Wrapping up

31, May 2013 § 1 Comment

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There has been a flurry of paper flying in the digital lab as students mat their prints and make decisions on what will go into the flip files at the exhibition opening on Saturday. Painters are applying final touches and evaluating their best efforts. As the students clear out the studios there is  sadness mingled with nostalgia as they will all go their separate ways in less than a week. Many will stay in touch over the next years as they have formed important bonds but the group energy disapates as they all begin to anticipate the next step. Some will return for the fall semester and play the role of the experienced returnees advising the newcomers.  The rest go on to jobs and universities carrying a part of the Aegean Center with them.  We wish them καλό ταξίδι.  Good journeys!

Painting with Encaustic at the Aegean Center

15, May 2013 § Leave a comment

encaustic-painting

Euphrosyne Doxiades revealed secrets about the encaustic method of painting in a recent workshop at the Aegean Center.  Encaustic is an ancient technique in which pigments and wax are blended together and applied hot to a surface. An electric hot plate kept the wax at the perfect temperature to dip into and spread with a brush. Small alcohol burners were also used to heat metal spatulas which spread the wax.  Working on a dark imprimatura the wax strokes leave a highly textured surface which can be further manipulated with heat.  Electric tools can be used as well.  The four color palette was employed; white and black, yellow and red.  Euprhosyne’s book, The Mysterious Fayum Portraits, shows how this ancient technique was used for mummy portraits in first century Egypt. Her book is published by Thames and Hudson.

encaustic-wax-painting

The Vermeer Project: Part Two

8, May 2013 § 3 Comments

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Detail of Color Application

by Jane Morris Pack

Surprised by the ease of painting in the dark and upside down, I left the reader waiting for an update while our underpaintings dried.

The projection seems bursting with color and light inside of our dark room or ‘camera  obscura’  as is the Italian phrase.  How strange it was to apply color then and find our efforts were too garish in comparison.  Our second surprise with this project– how neutral the image needed to be.

Vermeer Palette

The neutral palette

I first suggested we tint our underpainting with some generalized glazes while still outside the camera.  This gave us a sense of the general warms and cools.  The vase was glazed in a warm transparent brown very thinly applied and wiped back with a rag; the wall was tinted with a veil of blue.  In truth this glazing just barely altered the color of the painting from its monochromatic state to something resembling an old fashioned tinted photograph.

After studying Vermeer I saw that many of his tones are neutral, darks are mostly without color, half tones are very grey, and only lights have true color. This matches what we perceive of the projection.  Highlights are obviously colored yellow or blue, gradations are very soft,  contrasts are muted. Selecting a very limited palette of raw sienna and cobalt blue, with just a touch of cobalt violet (plus black and white), I matched the underpainting’s tones and scumbled on color very lightly. My application of the colors, once viewed in daylight, was too colorful.  I went back in a second time and added greys, warm and cool, softened transitions and added transparent color glazes into the darks.  The feeling of cool light this gave was more northern in feel, the greyed out colors were more photographically ‘real’. The process is somewhat demanding, light off and on, white card up, down, staring at the image, mixing color, all in the half dark.  But it goes fairly quickly nonetheless.

The students were anxious to try a portrait but we quickly discovered that a human model needs to be very still or the results are skewed.  Given fifteen minutes one can attain a likeness; more time generally results in a slumping model and a frustrated painter.

pencil portrait

Pencil portrait

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Ink portrait

vermeer still life

Camera obscura student work 1 

This project has taught us much about the use of color, its potency if restrained in use, the use of selective focus, the beauty of grey.  I don’t think we are any closer to answering the final question of whether Vermeer painted inside of a darkened room but we have certainly understood that it would be possible to do so.

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Camera obscura student work 2

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