I'm working on a completely different kind of painting right now. My sister is opening a gourmet food...something or other...I don't know how exactly to describe it. Subscription dinners, with available takeout? Anyway, she wants a painting to be hung in the entry area, and I am painting it for her. It's a still life of food and flowers, something like the bazillions of old Dutch still lives that were done in--what?--the 17th century? These usually included a dead strangled rabbit or limp grouse, but I have tidied my painting up a bit, and stuck to purely vegetarian subject matter.
I thought I would do a little research, for fun, and came upon this crazy Eastern European painter's website who makes many interesting suggestions, among them:
"1. Stop looking at modern art and stop loving it. Modern bright colors and hue contrasts destroy the subtle vision of the painter who risks to study classical painting in our time.
2. Many painters get an energy charge from music. Stop listening to any modern music and begin listening only to classical music. Try to begin loving it."
Aside from the slightly unhinged quality (see above), the guy knows his stuff when it comes to old masters techniques. He has little demo paintings that he has taken from start to finish, and the process is fascinating. It seems I am the last to know-- when I mentioned the technique wonderingly to artist friends, they looked askance at me and did not say "well, yeah, duh", though this was clearly expressed in their faces.
In case any of you don't know, here is the sequence:
Tone your canvas with a light olive brown, in keeping with the lightest areas of the planned composition.
Draw it in, first with pencil, then with India Ink (Ha! How the #$%^&* are you supposed to use India Ink on canvas? I am clearly not meant to be an old master)
Use a burnt umber glaze to lay in all the values in the entire piece-- basically paint the thing in sepia tone.
Go over it again with a big brush for good measure to be your values are in the proper relationship
Then paint the entire damn thing over again in black and white, basically, "moontones", using the underpainting to establish the values on top.
Then, and only then do you begin adding color to the piece, which you lay over the silvery underpainting, and continue to match your values.
It seems nuts to me. But what's even more nuts is that I determined to do the piece this way, and am enjoying myself enormously. Not that I will probably ever do it again, as it is inexpressibly anal and takes forever. But fun! And so different than the endless maquettes that I am still, yes still, working on. I will post photos sometime.