Tag: oil painting techniques

mona lisa art supplies, how to take care of art

Reasons why da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is still here: use your art supplies wisely

Technical reasons why Mona Lisa is still here

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a scientist and an inventor. In his mind, his remarkable abilities to perfect the technique of painting took a back seat in favor of many other interests he devoted most of his time to. Therefore, very few of his artworks exist today, and the artist’s mindset about art remains as elusive as his paintings. Tall, handsome, and charming Leonardo was great at finding patrons for his military, scientific, theatre and art projects, projects that had never ended in his creative mind, and most he had never finished.

As an inventor, he also loved to experiment with his art materials, using new, untested methods and processes that led to a number of disasters. His greatest surviving achievement, the “Last Supper” mural painted inside a church in Milan began to chip off the wall during his lifetime. He abandoned the traditional fresco technique and painted the picture on a dry wall instead of a wet plaster, and experimented with oil and tempera and other materials that Leonardo combined in a new, untested method, flaking off his deliberate, masterful composition to dust almost as soon as he painted it. The mural has endured a number of renovations since then, but only restored and computer-generated models can show us his genius: perfectly sculptured figures in triangular sub-compositions.

 

It’s not a surprise that da Vinci experimented with “Mona Lisa” (started in 1503) as well.  Obviously, this artwork had held a very special place in Leonardo’s heart since it had never left his hands until his death. Da Vinci’s drawing of the figure was absolutely perfect, and his creation of a soft landscape behind her, (the sfumato technique) was his signature invention. I’m not going to talk about the mystery of the sitter, the beauty of this composition, or the artist’s preoccupation with the painting. There is numerous literature written about these topics. Rather I’d like to illustrate the importance of art materials used in the process of painting.

The artist played with the technical aspects of the painting itself that deteriorated its surface at a much faster pace than it normally would. The exposure to light and humidity darkened and discolored the pigments. Fine details in the face got lost as dyes mixed with the paint faded. Her brightly colored attire changed to shades of browns and black that we see today. Further applied varnishes during the early restorations darkened the painting even more, and today it has a rather colorless appearance of yellowed browns.

Italian painter, Giorgio Vasari was the first to write a comprehensive book about famous artists preceding his generation that he titled “lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and architects.” In his notes he reviewed the “Mona Lisa” as follows:

“The eyes had that luster and watery sheen always seen in life … the nostrils, rosy and tender, seemed to be alive … The opening of the mouth seemed to be not colored but living flesh.”

These are the words that describe the mastery of the artist that we sort of see here, only if we could take the sunglasses off to see the real colors.

So what happened to the painting? Because the artist painted on a poplar panel (soft, non-durable and susceptible to insect attack wood) that was removed from its original frame, the surface couldn’t withstand the changes in humidity, it warped and cracked. In the 18th century the braces were added in the back of the painting to stabilize the crack, and later the added frame and cross braces helped to stop the continuous warping of the panel. Over the years the panel has actually shrunk!

Today you can see the painting in the Louvre that’s kept in a bulletproof glass case. It’s rather small (21×30”) and it’s hard to enjoy the beauty of it, jumping over the heads of so many tourists surrounding it with the selfie sticks. To preserve the priceless artwork, this painting is kept in a climate-controlled room with a 50% (+\-10%) humidity and 18-21C (68-70F) temperature. To compensate for fluctuations in relative humidity, the case is supplemented with a bed of silica gel treated to provide 55% relative humidity (Wikipedia)

These are computer-generated models of the famous painting showing us true colors it probably had when Leonardo had just painted it. In these models we can see the pinks and the blues that Vasari mentioned and that have faded over the centuries.

 

 

Source for the images: World Mysteries at http://blog.world-mysteries.com/science/digital-restoration-of-leonardo-da-vincis-mona-lisa/

Other sources: Art history lessons | the Natural Pigments at http://www.naturalpigments.com/blog | Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa

Mona Lisa in the Louvre

If you’re interested to learn more, the Louvre museum website is a great source. Here you can see Mona Lisa up-close and personal going through the digitized images completed by the Louvre museum:

Close ups: http://focus.louvre.fr/en/mona-lisa/

Overview: http://focus.louvre.fr/en/mona-lisa/understand/most-famous-painting-world

Scientific tests: http://focus.louvre.fr/en/mona-lisa/compare/scientific-tests

If you paint

Here you’ll find some good information relevant to the process of painting that affects conservation. The longevity of your artwork greatly depends on the environment you place it in. The best conditions you can set in your home or office include constant room temperature and low humidity levels. Don’t expose your artwork to the extreme sunlight, heat, oxidation, or humidity (water) – these are the main causes for the artwork’s deterioration. Don’t wash the surface with water.

1.     Don’t paint on glossy surfaces.

2.     Don’t use a lot of medium, it dilutes and weakens the paint. Use just a little bit of oil to help the paint flow.

3.     Paint with lead white, not titanium white, or worse flake white.  Lead white holds up everything together like a glue and minimizes cracking.

4.     If you don’t paint large, stick to painting on professional panels, the surface of which doesn’t fluctuate as much as the canvas does.

5.     Have strong stretcher bars and frames that keep the painted surface flat and unchanged.

6.     Use linseed oil to form the most durable oil paint film, although it yellows more than the walnut oil. (The walnut oil is your second best option. It yellows less but dries much slower).

7.     Always paint on a previously dried layer!

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Hope you enjoyed the read!

 

 

 

 

10 contemporary male artists painting women realistically

10 Contemporary male artists painting women in classical tradition: the best in figurative art

 

Today I’d like to feature some of the best contemporary male artists who paint women in classical tradition. After decades of abstract art dominating the American culture, figurative painting sees a  gentle come back that is becoming stronger and more popular year after year. While contemporary art is an amalgam of so many subjects and styles, it’s often subjective to the viewer’s personal taste to determine who is the best in painting. Therefore, I don’t aim to say that the following artists deserve more attention than so many others, but I’d like to highlight the ones who show both technical and creative mastery in the depiction of their subjects, finding their inspiration in painting the female form.

1. Pino

Pino Daeni (1939-2010) was an Italian artist who painted women in fresh pastel colors that evoked feelings of love, admiration, and family warmth. Women dance, read or take a stroll in a field of flowers or at the beach. Sweet and lighthearted, the figures are painted in colorful, loose strokes, using the sophisticated color schemes that overlay and harmonize with each other like notes in music. Long skirts, comfy white shirts, and summer dresses get lost in the soft edges of the surroundings. To see the artist’s work, visit: http://www.pino-artist.com/

2. Serge Marshennikov

Russian artist, Serge Marshennikov is the representational painter who solely focuses on painting women. His youthful, semi-nude models rest on a couch in swirls of delicate fabric. The elaborate lace and cotton alike, it feels so gentle and real, the viewer feels tempted to reach out and touch it. Like the 19th-century French artist David, Serge plays with complex fabric folds and the luminous skin tones to create stunning contrast in his paintings.

Besides exhibiting a tremendous technical skill in oil painting, the artist possesses true talent composing his images with honest admiration and sensitivity to his models that transcend time and place. Follow the artist here: http://serge-marshennikov.tumblr.com/

3. Joshua LaRock

Joshua La’Rock

American artist, Joshua LaRock is a classical realist who studied with Jacob Collins to nurture his talents. Deeply rooted in classical painting, his portraits and still lifes are carefully planned and executed in classical tradition. Joshua describes his models in soft, slightly loose brushwork that breath with life. The award-winning artist works and teaches in New York. Connect with the artist here: http://joshualarock.com/

4. Emanuele Dascanio

Italian artist, Emanuele Dascanio draws and paints in the hyperrealism style with the models occupying huge surfaces. His subjects vary from women to old men, to still life. He often controls the light with a single light source (the Rembrandt lighting) to create dramatic charcoal drawings and paintings. To see the artist’s work, go here: http://www.emanueledascanio.com/en

5. Jeremy Mann

The first time I encountered Jeremy Mann’s work I was blown away by his loose style of painting that seemed totally real nevertheless. Painting cityscapes and women in thick, bold strokes of ink brayers and brushes, the artist creates a universe of harmonious, often monochromatic color relationships. Views of Manhattan and reposed models alike, his paintings make us contemplate a moment of beautiful silence that doesn’t scream with melancholy.

6. Gregory Mortenson

Gregory Mortenson is a classically trained artist whose recent body of work features Haitian children, who were painted by the artist after the devastating earthquake hit the country. His subdued color palettes show a beautiful restraint. To see the artist’s work: http://www.gregorymortenson.com/

7. Goyo Dominquez

Goyo Dominguez is a Spanish artist who paints women and still life, combining traditional painting techniques with the loose brushwork of the Impressionists. Influenced by Renaissance, his romantic artwork is colorful and pure with a sense of lightness and tranquility. Early in life he studied for priesthood and was encouraged to pursue the artistic career. His upbringing led the artist to create numerous murals and commissions for the church and more. To see his work: http://goyodominguez.com/

8. Brad Kunkle

American artist, Brad Kunkle paints women on the silver-leafed panels. He employs monochromatic grays and browns to describe his models. Brad often places women against the patterned background or lets the flying leaves revolve around the models like tiny birds. His figures could be the nymphs of magical forests that strike us with primal physical presence. To connect with the artist: http://bradkunkle.com/

9. Adrian Gottlieb 

Adrian Gottlieb is a classical portraitist working from his studio in LA. In his paintings he explores the relationship between color and poetry that unifies in timeless elements of beauty. Inspired by Rembrandt, the artist reigns supreme at capturing the luminosity of skin tones and fabric set against dark backgrounds. The amazing life-like appearance of his models is astonishing in all of his museum-quality paintings. He runs workshops from his studio and around the country. http://www.adriangottlieb.com/gottlieb-studios/

10. Louis Treserras

French artist and photographer, Louis Treserras paints fragile, young women with intense gaze in restrained, carefully controlled color schemes. Unlike Gottlieb, the artist always sets his figures against the light background. His female models possess the enigmatic and intense gaze that show character and thoughtfulness.  

Here you have it. Stay tuned for my future posts about the best contemporary female artists. 🙂

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Oil painting techniques: what is lightfastness of oil paint?

While I’m not an expert in art conservation, I am the artist who paints full-time. After years of painting, conversations with other professionals and some research, I can offer the very basic guidance in choosing your oil paints for your art. Feel free to research this topic further via my references at the bottom of this post or by contacting the products’ manufacturers. 🙂

Picking the right brand of oil paint can be a challenge. Some brands are promoted so heavily by the art supply companies that artists buy their paints without having a second thought. When I was a student, the quality of paint hardly ever mattered to me and my most common determinant was the price. Today as I take care of my art my buying choices are strongly influenced by the overall quality and lightfastness of oil paint.

There are several important properties of oil paint artists should pay attention to. The most necessary information can be seen written right on a tube of paint. Don’t buy the paint that doesn’t have the following data printed on it.

1. Transparency vs. opaqueness of oil paint

While some colors are transparent, others are opaque or semi-opaque. An empty square, half-empty, or a filled square gives artists information about the paint’s transparency.  Some brands just say “Transparent” or “Semi-opaque” as opposed to assigning a specific symbol to it. So when I chose my paint for glazing, applying the transparent layers of paint, I look at the square/ or a note on transparency to determine if my paint is naturally good for glazing. Some transparent colors are Gamblin’s ultramarine blue, Michael Harding’s bright yellow lake, or Charvin’s transparent yellow ochre, etc.

Opaque or semi-opaque colors are often good for scumbling, layering the light opaque paint over the dark area.

2. Pigments used in oil paint determine the lightfastness (resistance to light) and the longevity of your art.

This is the most important principle in choosing your paint. The pigments used in oil paint are described in letters and numbers. For example, PB15-phtylocianine blue is rated lightfastness I. PW1-lead white is lightfastness I. PR2-Napthol red G- lightfastness II, etc.

While some basic colors have just one pigment, there are many colors that consist of several pigments mixed together along with oil, fillers, and binders. These “new,” not historical colors give artists a lot more color choices, but every pigment present in such paint tube should be checked for lighfastness separately. For example, Winton flesh tint has 4 pigments in it (PW6, PW5, PY42, and PV19).

Here is extensive pigment information database that lists oil paint properties including the lightfastness of paints: http://www.artiscreation.com/


Each company performs its own tests. This information is written on the tube, and it reads either as +, ++ or +++, or lightfastness I, lightfastness II, or lightfastness III and so on. The higher the number (3-4) the less lightfast the paint is.

By nature, browns and ochres are often more lightfast than some funky colors, like alizarin crimson or turquoise. Those colors that have lightfastness 3-4 are fugitive and fade pretty quickly. If you paint professionally, those colors should be avoided painting with.
Artists can perform their own tests by exposing 1/2 of paint to the sun (while the other half is covered by black tape or cardboard). Lift the tape in a month of continuous light exposure to see the change in color. Artist Virgil Elliott has tested numerous colors of various brands. You’ll find a lot of useful information on painting in his book Traditional oil painting and in his facebook group.

3. Type of oil mixed into the paint.

All tubed paints have some oil mixed into the paint. Linseed oil is the most stable oil that is also used widely as paint medium by artists. It’s long-lasting and dries quite quickly.

Safflower oil, poppy oil, and walnut oil are less stable oils often used as vehicles that are mixed into the oil paint. Avoid using safflower oil.

4. The amount of fillers and binders added to oil paint.

Various amounts of fillers and binders are mixed into the oils as well. They dilute the pigment by “stretching” the paint, making it cheaper to the consumer. Such pigments have a much longer shelf life. Fillers and binders greatly affect the consistency and texture of paint. It could affect the drying speed of paint as well.

Rublev colors, manufactured by Natural Pigments, don’t have any fillers in their paint, making the oils more stable and with high tinting strength. Like other professional-grade paints, they give artists a lot more pigment in a small tube as opposed to cheaper oil paint put in a large tube. But because NP have no extra binders, their shelf life is very limited and it’s best to use the paint within a year. I could barely squish the paint out of the tube after that.

Professional brands of oil paints include:

  • Rublev colors by NP
  • Old Holland
  • Michael Harding
  • Gamblin
  • Chroma, etc.

These are great resources for further research:

  • The atelier movement– a closed group on Facebook-exists for artists interested in classical painting. The group’s administrator is classically trained artist-Graydon Parrish.
  • Artist Virgil Elliot: http://virgilelliott.com/
  • Douglas Flynt’ blog: http://douglasflynt.blogspot.com/
  • “The artist’s handbook of materials & techniques” by Ralph Mayer: http://www.amazon.com/The-Artists-Handbook-Materials-Techniques/dp/0670837016
  • Sadie Valerie blog: http://www.sadievaleri.com/blog/

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