Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Method of Caravaggio - Step Two - Underpainting the Lights

When studying late Caravaggio paintings,  one gets an idea of his working method in this period.

He is working very efficiently, leaving the mid-tone ground to act as shadows and thinner application of umber to describe darker tones while the lights are painted with few colours.

In the Martrydom of St. Ursula, notice the flesh in the figure of St. Ursula, on the right. It is painted with an opaque white which is pulled thinner as the form moves away from the light. This gives us an idea of his underpainting process.

Continuing on from the last blog entry, once the wash drawing has dried, the lights are rendered using a white. Caravaggio would have used a lead white but titanium works as well. If using titanium, add in a little bit of calcium carbonate to give the paint some body, opacity and to help it dry a little faster. Where the flesh is lightest, the paint is applied thickly. As the flesh darkens the paint is pulled thinner, resulting in the illusion of the three dimensional form.

Once this has dried the flesh is painted using a limited palette. The next blog entry will describe this process.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Method of Caravaggio - Step One

Michelangelo Merisi of Caravaggio, known as simply Caravaggio, was the   great painter of the counter reformation. A  contemporary of Galileo and Shakespeare, he was the first artist in history whose paintings are directly concerned with his life.  

In his later years Caravaggio developed a process which allowed him to work very efficiently - important as he was on the run for much of his last years.
I teach this method at the Angel Academy in Florence, Italy. For more info:

I will share what I have discovered about his process over the next few blog posts.

The begin, the canvas is to be toned with a warm brown, mid-tone in value.

The drawing is then rendered with umbers. The paint should be applied thinly, varying opacity where needed. The goal is to use 2 or 3 values to describe the image:

When studying  "the Martyrdom of St. Ursula", one can get an idea of the next step:

This step, the underpainting with white, will be described in the next post. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Nerdrum School

There is a lovely little film about the Nerdrum School that recently debuted on youtube.
The film focuses on Nerdrum alumnus Luke Hillestad and his experience at the Nerdrum school in Stavern, Norway. Based on my time with the master, this film captures the experience well - Nerdrum in his studio, the student studio and shots of Memorosa (the Nerdrum family home and studio). The glimpse of Nerdrum with his students is particularly special. Here we see Nerdrum at ease in his studio and at his most charismatic - we understand why he has enchanted so many.
Enjoy the film here: The Nerdrum School
Luke Hillestad's website


Friday, October 30, 2015

Off the Coast Podcast - A Conversation with Antonio Macedo

Having spent some time in Portugal has allowed me to make friends with a number of artists living and working there. One of these, the painter Antonio Macedo, invited me into his studio recently where we talked about his experience as an artist. Working professionally for 40 years, the conversation will be of interest to young artists just starting out as Antonio shares his ideas of what painting should be.

Antonio's website: 
Antonio is also active on Facebook:
Music for the podcast is by Kid Cholera courtesy of

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Apothesis of the Renaissance

Also known as the "Glorification of the Renaissance". Completed by the Hungarian painter Mihaly Munkacsy in 1888, this ceiling painting from the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna is a  representation of the atelier of the Renaissance Masters. In the bottom left we see Raphael and Leonardo conversing with Veronese working on a large canvas just behind them. In the centre is Titian instructing a young student working from the model. Just below and to the right is Michelangelo with hammer,  leaning on a balustrade.  In the loggia above is in Pope Julius II whose papacy was marked by ambitious building projects and patronage for the arts. The goddess could be Ozwiena, the Slavic goddess of Fame and Glory or the Allegory of Peace and Prosperity.
Just above the reclining female is the self-portrait of Munkacsy, considered one of the most important painters of 19th century Hungary.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Portrait Painting in Firenze 2015

I have just completed the my 2015 edition of portrait painting. This year we had 14 students and eight models.

Students worked from a combination of life and photographs to incorporate the best of both in one painting. Essentially students used the photo for the drawing stage and the model to check colours and values. The goal was to make an interesting painting and so students worked within a traditional system used by master artists. A variety of examples of systems were explained and shared and students choose one they liked.

As part of the instruction I painted a demo from life explaining my process along the way:

Block-in with umber after 30 minutes

Completed painting 8 hours

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Portrait Painting in Florence

I have finally gotten around to uploading a series of videos taken of me by friend Luccio Parillo during my workshop, 'Methods of Contemporary Portrait Painters' at the Angel Academy in June of 2014. Each video is a short slice (around 1 - 2 minutes)  of my 3 hour demo painting well known model Rony Cadavid.

Drawing Stage

Refining the drawing

Beginning with colour

Refining with colour

Refining with colour


Some stills: