With the rushing around, I never quite remember to photograph our space during open studios. This year our art association hired a photographer. Here are a few of the photos.
All photos by Edward Holley (unfortunately couldn’t find any website or email for him)
A quick post about some of the upcoming things happening in and around our painting studio- For those in Boston, next weekend is the Boston International Fine Art Show at the Cyclorama in the South End. A nice cross-section of what’s happening in American galleries. I’ll have some work there with Sloane Merrill Gallery.
•This Wednesday, November 20th in Concord, MA I’ll be giving a portrait painting demonstration at the Concord Art Association, from 10:30-12:30.
http://www.concordart.org/education/demos.php All are welcome.
•January 10-12 from 9:00-12:00 at the studio in Waltham we will be running a intensive workshop on sight-size portraiture. Students can work in Charcoal or Oils. $220/Model fees and Materials included.
•We’re planning for February 1st and 2nd from 9:00-12:00 for this year’s weekend intensive on outdoor snow painting. Weather permitting (and I don’t mean cold, but snow), the location will be either in Lincoln or Concord, MA. Don’t worry, if you’re concerned about the cold there will be a 5-day landscape painting intensive in Boston further along towards spring. Even with the cold, winter is absolutely the most beautiful time of year to paint outside. For the ambitious.
•On February 7th, in Stamford, CT I’ll be giving a presentation on materials at the Connecticut Portrait Society’s biannual conference.
•For the snowbirds, in late February I may be teaching a short painting workshop near Palm Beach, Florida. More details later as it firms up. I’ll be down there with Grenning Gallery’s annual show in Wellington, Florida.
Cinzia Virno, Italian Art Historian and Curator at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale has been working for years with the Antonio Mancini archives, cataloging his works, photographs and correspondence. Her first project is nearly finished, which will be a complete work of his oil paintings. The planned following volumes will be on his pastels and drawings.
The images in this article are from the upcoming monograph, which will be published in 2014. Dr. Virno was kind enough to provide me with the images during our recent email exchange. They are in chronological order to display Mancini’s artistic progression.
Below is her press release which I’ve translated into English.
( 1852 – 1930)
Dr. Cinzia Virno, Italian Art Historian and Curator at the Galleria d’ Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale.Catalogue RaisonnéAntonio Mancini, celebrated artist of the Italian 19th century, appreciated the world over, for the first time will have his life reconstructed, outlining his entire artistic journey.Based on the writings and photos of the artist from his official archives, sourcing the wide bibliography on the artist in Italy and abroad, this catalogue compiles more than 1,000 of his paintings, documenting his life in detail. After years of work, new paintings have now been identified, whether works long considered lost or pieces, though important, still unknown to the public.This detailed study allows us to see unknown aspects of his life and complex, prolific career. In chronological order, his works are examined, placing his paintings within their unique cultural setting. In his success, Mancini emerged as one of the greatest artists of his era, one of the most admired and sought-after artists of his day.
Born in Rome in 1852 into a poor family, Mancini lived for some years in Umbria, home province of his parents. Trained in Naples, Mancini presented himself to the international art market at the young age of 17, sending two works to the French Salon of 1872. From Napoli, Mancini went to stay in the French capital twice, participating again in the Salons of 1876, 1877, 1878 and the World’s Fair.Returning to Italy, Mancini began to exhibit signs of mental illness and was hospitalized at the beginning of the 1880’s. During this time, his ‘Madness Period’, Mancini did not stop painting, instead producing many notable works including numerous striking self-portraits.In 1883 Mancini moved to Rome where he would reside until his death, except his trips abroad, and from 1911 to 1917 when he worked under contract for the entrepreneur Fernand Du Chéne de Vère in Frascati.His early work, striving for a style of realism derived from his teacher Domenico Morelli (1826-1901), is balanced of 17th century light effects, a preference for genre scenes, primarily of ‘scugnizzi’, young street urchins, and the rare excursion into landscape painting. Although seemingly uninterested with the conquests of the impressionists, after his stay in Paris, Mancini lightened his palette and began searching for light in his painting.Having arrived in Rome, while not abandoning his scenes of humble people, Mancini began painting commissioned portraits of the aristocracy, artists, and politicians. He continued to tenaciously pursue realism, though never merely likeness, but above all, in composition and color.From the mid 1880’s he began using, as a painting tool, two string gridded wooden rectangles- one he would place in front of the model, the other on the face of his canvas. The goal of this method, which left visible marks on his paintings, was to reproduce the figure, life size, with the correct relationships of light and color. During this period, thanks to his close relationship to the dutch marine artist and collector Hendrick Willem Mesdag, many of Mancini’s paintings are sold in Holland and in the United States.
The trips he took to England, Ireland and Germany around the turn of the century, along with the shows he took part in abroad, established his fame internationally, so much so that the great John Singer Sargent called him ‘the greatest painter alive’.In his search to represent light on canvas, layer by layer, his paint became physically thicker, until finally he began inserting mirror fragments, broken glass, buttons and metal foil underneath his colors- a process which peaked during his stay in Frascati.During his late years painting in Rome, he used his nephews as models almost exclusively, and began again painting the occasional landscape. Some of his most touching self portraits are of this period, showing him with all the signs of age. Artistically, these ‘family’ subjects were not Mancini retreating into himself, but in fact are among his most original works, proof of his technical ability, and confirming him to be undoubtedly, the most modern artist of the Italian 19th century.Acknowledgements: A particular thanks to Fabrizio Russo of Galleria Russo, whose contribution and help made this project possible.
This is great news, there has been mounting appreciation for Mancini’s works over the past few years. The 2007 exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art brought his work back to America’s attention, his striking technique and unique, brash realism resonating deeply with the public. The accompanying catalogue was the first modern text published on Mancini’s work in English. Unfortunately, it sold out almost immediately, has not been reprinted, and is now only available at the highest prices, new or used. It really is high time for a new, scholarly work to be done on his oeuvre.
Virno’s text will soon be given to the editor, and will be published in 2014 by De Luca Editori D’Arte. The work has been sponsored by Fabrizio Russo of Galleria Russo in Rome. The finished volume catalogues over 1,000 works, with extensive writings on Mancini’s paintings.
I, for one, am very much looking forward to this.
As a sort of continuation of my earlier post on colors, here is a fresh example of a test that I do every couple of years. In most every painter’s box, white is your most important color. Used in abundance, it affects the overall look of your painting, drying time, gloss, and brushwork.
Unless you compare whites, many aren’t aware of the vast differences in color between them- whether a white ground in Linseed or Poppy oil, or that Titanium Dioxide is a far brighter, bluer pigment than Lead Carbonate. This is a multifaceted issue that I spend a long time on when I give materials lectures. Paint is affected by the quality and color of its pigment, any additional particulate that is added to the paint (whether binder or straight filler) the quality and color of its oil, and at times even the material of the paint rollers mulling the paint itself.
Another issue is that paint simply looks different after drying than when it does fresh out of the tube. Linseed oil darkens over time, and to varying degrees, as the quality of linseed oil varies greatly from brand to brand. Painting a light blue sky only to have it turn green over time is really something you would like to be aware of in advance. For flesh painting, usually yellowing is of lesser consequence, unless painting a white dress or particularly fair skin.
Whenever possible I like to compare store-bought paints with my hand ground, to compare the oil I’m currently using with whatever industrial comparison’s on the market. After drying for a month or so I’ll put it away in a drawer or a corner and forget about it. You really need to view the colors fully dried, with the full effect of the oil darkening to compare them. The above test is only a few days old, still wet- though you can’t really judge the colors definitively, it’s interesting that a tube of W&N Lead from the 70′s at this point appears much smoother, and nearly as bright as the gritty modern W&N Lead white in Safflower oil. I’ll see if that relationship stays the same over the next few months.
People have written for years about the great tensile strength that Lead White gives your painting, and in modern days folks been talking about the dangers of Zinc White delaminating. A simple paint test like this is a great way to check a paint’s durability. Cracking is a big concern if you want your paintings to last, especially if you like to paint on stretched canvas.
Five or six years ago, before I had ever tested Zinc, I bent a piece of canvas that had a swatch of Robert Doak’s suspiciously light and bright ‘Lead White’ on it. Not only did the swatch break and fall off the canvas but it hit the floor and broke into a million pieces. I later made the Zinc connection, and have since included Zinc on all my white tests. I also stopped using Doak’s white.
The below white test is well over a year old. After letting it dry for considerable time it’s been in the dark for the past six months. As you can see, there’s a much greater variety in color. The dark quality of the whites ground in Linseed will fade over the next couple of weeks. I do find, however, that Williamsburg Flake to be especially unacceptable in color.
The above sheet had a couple of Zinc Whites and Zinc/Titanium blends on it. I bring these sheets occasionally when teaching, and after bending it a couple times to demonstrate none of the Zinc stuff remains on the canvas. Pretty shocking, but important to remember that people don’t often go around bending paintings. It will take some pretty significant mistreatment to get zinc to fall off a stretched painting. Philip de László reportedly used Zinc for all his impastos, and his paintings that I’ve seen are in great shape. Personally, though, I avoid the stuff entirely.
Also worth noting in the above test is that the Gamblin Titanium has livered horribly. It’s also far too dark in respect to other Titanium Whites. This leads me to believe it’s got a huge oil content from some filler they’re using, Titanium White’s surface livering like that doesn’t happen on its own. Who knows, though, as even batch to batch manufacturers paints vary.
Generally speaking, my hand ground whites are nearly always the brightest in the lead/linseed category, as long as I wash my linseed oil first. Handground paint in Walnut Oil is often among the brightest whites at the end, whether Titanium, Zinc or Lead white. Bending the canvas, neither Lead nor Titanium Whites fall off the canvas. Titanium has a propensity for a brittle crack once in a while though. Lead really does seem far more durable, at least in my years of testing.
I find these sort of tests to be valuable, but rather than taking my word for it I would recommend this sort of test to be done by everyone, it doesn’t take time, and really furthers your understanding of what’s in your paint box. Not all paints are created equal.
November 2nd and 3rd the Waltham Mills Artist Association is holding its annual Open Studios event. It’s a pretty large event, with around 70 artists participating. To see a bit about the variety of artists participating you can see the WMAA website here. It will be my second year participating.
On view I will have a couple of Russian paintings from my recent trip, and a large Florida sunset you can see in the lower left corner of the picture above. Some of my students will be showing off what they’ve done recently in the studio.
Saturday we will be open 12-6, and on Sunday 12-5. Come say hello.
Still on the easel, this is a picture that began as a fall foliage, bright painting. After a big storm, the leaves fell off the tree before I could finish it. When I got back to the studio I decided to use as reference one of the night sketches I painted on site, darkening the picture until it ended up a full-blown nocturne.
It’s a little too dark for detail, but the little spot of light on the right is actually Daniela Astone painting with a flashlight.
A very common question among painters is ‘what colors do you use’. Color is a complicated thing, but that’s a seemingly innocuous question. Before talking about what colors I use, it’s worth mentioning that people tend to understand the answer in funny ways- as if introducing or eliminating a color from a color arsenal is going to produce similar results.
A disclaimer: there are no magic tricks in painting. A skilled painter can use a myriad of bright colors, Quinacridones, Pthalos and Perylenes to make a monochrome picture, and a skilled painter can also use a very limited palette to create a seemingly color-filled picture. All that matters are the colors on the canvas at the end. Color should not be glaringly obvious. To achieve subtle color relationships, many train using some sort of limited palette, working their colors up often from brownish-grey. I was trained in this way, and have slowly added and subtracted colors here and there over the years, depending on the situation.
In Florence, for the portrait or figure, we trained with a four color limited palette- Lead White, Yellow Ocher, Vermillion and Ivory Black. This works well for flesh, you can achieve a lot of beautiful, subtle variation with this palette, but high chroma colors outside of pinkish or peachy yellows will be hard to hit. Also, your greens, blues and purples in general will, of course, be very limited. Generally, since those super bright notes will be hard to hit, your painting will generally take on a slightly darker, umbrish tone. Not being able to hit high chroma colors isn’t necessarily a fault when you’re painting flesh tones. Pinkish, peach, silvery bright colors are perfect for the light on a forehead or cheekbone, or light falling across a back. Flesh is mostly low-chroma. It works well, and has for a long, long time. Cavemen had four pigments- white of chalk or burnt chicken bones, yellow or red earth, and black from charcoal of the fire. These four pigments have been around for a long time.
If you’re going to use a limited palette, the quality of your colors becomes immensely important. The tinting strength and transparency of a yellow ocher is directly related to how many deep greens you can mix without the paint turning chalky and grey. This of course varies greatly from brand to brand and even batch to batch, depending not only on the source and quantity of pigment, but the color and quality of the oil. These are hard factors to guess at without doing some testing, and not all paints are created equal.
We live in a time of marketing and repeated information. Recently, the ‘Zorn Palette’ (a basic four-color limited palette, like above) has become a popular concept, repeated on blogs and messageboards, until it’s sort of become the accepted name of a limited palette. Though mixing some whites with some blacks can make low-chroma blues, and placing them next to or over an orangish tone can make a low chroma blue seem much brighter through simultaneous contrast, you cannot make a sky blue without blue. You can’t really make a bright green with ochre and black. Here’s a great post with extensive commentary from James Gurney about Anders Zorn and the ‘Zorn Palette’, though unfortunately he doesn’t offer many examples with blues and greens. Zorn’s paintings are quite unified, limited in color, certainly not a showcase of all the colors available at the colorman. I would say though, he used blue occasionally, and a Lead Tin or Naples Yellow when necessary. That’s just me hazarding a guess. Whatever Zorn used, it worked for him, and that’s what’s important.
In simple terms, in order to paint a variety of outdoor effects with a limited palette, you will need to introduce some blue, at a minimum. A brighter yellow is a good idea as well. I made my first forays into painting outdoors in 2004, while I was finishing the Florence Academy program. The outdoor palette I started with was some mix of what Dan Graves recommended and what Gammell told Cecil to use, then filtered through Marc Dalessio who was teaching the class was Lead White, Cad Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Vermillion or Cad Red Light, Alizarin, Cerulean and Ultramarine Blue. White, Two yellows, two reds, and two blues. This was a big shift from the studio palette. I would almost always bring some umber along, coming from a studio painting environment I wasn’t comfortable mixing down from bright blues and yellows to brown, it was easier to add a bit of color to my brown-greys. It was a good palette for me to start with, and I recommend the same palette to students today.
When I paint portraits, I still use a very limited palette, not dissimilar to the four color palette described above. For painting outdoors, however, I’ve begun introducing colors which have actually stayed on my palette. Some get cycled in or out, depending on the subject.
The most drastic change to my outdoor palette is that I’ve almost entirely replaced Lead White with Titanium. I only use Lead White these days when I need to paint texture, in the sky or clouds, rocks or path, and those textures are usually done in the studio. Titanium covers better, so you can work faster, and outdoors effects change quickly. Although it’s a slow drying, everything dries quickly in the warm air outdoors or in the hot car. Also, it’s brilliant white, so it suits what I’m working on these days, especially the high value key effects.
Counter clockwise, the above palette is Titanium White, Nickel Yellow (Nickel Yellow from Williamsburg is a decent replacement for genuine Naples Yellow Lt), Cad Yellow light, Yellow Ochre, Cad Orange, Cad Red medium, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Red Oxide, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue Medium, Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Violet. There’s some Pthalo Green and Blue on there, and there may be some Viridian in that muck at the bottom. I use the Pthalos very rarely, but they’re handy for grey days and some bright sky colors. I don’t use black outside, except, apparently, when in Russia. There’s a bit of black at the end there.
I go through a lot of paint these days, and have less and less free time in the studio. Consequently I’ve been using my handground paints less and less. These days, I’ve been using mostly Michael Harding’s oils. His paints are similar in quality to, and sometimes better than my handground colors. I love his cadmiums, a tube just lasts forever. I also like how open Harding is about what he puts in his colors, very little but a high pigment load. I always enjoy speaking with him about materials, and it’s a refreshing trend over the past years that paint companies have become increasingly open about what they put in their paint. Michael’s been like that since I met him in 2004.
I have been dabbling with other brands too. Gamblin, Utrecht, Williamsburg, mostly. Having had the experience of making my own paint for years I am very judicious when testing and choosing colors. I can usually find something that suits my needs, that said, when I need a paint with body, or a particular unctuous characteristic, my handground is still best for me.
These are ostensibly more colors than I need outdoors- some colors just come in handy. I use Cobalt Violet for drawing and painting distant details. So much of nature is grey, and it’s just great for painting greys. Real Naples Yellow Light has great body, and works well for mixing low chroma greens. I could mix those greens with Cad Yellow, but it’s faster. I don’t need either of those colors, but expedience is a tool when working outdoors. I rarely need all of these at any one time, and I certainly didn’t need all of that blue for the below painting.
When working large, I use a box easel. It’s pretty wind resistant, and you can hold things in it. When I need more stability and space, I use a lightweight tripod easel to hold the painting. That way the palette can rest, and I can get the painting up at eye level. You can hang a heavy bag from a tripod easel, which is very helpful on windy days. When driving, I usually use this kit, tons of storage and workspace. The tripod easel is called an ‘Italian Field Easel’, and I believe they’re made by Richeson. The steel version lasts longer than the aluminum one.
When traveling, however, a box easel can be difficult to carry. In the above picture sitting on the shelf of the box easel is a small cigar box. They weigh nothing, and are usually free from a tobacconist. With my tripod easel and cigar box I can paint small to medium size paintings, and that kit weigh less than 15 pounds. I load up the box with paint before leaving, and if I have a long hike ahead of me, it’s the easiest to carry. If the canvas doesn’t fit in my bag, I carry it. The easel I sling over my shoulder.
Generally, I don’t usually have much to put on this site but pictures. Images are usually enough to put out there- but I thought it would be worth discussing for a moment what I’ve been using, as it’s made my life easier. It’s taken me some time to juggle all the colors that are on my paint table, even if I’m only using a few of them at a time. This is what works for me.
Been working on cleaning up some of the Russian work, and repainting some that didn’t work out well between the rain and wind.
This year I was invited by the Museum of Landscape in Plyos, Ivanovo Region, Russia to represent Italy in their annual regional painting exhibition and cultural exchange – зеленый шум or ‘Green Noise’.
In previous years they had hosted painters from other regions of Russia, and a few years ago began inviting international artists- 2011 was France, and 2012 was a group from Cyprus. Next year will be Holland or England I believe. We were each asked to donate an Italian painting to the permanent collection of the landscape museum, and they picked another painting from the body of work we did which will either remain part of the collection or be sold to raise funds. The show is up until October 20th.
Plyos was made famous by Isaak Levitan, and in turn he made much of his reputation on his Plyos series. I’d always been curious what Plyos was like, having admired Levitan for years, this trip was an amazing opportunity. It’s remained a destination town- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vacations there, and even though we were off-season we crossed paths with him on our first day.
Sixteen artists total, eight Italians and eight Russians- the artists representing Italy this year were Daniela Astone, Marc Dalessio, Ben Fenske, myself, Tim McGuire, Luciano Regoli, Serghiy Shtanko and Vitaliy Shtanko who was the organizer of the Italian painters. Our group was mostly culled from The Florence Academy of Art circle, and although I’m American I suppose living and working in Italy for over ten years is enough to represent the Italians.
The Russian group was Виктор Бутко (Viktor Butko), Ольга Карпачева (Olga Karpacheva), Василий Куракса (Vasiliy Kuraksa), Людмила Кузнецова (Lyudmila Kuznetsova), Григорий Новиков (Grigoriy Novikov), Юрий Орлов (Yuri Orlov), Ирина Рыбакова (Irina Rybakova) and Олег Журавлев (Oleg Zhuravlev), who curated the entire exhibit along with Irina Sorokina from the museum. *The links I’ve used here are the best I’ve come up with using my meager googling ability in Cyrillic- anyone who actually speaks Russian feel free to leave better links in the comments.
It was very interesting painting with the Russians- only really speaking through translators when they were available. Despite our best efforts, at times a lot seemed lost in translation. That said, we developed a good deal of camaraderie and understanding by watching each other work. Painting was definitely the common language on this trip.
Before leaving, the forecast looked great- 60′s and partial sun. A Russian had told me that Plyos was famous for its beautiful blue skies. Instead, the weather was absolutely miserable. Rain, wind and low temperatures, there was only one day we didn’t paint in the rain, though that’s because we were walking around Moscow in the snow. Even the locals were shocked by the weather. Coming back to Boston in October felt like walking into a tropical climate.
Although the weather was difficult everyone got a lot of work done. Being in a large group of artists is good for your hardiness, and even the days I was pretty sick I was out painting.
Unfortunately I had very little computer access, photographing my work without the opportunity to check it on a bigger screen- as a result a lot of the images aren’t great. I’ll rephotograph everything when I get it back in November.
We went out painting at night as a group a bit. Always interesting, as no matter how good your lights are you really don’t get a sense of your color until you see the painting indoors. A lot of trying to remember how much of each color you mixed with, and keeping your mixing space organized. Even still, it’s usually a surprise to see your painting the next day.
Painting overcast effects all day every day is not something I’ve done much of- after a few days I started to really get into how much you could perceive color differences without light and shade. Autumnal colors can be pretty garish, and the steady purple-grey sky seemed to tone everything down a bit.
The architecture in the town was very interesting- a lot of traditional structures, and it seemed everything was under constant restoration.
Some days, with the wind, I could barely paint a straight line. I have a few things that will need to be fixed in the studio- color was good, but drawing was very difficult some days on top of the hill.
This is the second painting the museum took, which will either be sold or stay part of their collection:
Russia was an amazing experience- with all its difficulty, I never would have made it to Plyos without this trip. A privilege to see where Levitan worked, visit the Levitan House Museum and see a bit of provincial Russia.
Apparently our paintings will be featured on a Russian Winter Olympics culture site at some point – I checked the site with Google translate and didn’t see us there. Maybe someone who speaks Russian will see it. They printed a catalogue as well- I have a proof, but the print quality isn’t great. I’ll post a PDF of the catalogue when I get the OK from the good people at зеленый шум in Plyos.
Last week I was fortunate enough to spend time painting in the southwestern corner of Vermont. I participated in Plein Air Vermont, an organized outdoor painting competition.
It was amazing being surrounded by Vermont’s rolling hills, I hadn’t quite realized how much I had accustomed myself to painting flat land over the past couple years.
‘Sunderland Hills’ will be on exhibit at the Bennington Center for the Arts until late December.
I’ll be sure to make it back up there to paint snow this winter.
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