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.

Here is an explanation of the process, filmed during the workshop at Angel Academy.

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