Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adventures in Alla Prima

Whether you call it alla prima or au premier coup, the method of painting directly in a single session is foreign to me.  My method has been to start with a monochromatic underpainting to establish values, and then to paint translucently or opaquely on top of that.  (I generally don't glaze).  Lately, however, I've wanted to loosen up, and try to become more "painterly." 

I love working from life whenever possible, and I was fortunate that my sister, Andrea, agreed to sit for me this past Sunday.  This painted sketch took a little over three hours, which was amazingly quick for me, and I had a blast!  

Not only did I make an attempt at painting in a way I'm unaccustomed to, but I also decided to try a different color palette.  Though it is a very standard palette, it too was not one I usually employ.  The colors I used were:  cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, French ultramarine, cobalt blue, viridian, titanium white, and black Roman earth.  Black Roman earth is one of Williamsburg Paints Native Italian Earths, and it is my new favorite black:  it is warmer than ivory black, and I enjoyed using it very much.  The next time I do this, however, I will probably add a darker earth red so I can create deeper, warmer shadows.

I can't wait 'til next time!  Thanks, Andrea!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The DuMond Palette Revisited

Jeffrey Freedner is a talented and knowledgeable artist who was gracious enough to add to my post on the Prismatic Palette of Frank Vincent DuMond.  One of Jeff's teachers was Frank Mason at the Art Students League.  Mason, a student of DuMond, took over his teacher's classes in 1951 when DuMond passed away.  I have decided to post Jeff's comments together here where they are more readily found, so that we may all learn more about this unique palette.  Thank you, Jeff, for all of this great new information!

From Jeff:

This is a great subject, and one that is close to my heart. 

I studied with Frank Mason, who took over the DuMond Class after his death in 1951 at the ASL.  He still teaches in the same studio, but he's almost 87 and, from what I hear, not doing well.
I studied with him for 3 1/2 years, and he took the class to Vermont every summer for a month to paint landscapes.

Frank would do demos on this palette and the ideas you have already put forth.

Basically, you're right on about the palette.  It was based heavily on the use of Cadmiums, and all of the values were related to colors on the palette.  For example, he would talk of Orange value gray* and then move down to find the same value of Violet and Green.

*(I assume here that each neutral on the value scale corresponded to a color of the prism, ie. rather than referring to a tone on the value scale by a number, it was referred to by the prismatic color of the same value [note the use of the capital letter in naming the column, ie. Orange gray].  So, looking at my diagram of the Prismatic Palette from the earlier post, each neutral on the second row would be named for the hue directly above it in the prismatic row.)

Here is his palette:

Titanium White and Ivory Black

 1.  Winsor Newton best-quality cadmium lemon yellow
 2.  Winsor Newton best-quality cadmium yellow light
 3.  Cadmium yellow medium
 4.  Cadmium yellow deep
 5.  Cadmium orange
 6.  Yellow ochre
 7.  Winsor Newton best-quality cadmium red light
 8.  Cadmium red medium
 9.  Cadmium red deep
10.  Alizarin crimson
11.  Cerulean or manganese blue
12.  Cobalt blue
13.  Ultramarine blue
14.  Pthalo blue
15.  Pthalo green

Extra colors:

Raw sienna
Burnt sienna
raw umber
burnt umber
Green earth (terre verte)

Frank added a line of Violet so you had the full spectrum of colors, then the row of grays, then violets, blues, greens, and he would add more triads of high value pinks and blues (pthalo blue).

Mason mixed the greens from a Violet (a mixture of ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson that on the Munsell hue/value/chroma charts would correspond to purple/blue 10PB-2/10.  If you wanted it to be a little more towards red, then 2.5P-2/10).  Cadmium yellow light was then added to this Violet, mixing the greens up to a Munsell value 6 (Orange value gray).  The last three values of green were made using pthalo green and cadmium yellow light, with white added to bring up the values.  (Viridian could be used instead of pthalo green to make a less chromatic and intense green mixture.).

We would mix to a maple leaf, as this was the predominant green in Vermont, and it was a way of gauging if the green on the palette was getting too acidic.

Orange value is the lowest value before turning into the shadow value.  Cadmium red is already in shadow as a value.  Of course, this can vary due to time of day, but the edge, or where it turns into shadow (which we mixed from cobalt blue and cadmium red), in a northlight studio during the day, is Orange, and the middle is Yellow Ochre.

Hope this helps;  it's a hard palette to master due to all of the cadmiums, but the key is the grays for studio painting, and the violets and blues for the outdoors.

To see more of Jeff's work, please visit his blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Andrew Loomis and the Power of Persistence

On my climb up and down the Artist Family Tree, I've decided to make another stop on Andrew Loomis' branch.  I've recently had a resurgence of interest in American illustrators from the first half of the 20th century, and Loomis is amongst my favorites.  

Like Frank Reilly, Andrew Loomis was a student of Frank Vincent DuMond, and also like Reilly, Loomis is likely best remembered for his teaching, and not his art.  Both teachers sought structured methods by which to educate their students, and both have had a lasting influence on generations of artists right up to the present day.  Where did they differ?  If Loomis had listened to his teachers, he would never have become an artist.

"May I confess that two weeks after entering art school, I was advised to go back home?  That experience has made me much more tolerant of an inauspicious beginning than I might otherwise have been, and it has given me additional incentive in teaching." ~  Andrew Loomis in Figure Drawing for All It's Worth.

Luckily for us, he persisted.

If you'd like to read a wonderful article on Loomis, then I recommend grabbing a back issue of Illustration Magazine #20.  The author, Jack Harris, did a wonderful job, and I hope it marks the beginning of a much longer study on this great illustrator.

Masters of American Illustration

Good news!  I've found a new book for which to look forward!  

Those of you who remember Step-by-Step Graphics Magazine will probably remember "Methods of the Masters," Frederic Taraba's articles at the end of the magazine discussing many legends of illustration.  The Illustrated Press has announced that they are planning on collecting all of Taraba's profiles, and placing them in a single book, Masters of American Illustration:  41 Illustrators and How They Work.  For many traditionalists, Taraba's articles were the best part of the magazine, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book when it's published.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Frank Vincent DuMond and the Prismatic Palette

I wish I could say that I was extremely experienced with the DuMond palette, but in truth, I am not.  I have never painted using this philosophy of color, nor have I ever even mixed this palette in its entirety.  However, in the context of my previous posts, and my concentration on artistic legacies and unique palettes, I feel it is important to introduce this topic now.  I only hope that other artists more experienced with this method than am I will add their knowledge to the outline I provide here.

Frank Vincent DuMond (1865 - 1951), was an American illustrator and impressionist painter, 
who, despite his talent and success, will probably best be remembered as a teacher, a distinction of which he would likely be very proud.   After studying at the Art Students League of New York
 City and then at the Académie Julian under Benjamin Constant, Gustave Boulanger, and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, DuMond went on to become one of America's greatest art instructors.  During his nearly sixty years of teaching at the League, and at the League's Lyme Summer School in Connecticut, his students included the likes of Georgia O'Keefe, Norman Rockwell, Frank Mason, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Arthur Maynard, and Frank Reilly.

DuMond's innovation in his impressionistic painting, and in his teaching of painting, was the Prismatic Palette.  Unlike those artists today who consider their palettes to be prismatic just because they employ a full range of colors, DuMond actually based his color layout on the prism, and on the visual perception of color in atmospheric perspective.  In other words, his palette represented the three dimensional model of lightwaves in perspective, laid out with the understanding that yellow, orange, and red are predominant in close objects, while blue and violet have a stronger influence on distant objects.

The representation below, though poor, shows DuMond's universal principles of the Prismatic Palette.  It is very logically laid out, with the top row containing the colors of the spectrum, the second row contains grays to neutralize colors as they recede, the third row blues (cobalt blue + white) in corresponding values, and the final row, a variety of mixed greens (primarily cadmium yellow light and ultramarine blue).   The greens in the final row have been shifted according to atmospheric color [the green on the left contains the most yellow, while the green at the darkest value contains the most red and red-blue]. 

Paintings are begun with the middle values (around the value of cadmium red from the tube), and from there, color is adjusted according to the relative atmosphere as you move forward or backward in the picture plane.  Light goes toward shadow from yellow to red to violet on the warm side, and from yellow to green to blue green to violet on the cool side.  As colors recede, they contain less yellow.

It is obvious to see where Frank J. Reilly got the inspiration for his own palette, though he modified his choices based primarily on indoor portraiture and on the guiding principles of Munsell's color notation.  Reilly must have absorbed the logical approach in DuMond's prismatic color control, and saw another, more personal use for its utilization.

John Phillip Osborne

Although Reilly's palette seems better known, DuMond's palette is still taught and used by a variety of artists today.  Arthur Maynard (1920-1991), another student of DuMond, taught the prismatic palette at the Art Students League for several years before going on to found the Ridgewood Art Institute ("The Barn"), in Ridgewood, NJ, where he continued to instruct students in the use of DuMond's color control system for 41 years.  Maynard's students, like John Phillip Osborne, continue to teach the system at RAI, as do some of his students, such as Diana Gibson.

I invite any and all who can correct my information or add to it, to please leave comments on this post, for my own education and for any others who might come across it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Salmagundi Club's 31st Annual Juried Show

If you are in the New York City area and get a chance, visit the historic Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street).  Now through the 18th of July, they will be displaying the works chosen in the 31st Annual Juried Painting and Sculpture Exhibition for Non-Members.

My good friend, Nicole Moné, of  The Skeleton Project™, has one of her pieces in the show, Portrait in Lapis and Gold, and it is the recipient of this year's Daler-Rowney Award for Painting.  My congratulations to her on her well-deserved achievement!

Visit her websites to see more of her wonderful artwork.

Portrait in Lapis and Gold  20" X 24" (oil on linen)
Genuine crushed lapis lazuli and 22 kt. gold leaf accents

© Nicole Moné.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission of the author.