9, December 2013 § Leave a Comment
by Jane Morris Pack
The aim of the advanced painting class is to deepen understanding of paint handling, to gain insight into one of the great painters of history and to push the students to expand beyond their own normal approach to constructing a painting. More can be learned from imitating the masters than most other pedagogical approaches. This style of learning happens without words, without theory. It is quickly understood that the eye and hand can absorb and convey information, bypassing the verbal centers of the brain. This information is rich and nuanced and reaches into our emotional core; we feel rather than explain the process.
The advanced painters each brought their own experience to this project and they will take away from it varied responses. The student learns what the mind is ready to accept; were it otherwise we could all be masters within a short space of time. My hope is that they will all find at least one aspect of Rubens to incorporate into their future work. I know that my own appreciation for this painter grew as we worked and I have already put his teachings to use in my own paintings.
4, December 2013 § Leave a Comment
2, December 2013 § 1 Comment
by Jane Morris Pack
Rubens frequently composed along the curves of an oval which rose diagonally from the lower left to the upper right of the canvas. This diagonal movement gives tension and drama to his work. We have chosen a group of stock characters from his mythological subjects, centaurs and satyrs etc, and arranged them with this device in mind, placing them in overlapping positions and in reducing scale to push the space backward into the depths. We created a dark tree as a foil against the highly lit figures on one corner and opened up another to deep atmospheric perspective.
The drawings, once accomplished on paper were transferred to the canvas with the perforated holes and pouncing method used by the Renaissance artists. The underpainting was then set in with raw umber loosely and not too dark to keep the shadows transparent and luminous. Much of the streaky gray imprimatura was allowed to show through. Highlighting with white came next which involved oil paint mixed with chalk to give the paint textural force and an active surface. This was placed to bring the eye to areas of interest and emphasize our oval composition. More modeling was accomplished with a toned down white and then the canvas was allowed to dry.
This procedure, which took several hours of group effort, brought the image to a more finished form and we began to visualize it as a whole for the first time. Rubens often used his studio assistants to bring a painting to this level and then he added his final touches in the glazing and overpainting that follows.
18, November 2013 § 1 Comment
by Jane Morris Pack
The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s, must be beautiful. The ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics. –G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology
Geometry, from the Greek γεωμετρία or “earth measurement,” was used by the Egyptians to reestablish the borders of farmed ground after the Nile had flooded and erased the previous year’s boundary markers. This marking of the earth developed into a complex system of mathematics which was understood and amplified by the Greeks; Pythagoras, Euclid and Archimedes are names we associate with geometry. In the Middle Ages mathematicians in medieval Islam contributed most of the further developments until once again the Europeans led the way in the 17th century.
“Squaring the circle” is an attempt to create a circle with an area equal to a square using only a straight edge and a compass. Ancient geometers worked on this problem and it was only proven impossible in 1882. Nonetheless the symbolism involved remains potent: that of combining the heavenly circle with the square of earth. Leonardo explored this image in the famous Vitruvian man drawing which we were privileged to see in Venice this last September.
Steven Kosovac and I gathered with students on a blustery afternoon to draw out our attempt at this conundrum. With only pegs and a rope we followed the process from a book and arrived at a large and perfect example of squaring the circle.
12, November 2013 § 4 Comments
This fall, six advanced painting students are working with me to discover Rubens’ painting technique. To delve into Rubens’ style we studied the twisted forms of a knotted rope and a gnarled stick to imitate his brushstroke which often follows a spiraling line. We see it in the manes of his horses and the fabric of capes, in beards and in clouds. It was also important to learn to highlight economically with white as this is the primary way in which Rubens creates dimension. So our first study involved working on toned paper with white conte (above) and looking for expression of the twisted form. We then continued this investigation with paint (below).
Copying a master work is the best way to educate the eye and hand so our next step was to copy a passage of Rubens’ work. An enlarged section is easily obtained by perusing his work on Google Art Project. It is quite clear what the layers are and how they are preserved or covered by subsequent paint. Rubens seems to do so little but each brushstroke is amazingly rich in information. Not only is the color of the object’s surface there but also its texture, tone, temperature, direction of thrust and lighting condition. He accomplishes with one stroke what others would with many.
We are adding chalk to the paint as recent scholarship has detected the presence of it in his work. Chalk adds a textural component to the paint and helps it to dry quickly.
Meanwhile we are composing a large canvas to include five or six figures which will give each student a chance to contribute to the piece.
4, November 2013 § 2 Comments
by Jane Morris Pack
Euphrosyne Doxiades is a painter and an expert on encaustic, the wax based painting method of the Ancient Greeks. She has been asked to contribute her knowledge of the technique to a conference in Athens which is examining the use of paint on marble surfaces, both architectural and sculptural. She asked my help to recreate a figure which is on a marble disk thought to be from the mid fifth century. The piece is in the museum in Paros and was found in the cemetery excavation near the sea. It was the lid of an urn which may have held the ashes of an athlete who had won a competition for discus throwing.
What remains of the paint is vermillion pigment and there were traces of gold on the head and on the discus which are now missing. We painted vermillion mixed with hot bees wax and mastic directly into the surface of the marble and added gold leaf to the hair and the circle of the discus. The paint was “burned in” using a hot tool and then scraped and polished to a soft shine. Euphrosyne had made previous tests which insured that the paint adheres to the surface even out of doors in full sun.
We had a joyful time recreating this beautiful remnant of ancient culture and perhaps it will contribute to the scholarship as well.
30, October 2013 § 1 Comment
I graduated three years ago from a well-known private university in New York City. Due to my interdisciplinary studies, I took a variety of classes in fine arts, business, economics, writing, Swahili and a slew of liberal arts courses. With each class I learned a great deal of knowledge about the topic and myself, but I was never inspired to act upon my education. In fact my life in New York City became rigid and stagnant; I no longer went with the flow of life, but tried to control each and every bit of life that I could.
Art had been a large part of my life growing up. In high school I even took two art classes a year, but in university, art began to slip away from me. After my second year of university, I no longer thought of myself as an artist, and I stopped creating art for four years. At that point, I lost a huge part of myself.
Late last February I woke up on a cold Sunday morning with the guidance to come to the Aegean Center. I had recently started drawing again and had a few brief stints painting and began to realize that creating art energized me. The program started in one week, but I knew as last minute as this decision was, that I was meant to be in Greece in the spring and to be a part of the program.
And I was meant to be here. It was here that I found painting and drawing classes with Jun and Jane that sparked my imagination and inspired me to learn in ways that I had not done since I was a child. As someone who has also worked abstractly, the classical foundation classes were challenging, but kept me motivated and interested. Jane Pack’s figure drawing course particularly inspired me. Jane’s innovative and straightforward teaching technique introduced me to the human form, the way it moves, the way it has density and even those obscure names for bones, like the iliac crest, or muscles, like abductors. I was a sponge, able to absorb information easily and often. I never got tired of my education, and in fact wished there was more time in the day to learn more.
I am grateful for my years at a traditional university; I have a strong business background and great memories. Had I come to the Aegean Center at the age of 18, I may not have been able to take from it what I am now taking from it at the age of 26. I know that I am at a point in my life where I am receptive to an art education and I am now able to accept my path as an artist and a creative because of the nourishing and exceptional two semesters that I have had at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.