Annotation Summary for: Practice of Oil painting by Solomon J. Solomon
“spaces left” = negative space
The trickyness of foreshortening.
Drawing a means ro a definite end… Painting! Knowledge and accuracy!
Study the skull. Skin is of of different texture when tightly drawn versus loose parts where it is more fleshy.
Chapter II construction of the human figure.
24 inches high is the advisable size for a figure drawing…
Proportion is the first thing to consider and the most difficult to preserve.
Head = the proportion key.
First, get likeness to confirm correct proportions, then, and only then, the ears; from the ears, the neck.
Refer constantly to hand glass.
After head is satisfactory, draw neck and shoulders.
Success of a figure lies in the head to the neck to the shoulders…
One of the most difficult problems to contend with: placing the head on the shoulders.
Observe people, make mental notes of how their head attaches to their shoulders. Use the negative shapes to help you remember.
Plot armpits from shoulders, then distance from collar bone to armpits. From there you can indicate the pectoral markings.
Use head and neck as standard to plot the navel; find the triangle as it exists from pecks to the navel… This helps indicate the character and action of the torso.
Follow closely the center line from the neck to the base of the torso.
Use plumbs to establish relative positions…
In your drawings, everything must dovetail and fit…
Chapter III Construction of the head
Of great importance: the placement of the ear.
Ears: length of the nose; tops in line with the brow, lobes in line with the nostrils.
Answering shapes of the face. Example: a smile…
Copy the heads by Holbein!
Foreshortened passages always appear wider than they actually are… And how to correct this!
All solid masses have their beyond.
Chapter IV Characterisation
Reference frequently the model and drawing in a mirror!
Axiom: as we depart from the proportions of nature, we weaken the result!
Reynolds: the eye sees no more than it knows.
The delta of the face! Shapes of the head…
Make it a rule never to draw one side without the other.
Curves of the arm…
Once you have settled on proportions, paint the arm and hand in one sitting… Rarely are they posed twice alike. Van Dyck anecdote…
See that the foot plumbs well under the head… Use the plumb-line.
Images of legs…
Light and shade
The head, the feet, the knees and the lower part of the abdomen are generally richer in colour, and therefore lower in tone, than the rest of the figure.
VERY IMPORTANT: with but very few exceptions, every figure or solid object has one predominating light passage, and it stands to reason that every other light passage must be lowered in relation to it; the same applies to shadows.
YES! Definition of breadth.
“Where every one is somebody, then no one’s anybody.”. The secret? Squint!
How to manage when the light is too brilliant to be rendered by pigment?
The highlight on porcelain…
Photography is unwarrantly abused…
Ah, so how tone plays a role in its placement in space.
Do not paint the figure out of context…
Lay a sure foundation for your house, or the superstructure,which painting is, will be futile and of no avail.
Painting, Materials, Colors.
THIS IS WHAT RECENT PAINTINGS HAVE SUFFERED: You may take it for granted that no sense of freshness can be preserved after three, or at utmost four, coats od a similar tint have been laid solidly over each other on the canvas… When the grain is gone, all attempts to regain clearness are hopeless.
Steel plush mat. Erase paint and renew texture. What is this?
READ TO KINGSLEY: Oft-recurring exhibitions…
Originality is not affectation, but the frank expression of a personality.
Ground: a distinct tooth is a necessity.
Avoid toned ground… Leads to dullness. Hmmmm…?
Make sure palette is not less than 18 inches in length.
Get used to large brushes an inch or more across.
Palette knife should be trowel shaped.
Charcoal used for initial drawing.
FIND: wire plush mat as scraper!
Put cardboard between stretcher and canvas to avoid ineradicable ridges.
Colors and choice of pigments/palette
Excellent break down on various colors.
Bituminous pigments are responsible for destruction of Reynolds paintings.
Use fresh colors every day…
Do not starve your palette.
Luminosity is the rarest quality to attain and one of the finest.
Scrape up the paints on your palette to use as greys…
Mix some masses of light, half-tone, shadow to expedite the work.
Paint quantities indicated by size of circles…
Canvas size: 24 x 20 inches… Rarely use a canvas smaller than this.
If your painting is too brilliantly lighted, the image will suffer….
Bingo! After drawing with charcoal, blow off all but the faintest indication of the line, then paint over with a sable brush with raw umber.
Starting the monochrome copy: raw umber and white; mix 3 tones.
The actual painting stage really only begins when you paint into paint!
Let breadth and simplicity be you watchwords.
Textures in monochrome…read and reread.
Chapter X Still life in Color: learning alla prima.. Direct painting… Though “serious work” should be prepped in monochrome.
Charcoal drawing, blow away unnecessary blackness, clean with bread, paint in background first.
Mix middle tones, matching colors as you would silks or wools, and cover the rest of the canvas. Then paint shadows, then highlights, then broken passages. Before adding a different color over another, remove precious color with a palette knife.
Put painting next to still life, walk back as far as possible, compare with a hand-glass.
Be content only when the apples loom eatable.
In other words, see that the high lights are exactly their right tone, and not too light, and that all other lights and light masses are subordinate to what happens to be the highest light or light passages.
The part must always be subordinate to the whole.
If at the end of the day it is not satisfactory, scrape it away with a palette knife.
Paint with greater solidity; with less oil.
I ought perhaps to tell you that, except for the backgroun and shadows, you might paint all the more solid light passages without medium, if you wish to complete your study at one sitting.
Chapter XI: silver and china in color
Keep your color pure. Lay in the whole as before directed (the still life… Do this over the verdaccio underpainting)
You will get into messes often enough, and you must learn how to get out of them.
Begin with the object stronger in light and shade to set the key.
Chapter XIi Hints on Arrangements, Solecisms in Composition.
Study particularly the placing of heads, half and full length portraits and figures, and the main structural lines and color masses of decorative designs.
Placement of a head on a 24 x 20 inch page.
EXCELLENT! All pictures should be decorative… And there should be just accident enough in their arrangement fr them not to appear obviously arranged.
Creation of Adam and the Raising of the Brazen Serpent.
Chapter XIII painting from life in monochrome.
The sense of solidity and subtle modeling are due to the relation of tones, it is well to cultivate the habit of reducing every part and every color to it’s equivalent tone value.
Study the lighting of heads by Velazquez and van Dyck… A reproduction on your easel above the canvas might well seve as your guide… Gia’ fatto! 😉
Use brush to measure, paint slightly smaller than life.
Draw and then shade with charcoal, use q dry brush to model. From time to time put the drawing as close as possible, go back as far as possible and compare with a mirror.
Make all corrections in charcoal… Which resists little to a brush and none to bread!
Much correcting in paint is fatal to lucidity.
Set palette with white and raw umber.
The pure color of raw umber should be deep enough for the initial darks…
It is food practice to make the best use of restricted materials.
On managing your edges!
The planes of Velazquez…
Mark the quality of the skin in the forehead and bridge of the nose and the contrasted pulpiness where flesh is free of bone.
Check flesh values in relation to white…
Be careful in modeling round the eyes to preserve the globular feeling beneath the lids and to realize something of the liquid quality of the eyes themselves.
If there is any objectionable hardness or thinness, soften with a large dry brush.
Look to it that map of light and shade be correct. If necessary, use a penknife to scrape away the dark.
If a part dries dead; breath on it, then wipe off with a rag.
Cover the whole with wet paint?
It’s the recovering with wet paint that confuses me… With the same color?
More to learn from honest failure than mild success.
Chapter XIV Coloring a monochrome.
Coloring a monochrome means preparing the monochrome several tones lighter than nature, as if a semi-transparent paper were laid over a normal tonal study.
Then, when dry: paint the highest lights with Strf white; the shadows with Indian red and ivory black; the Greys and halftones with all colors mentioned + cobalt and a little oxide of chromium when needed… Covering the whole with a new skin of paint.
Begin with fluid mixture of middle tone, always higher in tone than nature, yet relatively just.
When the secon stage is dry, glaze in the yellow and red tones.
Sir Joshua Reynolds Painting method…
Reynolds obviously used his final colors with reference to the effect that was beneath them.
With the idea before him of a subsequent fuller coloring to be superimposed over a higher key in order to reduce the whole to the appropriate tone of nature.
Pure glazing may lower overmuch; add a little white with warm colors to obviate the loss of brilliancy.
Experience with this, as with all things, is a necessity.
Chapter XV Painting direct from life.
The palette for painting from life… two whites, yellow ochre, light red?, vermilion, rose madder, cobalt, emerald, oxide of chromium, raw and burnt umber and ivory black.
Star with Turp so the color dries dead and leaves the paint slightly absorbent… And that way, subsequent paintings with oil or varnish are less apt to shine unduly.
Never putdown two touches where one would suffice!
Use brushes that are awkwardly large; practice will enable you to manipulate them. They will sweep up the unnecessary detail.
Above all, assure a homogeneous skin… And look at heads by Velazquez!
Comparison of prepared and direct method…
A rich impasto, variety of texture, the beauty of underlying grey tones, a lasting luminosity, a sense oof oneness, are the distinguishing characteristics of the “monochrome.”. Vitality and spontaneity are perhaps more closely associated with direct painting.
Titian is said to have warmed his flesh with asphaltum, which is of a golden hue when applied thinly.
The grey tones are the severest test of a colorist’s capacity.
The greatest advantage of monochrome is this: if the glaze applied is not the desired hue, the glaze may be removed while leaving the underpainting in tact.
Further, if necessary to paint over, the white and light greys can only enhance the overpainting.
It is given to few to achieve a result which implies swiftness, dexterity, sureness, and just observation of color, tone and character in every touch.
Part II. Methods of the Masters
Chapter I methods of the masters.
FIND: book recs from Solomon… Mr. Hamerton’s. “Graphic Arts,” Eastlake, Mrs. Merrifield’s “Ancient Practice of Painting.”
A visit to the National Gallery… It is a sign!
Exceptional! A discussion on technical excellences… Have no counterpart in any other medium of thought.
Bronzino: Venus, Cupid, Folly, Time.
Chapter II Italian Schools
“”Luminosity” is the supreme test of the painter’s craft.
There is no caprice in Nature’s apparent favoritism.
Over-modeling is inimical to brilliancy and freshness.
Andrea del Sarto
Guido Reni – Grey Ground
Chapter III The School of Titian
Flesh initially painted with a color similar to the terra rossa ground, and the flesh was done very solidly…
The rich glazes were applied with fingers and thumb, and finally the whole was gilded either with a golden varnish or with asphaltum
Most notable achievement: the underlying grey.
Veronese on shadows and “passing clouds.” the point: invent your own shadows to move the eye and manipulate the composition.
Titian was the first to break up landscape masses with accidental light and shadow.
Madders glazed over a white ground with touches of Naples yellow like golden threads.
When oil and not varnish is used the glaze may evaporate.
Never trust in a glazing where a partial stumble is not added.
Mrs. Merrifield Titian anecdote: removal of glass frame… The glaze had evaporated and stuck to the glass!
Chapter IV the Italian school continued.
FIND: artist Paris Bordone, portrait of a lady.
Chapter V The Flemish School
Quote from Rubens on keeping white out of shadows and keeping color pure in the light.
Venus and Mars: note the warm brown shadows, broken touches of light and then the liquid melting of the scumble over the warmer ground. Liquid opalescence.
Van Dyck: witness the same scumble on the cheek of “van der geest”
Van Dyck portrait of van der geest
How best to copy this painting… Step 1. Brown grisaille; 2. Load light areas with stiff white and varnish medium; 3. Paint thinly the color of the whole, glazing the mouth and separately drawing some of the hair.
Look for grisaille study of van Dyck entitled Ronaldo and armida.
Chapter VI The Dutch School.
Rembrandt: portrait of an old lady
The woman bathing…
Note the rich unctuous properties have never been so thoroughly exploited.
Christ before pilate gives a clue to the first laying in…
An, so we are back to the woman bathing…
Here he explains how to paint the woman bathing: grey and white with loaded brush paint the shoulders and breasts, the chemise with a very liquid white added on a Greer ground with some touches of a palette knife; then shadows fairly transparent. IS HE RIGHT?
Ever keep the big things in view. Simplicity is the greatest virtue and the last achieved in any art.
Criticism of Rembrandt’s looseness; his reply, “I’m a painter, not a dyer.”
Luscious silver grey of the underground!
When wisely and discreetly left, the deposits of a real, not assumed enthusiasm, fired spontaneously in the warmth of production– then and then only, like the moving passion of the orator, they move us to a real admiration.
The Spanish School: Velazquez!
In every sense a realist, he stated the large facts with the broadest touch.
Unerring draughtsmanship and a just appreciation of value…
Compare early Philip to the Admiral
pLog! This is it: “The Admiral is bathed in air. The solidifying force of finely contrasted values and subtle colour-contrasts is now the master’s secret, which henceforth is to be a model throughout the generations. He now knows that a living illusion is not enhanced by rigid draperies accentuated equally throughout, but that movement is imparted by free handling, that real texture of surfaces was more perfectly suggested by color and tone-relations than by minute imitation of the passages detached from the general envelopment.” Again, the word “envelope.” isn’t that also I. The Carolus-Duran document?
The Admiral is a masterpiece of construction, bigness and tonal relief…
The figure of the Venus is first prepared in white…
Venus figure prepared in white, Indian Red and Black.
The small Philip IV is one of our treasures and should be copied.
WHite and red ground?
Pink greys suggest Indian red in the ground and in the last painting.
One of the finest examples of big yet subtle modeling: Vealazquez’s dwarf!
The finest example of the French school is Watteau.
Wax, medium and cracking. Joshua Reynolds: all good pictures crack.
There is always danger of pictures suffering that are done with a thick paste of color entirely concealing the grain of the canvas.
Gilded vs. silvery
Reynolds: example of the essential vs. non-essential.
To be a painter, he must first be a sound craftsman.
Later on you may attempt Van Dyck or Velazquez’s Phillip IV…!
Aids to Composition.
You may desire to make natural effects your chief aim, and if their lies your strength, by all means do; but do not at the same time forget to make the decorative.
Dipping draperies in a mixture of clay and water so they hold their form…
Solomon’s secret: covering a mill board with aspinall’s enamel and then, after it dries, cover with ivory black water color… Then pull out the light…!
Analysis of Titian Composition.
Titian analysis continued…
…make the search for the beautiful in all things your real pilgrimage through life.
Time invariably sobers the spirit that ostentatiously dissociates itself from the powers that were.
Let this thought make you tolerant.
PADASOR: know before hand the your fancy of today will give place to a new one tomorrow…
Page 278: Dutch school continued… Fran’s Hals
Page 309: practice of oil painting Solomon Page 309
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