Monday, February 8, 2016

from the
by Carol Hendricks, she
Carol will be coming for some art history lectures to Whidbey Island soon, keep checking out our website!!

The Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in 1503 is probably the most famous work of art in the world.  Why has the Mona Lisa become so famous?  Let's examine what it is that makes this rather small (30.31 x 20.87 in, 77 x 53 cm) oil painting on a wood panel painted at the turn of the 16th century so compelling to viewers worldwide.   

Mona Lisa, (La Gioconda), Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-06, The Louvre
The Mona Lisa is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.  Mona was a contraction of "Madonna" meaning "my lady", a title of respect.  In the Louvre where this is located the painting is called La Gioconda, this is both a feminine version of her husbands last name and a word in Italian that tranlates into "the joyful one" referring to her slight smile.

Leonardo was born and raised in Tuscany and studied art under Andrea del Verrochio in Florence.  After leaving his master's workshop he acquired fame as an artist in Florence, where he lived until he was 30 years old.  Then he was sent by the influential Medici family to live in Milan where he worked for both the Medici and Duke Lodovico Sforza.  The Mona Lisa was painted during the three year period when Leonardo returned to Florence.  It was commissioned by another Florentine, Francesco del Giocondo who was a wealthy silk merchant. Leonardo returned to Milan in 1506 and brought the portrait with him. 

Leonardo had painted only a handful of private portraits in his career, some earlier works are below. From left we see the Portrait of Ginevra de'Benci (1474-78), a portrait known as the Lady with an Ermine (c-1490, thought to be the mistress of Lodovico Sforza the Duke of Milan, Cecilia Gallerani) and the unknown sitter called La belle Ferronière (1490-96).

All three are beautifully painted with oil on a wood panel and show the sitter in a 3/4 view.  I have arranged them in the order they were painted chronologically and the Mona Lisa would have been painted nearly 10 years after La belle Ferronière and 25 years after the de'Benci portrait.  The later two have no background which highlights the face of the sitter, the earlier work had the landscape background made popular in Florentine painting of the mid to late 15th century.

While all are extraordinarily lovely portraits, the Mona Lisa still remains one of the most famous works of art in the world which leads me back to my original question- Why has the Mona Lisa become so famous?
One reason this is so well known is that this portrait was painted using techniques ahead of its time.  When compared with portraits by other artists painted around this time the Mona Lisa is startlingly realistic.  Let's look at some examples of Italian Renaissance portrait painting from the late 15th century.

Giovanna Tornabuoni, Ghirlandaio, 1489-90, tempera on panel, 

We can compare the Mona Lisa to earlier egg tempera portraits such as the one by the well known Florentine painter Ghirlandaio (above).  The style he used in his portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni was quite popular during the 1400's, the profile was influenced by Ancient Roman coins which were commonly collected in the Renaissance.  The Mona Lisa was painted less then 15 years later, Leonardo uses the more realistic 3/4 view of his sitter.  In comparison to the lovely portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, the Mona Lisa is a much more convincingly naturalistic representation.

Portrait of a LadyGhirlandaio, 1489-90, tempera and oil on panel, Clark Art Institute

But Leondardo was not the first to use the 3/4 view, here is another portrait by Ghirlandaio which is similar to the Mona Lisa in composition.  The sitter also sits on a balcony and has a panoramic landscape behind her.  Yet this work too does not match the realism of the Mona Lisa.  One reason is that Leonardo's use of oil paint gives his work a richness of color and sense of depth that cannot be achieved with egg tempera.  

 Portrait of Francesco delle Opere, Perugino, 1494, Uffizi Gallery (Florence)

The artist Perugino was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, it is thought that they both studied under the same master, Andrea del Verrochio.  In the above portait Perugino also uses a similar composition, his sitter seems to rest his hands on the frame of the painting and again we see a sweeping (if not Italian) landscape in the far background.  Perugino worked in oil paints and he has captured many lifelike details faithfully.

But why does the Mona Lisa still look more lifelike?  Leonardo pioneered several painting techniques, one was known as "chiaroscuro" which used light and dark to model form rather than using flatter outlines such as painters like Ghirlandaio and Perugino.  Leonardo's other innovative technique of "sfumato" meaning smoke created a painting with many thin glazes or layers of oil paint rather than the bright and flat washes of egg tempera.  Leonardo also famously dissected corpses to do a thorough study of human anatomy, which allowed him to fully understand the facial structure of his model and the underlying muscle and skeletal structures of all the figures he drew and painted.

When we line them up side by side these comparisons can help the modern viewer see the Mona Lisa with fresh eyes and fully appreciate the work for the innovative type of portrait that it was.  At this time portraiture was rather common and many painters contributed a variety of techniques.

But in fact there have been many innovative painting styles and techniques through the ages and Leonardo himself painted a number of other well executed portraits.  This leads back to my examination of the fame behind this now iconic work.

Leonardo da Vinci was considered to be a genius in his own time and he still is.  He did work as a painter, but he also worked on a wide variety of other things and so didn't create very many paintings, only around 25 exist today.  Therefore his unique painting methods combined with the scarcity of his work means that each work is considered extremely valuable and that sentiment has been true of Leonardo for a long time.

That idea ties into yet another reason why the Mona Lisa is so famous, the scandal that was created when it was stolen from the Louvre over 100 years ago.

The "Cult of the Mona Lisa" so to speak may have begun in 1911 the year it was stolen from the museum.  King François I of France invaded the Duchy of Milan while Leonardo was employed in the Royal Court of Milan under Sforza rule.  The French king was quite impressed with Leonardo and brought him back to France with him.  As Leonardo had never given his portrait of the Mona Lisa to his patron, he brought it and other works with him to France where he lived out the remainder of his life.  Due to this the Louvre museum in Paris has an impressive number of his works in its collection, at least six paintings as well as dozens of drawings.

That very fact angered a man named Vincenzo Peruggia who was working at the Louvre, he was Italian and felt that the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy.  As an employee he was able to take it from the frame and sneak it out of the building. A day went by before workers realized it was in fact stolen and when word got out about the theft of the Mona Lisa the public was shocked. It was said that more people came to the Louvre to stare at the empty frame in the month it went missing than came to see the painting in the entire previous year.

It wasn't recovered for another two years and when it was finally returned the artwork was considered even more priceless and beloved than before.  Today it hangs behind protective glass and is surrounded by a constant crowd of viewers.  

It is one of the most copied and parodied works of art.  Marcel Duchamp made a version in 1919 with a mustache and beard and Andy Warhol made a silkscreen in 1963 of multiple images entitled Thirty are Better than One.

Whether it is seen as a paragon of Renaissance beauty, an innovative work by a genius or an iconic painting, the Mona Lisa continues to intrigue and inspire viewers more than 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci painted her. 
Carol Hendricks


Friday, October 30, 2015

Why come to Whidbey Island for a workshop?

Total immersion in the arts, quiet, beauty, no traffic, good food and more.....
I think these photos speak for themselves:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why take a workshop by Liana Bennett and something about Max Ginsburg.

My friend Liana Bennett wrote the following an article on workshops, scroll down.
 Liana runs the 'Arts Umbrella' in Bothell and she was my first art instructor.  

We  went to the Portrait Society Convention in Atlanta together. It was so much fun!
Apart from the cocktail hour conversation with other artists, great food and camaraderie,
I learned a lot from Liana's knowledgeable observations and she immediately picked out the one painting that she thought was the best in the juried show. It was by Max Ginsburg's 'The Beggar' (
Well, didn't you know it, he won the Grand William Draper Prize! 
We are so lucky, he wants to come to Whidbey Island next year to teach a workshop! We are going to be doing less workshops next year and want to try and get the best of the best in representational art.

My feeling when looking at this painting  is very strong, not only is he a very adept and skilled painter, but he also captures an enormous emotional response.

It was such an inspiring time, to spend time with hundreds of  artists, talk art and breathe art.
I wish I could do some magic and go back to my twenties, I know what I would be doing!
In the 60's in Holland there was no foundational art education to be found.
So lucky, that it was available in Seattle when the children were gone and I had time.

"I'm taking two workshops this year at the Whidbey Island Fine Arts Studio. Cary Jurriaans is the founder and has been a a good friend of mine for many years. She has worked hard to bring many of the finest artists in the country, and elsewhere in the world to Whidbey Island. I have taken advantage of being able to learn from artists I admire and watch them work over the years.

Why take a workshop? It costs so much money. I may not learn anything. Will everyone be better than me? What if I don't produce anything of worth? I'm sure I'll hear the same things over and over again. What if it isn't what I want it to be? I'm afraid.

Yes, it may be some of those things, or ALL of those things.

Let me tell you why I take a workshop:

Oftentimes, it's my vacation. I get to spend 5 days, morning to evening, painting - while everything else if taken care of. No worries, I just get to show up. I also get to know other artists, both local and from around the country, who all have the same passion for art. Some of these artists will be further along in experience, some a few steps behind.

Getting to see an amazing artist at work. Maybe they say something you've heard a million times, but this time it clicks and you're ready to integrate it into your process. Maybe a fellow artist offers insights and inspiration.

Will you see the results of your time spent at workshop right away? I think it bubbles up over time and creeps in when you least expect it. Sometimes it just opens doors you didn't know were there - a new way of doing things, a color added to your palette. It's those small things that add up over the years to customize our individual process. A workshop can also make you realize what you don't want!

If you do take a workshop, keep your mind open and adapt your painting process to the instructor for that period of time. I've seen many artists spend money, only to stubbornly stick to their palette and process, and then wonder why their results are not to their liking, and grumble that they didn't get anything out of it.

Pick a workshop of an artist who has a style you admire and be a sponge. You will come away with something. What better way to spend a week!"

Liana Bennett
Bothell WA

Saturday, April 18, 2015

David Gluck at the Art of the Portrait!

Featuring David Gluck 
from the Art of the Portrait.

As Cary is going to the Art of the Portrait the end of this month, she has received this Conference Insider. It gives a sneak peek of what to expect for the teaching faculty.

In this article, David Gluck discusses the preparatory work that went into his painting, “Wetlands,” which is featured below. Some of the preparation includes his influence for creating the painting, sketching to work out composition, purchasing props and costumes, creating multiple color studies, and of course, taking time to calm his nerves with a bowl of ice cream.

Letting Prep Work do the Heavy Lifting
David Gluck

From year to year I change my mind a lot about how to do things in the studio. I make organizational overhauls, change my preferred sources of inspiration, switch back and forth from natural light to artificial, and back to natural.  I’m always chasing a better system. One thing that never changes, though, is my commitment to doing the proper amount of prep work for a painting. There is no skipping prep work in my dojo. For me, the preparatory stage in making a painting—the initial drawings, colour studies, and model and prop sourcing—is what ensures a successful finished painting.  Without it, I find myself battling mistakes and shortcomings from start to finish. Except, I usually don’t even finish the paintings that didn’t have their proper dues paid in the preparatory stage.

I thought it might be of interest for readers to learn about the preparatory work that went into my painting “Wetlands,” which received a Certificate of Excellence at this year's Portrait Society of America’s conference. This painting, like so many others, emerged from a stew of inspiration in the form of a folder in my desktop in which I collect imagery that strikes my fancy. This folder contains photos I have taken, artwork by other artists, vintage photography, and sometimes even an adorable kitten picture saved from Facebook for my amusement. When I have downtime I click through this folder, mulling over my concepts and deciding which of my unborn paintings ought to be lugged out into the world next. I try to let my ideas marinate for as long as possible before I even start planning for a painting. 

Some readers might have already guessed that Raeburn’s “The Archers” was a big influence in my painting. I was blown away in real life by the presence of the painting and the elegant geometry of the composition. I decided I wanted to create my own iteration of that concept, but in my rugged, manly-man hunter theme. For the first time, I chose to introduce a young woman into this series. I had two goals in mind when I started planning this painting.  Firstly, I wanted to paint a narrative with two figures interacting. Secondly, I wanted the composition to be dependent on action and movement.

The first stage of a painting, for me, is the simplest. I do quite a few small sketchy thumbnails to work out the composition from my head.  I do not simply sit down with a sketchbook and try to do fifty in a row.  These come out at random in the months leading up to the moment when I finally start the project in earnest.  Some are done in a sketchbook, a scrap piece of paper, and even on napkins at a restaurant. When I get an idea, I jot it down.

The next stage is perhaps the most fun stage of a painting: blowing Paypal funds on awesome props and costumes from eBay auctions.  It allows me to justify buying a bowler hat and antique rifle and write it off as a business expense for tax purposes. And once these items have been added to my prop “library,” they are there forever. This is fantastic when, like me, you’ve committed to a theme and future projects will benefit from having a rich stash of goodies to work with.
What do I do next with my stinky oilskins/fake mustaches/Viking helmets?  I con friends and family into modeling for me.  And then I con my wife into taking all the photos for me because I still don’t know how to use our futuristic canon camera.  Using my references, I piece together a composition I like on paper.  I usually use charcoal and white chalk on toned paper to rapidly get my ideas out.  It’s not unusual to have to piece together material from several different photos—and this is one of the rare advantages of using photo references: I have the freedom to take the best hands, the best expression, basically the best of everything, and piece them all together.  I supplement these references with life studies when needed.  This stage is also crucial because it gives me a chance to familiarize myself with some of the more challenging parts of the painting, namely the hands and the face. Rehearsing these problem areas before committing to canvas can be a lifesaver.

Now that my composition has been solidified on the grand scale and at the size of the finished painting, I can sit down and do 3-5 color studies.  These colour studies are about the size of a postcard.  I usually nail the color concept I want straight away, but I do the remaining 2-4 studies out of a sense of duty and to convince myself that the first one really is the best option.

Now that I’ve got the composition pinned down and the color arrangement determined, I can do a couple of detailed colour studies for the faces in the painting.  These are painted the same size as in the finished painting.  This gives me one more chance to rehearse those faces before I work on the final painting.  They also end up being very affordable works of art for collectors who fall in love with the final painting but can’t afford it. Recently, I’ve enjoyed trading them with other artists and I’ve amassed a nice collection of other artist’s head studies. Now, I don’t want to brag and tell everyone I have a Jeremy Lipking and an Adrian Gottlieb….but I have a Jeremy Lipking and an Adrian Gottlieb.

With the head studies, I’ve completed my preparatory work for my painting and am now ready to nail the actual painting. Getting all of this groundwork established makes painting go quickly and smoothly, with a minimum of bad studio days, tears, and hissy fits that can only be calmed with ice cream.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Very interesting article from the Portrait Society of America

Very interesting article from the newsletter of the Portrait Society of America:

Portrait Society of America
March  2015

Capturing More Than A Likeness
By Michelle Dunaway 

  “Faith of a Child-Portrait of Autumn”                                “Portrait of Aurora”                                                  “Portrait of My Mother”

Recently, I’ve been pondering the idea of what constitutes a portrait in the fullest sense. There is of course the obvious, that it’s a painting of a human being, more specifically a particular person and their exact likeness. As the artists and the technicians, we are with paint, breaking down the face into a series of shapes, drawing, color harmonies and values to create a semblance of form and capture a likeness…but there is so much more.

We are painting not just a person, but a particular person at a particular time in their life…someone living and breathing, not just a series of shapes and forms but a person who is in a state of “becoming” and traversing this life. There is something fleeting and beautiful in that to me. Not only are you, as an artist, painting a transitory moment in time, but you are capturing a person experiencing that moment for the first time and imbuing the painting with your journey and attentiveness as an artist at this moment in time in your life. It is truly a wondrous thing to freeze time in such a way, that a longing glance of a subject can be turned into a series of readable shapes preserved in paint. As an artist it makes me excited just thinking about it and propels me to not only paint steadily, but to pay attention to life as it’s moving around us. 

I became very aware of this recently when painting a portrait of my mother. As I was painting her, and even in the planning stages as she visited my studio for several days, what came to mind in a personal way was not just memories and the history we share, but a quite surprising moment of realization. A new awareness of connectivity between the artist and subject, whether the subject is personally known or not. 

My mother, who I am very close to, had never been painted by her daughter before. At 76 years old, knowing everything about me very well, she and I were having a new experience together …a moment in time where she was not only having her portrait painted for the very first time, but was also being painted by her own child. I studied her face, wanting to capture her eyes, not just in form, but to capture what I always see when she looks at me, a kindness, a mother’s love, a spark of her personality as a bold and elegant creative woman. Her hands, that I have seen creating art since I was a little girl, are aged and multicolored now with veins that she was self consciousness of, but as I expressed the joy of painting them, not just the emotional aspect and memories, but from an artist perspective, she expressed to me that she began to see herself differently. I told her, “I love painting your hands and the veins especially, it was one of my favorite things to paint because of the beautiful colors and movement of form. They are so beautiful to me not just as a daughter, but as an artist.” It not only made her see the beauty in her own hands, but made me see differently as well, thinking that the next time I paint a strangers hands I will be more aware of the history that exists there. That the story that is held within the nuances of the hand are as expressive as the face in many ways…they tell a story of a life lived.
So here’s the thing I realized…every time I set out to paint a person, even though I paint all the time and have painted countless people, it is always a new experience for both the artist and the subject. This is a unique moment in time and it deserves our full attention. Every time we stand at the easel and attempt to capture someone, whether it’s someone we know well or we don't know at all, there is a connection. 

There exists a silent conversation between artist and subject that takes place in paint. This moment will never exist again…except to live on in the painting and so I want to imbue that painting, not just with a likeness, but a sense of that connection and a sense of breath and aliveness that I see in another human being. I’ve found that in the lay in stages, yes, it is necessary to think like a technician and get those shapes and drawing, creating a mosaic of color and breaking down the form into abstract shapes to create a likeness. But then, the intention needs to shift, to go beyond capturing just form and open myself up to the moment of connection and creativity with another human being so that I can be aware and see what I truly want to capture.

Usually in the finishing stages there is a tendency to want to control, to “get that thing we are after” as an artist. We desire to progress the painting into completion while simultaneously preserving earlier effects in paint and not losing the freedom and freshness of the initial brushstrokes. In the past, it is at that 3/4 of the way through that I used to get controlling with my painting and frustrated trying to “get it”. A friend once told me “We get frustrated only because 
we want to capture it so much,” which I think is true. Someone else once told me “When frustration sets in learning stops and one loses the ability to see clearly,” which is also very true!  

So now when I am approaching the finishing stages of a painting, I see I must do the opposite…it is not the time to be controlling, but to slow down and spend more time looking, more time noticing what is essential. Really taking the time to be in a space of allowing yourself to see what is important and imperative to the painting…and often even editing out details that are unnecessary to the story you are telling in paint. It is now in that last 3/4 of a painting that I open myself to connecting with the subject and really just see them, not just as an artist sees, but engage them as one human being to another. Yes, still observing with a critical eye but seeing as more than just an observer, but as a participant with them in this moment of creating. Looking for glimpses of who they are in their eyes and seeing beyond the mere shapes that make up their eyes to that place where we connect as people. I believe that to paint that sense of life and presence within the eyes we must be aware of it and connect to it in the painting session. It would be easier if it existed in a paint tube or in a particular technique, capturing that sense of life within the eyes, but it wouldn’t be as rewarding. After all, we long to paint because we are captivated with life itself and those of us who paint people are enchanted with those connections we experience with another person. It makes logical sense then that we must kindle that connection in order to paint it.  

I’m a huge fan of Sargent, he is perhaps my favorite painter of all time and all of his portraits are magnificent, but when I gazed upon the painting of his teacher Carolus Duran, in person, the eyes just mesmerized me. He captured more than just anatomy and technique, but a sense of who that man was that he knew so well. They are almost haunting in a beautiful way…I see not just what Duran looked, like but how Sargent saw him in the way he painted those eyes. It is something to aspire to in our portraiture and it is available at any time during the painting session with the model…the ability to allow the connection with another human being. To venture beyond just observing them, but to really see them and who they are, even if it’s just a glimpse. What you glean in those moments of intentional attentiveness will find its way into your painting in the most beautiful of ways, because it not only transforms the painting, but it transforms you the artist. 

As Einstein once said “The mind once opened to a new idea never returns to its original size.” Every connection we have with another human being helps us to be better artists, whether we are actively painting or not… attentiveness is an artist’s greatest tool. It is available at any moment…you may not always have your brushes with you, but your ability to observe and connect with those around you is always open to you.

Michelle Dunaway 

Friday, February 27, 2015

From the CONFERENCE INSIDER Portrait Society of America February 2015 Featuring Carol Arnold

“Beautiful Soul”
By Carol Arnold

Art is a language and you, the artist, have the power to communicate beautiful messages through your interpretation of your subjects.
My paintings are about my experiences, a self-portrait. Before I begin a painting I need to know what it is that I want to say about my subject. What attracted me to It? What is it that made me want to paint this? If I'm painting a garden, for example, I might say, "I like the flowers". Well, what is it about the flowers that I like?  I break it down into more simple terms, (color, value, drawing or edges) like "I like the bright colors" or "the soft edges of the petals against the background" or maybe, I'm not as interested in the color or edges, my interest could be in the stems and the intricate drawing of them weaving in and out of each other with the underside of the leaves and the dark brown soil.

The same applies to portraits, or anything else I want to paint. I may set up a beautiful model to paint. The first thing I need to ask myself is “What am I going to say about this model?” If I start before I know the answer to this question, I'll be just copying. I want to be excited to tell my story. Everyone has their own unique ideas about what they want to say - their “story”.  

Whatever it is, I need to make sure I figure it out, put it into words, like color, value, edges or drawing and keep it in mind throughout the painting process. I want to send a clear message to my viewers about what I want to say about what I am about to paint and I want them to be as excited as I was!

I was invited to friend and artist Kathy Anderson's house to view a group of her new paintings that were being shipped to Texas for a show she knew some of her friends couldn't attend. I packed the kids in the van and headed for Connecticut!

The studio was filled with artists and friends admiring Kathy's beautiful work. Florals and landscape paintings filled the walls. I turned the corner and gasped, (I honestly did). There was a tiny woman sitting in a chair by the window; she was completely content watching all the people talking and laughing with each other as she was enjoying her tea. She wore a heavy dark blue dress with a matching hat and scarf. There was a big blue belt with a large shiny buckle around her waist and a cross that hung from her neck. Her hands had rings and bracelets that were sure to have great stories! Out of these heavy dark clothes and shiny silver jewelry were the most delicate pink cheeks, squinty eyes and a big bright smile that lit up the room. I had to paint her! 

I talked with her daughter, artist and friend, Johanne Mangi, and arranged a time when I could paint her. Back to Connecticut I went! Mrs. Tardi needed a little coaxing but finally agreed to my painting her. I set the pose, made sure she was comfortable and started to paint. She was smiling from ear to ear! She kept saying "I feel like a movie star!"

She was so adorable, I put in my initial wash and points to show where the figure would sit on the canvas, waiting for her to fall into a more natural pose. It didn't happen. I was afraid that if I started to paint her smiling from ear to ear it would only last a few minutes. She was talking while I painted, about her late husband and her life. Her smile faded after a while and I was able to paint her features.
I knew my painting time was limited, I would only have a couple of hours with her, so I had to make sure I got the important things from life as I knew I would be finishing from a photo. She was so sweet, I fell in love with her. I took a million photos, most of them with a full smile! When I got home and eventually found the time to finish the portrait, I looked at what I had painted from life. Something wasn't right. It didn't look like what I had remembered of her or what I intended to say about her. I took out my photo reference and there it was.

When I met Mrs. Tardi in Kathy's studio, she was beaming with delight, I could see that I hadn't captured that in this painting. I painted her expression when she was talking about how much she missed her husband, thinking I would get a more natural pose. I was wrong! I missed the whole point of why I wanted to paint her (what I wanted to say)!

Text Box: “Find what inspires you and paint your story!”I became excited again, now knowing exactly what I was going to do. I was going to paint that tiny old woman shining her beautiful soul throughout the entire room! Luckily, I painted a small version of her with correct values, colors and edges and was able to use that as reference for the much larger finished portrait. The photo reference was used for the drawing. The result was exactly what I saw when I turned the corner at my friends studio. The painting was sold to her son and daughter, Joe Tardi and Johanne Mangi. My kids were sad to see it go - they said it lit up the whole studio and made them happy.  
Find what inspires you and paint your story!
"Beautiful Soul"