russian portrait painting by veronica winters

19th century Russian Art & Portrait Painting: eyes are the window to the soul

Russian Portrait Painting

In this blog post I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite 18th and 19th- century Russian portrait paintings that I fell in love with when I was a child. These portrait paintings made a considerable influence on my aesthetic and desire to learn traditional oil painting techniques in adulthood. Some of these paintings represent the collision of classical ideals with Romanticism that is obvious in artists’ choice of subject and color schemes.

Art became a source of inspiration early in my life. Many oil paintings were printed in public school textbooks. Russian art occupied the last few pages in those textbooks that were printed in color and on thick paper unlike the rest of the material (the 1980s Soviet Union). Besides one art class in the elementary school, we didn’t have art as a subject back then, so those color reproductions and my parents’ art book collection became my first introduction to Russian art.

Ilya Repin (1844-1930)

Ilya Repin is one of the most well-known Russian artists of his generation. Excellent figurative painter, he is one of my favorites for his moral views and social purpose he channeled through his art. His portraits depict a variety of characters that all share the enormous artistic power and thoughtfulness.

Ilya Repin, Portrait of Garshin, 35×27,” 1884, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This portrait is one of several that Repin made of Russian artists and intellectuals following his return from graduate study in France. The artist begged the Academy to let him return home, so he could work on the national themes in his painting.

Here is an excerpt from the Met about this painting. “Russian author Vsevolod Garshin specialized in short stories expressing his pacifist beliefs, love of beauty, and aversion to evil. In the early 1880s he became friends with Repin, a leading progressive painter who shared his concern for contemporary political and social problems. Four years after it was created, Garshin, scarred by the suicides of his father and brother and his own mental illness, threw himself down a stairwell and died.” http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437442 )

Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1826)

Russian artist Borovikovsky
Vladimir Borovikovsky,  Portrait of Maria Lopukhina, 1797, 72×53 cm, State Tretyakov gallery, Moscow

Created at the end of the 18th century, this painting reflects the sentiment of the epoch where a man is part of nature. The artist fuses the model with a natural, but decorative landscape behind her where Russian landscape becomes more prominent than it used to be shown in Russian painting. This oil painting has a through balance of color. The blues of tiny cornflowers in the background are reflected in her beautiful blue sash, and the gold of the rye mingles with her jewelry and the golden sash accents. The color of a dull pink shawl wrapping around her figure is similar to the quiet roses blooming by her side. Her white gown finds similar tones with a couple of trees, repeating the diagonal of the figure.

Otherwise standard, diagonal three-quarter view of the woman depicts the beauty of a young Princess Lopukhina (1779-1803) who belonged to the Russian royal family of Tolstoy and died of tuberculosis in her early twenties. Her masterfully painted face shows beautiful restraint. Soft transitions between warm and cool tones, light pinks on the cheeks, greenish shadows, the riveting depth of the eyes, and gentle, rosy colors of the mouth – everything breathes with life. I love this portrait for its quietness, elegant confidence and a masterful balance between colors and shapes.

Borovikovsky created numerous portraits after his work in the military, and then graduation from the Academy in St. Petersburg. He found fame among the imperial court including Catherine II.

Karl Briullov (1799-1852)

Karl Briullov, The Last Day of Pompeii, 183 x 256 inches, 1830-33

Karl Briullov was the last great classical portraitist in the 19th century Russia. Trained in the Academy in St. Petersburg, the artist was influenced by the classical ideals of Rome. Painter of royalty, Briullov had a tremendous skill set that he showed off in his most famous historical artwork titled “The last day of Pompeii, 1830-33” that brought him a widespread fame throughout Europe. Realism and idealism, classical and neoclassical ideals collide on a huge canvas that depicts people in action, running for their lives during the eruption of Vesuvius. After receiving the highest honors at the Academy, Karl Briullov won a golden medal to travel to Italy. Immersed in the classical tradition of painting, the artist had spent three years studying each figure for the Last day of Pompeii, completing numerous drawings. There is movement and balance in every figure, buildings and horses. Every element is painted with great detail and mastery of the form.

Russian artist also produced many paintings featuring royalty as well as idealized Italian themes with lighthearted women doing regular tasks, like picking up grapes or washing clothes. Although those paintings were painted masterfully, they lacked vision and the reflection of some important societal changes happening in the country. Those changes were painted soon thereafter by the Itinerants.

Detail from “The last day of Pompeii”

Detail from “the last day of Pompeii”

 

Karl Briullov, Portrait of the princess Elizabeth Saltykov, 1841, The State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg.

 

veronica winters colored pencil drawing
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Nikolay Pimonenko (1862-1912)

Nikolay Pimonenko, Yule fortune telling, detail, 1888

This painting has such a bold use of color! Strong, single light source illuminates two peasant girls who read the fortune. In the old tradition, girls placed the melting wax into a cup with cold water to capture the “frozen” profile of a future husband. Here they look at the wall projection cast from the melted wax, trying to figure out who the man is. I love how spontaneous and fresh the brushwork is and how vivid colors harmonize to depict festive mood.

Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887)

Ivan Kramskoy, a leader in the Itinerants movement, was one of the strongest portraitists in his generation of artists. Like other artists in the movement, he believed in public duty and service to people through his art. He was interested in painting national themes, but Kramskoy was also a great portraitist. In 1869 he exhibited his portraits at the Academy for which he won a rank of an Academician. One of his famous artworks depicts a woman who could be either decent or not, but her facial expression is captivating. Every texture is richly painted: the feathers, silk, fur, and velvet. Light yellow light envelops the distant buildings and describes the contours of the figure. The artist puts the same color into the hat’s feather and her face to carefully harmonize the painting.

Ivan Kramskoy, Stranger, 1883, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Russian art
Kramskoy, the forester,  1874 (84×62 cm or 33×24,5 inches), The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

The gaze of this peasant man is just riveting! Tragedy, disturbance and hidden force reside in his enigmatic eyes. The artist shows a specific type of a man who doesn’t like to settle or to tolerate the abuse of the forest by men. Or perhaps the painting is about poor villagers  who are tired of their endless suffering and are getting ready to revolt against their wealthy masters.

Russian artist Ivan Kramskoy
Ivan Kramskoy portr. of artist’s daughter Sofia 1882

This portrait was painted in the end of the 19th century that marked the transition between the classical and modern art. The artist depicts his daughter in less controlled manner with loose strokes and colorful shadows that show the classical mastery of the anatomy and oil painting techniques. Her thoughtful face possesses no classical idealization, but expresses inner strength and depth of character that’s so hard to reach in a painting. The restrained position of her hands and mouth depicts a very young woman wrapped up in thoughts. Trained by her father, Sofia became a professional artist as well. She received recognition for her artistic skills but had a very complicated life after the revolution.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy, Portrait of Ivan Shishkin

Ivan Shishkin was a great landscape painter who posed for this masterful portrait by Kramskoy. The background and the pose are so simple that all our attention goes to the face of the artist, which channels so much humanity and life that seems impossible to describe in paint.

Vasily Tropinin (1776-1857)

Vasily Tropinin came from a family of the serfs and received his freedom only at the age of 47. He often depicted scenes of ordinary peasant life that feature women doing hard or meticulous work. Those paintings have jovial mood, celebrating ordinary, domestic life.

Russian art, Tropinin
Tropinin, the lace-maker, 1823 , The Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

I’m fond of this painting because it shows the old Russian tradition of lace-making, something I learned how to do in my teenage years, taking a class for a year. A pretty, peasant girl creates intricate pattern with numerous bobbins and thin threads. Captivated by her task, she quickly glances at the viewer only to return to her work. I love the gentleness in her face and a hint of a smile that’s subtle and kind.

 

To Read about Russian genre painting, click on the image below.

19th Century Russian Artists and Genre Art: the Itinerants movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khaleesi Drawing from Game of Thrones

Khaleesi Drawing from Game of Thrones

 

There is something about the character that attracts you when you watch a movie. I think it happens because you find part of yourself present in that person. Sometimes it’s not obvious and you need to search deep inside to find the connection. Khaleesi has fragile beauty of course, but she also grows to become a fierce and powerful woman.🌟🌟🌟

Drawing is an essential building block to any representational art form. Pencil drawing is something I practice as much as I can because it improves and informs me of shapes, colors and composition applied to colored pencil and oil painting.

Step by Step drawing

Khaleesi drawing step by step drawing_Emilia Clarke

In this photo you see how I began my pencil drawing by blocking in the darks and leaving out spaces for the lights. Both lights and darks become the two extremes between which I create a range of tones at a later stage. I also work on the eyes in the first step to make sure they line up and rotate at the right diagonal.

Drawing Paper

koh-i-noor drawing paper review

I’m amazed by the quality of this paper.  It’s quickly becoming my favorite because Koh-I-Noor in & out pages are thick, smooth, and versatile. I love how easy it is to layer both graphite and colored pencil on it that hardly needs any blending! Also, I can place my drawings back into the pad for a beautiful presentation. I’ve drawn on Koh-I-Noor Bristol vellum, Bristol smooth, Colored Pencil and Black Drawing drawing papers so far. All of them are fantastic! While Koh-I-Noor Black Drawing has thin pages, the rest of them are thick, and all are smooth with a different degree of light texture present to grab the pencil. Give it a try!

emilia clarke as khaleesi from game of thrones
Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi from Game of Thrones | graphite on Koh-I-Noor Bristol vellum drawing paper

Once I’m done blocking in the values and I have developed a range of tones, I work on textures. In this drawing of Khaleesi you see the texture of clothing that I’ve done via rubbings. I placed a pumice stone under my paper and shaded over it with a soft pencil where the clothing should be. This rubbing gave me the initial texture I worked around in pencil to develop it further.

I also use the kneaded eraser a lot to make soft lift outs, to create subtle edges, and to clean up without leaving grease and residue on paper.

To make texture in the jewelry on Khaleesi’s neck, I used some magic tape. I placed it over the shaded area, made short strokes on the tape with a ballpoint pen and lifted it out to reveal this unique texture.

 

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How to manage emotions as artist, woman and entrepreneur veronica winters

How to manage emotions as artist, woman and entrepreneur

Have you ever struggled managing your emotions? Have you felt rejected, lonely, depressed, fearful or angry? I bet you have! Our feelings make decisions over 90% of the time despite our vast capacity to think logically. Negative emotions bring us pain, often take us to the past, or simply stop us from doing what we really want to. Training my mind, conquering my feelings, and taking control of the situation has become one of my top priorities in life for the past several years.

It’s often said that the time cures everything, pain disappears and we heal, but the expression “some wounds never heal” actually means that we can’t always overcome or let go of our past. I felt riddled and worn out by my past, and went to Thailand back in 2012 to understand the principles of Buddhism that I thought would bring me closer to the truth and would alleviate the pain I felt inside. And the Buddhist truth states that much suffering is caused by our “disturbing emotions.” I wanted to find a cure from emotional pain I suppressed inside me. Buddhism and the idea of mindfulness and meditation didn’t save me alone. What helped me greatly are a few books I list in the end of this post. I used to suppress my feelings because they were considered irrelevant in my family. I’ve suffered from a very low self-esteem most of my life that perpetuated problems and blocked me from doing what I didn’t know I was even capable of doing. Psychology books opened a new world for me where I discovered how truly lost I felt in my own perception of myself. Overtime I uncovered my behavioral patterns and trauma that ‘motivated’ me to act in certain ways, causing emotional upheaval.

The secret of change Socrates quote

Behavioral patterns

As I’m not a psychologist, I simply  want to share and explain some information I’m aware of. What is a pattern? Basically it’s a set of learned patterns you acquire in childhood through positive and negative reinforcements that determine your behavior today. It’s unconscious actions we do that can be compared to a computer program. Our brain gets programmed to behave in certain ways in accordance with our parents’ behavior with and around us. As children we learn to adapt and to get out of situations, forming these patterns. As adults because we’re unconscious about it, we often tend to find excuses or blame someone else for a situation we are in. However, if you’re observant of yourself, you’ll notice that you often end up in similar situations, or attract a certain kind of people into your life. For example, a woman might leave one abusive husband only to find herself in a new relationship with another one. Or you can’t find a job in town, get a new degree, look for another job and still can’t find it. Or you talk to a relative hoping for him or her to respond to you with warmth and care but encounter the same cycle of responses and behavior that are also established patterns of that person. It upsets you and triggers a number of negative emotions in you – this pattern can re-play for decades. You also may experience a conflict situation, and your pattern is to avoid the conflict altogether by appeasing people rather than trying to solve a problem causing that conflict, the same conflict that arises with different people and different situations has a single root – you. You also observe and experience the same emotional reactions that are caused by similar situations or people in your life.  As a result you lose control of yourself and become filled with negative emotions. These are the moments when you are often accused of having “thin skin” or “lack of patience” on your part.

Most people don’t like change and feel happy where they are. We tend to spot problems of others, but we are often unable to either recognize, acknowledge or get rid of our own psychological patterns that keep holding us back and limit our spiritual growth. Once you become aware of your patterns, you can break them to form new ones that serve you today.  Although it’s very difficult to break deeply engraved patterns on your own, it is possible to recognize your cycles of behavior that lead to cycles of actions. One of my cycles was to worry  deeply or to take negative comments, opinions and jealousy very close to my heart. It caused a chain reaction in me where I not only argued with those people constantly, but also degraded myself that made me feel even more worthless. I also attracted selfish personalities who demanded attention for good, yet didn’t reciprocate with emotional support I needed. To turn it around I began building my sense of self-respect inside. This conscious effort transformed my life where uninvited opinions of others became just their opinions with no true value to me. This led me to disengagement with people I didn’t want to be with and to forming new relationships with whom I shared mutual respect.

Another ‘big’ transformation I’ve experienced is self-acceptance. After so many years of struggles I accepted my body, my looks and what I do professionally. This led me to much understanding and acceptance of others. Actions and reactions of people around me (even not the most graceful ones) make sense to me today although I may find it very hard to deal with them. There is also understanding that difficult people come to your life for a reason and are there to teach you a lesson. This process of reclaiming your freedom and trusting yourself first and foremost involves taking a full responsibility for your actions.

our life is what our thoughts make it, quote by marcus aurelius

How to manage emotions

Despite all these breakthroughs and inner work, I still have a very hard time dealing with my intense emotions at times. As artists we are very vulnerable. Affirmations didn’t work and the daily pressures of life cause distress. That’s when I’ve discovered Tony Robbins’ videos.  In his teachings he quickly grabs your attention with his practical approach to changing your emotional state. I  found his emotional management techniques to be so simple, yet profound and applicable to any situation you may have. While I’m including some of his teachings below, you can find plenty of information and listen to his audio on YouTube.

  1. You can’t change people around you by telling them to change. You can either change your perception of this person/situation, or the way you behave around such people.
  2. Whenever you feel hurt, angry, lonely, depressed – every emotion we normally consider as a negative, Robbins treats it as a neutral and just a signal/ call to action to change something in your life. It’s important to acknowledge your emotion, rather than to suppress it to  see the message that your brain sends you.
  3. According to Robbins it’s important to identify the core emotion first, what you really feel behind the first feeling that arises like anger.
  4. If you ignore your signal the feeling intensifies.  Therefore, to set a new outcome, change your perception (the way you perceive or look at things) or procedure (the way you communicate needs/behave/expect).

If you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to change the state, clarify what you want, and take action to communicate that desire.

If you feel hurt, it means you have an unmet expectation that brings a sense of loss to you that’s very painful. Either change your expectations or communicate your desires differently.

If you feel anger or resentment it means your important standard is not met by you or another person.

Fear (fear of failure, anxiety) arises as a signal asking you to prepare to deal with something.

Frustration – change your approach to achieve your goal.

Disappointment – something that you’ve been expecting is not going to happen.

Guilt or regret– you’ve violated one of your own standards.

If you feel inadequate or unworthy – your mind asks you to get up and do something better, or change rules that are too harsh.

Feelings of hopelessness, depression, overwhelm – decide what’s most important for you to accomplish now, make a list with order and handle the first one. Do something immediately to take control of events. Pick one thing and master it.

Feeling lonely-we need to find a connection with people.

5. We give meaning to everything. But ask yourself what does it really mean? Choose meanings that empower you in life as opposed to assuming things that dis-empower you.

 

Spiritual growth is an ambiguous sentence, in my opinion. My interpretation is simply learning to become free from emotional and physical constraints we all experience, and I hope my writing helps you find or clarify your path in your journey. These days when I’m in doubt, pain or struggle, I train and force myself to refocus. I used to dwell in my thoughts on re-play. But as soon as I stop thinking that particular thought that upsets me, my day improves. I try to find something, anything to be grateful for around me in that moment. I also open my notebook with goals and ask myself what I’m doing today to get closer to them. It shifts my focus and changes thoughts. Try it and let me know how it goes for you, ok?

 

Understanding and managing emotions books:
  1. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Hearby Tara Bennett-Goleman | https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Alchemy-Mind-Heal-Heart/dp/0609809032
  2. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. | https://www.amazon.com/Female-Brain-Louann-Brizendine/dp/0767920104
  3. Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss
  4. Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss | https://www.myss.com/

 

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How to draw hair in colored pencil and markers

If you work in colored pencil, you know how long it takes to complete one drawing. To speed up the process many artists use the watercolor pencils, neocolor crayons, or markers. If you feel open to some experimentation drawing hair and underpainting your backgrounds, using permanent markers may become your thing. It’s my first time to use the markers and I’m sure I’ll make more posts as soon as I complete more drawings with them. Below you’ll find my drawing process step-by-step.

 

Step-by-step portrait drawing in colored pencil and permanent markers

Step 1

I sketch out the face using HB pencil on Strathmore drawing medium paper. This paper has a very slight texture that becomes somewhat problematic later. If you want to try out this technique, draw on Stonehenge paper or Bristol papers that are smoother and thicker.

Step 2

My pigment markers include just a few colors. Therefore I didn’t use black or brown on the hair. Instead I used a combination of sap green and red to get the darkest hue possible in the beginning. Usually, wax-based black colored pencil gives a lot of wax bloom and therefore underpainting the darks in markers is a good idea.

I also use yellow to fill in the background.

Underpainting with markers

Here you can see how crazy these colors look. Because it’s just an underpainting, I’m not worried about the fine details, but I watch for major patterns and waves happening in the hair.

Winsor & Newton permanent markers and sakura pen

Step 3

Once pigment markers are dry, I work in colored pencil over it. The underpainting gives me new, surprising color combinations. This is the step where I understand that smoother paper would work better with this drawing simply because layering over the markers in colored pencil still reveals paper’s texture, which I thought would be eliminated by the markers’ pigments.

When I’m done filling in the hair, I blend with the colorless pencil blender, and create the highlights with  some fly aways, using the Sakura Pen-touch marker that has a thin, sharp point.

I fill in the face in colored pencil only.

Step 4

In my final step I spray the fixative lightly, let it dry, and adjust minor things, like edges and details. A light coat of spray fixes the paper and allows me to work on areas that become too waxy and don’t accept pigment anymore.

portrait drawing in colored pencil
Italian girl, colored pencil and markers on paper, 9×12″

As you can see my end result is not hyper-realistic but very colorful. I’m pretty sure if I underpaint in black or brown marker, it would give me great image as well.

Video

 

 

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Learn what makes a painting great Video #1 Part 2: Composition, Color, Lines and Emotion

In this video in the series you’ll learn about composition, color, emotion, painting techniques, use of lines, and other artistic elements artists used to produce their greatest works of art. This video will help you understand the qualities of great art, especially painting created before the 20th century.

Feel free to share the video with your friends on Facebook!

You’ll find my video notes below!

 

Jacques-Louis_David_madame recamier
Jacques-Louis David, madame Recamier, 5’9″x7’4″, 1800, the Louvre

Composition

All beauty is the result of fine proportions. – Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), architect

Greeks were the first to invent and to use the mathematical proportion, linear perspective and the concept of divine proportion and scale in art and architecture (the Pantheon). Because of a conversion to Christianity, these postulates were abandoned in the Middle Age Europe only to reappear in the Italian Renaissance art several centuries later.

Man is the measure of all things becomes the mantra of the Renaissance artists in the 1400-1500s as they explore the concept of rational thought by creating art that’s three-dimensional, visually balanced, mathematically proportioned and color unified. (The principles of the mathematical perspective were devised by Filippo Brunelleschi).

Composition becomes central to the creation of representational art.

Pentagram
pentagon and decagon in a circle veronica winters video series
Pentagram and decagon in a circle

In this diagram you see the fundamental principle of geometric division of space or the divine proportion. A symbol of unity, the circle holds a pentagon inside with the 5-pointed star of Pythagoras drawn inside it. Renaissance artists used this model to place their figures in a visually pleasing composition. (Source: Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications)

Raphael Ansidei Madonna pentagon composition, veronica winters video series
Raphael, Ansidei Madonna, 1505-1507 | pentagon composition

 

The school of Athens, Raphael, veronica winters video series
The school of Athens, Raphael, 1510, fresco in Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican, Rome | pentagon composition

This painting represents the exaltation of rational thought. The artist paints his contemporaries as models to represent ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle standing right in the center of the composition. We see Leonardo as Plato, Bramante as Euclid, Raphael as Apelles and Michelangelo as Heraclitus. Raphael incorporates the architecture of the room by creating a balanced composition that proportionally relates to the interior. The fresco has 5 circles. The height of figures and their placement corresponds to the mathematical divisions seen in the picture.

Also see:

Poussin (French), “A dance to the music of time” (pentagon composition)

Besides using pentagons, artists create symmetrical and unsymmetrical balance with triangular compositions, the golden section rule, and several other devices.

Masaccio_ the holy trinity perspective
Masaccio (Italian), The Holy Trinity, fresco in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1428  | perfect linear perspective

In this painting while the iconography is standard, the unusual part is its perfect linear perspective. It marks Masaccio as the first Renaissance painter who achieved visual realism of the figures receding in space naturally with correct foreshortening.

Adam's Creation, Sistine Chapel_ceiling'_by_Michelangelo
Michelangelo (Italian), “The creation of Man,” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome

In this artwork, the curving S-shape creates an equal movement and balance of shapes on both sides of the painting.

Also see:

Caravaggio (Italian), “The inspiration of St. Matthew” 1602. This painting features the S-shape design as well.

 

rogier_van_der_weyden_descent from the cross composition
Rogier van der Weyden, “Descent from the cross”

 

We can see examples of triangular compositions in religious art where a cross divides the space in half or is placed at a diagonal. In this painting the artist arranges the figures in a way that mimic the shape of the cross. The diagonal of Christ repeats itself in Mary’s shape.

virgin and child van eyck composition
Jan van Eyck, “The Virgin and Child” | triangular composition

The triangular shape was a popular element to design a composition. It creates balance with a line falling from the apex of the pyramid diving the picture in half.

claude lorraine_the embarcation of st. ursula golden section
Claude Lorraine (French), “Embarkation of St. Ursula,” National Gallery, London | the golden section

Lorraine consciously designed his paintings following the rules of thirds or the “golden section,” which is widely used today by photographers and artists alike.

Also see:

“Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia,” 1682.

The artist also “framed” his landscapes with trees placed on both sides of a painting to create a circular motion, so a viewer never leaves his picture. He was also a master, creating a complete balance between the light and dark masses of trees, buildings, water and sky.

The Arnolfini marriage
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini wedding” 1434, National Gallery, London

The artist strikes an equal balance of shapes around the middle where we see the joint hands.

 

Emotion

Canova, Venus and Adonis, sculpture detail
Canova, Venus and Adonis, sculpture detail

Emotion is the strongest reason for artists to create art and for people to look at it to own it. Art is a visual expression of our soul. We respond to a painting or a sculpture instantly using our feelings as opposed to logic, and that’s what makes us human. Meaningful art helps us connect with our inner life. It confirms a record of our emotions dwelling within our memories. Art is not only a cultural and historical object, but also a remedy that speaks universal language. Artists have a vast emotional landscape to reach deep to convey a story in a meaningful way.  It’s the feeling that draws us into the picture. Because we all have a unique set of experiences, we respond to the art in different ways. Some paintings leave us untouched, while others haunt us with their beauty, melancholy, joy or fear. Painting is a record of  artist’s interior life, and his/her ability to see beauty in both the beautiful and the ugly.

Because feelings can’t be quantified in immediate dollars and cents unlike brand named stuff, many don’t see value in art, think it’s useless, and try to cut funding for school art programs and art organizations. As a consumer driven society we are conditioned to ignore craftsmanship, uniqueness and beauty produced in singular products because a cheaper version of artistic creation is all around us for free on social media, TV, magazines, shop posters, book covers, pillow designs and so on. We see art but we don’t really study it. Only our encounter with the original artwork has that immediate impact, raw emotion that enriches us as human beings.

Images:

Caravaggio, Head of Medusa, oil on canvas, 24×22”, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

(In Greek mythology, the terrible Medusa had the power to turn anyone who looked at her into stone: a power she retained after being killed by Perseus.)

Frans Hals, The Jolly Toper, 1628-30, oil on canvas, 32×26”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Flaming June, Frederic_Lord_Leighton_(1830-1896)
Sir Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896), Flaming June, 47” square, 1895, Puerto Rico

 

Vasnezov Sirin and Alkonost. The song of happiness and sadness
Vasnetzov, The song of joy and sorrow, oil on canvas, 133×250 cm, 1896, The Tretyakov gallery, Moscow
Russian painting vasili perov
Vasily Perov, Trine (Troyka), oil on canvas, 1866

Also see:

Isaak Levitan, Over the Eternal Peace, 1894, oil on canvas, 150x206cm, the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Ivan Shishkin, Winter, 1890, oil on canvas, 125 x 204 cm, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1890, oil on canvas, 161 x 118 cm, Museum of Russian Museum, Kyiv

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, tempera and casein on cardboard, 36×29” (91x74cm), Oslo, Norway

 

Romantics:

Friedrich, two men contemplating the moon
Caspar David Friedrich, two men contemplating the moon | The Met | http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438417

In this section I’d like to mention the 19th century Romantic Movement. Romanticism grew as a rebellion against the static, cold ideals of the Greco-Roman art, against religion and social order. Romantics were liberals who produced art that excited viewers with emotions, especially the fear and the power of wild, changing Nature as the source of the sublime. Romantics channeled these ideals via painterly movement and color. They wanted to reflect on real life, not some distant ideals. Artists celebrated freedom of creativity that found its support from new patronage of successful entrepreneurs and business class.

The funeral of Atala,1808,Girodet_de_Roussy-Trioson
Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, The Funeral of Atala, 1808, oil on canvas, 5’6”x6’10” (1.67×2.10 m), the Louvre, Paris

 

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-the polar sea
German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich, the Polar Sea (The Wreck of Hope), 1824, oil on canvas, 38×50” Hamburg, Germany

Also see:

Spanish artist Goya (1746-1828), The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Los Caprichos, 1798, etching and aquatint, 8×6”, the Met, New York.

He creates horror scenes with monsters and owls, depicts his nightmares that’s said to criticize Spanish society as corrupt and demented. The artist was for the French revolution and against the king of Spain, yet was very popular as a court painter to Charles IV. Late Goya shows highly emotional art, already being a thought after portraitist, painting royalty as individuals with psychological insight into their personalities that lacked idealization on purpose.

Goya, The Family of Charles IV, oil on canvas, 9’2”x11’, Prado Museum, Madrid & the Third of May, 1808, oil on canvas, 8’9”x 13’4”, 1814-15. (In this painting the artist shows the execution of Madrid citizens dying for Liberty).

Swiss painter, Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) painted somewhat erotic, moody and supernatural pictures of dramatic Shakespearean scenes and dreams that ignited fear. In his painting the skill of drawing is given away in favor of emotions and imagination. He painted several variations of the painting The Nightmare, oil on canvas, 102x127cm, Detroit institute of arts

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) The nightmare. 1790-91 version

Another Neo-Baroque French painter, Gericault (1791-1824) explored human extremes and violent action in his art. He painted people in action with the exuberance and energy of Baroque artists.

Mounted Officer of the Imperial Guard, 1812, oil on canvas, 9’7”x6’4”, the Louvre, Paris. He completed this artwork at just 21 years of age.

Other Romantic artists to check out are Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and J.M.W. Turner.

 

Color

1880_Frederic_Leighton_-_Self_portrait
Sir Frederic Leighton, Self-portrait, 1880

We can divide representational art into two opposing groups. One is dominated by the composition design (Michelangelo), and the other by the use of color and light. While thoughtful design stands for rational thought in art, beautiful play of light and color evokes strong feelings.

Those of you who have tried oil painting know how hard it is to achieve color unity. It’s not only the skill of color mixing, but also the artistic vision and sensibility to color. In masterpieces we see hues that interact and support each other. The complexity of a color comes with deliberate color mixing, dragging or glazing of the paint, overlaying, and letting one hue dominate and complement the rest. (Ingres, David, Simon Vouet). The tradition of color descends from Titian to Rubens, to Van Gogh and Picasso. Seurat developed his own scientific color system – pointillism that didn’t get traction among artists, however.

Jacques-Louis_David death of marat
Jacques-Louis David (French), The death of Marat, 1793, neoclassicism  

 

Mary Cassatt, Sleepy baby, pastels on paper, 1910, impressionism 

The Impressionists redefined the use of color, not painting with black in the shadows. Unlike the majority of artists who worked in the studio, the impressionists painted outdoors, capturing the weather conditions at different times of the day. That’s why you see numerous paintings done of the same subject but in various lighting conditions. We can look at Claude Monet’s waterlilies and Edgar Degas’ dancers to understand how artists were interested in atmospheric and light perception of places and people – the impression, rather than the actual copying of details. The impressionists revolted against the Academism and its annual Salon painting competitions to organize their independent shows that exhibited unconventional, colorful art.

In Russia we see a rise of national landscape painting with artists like Shishkin and Kuindzhi who depicted vast, luscious and vivid landscapes of the countryside. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Gauguin become the post-impressionism artists who focus on the spiritual in painting channeling it through color and symbols.

kuindzhi birch grove 1879
Kuindzhi, birch grove, 1879
Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910), the moon night | Impressionism & realism

 

Use of shapes, lines and negative space

michelangelo drawing of Libyan Sibyl
Michelangelo, drawing of Libyan Sibyl

Line is the most vital element in visual art. Contour lines describe form and the initial drawing design. Drawings exist as personal records of artist’s idea and thoughts, having unique handwriting, gesture and energy. Line drawings can be very expressive if an artist varies shape, thickness and completion of the line. Rembrandt’s drawings capture everyday activities in sketchy but confident, almost child-like lines. Drawings of Michelangelo are beautiful studies of models where the lines define the physical anatomy and monumentality of male figures frozen in action. Da Vinci’s drawings perfectly describe the subject with soft, gentle lines reminiscent of the softness we see in his paintings. It’s amazing to see how Ingres describes figures in his hollow drawings of just contour lines with minimal shading. Japanese printmakers, Hiroshige and Hokusai became the two masters of woodblock printing in the country. They exercised great influence onto the Impressionists with their approach to composition design and the simplification of shapes. Hiroshige’s artwork is very linear and creates simplified shapes and patterns with the lines of varied quality.

Hiroshige, “Travelers passing Mount Fuji” woodblock print, 1831, Honolulu
Alphonse Mucha, The precious stones: Topaz, Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, details, 1900, color lithograph, 26×11” each

The leading Art Nouveau designer and painter, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) used geometric shapes, mosaics, and diagonals to create beautiful lithographs of women as idyllic symbols. Czech artist gave birth to his unique “Style Mucha” with his posters of a famed actress Sarah Bernhardt that made him prominent in French Art Nouveau. His use of definitive, contour line is central to his illustrative style.

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) employs lines, patterns and shapes to create a unique visual experience. His figures are made of patterns with contour and geometric lines defining form.

Gustav Klimt, Tree of Life, 1909

 

As spectators we often don’t pay attention to the artistic use of negative space. Negative space is simply the background you see behind an object. It often affects how we perceive what’s in front of us by carefully controlling the tone, color and shapes in the background space. Let’s look at one of the Spanish realist artists – Cotan who uses the negative space to his advantage.

Juan Sanchez Cotan, Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, 1602, oil on canvas, 27×33”, San Diego Museum of Art

Because the Spanish court and the Catholic church employed foreign painters (Titian) in the 16th century Spain, native artists were not popular among the two major patrons, and therefore they were able to develop their still life painting that was nonexistent before the 1590s. Cotan (1561-1627) becomes a pioneer in still life painting. A deeply religious man, he painstakingly arranged simple objects at a curve, juxtaposing bright objects against the dark tones, where rich background reinforces the realism of foreground shapes.

Similarly Caravaggio used the dark background to bring his subjects forward. He defined and mastered chiaroscuro – the balance of light and dark in his paintings. So much so that when a viewer stands in a dark interior of a church he sees abstracted patterns of light and shade. When the light is turned on, the entire painting changes to a story we see in a design. His mastery of color, negative space and contrast play with our perception of reality. (David and Youth bitten by a lizard).

 

Texture, paint and brushwork quality

Jan van Eyck (Dutch), painting detail that shows glazing techniques with seamless brushwork.
Caravaggio, St. John the Baptist. | This painting shows the effect of glazing where color (red) is built up in many layers of thin paint (glazing).

Our eyes travel across canvas to notice the unusual texture and brushwork, or purposefully to see none. Strokes of paint can describe the textures and shapes of fabric, skin and space. They can also generate an emotional response to the subject itself. The artistic ability to do it freely takes years of experimentation and practice, like we see in Sargent’s painting. Sargent’s art has spontaneous brushwork quality that’s actually deliberate and skilled. He was masterful at hitting the right ‘note’ in a single stroke, and when he was not, the artist wiped it off with a rag, and did it again. His paint strokes have relaxed elegance and fluidity.

Traditional methods involve several painting techniques. Here I’d like to mention the glazing techniques used by Ingres and David as well as the impasto method of painting perfected by Rembrandt. Glazing creates depth and sophistication of a color by using thin, transparent layers of paint. The impasto technique creates texture in thick, opaque strokes. These two seemingly opposing methods are often combined together in a single work of art, like we see in the Rembrandt’s paintings that create the glow in his portraits. The Jewish bride.

Jan Van Eyck (Dutch, 1390-1441) was a fundamental figure in northern Europe, the first to perfect the oil painting technique. He had strong interest in optics and light effects to create painstakingly detailed realism. (Ghent Altarpiece, oil on panel, detail). In this kind of art you don’t see any brushwork to convey realism. The artist uses lots of glazes to build up the color.

Rembrandt, the Jewish bride, oil painting detail showing the impasto technique.

Impasto (to put in paste, Italian) is applied thickly on a canvas or panel with a brush or a palette knife that raises the paint surface and makes the strokes visible. Impasto creates textures in clothes, jewelry, and skin that looks like a suggestion of the fabric or skin rather than a direct representation of it. The relief-like surface makes the lights pop more to attract our attention to the focal point. Rembrandt, Velazquez, Titian and Goya used this technique.

A lot of artists use a combination of techniques that include glazing, impasto, scumbling and more that produce different effects like you can see here.

Detail of a painted gown
Alexander Roslin: Marie Suzanne Giroust, 1734-1772, konstnär, gift
Alexander Roslin: Marie Suzanne Giroust, 1734-1772, konstnär, gift med Alexander Roslin.

Action step:

Pick an artwork that you really like, and try to explain why you enjoy looking at it in terms of composition, color, and subject. Practice your understanding of paintings, and your art appreciation will grow exponentially!  Have fun with it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching my video and discovered how story, composition, emotion and texture – all contribute to and influence on our perception of the masterpieces. A great painting offers a lot more more than a good composition, realism, or a vibrant color. A great painting gives you an emotional experience, something poetic and spiritual that transcends time and place, and allows you to understand yourself and the world around you!

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Coming up next: Video #2 Contemporary Painting

In my next video you’ll learn what to look for in contemporary art.

Complete video series:

Video #1 Part 1 – Learn what makes a painting great

Video #1 Part 2 – you are here!

Video #2 Contemporary Art – coming soon!

Video #3 How to take care of your art collection – coming soon!

Video #4 How to frame art – coming soon!

Video # 5 Why you don’t need an interior designer to buy and display art in your home – coming soon!

Bibliography:

The Metropolitan Museum of art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection

History of Art, 5th edition, H.W. Janson

The gilded age, E. Prelinger

Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications

Wikipedia & tons of art history classes in college! 🙂

 

Click on the image to subscribe to my art notes and receive a FREE download with my art, inspiration and demonstrations!

 

 

 

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art appreciation: understanding the qualities of great art

Learn what makes a painting great: Video #1 Part 1

In this first video in the series you’ll learn about some of the greatest works of art, art movements, ideas and artistic elements. This video will help you understand and appreciate the qualities of great art, especially painting created before the 20th century. Feel free to share the video with your friends on Facebook!

Video Notes:
Overview:

Art Movements 0:42

Art Patrons 1:49

Art Education & female artists 2:21

Why do artists create art? 3:26

Artistic Elements : Story & Subject

Story & Subject 4:29

Biblical Scenes 5:16

Historical & Mythological Painting 9:03

Formal Portraiture 14:42

Landscape art 20:33

Genre art & Dutch still life 23:13

Kramskoy, portrait of a stranger, 1883

Join the art collector’s circle to receive a FREE notebook with inspiration, demonstrations & more! Click here: http://eepurl.com/b-vEXP

Next video: Video #1 | Part 2

In my next video you’ll learn about major artistic elements that artists use to design their paintings. They include composition, emotion, color, and the use of shapes, space and some painting techniques.

Painting detail of angels, art in Turin, Italy

Complete video series:

Video #1 Part 1 – Learn what makes a painting great – you’re here!

Video #1 Part 2 – Learn what makes a painting great, part 2

Video #2 Contemporary Art – coming soon!

Video #3 How to take care of your art collection – coming soon!

Video #4 How to frame art – coming soon!

Video # 5 Why you don’t need an interior designer to buy and display art in your home – coming soon!

Hand, painting detail, art in Turin, Italy
Bibliography:

The Metropolitan Museum of art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection

History of Art, 5th edition, H.W. Janson

The gilded age, E. Prelinger

Rhythmic Form in Art by Irma Richter, Dover Publications

Wikipedia & tons of art history classes in college! 🙂

Click on the image to subscribe to my art notes and receive a FREE download with my art, inspiration and demonstrations!

Step-by-step drawing: 3 graphite pencil techniques that work

Drawing is so fundamental to artist’s skill, we can hardly skip it, working in the realist tradition. Here I’d like to share several basic tools and techniques I use, drawing portraits in graphite pencil. I must note that these techniques are applicable to any kind of pencil/charcoal drawing, and these steps and tools are universal across any subject you pick to draw. In the end of this post I share my inspiration behind the drawing and a short video illustrating the steps. Let’s dive in!

#1 Use paper stumps with care

step by step drawing

I begin shading the image by placing the darkest darks on paper. You can compare this method to drawing from shadows to light. Here I draw on the Strathmore Bristol smooth paper that’s super smooth and thick. Because it accepts a limited number of layers, I need to be more mindful how dark I’ve got to go in the first step of shading. (Strathmore drawing paper, medium has a slight texture that’s more forgiving for general drawing techniques in pencil and colored pencil because it accepts more layers).

Paper stumps help artists blend the graphite and charcoal.

Once I’m done massing out the shapes in a soft, 4B graphite pencil, I use the blending stumps to blend large areas, such as the background and the hair. I’m mindful of the pencil pressure as well as of the stroke direction. It’s important to blend in the “right” direction and not to overwork the surface.

Blending with paper stumps unifies the surface, blending everything to a medium gray tone. Therefore, I strengthen the darkest areas immediately after that. Various sizes of paper stumps give me the precision I need blending the graphite.

Never use these paper stumps for colored pencil work! They will ruin the surface.

#2 Use kneaded eraser and the Tombow Mono Zero eraser

how to draw people

In the second step, I usually pull out the highlights with the kneaded eraser. Any brand of kneaded eraser works.  This type of eraser has dual benefit of lifting out the pigment without any residue and creating soft edges around the highlights, which look natural and give a realistic effect of soft light.

What’s to lift out? The lightest lights you see in your picture. I often lift out a bit more than I need to come back to it with finer shading over the lightest parts of my image to create subtle tonal transitions.

General’s kneaded eraser

Tombow Mono zero eraser is a great eraser that lifts out tiny details, such as thin strands of hair or tiny highlights in the pearls. This eraser also works great in colored pencil drawings when I try to erase hard to reach, very small areas in my work. I buy these on Amazon, and it takes about a month to arrive home from Japan! So if you decide to give it a try, order two or three at once, you won’t regret it!

Tombow eraser

#3 Shade in graphite in layers, erase and repeat

Kat with a shell, graphite pencil on paper, 9×12 inches

This step consists of several steps that’s simply a repetition of my actions. I layer the graphite by erasing, enhancing the dark values, and refining details. I develop my picture further with every new layer.

I work on subtle transitions with harder pencils, especially if it’s a skin tone. I usually shade with 2-4H gently transitioning from mid. tone to light. While I’m doing this, I pay attention to values to turn the form.

 

how to draw people
Drawing detail

Value scale

Every color has its own value scale going from the darkest dark to white. Because some colors are darker than the others naturally, they have a wider value range as opposed to the light colors. (Think of ultramarine as a dark color and yellow as a light one). Why do you need to know that?
You control your values at all times as you draw or paint to have a range of tones that makes your image look three-dimensional. Usually, students complete their drawing with a very limited range of tones. That’s why everything looks “just grey” or “too flat.”
Convert your color image into a black-and-white picture on your computer, and you’ll understand how dark the shadows should be, or how light your lights really are. Then step back and compare your drawing to that picture.

Drawing detail: hands with a shell

I finish working on my piece with a final fixative, spraying my drawing outdoors. I strongly recommend using professional-grade varnish, like the Grumbacher matte final fixative for dry media. It gives a very nice and even finish to my artwork that’s impossible to achieve with cheaper brands like Krylon.

Final fixative for dry media

My inspiration

Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli, The birth of Venus, 1486, Uffizi gallery, Florence

My pictorial inspiration for my drawing comes from the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus. His shallow treatment of background space and the romantic figure of Venus coming out of the sea influenced me to create my goddess of the ocean. I worked on clothing and poses with a model to complete a fun photo shoot on the beach in Naples, Florida. The completed drawing is a study that I will later take to my oil painting.

You can read about the Botticelli’s artwork here.

Video

Here you’ll find a 40-sec. video as a summary of the step-by-step drawing described above.

 

How often do you draw in pencil? What’s you creative challenge? Let me know what you’d like to learn from me.

Share your thoughts in a contact form below!

Check out the step-by-step demonstrations here.
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