Renaissance Painting Class

Years ago I took a Renaissance Painting class. What do I mean by “Renaissance Painting”? First, it has nothing to do with subject matter, it was purely a class about technique.

I’ll give a brief rundown on this technique. First, the artist needs a very smooth surface. Many Renaissance paintings are done on panel for this reason. For the canvas paintings we put layer after layer of gesso on and sanded between layers. Then the picture is painted in black and white. Well, it is greyscale, like a black and white photo. We could add a little blue or red (not much!) to the paint to make the final warmer or cooler. The last step is to put a color glaze over the black and white under painting. If something is green, you use a green glaze and the underpainting will take care of the different shades and highlights.

When you look at a Renaissance era painting it almost seems to glow from an inner light. Well, in ways it does – you are seeing the shapes and shading through a layer of colored glaze.

Besides a few studies I did two main paintings. Unfortunately I picked a hard subject for my first. I decided to make a painting based on the photo below.

flower-mountain-6-25-02-006a

Of course I first simplified the composition. I also made some decisions in the composition to try to make it both dynamic, yet very stable, unmoving like the mountain. There were several diagonal lines with the most obvious crossing in the middle of the painting. There is also a strong sense of vertical, with the main vertical being in the center, and a strong horizontal which crosses in the middle. The lines weren’t exact, but close enough.

Composition Lines

Unfortunately I don’t think it worked as well as it should have. First, I had a hard time getting the right colors and for different parts to contrast. Working with glaze was harder than I thought! I had to go over it a times which made the colors muddy. And then there was cross between different colors. And dribbles, and stuff got on the canvas, and… well, in real life you can see all of it by how the light reflects.

Flower - Mountain Painting

And then when I looked at the composition I think I made some big mistakes. My idea was good, but it just didn’t work as well as I’d wished. There is no real focus for the painting, there should be something interesting where all of those lines intersect.

So I did another one. The class was almost done so I spent much less time on this one, but the results were better. It is a smaller painting and the composition was much simpler. I also had some experience under my belt. I’ve posted the picture before as an illustration to one of my “Frank” stories.

Apple

OK, the hand was added in later. I drew it on the computer. Her it is again. Quick note – I used a black backdrop when taking the reference photo. I should not have been quite as literal when I made the painting.

Apple Painting

The experience was great. I started on an even larger, more ambitious project based on a photo of a leaf. After I was about finished with the underpainting one of my art gallery friends talked me out of finishing. Unfortunately it has been so long since I’ve used this process that I’d have a hard time. I posted about this picture before.

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into Renaissance Painting!

Note – because of the shiny surface it was extremely difficult to get a good picture of the paintings.  And of course it is hard to get the perspective right – the photos shows the paintings skewed a bit.

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15 thoughts on “Renaissance Painting Class

  1. Pingback: If We Were Having Coffee – 8/1/2015 | Trent's World (the Blog)

  2. idiotwriter

    And now you….Mr McDonald. ;)
    Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your artwork with us! You know that apple is pretty darn good. The mountain is pretty darn good too – hard scene to do with the depth of field that is needed. Creating that detail in the foreground and still having the bit of detail on the mountains yet muted through the atmosphere between the viewer and mountains without making them look like ‘smudgy’ or like they are on top of the feild of flowers is NOT easy. AT all.
    I personally steer clear of landscapes as I am terrified of them! lol…(yes I am trying to overcome that fear!)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks IW! The Apple has proudly been hanging in plain sight since it was completed, now down in the cottage on Cape Cod. The mountain and flowers? A few days ago I was looking for something and found it behind a bookshelf. I didn’t really like it when it was complete, but looked again and said, “That’s not as bad as I remember. Perhaps I should do a post on it.” And yes, this is actually my third “failed painting” (or should it “painting failures”?) post. I was a little over ambitious with this and should have done a couple more with this technique before I did the final painting.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks Charly! Nothing new on artistic bucket list, just to get some part of one of my current arts known beyond the boundaries of the blog, like a book published (traditional published) or some such.

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      1. charlypriest

        Well I guess that for that goal as many many others out there, we will just have to keep on trying and trying and get rejected and rejected and maybe just maybe you or me ( I doubt me) but maybe you do get traditionally published. But with all the millions of writers out there trying the same, quite the competition. I find it similar to actors, how many million of actors would like to “make it” be a Brad Pitt or Robert de Niro or one of these people who live extremely well from their art….my guess is that from that pool is the 1 % but as they say, never give up on your dream.
        Me for example would love to be published traditionally, actually I send short stories on a weekly basis to magazines and….rejection, trying now my first novella see how that works out, but point being, that without writing I feel empty. I don´t even give it too much though if I get published or not, ofcourse it would be great if I did get published, but if I don´t write whatever it might be, a stupid little poem or a bad short story or my strange novella, If I don´t I feel empty like something is missing in my day. It has become like air for me, need it to survive and keep me sane and focus.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          Yep, I agree. I want my work out to a wider audience but am under no illusion that I will become famous. If the one in a million happens, great! If not, still need to try :)

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        2. idiotwriter

          You nailed that one Mr Charly Priest Sir :) AND – aren’t YOU full of surprises too, short stories and a novella – fabulous! ALL you talented busy people!
          Keep up the creativity pouring into the world… (yeah there is a lot – but it is OURS – our souls way of sending out our touch)
          Love it. :)

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          1. trentpmcd Post author

            Actually Mr. Priest IS published – he has a short story in a book published by another blogger. I have a hard copy of the book as proof ;) Since you are supposed to write what you know, his story is about someone who blogs. Well, more than that, but…

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          2. charlypriest

            Writing has become in the past two years almost like air to me, I need it to survive, keep me semi sane, and focused on doing something that I deem as productive, plus I have a ton of fun writing, even if what I write doesn´t see the light of day, but this is my new drug of choice. Healthy one.

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