Monday, June 11, 2012

Art of the Portrait 2012: Day 1, Evening Session

Rob Liberace

The last presentation on the first full day of the conference was a figure painting demonstration by master-of-artistic-anatomy Robert Liberace.  For those who have never seen Liberace give a presentation, or who have not watched one of his instructional DVDs, you are really missing something.  He is as enthusiastic about his subject as he is knowledgeable, and, as can be attested to by the number of his peers lining the rows of the audience, an invaluable instructor from whom to learn.

Liberace, in terms of his figure work, is somewhat difficult to classify.  He is not strictly a Realist, as he embellishes and improves upon his model while he works, nor is he a Classicist, because his improvements do not have perfection as the goal.  His work is rather an expression of his love for the Renaissance, for line and form, and for the human body, and it is purely and uniquely his own.

In this demonstration, "The Essence of Movement," the model was an inspiration and a jumping off point for the resulting painting by Liberace.  What appears in the finished piece is indeed the model, Gordon, but it is also a heightened version of him.  Using an in-depth understanding of the human musculoskeletal system, Liberace brought attention to bony prominences and muscle contours which the unskilled hand and mind could not have convincingly revealed.  And obstacles, such as the chair in which the model sat, were eliminated altogether, and replaced with anatomy only an authority could have invented.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable two hours which passed all too quickly.

(In fact, the entire weekend must have passed all too quickly for Liberace, and seemed nothing more than a blur for the artist.  On Thursday evening, he was one of the Face-Off artists, on Friday evening he gave this demonstration, and by Saturday afternoon he was in New York City, at the opening of his solo show at Arcadia Gallery, where he was giving yet another demonstration.  And to top it off, Thursday evening was also his wedding anniversary!   Thank you so much to Rob Liberace for making the Art of the Portrait Conference part of your busy weekend.  We appreciate it!)

T o start things flowing on the canvas, Liberace used bristle brushes, and a medium of linseed
oil with calcite (a siccative) added.

A still image from the video relay during Liberace's demo.

The whimsically named Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine oil paint (made by Daniel Smith Art Supplies) was an unusual but useful color on Liberace's palette.  ("Expressionist" wooden palette by New Wave Art Products).

"I can go dark in my shadows because Caravaggio did it!' ~  Robert Liberace

The finished figure sketch by Robert Liberace.


adebanji said...

I just love the way he handles his figures!

Charles Valsechi said...

Awesome, I am super stoked to take a workshop with him in two weeks on figure painting!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Can you clarify about the medium that he uses? Is it a home made or ready made product?

innisart said...

@Ingrid I am pretty sure Rob makes it himself. Calcite is a common calcium carbonate mineral (limestone, chalk, marble, etc.). I've read where it is not considered to have much effect on drying time, and have also read that it is considered a secondary drier. In Rob's experience, he must have witnessed improved drying time using the calcite, hence his recommendation of it as a siccative. Historically, Velázquez and Rembrandt were said to have used a calcite/linseed oil medium in their paints, and several manufacturers offer a version of it for sale, including Natural Pigments :

Ingrid Christensen said...

Many thanks for the response. I'll get some in my continuing quest for my perfect medium.

David Gluck said...

I think that next year I have to get one of those "Official Photographer" badges so that I can get in close to the demos too.