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Old 07-25-2006, 06:17 PM
WCampbell WCampbell is offline
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter The classic look-an investigation

Once upon a time, (I hope my tale is half as good as the others that started out this way), I was searching the web and came across the Art Renewal Center. I wish I could portray how happy I was to find such a place. This site proclaimed what I think art is. Powerful. Refined. Finished. Please don’t misunderstand me, even studies and sketches are wondrous and remarkable, but when they are taken to completion with forethought and accomplished skill, they attain the heights of magical. It is this that this site is trying to raise to it’s deserved and forgotten level, and I wish to investigate just what is this thing, this look, we classify as classical.

I want to create this. I want to learn how to produce a work, refine it and take it to a finish. Not necessarily to the look of the past, but definitely to the quality that they have attained. I would like your input and help. I know what I can do, and so far if falls short, but who knows what we can do next...
The following is a play by play of the project that I am using for this investigation. I desire your input on every step on the way. The good , the bad, and the ugly. Even comments on how I am writing this are welcome and desired. I am bent on getting to the bottom of this, or is it the top?
I want to create a piece that I can enter into the ARC’s call for entries. Even if I only create a piece that is good enough to enter, I think I will have succeeded in my goal. A winner? Well, I’ll leave that up to them to decide, that is out of my control. First and foremost though is a problem. I have never painted a face or figure before that I could recognize as human before! I can draw them, faces too, but paint? ...Oi.
So, I set about reading everything I could find in books, at ARC, and here at WC. I started imagining and sketching. It was all thumbnails and boxed out figures at this point, but these thumbnails provided me with choices to pursue. Once one was decided upon I then created a more detailed idea and I'll call her the Bather for now.

(fig1)

At this point it is purely from my imagination. This led to a head study


(fig.2)

Looking at this made me realize that there was a lack of reality in the draftsmanship and proportion. My imagination just doesn’t cut it and her features just don't work. I wish I had a model to work from. Since I do not have access to anyone that resembles her, I was now forced to work on what I could and let her physical problems simmer in the back of my mind. So, I enlisted the help of my brothers girlfriend whom agreed to let me wrap her in a sheet for the drapery study. Once I had modeled the light from the correct direction, I was able to bring a picture back to my studio/garage and produce fig. 3. -She doesn’t have the time to sit for the 12 hours it took to do the detailed study and I wouldn't either.



Already the 'from life' lesson is proving its worth. Notice the difference between my imagination and from the photo I took.

From here I used some modern day technologies to eliminate the time consuming method of ‘griding.’ I meshed her torso in fig.1 with the drapery in fig. 3 together in a photo editing program, printed it out and shot it on to the canvas with a cheap projector. Since I already created it once, I wondered at my qualms about using the projector, it feels like cheating. But I concluded that if it wasn't mine to begin with then it would be cheating and therefore would not be original. This is just a more efficient evolution of the grid method that does not have the freedom of correction, say, that the full size cartoon would yield. In other words, I am placing onto the canvas that what I want to enlarge, and not something that I could easily change at this point.

I used ink to 'map' it out onto a 24" x 36" canvas and after a little bit of ‘wiping out the white’ with glazes I ended up with this, fig.4



With this outline created I started to fill out areas mainly looking for tonal values instead of finished color. I wanted to get to a 3 dimensional look and away from this 'cartoony, feel. Figures 5, 6, and 7 show this as well as my inherent inability to paint faces and figures.

fig. 5


fig. 6


fig. 7


As you can plainly see, I really need to solve the 'head and figure' problems. The drapery is coming along and I am experimenting with titanium and flake whites both at this point, with various shades of blue and brownish grays. I have yet to decide which I like best. I'm starting to understand that it all will fall into place after I find the finished skin tones and values. These I believe are the key to her sunny morning.

The next figure shows the beginning of the marble terrace. I first completed a small sketch of what I wanted the terrace to look like, then I needed to figure out how to transfer the perspective of that sketch onto the canvas. The vanishing points were too far apart to do on the easel. So I laid the canvas on the garage floor, and with strings and dead weights, I mapped out the horizon line and where to place my vanishing points. I would then rotate the end of these strings (with more weights attached) to the desired angle and align a straight edge to get the proper perspective of the railing and the tiles. Just make sure the vanishing points don't migrate on the horizon line. Also in this figure is another attempt at her face, that I still can't get...


fig. 8

At fig. 9, I have yet again failed at her flesh tones and facial structures, and you are probably wondering like I was at this point, how long is this going to go on? Am I ever going to figure this out? I am not going to give up (this is probably the most important lesson to learn). I have also inekept at the other parts as well. Sky, ocean, beach and hillside are all starting to take the shape of my imagination


fig. 9

Last edited by bjs0704 : 07-31-2006 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 07-31-2006, 07:10 PM
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bjs0704 bjs0704 is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Then I came up with an idea.

What if I find a similar face with the similar shadowing and paint it. I will then have the benefit of the 'from life' lesson that gave me the realistic drapery look. So from the internet, after a long search, I printed out a face and projected it on to a canvas. Since I do not have the rights to this photo I was not worried about cheating at this point. I cannot sell it. It is purely an academic study for my walls only. What I wanted to learn was to paint a face, similar in fashion, so I did just that. To my regret, though, I did not document the under painting, I only have the finished pix for you. She has been painted twice, first, with an under-painting of the same tones you see here then again because it looked so flat. This is where the 3-d volume effect started to happen. It occurs in the subsequent layers...


fig. 10

"OK," I thought to myself, "Here’s something to expound upon." Let's take this new lesson learned and go back to work on The Bather...


fig 11

This is what I have today. It’s starting to get interesting. The face is now much more convincing, although it is still lacking in realism. I seem to be moving forward anyways. Yet, another problem arose from my solution/tangent. Her face now looks more like the one in fig. 10 than in the earlier studies. I had realized that her ear was in the wrong place, the eyes were crooked and asymmetrical, and her nose and mouth were not lined up along the center of her face, so when I corrected them, I had errantly brought in what I had just learned from the head study. Oi! I am positive now that there is no substitution for real life. There's so much lost and unimaginable in the imagination that unless you have ‘got it down’ inside you, it will probably not show up. At least without a fight. I think it is this that was causing me so much trouble to begin with. What do I do?
On another note, I have filled in the marble. A little too white maybe, we'll see. Her right breast was moved out from under her arm pit, and some muscle tone was added to her much improved flesh hues over-all, but I still, over-all, do not like it. How can I learn to get flesh like they have in the past? What makes it look like that...?

Ah, another idea...

What if I copy a master's painting...? I’ll have a known finish to shoot for, and the ‘real-life’ lesson will apply. Here is where I sit on this one, my next post is of my trip with W. Bougeureau’s, Faneuse.

WCampbell
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Old 07-31-2006, 07:13 PM
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bjs0704 bjs0704 is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

WCampbell- Your painting is gorgeous! It's so interesting to see how you are using classical planning methods to develop your painting!


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Old 08-01-2006, 12:14 PM
Nickel Nickel is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Thank you WCampbell for this investigation.
Very interesting to watch and learn.

What got you interested in painting and specific a classic look?

Nickel
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Old 08-01-2006, 01:20 PM
Granby Granby is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Hello WCampbell,
Good job so far: The drapery turned out great.

I identify with your struggles painting flesh. I have been having a monstrous time learning to do the same thing myself.

I've figured out one thing though which may or may not help you: I find it useful to think in terms that flesh does not have color (except maybe a basic pinkish cast). It is reflective and translucent: which means flesh is going to be a color combination of whatever colors are around it.

Experts: Is this correct ? For example: if one painted someone standing in a purple forest with grey shadows and yellow light - the person is going to have purple and grey and yellow skin basically.

Also, I think the following things are giving your painting a non-classical feel. No toned canvas to tie the whole thing together. Painting was clearly put together in pieces: and it looks like it. Experts: suppose this happens - one could tie everything together by a yellow ochre glaze at the end correct? Also, the model looks like a 21st century fashion model rather than the classical type. Just my thoughts - not trying to be critical or discouraging.

Here's my first real attempt at classical flesh - it has been driving me crazy!!! But, I think I'm getting real close. Right arm is still in progress (moving and repainting it ). Need to restore the glare to her face. I'm too close to this work at the moment for any objective evaluation - does she look plausibly real ?

Notice the drapery disaster: I still can't get glazing to work and I'm going to give Bill Martin a real hard time in his new demo.
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Old 08-01-2006, 09:53 PM
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Ok, I don't want to hijack WCampbell's thread.

Granby - I was taught that you start out using one sort of basic skin tone and then adjusting it.

The reflective color theory is true. Remember, the kid's game of "Do you like butter?" where the kid hold a dandelion up to someone else's chin and the yellow of the dandelion reflects on the person's chin indicating that they like butter.

You could be right that the composition needs more unity in terms of the colors. I would almost need to set up a doll with colored lights (a mock set up) to answer your question about color reflections. Reflections do all sorts of hard to predict things.

But, I wouldn't worry about the models proportions. Is that a 8 head tall figure or more?

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Old 08-02-2006, 01:34 PM
WCampbell WCampbell is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Hi Barb, Nickel, Granby, and the rest of you, thanks for lookin.'

I hope it's helpful, both the mistakes as well as the corrections.

Quote:

What got you interested in painting and specific a classic look?


Have you ever heard of William Alexander and his "The Magic of Oil Painting?" I thought that was great. I wanted to try...so I started making mountains out of pigment with a palette knife. That opened my eyes to what the rest of the world was doing and had done. I have never had to learn to like the realism in a classic painting, I just like it. But with such a convoluted journey as is my life, it has taken me until now to get to a point to try my hand... It is quite a steep learning curve.

Granby, yes, currently she does have a 21st century look. I think I had something in the original sketches but I am getting farther away, any suggestions as to how to turn it around? Perhaps I can keep her current appearance/modeling and utilize the techniques of the past to 'classicalize' her. I'm learning a lot with the Faneuse study...but this solution is not one of the lessons.
How much do her surroundings influence her flesh tones? In this case, it is a sunny morning, she's on a marble terrace and the sky is clear blue? -Think of the background as an impression and just blocked in at this point (I will be goint over all of it again). I do agree with you and Barb about the influences, the facts were just proven to me with Faneuse. They are intertwined and dependent on one another to tie a piece together. It leads me to believe that the surroundings and the flesh have to be done together or is it possible to do the flesh and then the surroundings? Probably a little of both, huh?

Granby, now that's a classical pose you have there, I see we are tackling some of the same issues, and that you've got a good solid start. How big is your canvas? I ask because it plays a big part in the amount of detail you can provide, and blending you can accomplish. Especially in flesh and drapery. How are you going to solve the reflective issues? Surroundings first, then flesh, or vice versa? I have an idea of what she, in mine, looks like and was hoping to modify the surroundings to suit. Is this possible/advisable? She, in yours, is also the key element/actress, in the play. All else is stage dressing, and supporting roles, therefore isn't everything else designed to fit? I wish I had put more color into my marble. Good choice.

Barb, and everyone else, please do not worry a bout 'hijacking' this thread.
We are in this boat together, and anyone who wishes to jump in, I'm glad to have you, there's plenty of room.

Aaaall abooaard!

WCampbell

Last edited by WCampbell : 08-02-2006 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 08-02-2006, 02:46 PM
Nickel Nickel is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Thanks WCampbell.....interesting journey you have begun.

I wouldn't worry about myself if a painting has a 21st century look.
Afterall we have to make our mark now.....
And in the 22nd century they can talk about us.....

Nickel
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Old 08-02-2006, 03:22 PM
Granby Granby is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Hi WCampbell,
(First - apologies: was not trying to hijack a thread). For ideas on your painting - go to ARC (Art Reneweal Center) and look up an artist with the last name of Godward. He painted a bunch of pictures of pretty women loitering around on marble on bright sunny days. He also was very familiar with the greco roman classical look, hair, clothing motifs etc.

My painting is small - 9x11 frederix canval panel. I'm new at painting and I suck working with color - I'm starting to get a little comfortable with reddish-orangish-brownish colors but I'm terrible with rest. Without going into a lot of detail - I'm going to make long dramatic blue green shadows going sharply to the right (to contrast & cool & balance all my warm colors). I'm going to put bits of blue and green wherever I can on the figure - and especially the boar to tie everything together. Plus add bluish green and cools wherever I can fit them in and try to darken everything but the center of interest. I hope it works but it is just basically an educated guess on my part based on limited experience. I'm learning by trial and error - My painting has quite a different mood than yours though.
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Old 08-02-2006, 05:16 PM
WCampbell WCampbell is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Nickel, good sound reasoning, I wonder if I can pull it off...

Granby, no apologies neccesary. Thanks for the Godward info, will do.
I'm at the beginning stages of a step by step of the Faneuse study, and I will try to fit in the differences of painting small and large. I used to paint a lot of stuff into realitively small areas. This study has taught me something new that I can't wait to share. Your color scheme sounds to be striking. Impact.

Well, what are we doing here?...where's my brush?

WCampbell
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Old 08-02-2006, 05:27 PM
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bjs0704 bjs0704 is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Oh, yes, I remember Bill Alexander and his “all mighty” brush!

Both Bill Alexander and the more recent Bob Ross, do some interesting things with brushwork that is often not shown elsewhere. It is good to learn what it has to offer and the limitations. (Sometimes, new painters don’t realize that perspective comes into play and they need varying sizes of marks.)

Does the contemporary look have to do with proportions. We used to often draw women at 7 1/2 head tall, maybe 8 heads tall. Fashion models are often dress, photographed and photoshoped in ways that make them seem 9-10 heads tall or taller yet. (I’ve seen 12!)

Okie, dokie! It’s great to see the two of you compare notes! I certainly didn't mean to discourage you!

Barb Solomon
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Old 08-05-2006, 03:01 AM
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WV.Artistry WV.Artistry is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Here's a few thoughts from along the way re: difference between life studies and photo studies. Some of the problems are a discrepancy of perception.

1) the camera's bevel skews the acquired image, i.e., simple experiment to prove photo inaccuracy is photograph a large-size canvas. PhotoShop has a distortion removal feature.
2) Life studies offer the artist the ability to look around the subject and learn the anatomy rather than parroting 2D.
3) Photography removes many gradient values we see, generally crowding the highlights and shadows into whites and blacks.
4) Perception for the viewer formatted with photography is generally not the perception an artist would format a live study.

Exceptions exist . . (arguments exist too), and some artists are really talented and experienced with both composing for the camera, and transposing it to canvas unbeknownst to the viewer.

When I try to do something from a photograph, I get very weird results. So I've had to reverse-engineer these problems of mine, to understand, and I see you doing similar oddities. The result is, you're tweaking the anatomy to fit the camera skew instead of painting what you would see with a model. Or some blurb of push-me pull-you. That's the best I can word it.

Long winded, eh?

There are probably at least 3 preliminary sketches you could've done before jumping into this with a painting. One of them you did, the drapery, and it's beautiful. You could've also done a seperate sketch for the portrait. Then another for the entire figure.

cc: Next time . . do the the preliminaries first. You're painting will reward you for it.

Example of procedure -- W. Bouguereau

Preliminary Sketch


Finished Drawing


Oil Sketch


Finished Painting



"The craft of picture-making as practiced by Bouguereau basically followed the principles of academic theory as codified by the seventeenth-century aesthetician Roger de Piles. The code embodied the fundamental idea whereby a painting could be judged logically and objectively by its conformity to ideals established for its divisible parts, which were determined to be: composition, drawing, color harmony, and expression. The method Bouguereau used to execute his important paintings provided ample opportunity for the study and resolution of problems that might arise in each of these areas.

The separate steps leading to the genesis of a painting were:

1. croquis and tracings;
2. oil sketch and/or grisaille study;
3. highly finished drawings for all the figures in the composition, as well as drapery studies and foliage studies;
4. detailed studies in oil for heads, hands, animals, etc.;
5. cartoon; and, only then,
6. the finished painting. "

http://www.realcolorwheel.com/Bouguereau.htm
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Last edited by WV.Artistry : 08-05-2006 at 03:08 AM.
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Old 08-05-2006, 03:33 PM
WCampbell WCampbell is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

Richard, Awesome. Now that's what I'm talking about. "Long winded," you ask? Nope! In fact, I'm sorry it ended. I've read and understand all you have said, and your pix/representations are like the mortar between the bricks.
I'm a starving artist alright, but not for food. My meals are fine, it's the information that I crave. -And where else can I get it out here in the desert? Thanks to you all, keep it coming. Hopefully I'm not the only one benefiting from your help and my mistakes...

--I'm just finishing up Faneuse, and will get to writing about it this afternoon. I hope it's interesting to you folks...

WCampbell

Last edited by WCampbell : 08-05-2006 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 08-05-2006, 04:24 PM
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Carey Griffel Carey Griffel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WCampbell
Hopefully I'm not the only one benefiting from your help and my mistakes...
No, definitely not...I have learned several things myself just from following along here...so it's very much appreciated!

Richard--terrific info, I've never heard it explained so well.

~!Carey
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:43 PM
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Titanium Titanium is offline
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Re: The classic look-an investigation

W.Campbell,

the answer is simple,set it up in nature.

The folds need to be simplified and brought
into harmony in the painting.[cartoon needed.]

To do the kind of work expected at the ARC
competition you have to be willing to go the
extra mile.

Pay the model's cost,it will make all the difference,
and get out to a landscape that you can work
with.
Later.
Titanium
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Medium is used only in the last coat/s if needed at all.
In the good company of Old and New Masters.

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