Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘monochrome study’

Angels of Chora

Archangel in Monochrome

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.

painting the lines of st Michael in monochrome

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.

Modelling icon garments

Building up the layers of pigment to model the garments.

archangels Raphael and Michael

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.

gold transfer leaf

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.

thick line around halo

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.

monochrome archangel Michael

Complete study of  Archangel Michael

Archangel raphael

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.

Gabriel at Large

Gabriels face appears

Gabriels face taking shape

Hello again icon friends,

The image above represents a quick sidestep past another effort which ended up in the experience bin. I had started this stage quite pleased with my decision to stretch myself by working on a larger image. I transferred the outline of my final drawing of Gabriel on to A2 sized paper which gave Gabriel the space to outstretched his arm in full.

Transferring the final drawing

Transferring the final drawing on to unstretched A2 Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper

On went the image using a sheet of paper which I had rubbed with Armenian red bole (a red pigment) to act as transfer paper. Then I painted lightly over these lines to fix them.

Painting on the outline

Painting the outline on to the paper

So far so good. However, as I washed over the larger areas, the paper began to cockle.

Image of Gabriel 1

Image of Gabriel 1

I then got caught up concentrating on the face rather than building up the image lightly and evenly as a whole. I looked at the face in comparison with the original and decided I had gone so far adrift that it was only paper and I should start again, and start properly. I am sparing you a larger image of my first Gabriel who looks rather stern!

Gabriel looking nothing like the original!

Gabriel looking nothing like the original!

So, down to the DIY shop to buy an MDF board cut a little bigger than A2, together with some water colour tape and this time soak the paper in the bath for a few minutes, tape it to the board and let it dry. By this stage I had had enough, so I left the board and wet taped paper flat on the floor overnight and by morning it was dry and had stretched beautifully!

Gabriel with a softer face

Gabriel with a softer face

This time, I tried to develop the whole figure and garments at the same time. There are numerous mistakes with the garment folds which I realised as soon as we got the handouts on our next Icon session but at least I can see where I have gone adrift.

I have attached Aidan’s handout notes on painting standing figures and garments if you would like to find out more on this subject. I am concentrating on our homework for the time being but will come back to Gabriel in a few more weeks.

Day 7 Aidan Hart’s handout on standing figures 24 Feb 14

Adding shading to define the forms

Adding shading to define the forms

Gabriel underway

Gabriel set on the A2 paper

Thanks for reading!

Lofty Discoveries!

Hello Icon Friends,

I am making up for time lost last week when I was out tying ‘Missing’ posters to lamp posts and scouring the internet for our pet cat. Not the little fellow you might have seen eating up my egg mix in November, but our older cat Ollie. Two nights away is unheard of for this home-loving creature. A long story cut short, we now have new friends down the road and if you lose a pet, enlist St Francis and put up posters! Ollie had climbed into their loft space where they were building an extension and got stuck. I am overjoyed to have her home and very thankful to St Francis!

So, back to the paper trial. The Saunders paper is without a doubt a treat to work on but having tried the Fabriano Artistico, I have to say that I found blending the egg tempera just a little bit easier. The paper is almost luminous and seems to make St John more appear more present.

Monochrome study of St John the Evangelist

Monochrome study of St John the Evangelist

Looking back on my posts, I have spared you my earlier image of St John. This will never do! I should be showing you how my work is hopefully progressing.

Why is it we always see things (where we have gone wrong) more clearly when we take a step back?

Why is it we always see things (where we have gone wrong) more clearly when we take a step back?

Let’s see, St John above is my most recent work, on Fabriano Artistico paper.  St John below was painted on rough white water colour paper, about 2 months ago.

Blending the paint is clumsy and the overall appearance is hard. See my post 'Core, Clarity and Confidence'.

Blending the paint is clumsy and the overall appearance is hard. See my post ‘Core, Clarity and Confidence’.

It has taken a few attempts and I am still a long way off, but I think the blending above is getting a bit softer. That said, looking at the uppermost one as I write, his whole head shape is still too round, the shape of his face too wide and flat, the eyes looking too much to the left…oh…I am going to have to have another go!

Homework update from the icon course day five: Day 5 Notes Icon Screens Day 5 26th November 2013 Feet

Before I say cheerio, here are five more quotes from “the mustard seed garden Manual of Painting” to follow from the last blog post:

Originality should not disregard the ‘Li’ (the principle or essence) of things

Learn from the Masters but avoid their faults

Posess delicacy of skill with vigour of execution

The second fault is described as ‘carving’ (‘K’o) referring to the laboured movement of the brush caused by hesitation. Heart and hand are not in accord. In drawing, the brush is awkward.

He who is learning to paint must first learn to still his heart, thus to clarify his understanding and increase his wisdom.