Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Poppa's Got a Brand New Blog




Portrait artist and former illustrator, Marvin Mattelson, has been mentioned several times before on this blog, and the posts on him and his teaching always attract a lot of attention.  Now, rather than reading my interpretations of Mattelson's lessons, you can go right to the source - Mattelson has just begun his own blog.  To check out Mattelson's writings, please visit his site, "Brush Aside," where the successful artist and teacher "lays down his palette and uses his words."



Lee Sandstead's Dirty Little Secret




Art historian Lee Sandstead has a dirty little secret:  many of the paintings he had been taught to admire when a student, were disappointments when he saw them in person.  This is by no means a condemnation of the artists who painted the works, nor of Sandstead's teachers for lavishing praise upon these paintings.  It is just that whenever Sandstead encountered these pieces in museums, he noticed that the elements which had originally made the paintings special were missing or obscured.  The problem he found was that many artworks are in need of a good bath.




“This might sound rather incredible,” says Sandstead, “but most classic paintings in a museum need some kind of conservation, such as replacing the varnish. And even more incredible, in all of my art history classes that I have ever taken, no professor had ever mentioned this very basic—yet crucial—fact.”

Sandstead's quest to see paintings as they were "intended to be seen" began with Leonardo daVinci's La Giaconda (the Mona Lisa).  When he first saw it in its current state, he was . . . underwhelmed.  “I sat there looking at this very small and dark painting behind three inches of bullet-proof glass scratching my head in puzzlement. Where were her eyebrows? Why is she so yellow?”

He knew from the account of Giorgio Vasari, who described La Giaconda in 1547, that there was once something more to the painting:

In this head, whoever wished to see how closely art could imitate nature, was able to comprehend it with ease; for in it were counterfeited all the minutenesses that with subtlety are able to be painted, seeing that the eyes had that lustre and watery sheen which are always seen in life, and around them were all those rosy and pearly tints, as well as the lashes, which cannot be represented without the greatest subtlety. The eyebrows, through his having shown the manner in which the hairs spring from the flesh, here more close and here more scanty, and curve according to the pores of the skin, could not be more natural. The nose, with its beautiful nostrils, rosy and tender, appeared to be alive. The mouth, with its opening, and with its ends united by the red of the lips to the flesh-tints of the face, seemed, in truth, to be not colours but flesh. In the pit of the throat, if one gazed upon it intently, could be seen the beating of the pulse. And, indeed, it may be said that it was painted in such a manner as to make every valiant craftsman, be he who he may, tremble and lose heart.¹

What then was Sandstead missing?  Though he had not been taught the fact in school, he soon realized that for paintings, classical paintings, to be understood, several items were needed:  the removal of centuries of dirt and grime, the removal of yellowed and aged varnish, the addition of a new varnish to bring out the colors and increase the depth of the darks, and some good, controlled lighting in which to view the works.

As Sandstead says, ". . . before you can understand an artwork. . . (its) characters, symbols, messages, themes, etc., you first have to know what you are looking at."

Searching out works in museum's throughout the world, Sandstead, a talented a photographer in his own right, began taking pictures of paintings in need of cleaning, and correcting them digitally so he could appreciate the works as they were intended to be viewed.






Now, Sandstead, whose TV show on The Travel Channel, Art Attack with Lee Sandstead, revealed the man to be "the world's most fired-up art historian," is trying to educate the public about what they should be seeing, at least superficially, when they look at a painting.  Using new technology built upon Apple's iBook Author, Sandstead teamed up with app company Tapity to release a new, interactive book, Cleaning Mona Lisa, available today at the iTunes store.  In it, Sandstead describes his disappointment with certain works which were not being presented at their best in museums, and shows examples of how some works would look if they were restored and lighted properly.






His audience is not intended to be artists, but the general public– most artists should already know that many paintings in museums have been damaged by age.  As such, though, it is very encouraging. Sandstead's presentation is clear and simple, and his energy has the chance to encourage more people into museums.  More importantly for contemporary realists, Sandstead has a sympathy for indirect painting methods, and is eager to educate his readers in the differences between classical and modernist technique, and why they should be appreciated differently.






Cleaning Mona Lisa is available for iBooks2 on the iPad.  It can be purchased on iTunes for $2.99.  For more information, visit Sandstead's website.




¹Vasari, Giorgio, "Life of Leonardo da Vinci", in Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, translated by Gaston DeC. De Vere, (London: Philip Lee Warner, 1912-1914).


Sunday, May 27, 2012

CORRECTION: PSoA First Honor Award


FIRST HONOR AWARD
Lynn Sanguedolce
Tom Poynor in the Studio
68 X 50 in.
oil on canvas


My apologies to Lynn Sanguedolce, who, in my haste to post, was inadvertently listed as an Exceptional Merit Award Winner, when she was indeed the First Honor Award recipient.  I am very sorry Lynn for the mistake!  I have made the correction on the Awards List.  Congratulations on your beautiful painting.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Art of the Portrait 2012: And the Winners Are . . .


DRAPER GRAND PRIZE WINNER
Julio Reyes
Tread Softly
42 X 63 in.


Congratulations to Julio Reyes for winning the William F. Draper Grand Prize in the 2012 Art of the Portrait International Portrait Competition!  This year's judges, artists Mary Whyte and Daniel Greene, and Brandon Fortune  – Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery –  had a difficult task in making their decisions, but the prize could not have gone to a nicer and more appreciative and more deserving artist than Reyes.  

And Underpaintings readers called it –  the Popular Choice vote went to Casey Baugh, who also won an award of Exceptional Merit.

Cheers to all of the finalists on your awards!


PEOPLE'S CHOICE
Casey Baugh
Composing
12 X 20 in.
oil on canvas


BEST OF SHOW
Mary Sauer
Anna
40 X 30 in.
oil on canvas


FIRST PLACE
Alexandra Tyng
Year at Sea
68 X 46 in.
oil on linen


SECOND PLACE
David Kassan
Portrait of My Dad
32 X 25 in.
oil on panel


FIRST HONORS
Lynn Sanguedolce
Tom Poynor in the Studio
68 X 50 in.
oil on canvas


HONOR AWARD
Greg Mortenson
Orveda
20 X 16 in.
oil on linen


HONOR AWARD
James Tennison
Marguerite
30 X 27 in.
oil


HONOR AWARD
Katherine McNenly
The Beekeeper
24 X 20 in.
oil on linen


HONOR AWARD
Paul Wyse
Max
26 X 22 in.
oil on linen


HONOR AWARD
Gavin Gardner
Kalos Kai Agathos
13 X 7¾ in.
cast stone bas-relief


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Thomas Reis
The Reader
30 X 34 in.
oil on canvas


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
David Gluck
The Trapper
30 X 24 in.
oil on canvas


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Aapo Pukk
Paul
38 X 31 in.
oil on canvas


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Matthew James Collins
Richard Serrin
life-size
terracotta


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Nick Alm
Insomnia - At the Edge of the Bed
35 X 27 in.
oil on canvas


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
John Ebersberger
Avie
27 X 19 in.
oil on linen


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Stephen Early
I Wanna be Adored #3
30 X 36 in.
oil on linen


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Hsin-Yao Tseng
I Never Told You
30 X 20 in.
oil on canvas


EXCEPTIONAL MERIT
Marina Dieul
La grande aile
52 X 52 in.
oil on linen




Art of the Portrait 2012: The Face-Off


Alexandra Tyng


Ellen Cooper


Susan Lyon


Tony Pro


Michelle Dunaway


John Ennis


Ryan Brown


Casey Baugh


Bart Lindstrom


Lea Wight


Stephen Early


Robert Liberace


David Kassan


Mary Whyte


Rose Frantzen



Art of the Portrait 2012: First Night


(from l-r) John Ennis, Michelle Dunaway, Tony Pro


On Thursday evening, May 24th, the 14th Annual Art of the Portrait Conference opened its doors in  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to portrait and figurative artists from all over the world. Though this year's gathering began with the sad realization that the familiar figure of Gordon Wetmore would not be here to welcome attendees, the camaraderie among the Portrait Society of America's members – fostered by the late Chairman's vision for the organization – soon won out, and in the moments before the first event, old friendships were renewed and new acquaintances were made.  It was time for the City of Brotherly Love to bring together these artists in their passion for representational paintings and sculpture.


David Kassan


The first event was the perennial favorite, the Face-Off, in which fifteen members of the faculty painted side-by-side, to offer the audience a glimpse into the alla prima process of painting a portrait.  Arranged in the main ballroom, three artists to a model, the demonstrators worked from 5:00 PM until around 7:30 PM, taking only occasional breaks.  For the event, the professional models were garbed in Revolutionary Period costumes, and all the participants felt that they had been privileged with a unique and interesting subject, and no matter how much they enjoyed their time spent painting, they wished they could have just one more session.


Ellen Cooper


The Face-Off Painters:

Casey Baugh
Ryan Brown
Ellen Cooper
Michelle Dunaway
Stephen Early
John Ennis
Rose Frantzen
David Kassan
Robert Liberace
Bart Lindstrom
Susan Lyon
Tony Pro
Alexandra Tyng
Mary Whyte
Lea Colie Wight


(l-r) Casey Baugh, Ryan Brown, Bart Lindstrom


Susan Lyon


Stephen Early


Lea Wight (foreground)


Robert Liberace


Ryan Brown


Rose Frantzen