Still Life

Monday, September 12, 2016

Diego, again...

Although my painting activity has been pretty much eclipsed by what I still have a certain reluctance in calling my "day job", I have, however, had the opportunity recently to execute a copy of a Velazquez -- his Coronation of the Virgin.

Coronation of the Virgin, c. 1642
Diego Velazquez, oil on canvas, 176 x 134 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, SPAIN

A symphony of reds, violets, pinks and blue set sublimely against a celestial backdrop of whites and bluish-greys, its composition is unsurpassed in stability and in its success in making the viewer´s eyes focus on what is probably the most breathtaking representation of the Mother of the Saviour in Western painting. 
Once again I was just dumbfounded and held in reverential awe everyday that I would study each detail of this piece taking in the genius of the painter from Sevilla and his unparalleled ability to render every single element using his particular brand of "shorthand". It was truly a very challenging and difficult task to copy the painting which, for me, is not just a slavish process of laying down the right shape of color in its proper place, but more importantly, to transmit as best as I can that character and "personality" of the brush marks as these are what differentiate one painter from another, their way of speaking.
The copy was executed for a parish church somewhere in Texas -- perhaps once it is installed in the church I will offer a link for its complete address. I did my version about 25% larger than the original as per request of the client, and on wood panel instead of canvas. Although I am very pleased with the result, I´m not really sure as to how the colors will read in your monitors and there is always a discrepancy with how it looks in person. In any case, this is my version, in its final frame. The painting measures 225 x 152 cm.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Notebook sketches, Pedraza

Pedraza is a small, medieval, walled village in the province of Segovia, northwest of Madrid. It sits atop a hill overlooking the rolling Castilian landscape.

It has a castle which is visible in the image above towards the right background. It was originally built in the 1300s, rebuilt in the 1500s and after a long history of change of owners, it fell into a sad state of ruin and was bought in 1926 by the painter Ignacio Zuloaga who renovated one of its towers and transformed it into his studio. It now houses a museum showcasing his work as well as Flemish still lifes from the 17th century, an El Greco original as well as one of Goya. Not bad as an attraction for a little-known village forgotten by time.

Ignacio Zuloaga Zabaleta
Spanish Basque born in Eibar, Guipuzcoa in 1870 and died in Madrid in 1945.
(With a name like that, it´s safe to say he was probably last in his class´ roll call)

He was a contemporary of Sorolla,  completely different in vision, style, and brushwork. The Valencian painter, I think, received more international acclaim and is always mentioned in the same breath as Sargent and Zorn. But we must´t overlook this artist from the same era-- here are some of his works:

I visited Pedraza the other day with family and was able to do some watercolour sketches in my notebook. It´s a pretty little village and definitely worth the visit if only for the castle and the medieval jailhouse.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Con luz de bodega..."

...which translates into "with the light of a cellar"-- hence the term "bodegón" in Spanish which is the more colloquial way of saying "still life" ("naturaleza muerta"). Apparently, most if not all still lifes painted when the term "bodegón" was coined featured this somber light mostly found in cellars  which shed on the inanimate objects that characteristic play of chiaroscuro which we have all learned to associate with this genre. This is still the lighting I prefer, personally, whether it be natural (in which case one is limited to working on the subject at only certain times of the day) or artificial (in which case the whole set up is more controlled and the artist has more freedom to work when they please).

I have recently finished two of these "bodegones" done in this type of light. In both cases I have chosen natural light controlled by adjusting the blinds in the studio and so I only had two and a half hours or so to work on them each session. Both are oil on panel -- I had a surplus of particle board available which I had to prime with more layers of primer than usual as well as being careful to seal the edges.

This is the first one. I started out with a more-careful-than-usual drawing...I don´t usually finish my preliminary drawings to this extent--I was just having too much fun with it. In fact, people were telling me to leave it as a drawing and not go further.

I went on anyway and finished it. I wanted it to be of a more permanent medium than charcoal since it is something of a testimony to the tools of our trade.

...and this was what my set up looked like...

The second one is very similar but smaller in size and simpler in the sense that it contains less elements. I like this little jug a lot. Very common ceramic object over here and another piece that is just quite autonomous and has a lot to say if you let it.

...and my set up. The same "shelf", same light source, same time of day as the other painting. Wonderful thing about still life set ups: they can be manipulated exactly the way you want, they don´t need rest periods, they never complain about your choice of music and, best of all, they don´t have an opinion on the finished painting!