Face of Archangel Raphael in a monochrome study
Warmest greetings icon friends!
Our summer visitors have all gone home, my dissertation for the icon diploma has been handed in (more on that in another post) and our icon classes resumed last week with Aidan Hart in time to celebrate the feast of St Michael and All Angels.
Having spent a couple of months away from the paintbrush, I felt I would benefit from painting a monochrome. Besides, I had already stretched some 300gsm watercolour paper (Fabriano Artistico hot pressed), and had the images already prepared in outline.
First lines applied on Archangel Michael in English Red Light pigment
These are the same images of the Angels of Chora which I am using in my triptych (see previous post). I haven’t painted the faces on any of the figures in the triptych yet, so these monochromes have been helpful in getting me back in the painting groove.
Building up the layers of pigment to model the garments.
Background added of pure azurite pigment
I really enjoy painting monochromes. It’s relaxing not having to think about colour and to simply concentrate on the form, looking at the areas of light and shade. I also wanted these studies to stand on their own, so I gilded the haloes and garment highlights.
If ever you feel daunted by the prospect of painting an icon, this is a really good place to start.
I love the deep blue-greys of the Chora angel backgrounds. They give a wonderful feeling of a heavenly sky. It is quite a challenge to match colours, for one thing, even if you know that the colour used was azurite, this can vary according to the quality of the stone and where it was mined. For these studies, I applied over a dozen washes of azurite – the pigment which I ground from a small rock bought from Burslem Lapidary shop, then a few washes of Indigo from Cornelissens.
I used acrylic gold size, applied in two layers, then after ten minutes or so, I applied some transfer gold leaf (from Wrights of Lymm) once it had gone tacky. If you add a pinch of red pigment to the size, it helps to give some depth to the background as well as show you where you’ve painted.
Adding gold leaf to Archangel Michael’s halo
After applying the gold leaf to the halo, I then used a compass with a dip pen attachment to draw a circle to frame it. This is fiddly and I haven’t mastered it at all yet and ended up with a line thicker than I intended.
Halo line a bit too thick.
I had used a sheet of cardboard over the image to protect the face/paper from getting a compass puncture mark right in the middle of Raphael’s brow. The thickness of the card had a knock-on effect of dislocating my circle by a few millimetres – I will try a sheet of acetate cut to size next time.
Here are the finished studies. They are not the best photographs but hopefully give you an idea of the end result.
Complete study of Archangel Michael
Complete study of Archangel Raphael in monochrome
That’s all for now.
Many thanks for reading. Ronnie
PS Aidan has recently been filmed whilst painting an icon and has been included as part of Simon Schama’s Face of Britain series.
PPS Prints and cards of Archangels Michael and Raphael are now available from Smith York Printers.