Dimensions (unframed width x height) 30 in. x 51 3/4 in.
Milestones Costume and initial photo-shoot completed - May 2011 Composition and support prepared - April 2012 Grisaille completed - August 2012 Painting completed - November 2013
Based on regular entries in the project journal for this painting, creation of the artwork involved approximately 75 session (from composition and panel preparation to completion of brushwork. Sessions can last as long as eight hours or be as short as half an hour.
Equipment Creating a painting often involves creating or modifying tools or making improvements to the studio itself. This painting project necessitated the following activities in terms of tools, supplies, and operations.
Costumes, miniatures, and props Sometimes these items must be created at the Studios, sometimes they are purchased for the project, and sometimes items created or purchased for other projects are re-used or modified. This section does not list every costume element, miniature, or prop that may have been involved in the project. Instead, we include items whose story might prove interesting or useful.
Oil cruse - Handmade by Ashton Young Robe - Designed and sewn by the artist
Methodology This section presents only one or two items that may be of interest to professional artists, amateurs, and others interested in the work of the Studios.
Rendering, or painting, is almost nothing but problem-solving. Successful painting involves anticipating problems, not over-reacting when confronted with them, knowing when to address a problem, and figuring out how to do so. There are so many problems and they are so bewilderingly complex in their interrelationships that the ability to concentrate depends (as always) upon what can and should be ignored at any particular time.
During composition, I address issues such as scale, proportion, configuration of elements, and associated details, not the least of which is whether the composition conveys the insight and emotion central to the concept or inspiration present in its genesis. Composition (just like any other stage in the painting process) is a balancing act in which one of the primary objectives is to resolve as many problems as possible while leaving open the door to serendipity. It has been my experience that experience is the only way to know what and how much to resolve during each phase of a project in order to preclude insoluble problems later on, as well as problems that, though soluble, can cause great difficulty. Thus, rendering or painting a subject is—at least, for me—a phased activity in which each stage focuses on resolving certain kinds of problems.
Once design or the compositional phase has addressed the kind of issues just mentioned, an alla prima underpainting is usually my choice as the means of rendering a composition on a painting ground. That means that when I start the brushwork for a painting, the ground is completely blank (consisting of either toned or untoned gesso that was also applied by hand and containing no marks or images of any kind). Furthermore, no image(s) or mark(s) of any kind are made on or in any layers in the painting, but what those marks are made by my hand by means of brush, knife, rubber wedge, rag, or the hand itself.
This photograph was taken while creating the alla prima underpainting for the mountains in Den Kommende Vinteren. The underpainting of the sky was completed earlier and had already been glazed. While the underpainting of the sky was done entirely by brush, the underpainting for the mountains was done almost entirely by knife.
This detail from the alla prima underpainting of the mountains shows the high-contrast and highly textured qualities of the hand-done underpainting for the mountains.
My primary objectives for the alla prima underpainting are to complete a handmade rendering of compositional elements while giving that rendering the basis of the rounding and textural qualities of its constituent subjects. In addition to the great benefit of becoming immersed in the image from the outset of the brushwork, one of the primary benefits of creating an underpainting is that it defers—until subsequent phases—refinement of compositional elements. It also defers most of the questions about color and many of the more delicate aspects of textural refinement.
I almost never render an entire composition in a monochromatic alla prima underpainting. Instead, my approach to brushwork varies according to subjects. Consequently, the rendering of a composition can have as many rendering methodologies as the composition has kinds of subjects in it. For example, my skies are usually rendered initially in blue and white, then refined with glazes. Similarly, I prefer to render figures (at least skin tones) in the basic palette I use for skin tones instead of starting with a monochromatic rendering. Architectural subjects, however, as well as complex botanical regions of a composition, lend themselves to monochromatic alla prima underpaintings; nevertheless, that is not a hard and fast rule either.
Once the initial stages in the creation of a painting have addressed the larger questions associated with its appearance, it is possible to plunge into the detail and refinement of the rendering with far greater hope and growing confidence that the result can achieve the inspiration central to the genesis of the project. Ultimately, it is not merely an image that the artist must convey, but the inspiration that was associated with its inception — that spark of insight that enlightens the mind and quickens the heart, in the viewer as well as the artist.