Icon Diploma Student

Learning to see with the eye of the heart

Posts tagged ‘St Francis’

For the Feast of St Francis

Today, 4th October is the Feast of St Francis. I’d like to share some of my work from my student days on Aidan Hart’s diploma course when we were encouraged to paint monochrome studies on watercolour paper. I found these studies a little less intimidating as they were ‘only on paper’ rather than the gessoed boards which we had all spent several days preparing.

I knew I was going to paint an icon of St Francis on a gessoed board so wanted to prepare a study on paper first.

However, instead of painting a monochrome, I decided to see how painting an egg tempera icon on paper would turn out. The drawing above is taken from one of Aidan Hart’s icons of St Francis. This is the traced outline over the pencil sketch which I made from his prototype which you can see here.

I can’t find any record photos of the underpainting on paper but it would have been with thin layers of Terre Verte pigment and a few washes of the Yellow Ochre Maimeri mixed with a tiny dash of English Red Ochre, applied in thin washes.

Instead of photos of my process on paper, I can share the process on a gessoed board as I followed exactly the same steps.

Returning to the icon on paper, you can see both the underpainting of face and garments have had ‘membranes’ of colour and I’ve begun to add some facial shading and highlights.

I like faces to have soft highlights – I have often added the brightest areas only to wash them back with French Ochre Havanna so they blend in. There is a lot of flexibility in egg tempera – it is surprising how thin washes of one pigment over another can help things sit better together.

Finally we arrive at the lettering and gilding the halo.

Working on paper, I applied a dilute coat of upva glue (flexible when dry) over the surface to be gilded – this acts as a seal over the paper. About 20-30 minutes later I applied a second less dilute coat and as soon as it was just about dry I applied 23.5 carat transfer gold leaf.

I referred back to the drawing for the centre point of the halo, placed a strip of cardboard over the face for protection from the compass point, held it all very steady and drew a circle around the halo. I pencilled out the lettering and then traced and painted them on.

Finally, the work was framed and included in the final student exhibition at the PSTA in Shoreditch. It is now available to purchase from my Etsy shop here.

It’s almost the end of the day here but just in time to wish you peace and blessings on the feast of this gentle yet powerful saint.

Thanks for reading,
Ronnie

All gone quiet

It’s all hands on deck at home as finishing off seems to take almost as long as actually painting an icon. Our last icon session is only days away and details of the graduation show next month are now up on the PSTA website. I would be delighted if you could come along though I know many of you are miles away. It promises to be a great show as my fellow students have produced some breath-taking work.

I plan to continue with the blog after the course has finished as I haven’t posted any where near as much as I had intended.

I will be back in touch when I get a moment and will leave you with these two icons which are almost complete…varnishing, picture hooks and cord still to add.

iconpainting of St Hilda of Whitby by Ronnie Cruwys

St Hilda of Whitby

Icon painting in egg tempera of St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assis

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

 

 

 

Working with St Francis

st Francis

Work in progress on St Francis of Assisi

Hello icon friends,

A very happy Easter to you all and a warm welcome to the recent people following my blog. You have nudged me back to the desk to post some work after being away for far too long. Thank you!

I have a backlog of four icon boards to finish but thought I would start with a summary of work to one of my half figure icons – St Francis, chosen as I am so often calling on his help with one or the other of our pets. I can only trust St Francis knows best as he doesn’t always answer prayers with what I want to hear.

pencil sketch over drawing

Starting with a pencil sketch

I am referring to Aidan Hart’s image of St Francis (the one with him holding a robin) for this icon and began with a pencil sketch which I photocopied and went over with a black line ready to transfer on to a birch ply board prepared by Dylan Hartley.

lines transferred

Transferring lines using red ochre rubbed into a sheet of paper

light wash in red ochre on icon

Light wash of red ochre to define the forms

I have learnt to go very lightly with these first lines on the face, especially the lines on upper moustache and below the eyes. Use pigment with no egg so that the lines aren’t fixed and hard.

face underpainting of st francis

Underpainting the face and garments

I used Cornelissen’s Terre Verte with a dash of Stuart Stevenson’s yellow Ochre light to underpaint the face, making sure that it was dark enough to withstand 3-4 layers of membrane.The membrane was the same yellow ochre with a small dash of English Red Light.

membrane layer on face

First membrane layer applied to the face

membrane layers

Building up the membrane layers

I applied four membranes to the face as I was looking for a warm, even Mediterranean skin tone. The underpainting was just still visible. Some of the dry pigments brushed off as the egg tempera mix had got a little weak but I remembered the benefit of applying a nourishing layer of egg stock (approx 80% water 20% egg)  which helped stabilise the pigments.

face highlights

Adding highlights to the face

background layers

Building up the background layers

I am not going into the garments here as I made a bit of a hash of them! I used varying mixes of English Red Light and Ivory Black but I was too heavy-handed with the darks. I lost the translucency and almost sanded the whole lot off to start again, but Aidan thought they could be improved so I persevered. I am glad I did.  I recalled from one of the weeks spent at Walcott Hall that Avana is a pigment that can rescue many a difficult colour situation. I applied several thin washes and it seemed to soften the starkness of the red robes and evened the shading a little so I could almost start afresh with the highlights.

adding red ochre

Adding English Red highlights to cheeks, mouth, eyelids and nose

Adding light washes of English Red Light really adds warmth to the face. I still have the eyes to finish but the next stage is the background, halo and lettering and making good some of the highlights follwing my last class review.

Thanks for joining me here and if you are still reading, I am sorry I haven’t posted for so long as I had a bit of a set back when I fell and fractured my pelvis (in 3 places) and my drawing arm in two places – I only fell over our own back door step! I am well and truly on the mend now though and gradually catching up.

This post is dedicated to Leo; as I said not so long ago, we are only ever their keepers.

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Ollie and Leo

Ollie and Leo

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.