The purpose of this blog is to simply narrate the daily events of my life as an artist. I can’t write a dry, detached blog about the technical aspects of painting (the virtues of lead white and the inferiority of titanium white). I don’t really have a personal life that is detached from my professional life. For me, art is simple. It’s a manifestation, in my case a visual manifestation, of the world in which I live. And so, I’ll try and be sincere about this whole thing.
Davide is a university student who was floating around Florence, and for some money on the side he posed at the studio in which I studied, the Charles Cecil Studios. He posed for a three hour period for myself and four or five other students. This painting was groundbreaking for me, for a lot of reasons. The training which I received at the Cecil Studios was very rigid and dogmatically classical. But, this rigidity is understandable, as Charles desires to maintain a coherent and cohesive movement of painters that work within his walls. This painting broke from several central, classical, Cecilian tenets in several respects.
- The model was nude, but I painted him clothed (I actually just slopped some paint on him that I had already mixed up for a background.)
- The image I painted was dramatically cropped. Zooming into the face is not typical for a figure painting session.
- The painting was not done by the sight size method. (for a brief overview of the sight size method of painting, go to http://www.charlescecilstudios.com/html/philosophy/sightsizeTechnique.html) I guess you could say that as the Dome of the Rock is to Jerusalem, so is the sight size method to 21 century Florence.
- The contrast of light/dark, rhythm of paint, background, highlight in the eye- all were heightened for effect.
By breaking these rules, I worried that I might invoke the ire of the studio powers that be. Instead I received a good deal of praise. This showed me that the heads of the school were not ignorant of the potential of breaking the classical rules, they actually encouraged it- provided the artistic license taken was carried out well enough.
- Painting clothes where there is flesh was recognized as being a clever use of imagination.
- Cropping the figure and focusing on the face was seen as an emphasis of the psychology of the sitter.
- Breaking the sight size method was understandable, given the small size of the canvas.
- The heightened light/dark contrast created drama, the rhythm of paint created…rhythm, the background was the foil for the face, the highlight in the eye gave… a sense of duende
In short, even though I was painting what I saw, I wasn’t really painting what I saw.
Goethe, in a travel log, writes of the talent of Palladio as “something comparable to the power of a great poet who, out of the worlds of truth and falsehood, creates a third whose borrowed existence enchants us.” No, I’m not going to compare myself to Palladio. But in doing this painting, I came to understand what it is that I would aspire towards, what it is that Charles Cecil aspires towards, what it is that all of the Florentine painters of my generation are aspiring towards- a borrowed existence.