The Gravers Society Show

The Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers Society of Washington, D.C. 2016 Has opened. It runs from November 20th to December 31st. It is held at The Mansion at Strathmore 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852. Click the link: MPSGS for more information.

I have three pieces entered.

Morrow 3.75” x 6.25” Oil on panel, First in Landscapes Award

Morrow 3.75” x 6.25” Oil on panel, First in Landscapes Award

Lakeside 4” x 5.25”

Lakeside 4” x 5.25”

Yosemite 5.75” x 3.5”

Yosemite 5.75” x 3.5”

2016

     I haven't had an on-line presence for a while. This past year I tried to get into as many Miniatures shows as I could. It got hectic at times. It was the MASF show in Dunedin last year that convinced me I should see what is going on in the world of Miniatures. What I've learned is that the shows have different size requirements for art work and framing and a painting can only be submitted to a show once. This makes it the artist's responsibility to come up with their own standard sizes for work in order to submit a piece to more than one show. I've done that and now the pump is primed and I should have more time next year to experiment with my paintings. Like I suspected Florida landscapes do not do well outside of Florida. My resources for other reference is limited and I will need to eventually find another genre to work in. This is not a bad thing. It is what appealed to me when I first started thinking about painting Miniatures. I would like to do a few still-lifes but find the 1/6th size requirement a problem for me. Ideally, I would like to do small still-lifes of small objects that would be closer to 1 to 1 in size. I think that would use the inherent character of a miniature in a unique way that a small painting of a bowl of fruit does not. It may or may not be the case but I would like to try it. I would also like to try a whimsical graphic style of painting. I haven't seen many pieces like that in the shows this past year, but what I've seen I liked. I think miniatures will prove to be a great venue for playing around.

 

     This past year did go very well. I received an award for First in Oils at the Seaside Gallery show in North Carolina, the Best in Show award at the Heartland show in Kansas, the Judges Choice award at the Artistic Design Gallery show in Indiana, First in Landscapes at the Gravers Society in Washington D.C. , The Excellence in Oils award at the Cider Painters show in Pennsylvania, and The Judges Second Choice award at the MASF show this year in Clearwater Florida.

Weeki Wachee - Egret 3.25" x 5.25", oil on panel

Weeki Wachee - Egret 3.25" x 5.25", oil on panel

This years piece for the MASF show at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.

Changes for the New Year

I thought it time for something different. I've been painting Florida Landscapes for the past 30 years and wanted to try my hand at something new. What that is I'm not sure of just yet. One thing I will continue with is painting miniatures. That is where I have been most successful and though the subject matter may change I think this year I would like to enter shows in other parts of the country.   The Miniature Art Society of Florida's show is on in the Dunedin Fine Arts Center until February 7th. I haven't seen it yet. I know I received an award of First in Oils for a painting of the Weeki Wachee and the painting was bought by MASF for their permanent collection, which is a big honor.

Weeki Wachee River Gar 6" x 4" Oil Paint on panel

Weeki Wachee River Gar 6" x 4" Oil Paint on panel

     In this years exhibit I have a painting of the Adirondacks in New York and another of Acadia National Park in Maine. This is my first group of paintings that were not all based in Florida.

     I have been playing around with still-lifes. I find them challenging. It is a very different way of painting. Landscapes are about textures and the still-lifes I've been working on are more about blending colors. I've needed different brushes and my palette of colors is changing. At first I wasn't sure if it was something I could do. I started by painting a bag of M&Ms. I don't know how successful it is as a painting but it was a unique experience. I enjoyed it enough that I have continued exploring the genera and hope to eventually find a distinct voice.

M&M's 28" x 24" Oil Painting on Panel

M&M's 28" x 24" Oil Painting on Panel

     Ive been dabbling with a few bird paintings. I started my career as a bird painter working in watercolor. They eventually evolved into birds in a landscape. I can't remember if I ever painted birds in egg tempera. I do know there have not been many in oils. This is a recent painting I did for the Plainsmen Gallery in Clearwater. I wanted to try working on a dark ground.

Ibis 8.5" x 12" Oil Paint on Panel

Ibis 8.5" x 12" Oil Paint on Panel

     I am not completely done with Landscape painting. This painting of the Chassahowitzka River is my most recent. I am just finding that at this point I enjoy starting one, but have difficulty finishing.

These are a few of the things I've been playing with. There are so many talented artists painting in such a diversity of styles I find it inspiring when I see new work. I often wonder how I would have done it and am taking the time now to try.

Afternoon on the Chassahowitzka River20" x 30" Oil on Panel

Afternoon on the Chassahowitzka River20" x 30" Oil on Panel

The Medicis and the Renaissance

I recently put up a few pages on the Art History part of my site about the Renaissance. Anything written about the Renaissance will be centered on Florence and the influence of the Medici Family on the art of the period. How did this come to be?

            Chieftains had artisans creating their bobbles and bangles in gold and precious jewels. The Chieftains became royalty with kingdoms and the kingdoms became empires. With empires came trade and wealth. The Roman Empire had wealthy merchants and senators that supported large studios of artisans creating all manner of doodads for their villas. When the Roman Empire collapsed, power and what wealth was left shifted to the Church and a rigid feudal society developed. It remained unchanged for 1000 years until the Renaissance when art, science, and wealthy merchants once again became prominent in society. Why the change?

             The Black Death happened. The Black Death was a plague that ripped across Europe between 1347 and 1351. During this four-year period 45–50% of the European population died. The plague ran  four years consecutively in Italy, the south of France and Spain, and there it was probably closer to 75–80% of the population. Monasteries were particularly hard hit. The effect on society was massive. People starved as crops died in the fields because there wasn’t the labor available for the harvest. There was a drastic reduction of the amount of land under cultivation and many landowners were ruined. They were compelled to pay wages. The feudal system that tied peasants to the land exchanging labor for services was finished. People worked for who was paying the highest wages and money began circulating through society and with money came banks.

             The Medici fortune began as a small bank in the back room of a wool shop in 1397. Giovanni de’ Medici the founder took a chance and financially backed a former pirate, Baldassarre Cossa on his new career in the church. In 1410, he was elected Pope John the 23rd and the Medici became the church's bank. Under Cosimo de’ Medici, they became the richest family in Europe and the ruling family in Florence. The Medici used the media of the time: architecture, sculpture, and painting (the printed book was still a couple decades off) to increase their visibility and influence. Lorenzo de’ Medici, as head of the family, was more interested in politics than banking and the family businesses declined. He became the Renaissance’s largest patron of the arts bringing the leading artists of the Renaissance to Florence; or did he?

             Much of what is written about the artists of the Renaissance comes from one man: Giorgio Vasari. He was an artist and architect and consistently employed by members of the Medici family in Florence. In 1550, he published his book: Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects and became the first art historian. The work has a definite bias in favor of Florentines and likes to attribute to them all the developments in Renaissance art. When you read about how a young Giotto painted a fly on the surface of a painting by Cimabue who repeatedly tried to brush it away or how Leonardo di Vinci died in the arms of the king of France it comes from Vasari. Is it true? Maybe. His anecdotes of the artists of Florence have the ring of truth and have been quoted for over 400 years. There were artists producing Renaissance art in other city-states around Italy as well as in Northern Europe. Their work may survive and their names may be known, but not much is known or can be written about their lives. Florence had the press. Vasari humanized the artists he wrote about and because of that his words echo on in the writers that have followed.

Benozzo Gozzoli fresco, c. 1459. Gozzoli portrayed the members of the Medici family riding in the foreground of the fresco. A young Lorenzo leads the procession on a white horse, followed by his father Piero and the family founder, Cosimo. After them is a procession of illustrious Florentines.

Benozzo Gozzoli fresco, c. 1459.

Gozzoli portrayed the members of the Medici family riding in the foreground of the fresco. A young Lorenzo leads the procession on a white horse, followed by his father Piero and the family founder, Cosimo. After them is a procession of illustrious Florentines.

Two-Point Perspective in a One-Point Perspective Grid

I’ve been playing around with the two-point perspective grid box and found that for me its best to use an 8 x 8 square grid for the base. It also helps to draw a couple different grids, say a 30 – 60 degree and 40 – 50 degree, at the same point on the line of sight using the same horizon line and boxes of equal height. This puts objects drawn using the different grids on the same plane and at the same scale. I have a few sets drawn at different distances from the horizon line that I keep in a folder and use for sketches on tracing paper.

The easiest grid box to use is a one-point perspective grid. Measurements are much simpler to make. You can use it for a two-point perspective sketch as well. I started this example by photographing two blocks from the top down and super imposing an 8 x 8 grid over top of it.

 

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Using a one-point perspective grid the blocks are drawn out in perspective as a floor plan.

The height of the bottom block is set and this is how the height of each corner is established starting with the edge at the picture plane and moving clockwise.

The top block is half the height of the bottom block and the height of each edge is found in a similar fashion.

The blocks in two–point perspective drawn on a one-point grid

A two-point perspective vertical grid can also  be drawn in the one-point box

The idea behind all this is to sketch objects with some sense of perspective and scale without the hassle of a formal perspective drawing. It is a starting point. 

Perspective Grids

There are a few basic elements of a perspective drawing: the Horizon Line where the earth meets the sky, the Station Point where the viewer is standing, the Picture Plane which is the imaginary window through which the object is seen, and the Vanishing Point toward which an object’s borders converge. The viewers line of sight is perpendicular to the Horizon Line from the Station Point and that the Cone of Vision is the width of a 60-degree angle from the Station Point.  Anything drawn outside the circle will be distorted.

Most of what you need to know in working with a perspective drawing is that a circle is tangent to a square on four sides, that the diagonals of a rectangle intersect in the middle and can be used to divide the rectangle in half or quadrants, and that the rectangle can be reproduced by drawing a line from one corner through the midpoint of the opposite side until it intersects with either a line extended from the top or bottom of the rectangle.

A One-point Perspective grid can be drawn using Diagonal Vanishing Points located by the intersection of a 90-degree angle drawn from the Station Point to the Horizon Line equal distant from the Central Vanishing Point. Equal lengths can be measured along the Picture Plane and the resulting squares are of equal size as they recede toward the horizon.

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One-point Perspective is good for determining the size of objects as they recede towards the horizon. Relative measurements can be found by bringing objects forward to the Picture Plane

This is a Two - Point Perspective grid. A 90-degree right angle positioned at the Station Point determined the location of the Vanishing Points. The Diagonal Vanishing Point is found at the intersection of the Horizon Line and a 45-degree line from the Station Point.

What if you want a cube based on a square in a Two - Point Perspective grid? In a four square section draw a circle in perspective ( http://www.chasrowe-studio.com/howTo/perspective4.html ) Then draw a line from the center point parallel to the Horizon Line until it intersects the circle. This will be the height of the cube based on one square of the grid. Doubling the height and using the Diagonal Vanishing Point will give the height for two lengths of a cube composed of all four squares as its base.

 A cube based on 4 squares of a grid will give you a way of working with Two - Point Perspective without the need of vanishing points or a horizon line. Saving this type of grid from different sets of vanishing points makes working with perspective much easier in much less space. The grid can be divided into smaller units by using diagonals or expanded in any direction. If needed the Horizon line is easily found by extending the lines of the base to the Vanishing Points and the diagonal of a square to the Diagonal Vanishing Point

It helps when creating perspective boxes from different vanishing points that the same spot on the line of sight and same height be used. This will keep objects drawn at different angles using different boxes  on the same perspective plane

Perspective Drawing

There is a section on the basics of perspective drawing in the HowTo on my Studio site. It doesn’t really deal with how one would go about using it in drawing or painting in any real sense. The problem with working with perspective is that the Vanishing Points are often far outside the drawing area. There are ways to get around this, however.

Marshalling Yard by Frank J. Reilly

Marshalling Yard by Frank J. Reilly

Perspective drawing was an important tool in the toolbox of illustrators working in the 40’s and 50’s. One example I thought was pretty sharp I found in the book Creative Perspective for Artists and Illustrators by Ernest W. Watson. It is an illustration by Frank J. Reilly for an ad for the Pennsylvania Railroad of a marshalling yard.  The exact number of freight cars to be in the ad was specified. To achieve this Reilly laid out wooden blocks proportional to the sizes of different railroad cars and from a stepladder photographed his arrangement. The photo was cropped to the proportions of the ad containing the specified number of cars. The 3 ¼” x 4 1/4” photo was taped to a piece of paper. Reilly used this to find his vanishing points. This was small enough that the vanishing points all fell within the size of the paper on his drawing board. From the vanishing points he drew arcs. Reilly photographed this again and scaled it up to the size of the painting, cut templates and used the method below to draft his drawing.

A wire is stretched from the Vanishing Point to draw an arc on the paper

A wire is stretched from the Vanishing Point to draw an arc on the paper

A T-Square is modified so a line can be drawn along the center line

A T-Square is modified so a line can be drawn along the center line

A template is made of the arc that can positioned on the drawing board. Lines drawn would go to the Vanishing Point far off the paper

A template is made of the arc that can positioned on the drawing board. Lines drawn would go to the Vanishing Point far off the paper

Today perspective drawing is used primarily in comic book art.  They use grids to accomplish much the same thing. I will get into that in another post.  I have always gone to perspective drawing when there has been a problem with a part of a painting that I just didn’t understand or at the start of a painting when I couldn’t get what I needed in a photograph. I remember a painting in which I needed a flock of egrets and wanted to emphasis the space between them. I have a 12’ worktable that I covered with a long sheet of craft paper. I drove nails at the vanishing points on the horizon line. Bumping my straight edge against the nails, I drafted out basic forms that were the basis for egrets in flight. The problem was that in tweaking out the positions of the birds any change required drafting a new bird and more lines.

The shapes drafted

The shapes drafted

The finished painting: Local Color

The finished painting: Local Color

Later I realized that the space in the computer is infinite and began using the program Corel Draw to draft with. Once I had lines from the station point to the vanishing points I would copy and paste a line and move the node at one end into position leaving the other end anchored at the vanishing point. It didn’t matter how far the vanishing points were from the object I was working on I could zoom into the area I needed to see. I could also color code lines and delete those I wasn’t using. Zooming in and out and moving around the screen, however, is a pain and I still had to redraft objects as I made changes to the composition of a painting.

In a computer the Vanishing Points can be far off the image area

In a computer the Vanishing Points can be far off the image area

Then I found Sketchup a free Cad program given away by Google. It is basically for architects, carpenters and interior designers. It works with geometric shapes very well, not so much anything organic. It took time but I could build small models of ibis, egrets, and other birds that were proportional. I could move the models around in space with different viewpoints until I had what I wanted then export it as a jpeg and open it in Photoshop where I worked up my compositions. The models by necessity were simple and crude.

Model of an egret

Model of an egret

Next I had planned to learn Blender a free and open source Cad program that worked more easily with organic shapes. I had tried it once before but never got past the interface of the program it is a monster. I thought I would subscribe to Lynda.com for a couple months and take some courses. I asked my nephew if he had heard of Blender. He hadn’t but started showing me some serious modeling programs on YouTube. I felt like a practioner of an ancient art long obsolete. The perspective invented by Brunelleschi in 1413 has evolved into something more like magic. I doubt he would recognize his own contribution to the art and he was a genius. For myself I’ve found that the more I work with perspective drawing the better my sense of space becomes. Traditional perspective drawings, Corel Draw, Sketchup, Blender, whatever, are all just tools in the toolbox for expressing ideas.

Giotto- An artist's biography

Giotto by Paolo Uccello 1450

Giotto by Paolo Uccello 1450

Who painted the frescoes in the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi has been one of the most hotly disputed in art history. The documents of the Franciscan Friars that relate to artistic commissions during this period were destroyed by Napoleon's troops when they stabled horses in the Basilica. Often attributed to Giotto, scholars have been divided over whether or not he was indeed the artist

Who painted the frescoes in the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi has been one of the most hotly disputed in art history. The documents of the Franciscan Friars that relate to artistic commissions during this period were destroyed by Napoleon's troops when they stabled horses in the Basilica. Often attributed to Giotto, scholars have been divided over whether or not he was indeed the artist

I’ve recently posted a page on Giotto in the art history section of my studio site. It is the first time I’ve put up an artist’s biography; something I’ve been waiting to do. Historically, it took many thousands of years before an individual artist could be associated with a specific work. There are Greek artists from the Classical period we know of through the writings of Pliny, a writer of the first century. The problem is that their work hasn’t survived and we only know it through Roman copies. It was later in the Byzantine period that artists began to sign their work. This was rarely done but scribes such as Frater Rufillus would also included self-portraits in their manuscript illuminations. What we know of the artists of this time is through the writing of Georgio Vasari. Vasari, writing in the 16th century, didn’t think much of the artists or art from the 13th century and preferred to write about the artists of the Renaissance. One artist he thought highly of was Giotto and the anecdotal stories of his life come from Vasari. Are the stories true? Who knows, Vasari wrote them a couple hundred years after the time of Giotto. We do know that Giotto changed the art of the Byzantine Empire and was the first true artist of the Renaissance. He was popular in his time and others copied his style. This, however, makes it difficult to attribute works of art to him. In fact it is only the frescos in the Arena Chapel and the Campanile di Giotto, his bell tower in Florence that can be attributed to him with any real certainty. Though unsure of the details of his life, we do know his importance. He paved the way for the artists that followed and we have a better record of who they were and the work they produced.

 

Dolphin Feeding

Last November Ernie Simmons and I spent a couple of days on the Chassahowitzka River. We used his pontoon boat as a platform and pulled behind a couple solo canoes to explore one of the creeks. It was a shake down cruise of sorts. All in all it worked out well and we plan to make use of it more this spring. We both got decent photos for future paintings and had a great time. For me the high point of the trip was coming upon a pod of dolphins feeding on mullet as we were heading back on the Chassahowitzka. This was my take on what we saw that day.

Ernie's latest boat

Ernie's latest boat

Dolphin Feeding 16" x 24" oil painting

Off to work

Off to work

It was nice being able to get up and go exploring rather than paddling for hours to get to a spot. The light was spotty and the tide uncooperative but the following morning I did manage to get into the area I had come to see.

Ernie caught snook one after the other until they wore him out.

After a big dinner. After a few beers. After the rain.

After a big dinner. After a few beers. After the rain.

Using the Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio, or the Golden Mean as it is also called, is based on a simple proportion. A is to B as AB is to A or if A=1 A+B=1.618... and is used in art to divide a rectangle into harmonious proportions. Continuing divisions of the golden ratio will spiral around a point where a diagonal and a perpendicular to the opposite corner meet. I often use it to layout a painting. When possible I try to place the elements in a painting on the grid and diagonals with the focal point at the point of the spiral. Is it really a more harmonious division of the rectangle than any other; who knows? Most artists and photographers are familiar with the rule of thirds a simplification of the golden ratio (It is easy to visualize a tic tac toe grid through a viewfinder or on a canvas). I use it on my final layout for a painting. It makes me take one last look at its structure before I start smearing paint around.

Creating a grid

Creating a grid

In this painting of Maine I was moving geese around for days looking for something but I didn’t know what. Once I overlaid the golden ratio I saw it would only take some minor fiddling to get my elements to line up and that gave me the confidence to accept what I had and move on.

maine-g.jpg

Here is another example. In this case I started with the grid in the beginning and adjusted my layout accordingly. More about the Golden Ratio can be found in the HowTo section of my studio site: http://www.chasrowe-studio.com/howTo/golden.html

Cypress

Cypress

The History of Miniature Art


Portrait of Elizabeth I by Nicolas Hilliard 1590 2.5" x 1.9"

Portrait of Elizabeth I by Nicolas Hilliard 1590 2.5" x 1.9"

At the Miniature Art Society show, I explained to my wife that what she was looking at was not a novelty but a genre of art that had a long history. Later I became curious and wondered what that history actually was.

Miniature painting has its roots in literacy as book illustrations. As such it became prominent in early Indian, Persian, Chinese cultures and also in the Byzantine Empire with manuscript illuminations. They could be small or even tiny religious books carried in a pocket or a purse. In the 1500’s miniature painting separated itself from illustration with portraiture. In 1526, Hans Holbein of Germany  became the court painter for Henry the 8th of England and the first acknowledged master of miniature portraits known at the time as limning.  It was in Elizabethan England that the genre of miniature painting came into its own. People carried portraits of loved ones when separated from each other or when in mourning. Elizabeth I used miniature portraits of herself to gather support and were given personally in a public ceremony as a sign of her favor. Her wealthier subjects would wear her image as a sign of their loyalty. James I, who inherited the throne, learned from her and continued the practice. Portrait painting peaked in the 1700’s and many artists had prosperous careers including Charles Peale who opened a gallery in the new American colonies. It all went bust in 1839 with the invention of photography and the Daguerreotype.

There was a revival of the genre at the end of the 19th century and many miniature art societies and associations were established that continues to the present day. In 1974, Bede Zel Angle formed the Miniature Art Society of Florida, which is the largest association of miniaturists in the world with a membership near 500. They host the largest annual miniature exhibition each January in Clearwater, FL and have the largest permanent collection of miniature art from contemporary artists.

 

Sites

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My hope is to use this blog post to integrate my other sites in a meaningful way. Updates will be posted here as well as some of the ideas I'm working on. On my main site can be found my current paintings, schedule, and a list of prints. My studio site has the paintings I am working on, my Short Biased Art History, and a How-To for technical tips. The canoeing site is about my history with the central Gulf Coast of Florida with maps  and a few links that might prove helpful. I haven't been particularly active on my social media sites but I would like to change that. This blog may make any changes easier and more meaningful. That's my hope anyway.

-Chas