bemusing musings of a bewildered brush-wielder

Nascent Narrative

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 internet, 8" x 10"Davide, 8″ x 6″, oil on wood panel

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. The image I painted was dramatically cropped.  Zooming into the face is not typical for a figure painting session.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. Painting clothes where there is flesh was recognized as being a clever use of imagination.
  2. Cropping the figure and focusing on the face was seen as an emphasis of the psychology of the sitter.
  3. Breaking the sight size method was understandable, given the small size of the canvas.
  4. 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.

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2 responses

  1. Sean

    I guess it makes me lame, but I always see more in a painting when I know more about it–just like I see more in a subject after someone makes a painting of it.

    August 15, 2009 at 12:26 am

  2. look at these paintings that my friend ben does- his one ideal with painting is to paint something that is natural, something you’d come across and, most likely, pass right by. he has a painting of a bunch of lawn chairs in a field, knocked on the side, and he made me realize how beautiful something so, um, nothing, could be.

    http://www.grenninggallery.com/index.php?cPath=357&osCsid=bkdsjac5agantfs04kd7vndul1

    August 16, 2009 at 1:59 am

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