I feel like a kid sometimes when I work with foils. I love shinny things. But somehow when I introduce gilding into my work, I am transported back to a romantic time when gold and silver adorned the finest paintings and icons. It was used then to exaggerate the light/holiness of God or the Saint who was being painted.
I am using it in this painting to exaggerate a similar idea. For the last year and a half, I have been working on a series of icon inspired paintings and researching pre-christian- judeo religions where the feminine played the dominant role.
I used this set-up for my new painting and I thought it would be a perfect lesson for our Portrait Painting class that I teach on Wednesdays from 2-5pm. The stage was set with a shinny silver back-drop, Sara, our model wore a beautiful Asian red robe. The colors reflecting in her skin are beautiful.
I started the class off with a demo on how to block in the standing form. I had everyone prime their canvas with a cool medium gray. This time, I tried a new approach to see if it would help the students to achieve more accurate proportions. We predetermined the head size and marked off 7 1/2 head lengths on the canvas. (Sara's height). This helped most of those who were doing a full figure to stay within correct proportions. Next the block-in which concentrated mostly on the silhouette--no features, no detail. AND NO WHITE. I can't believe how hard it is for some to stay away from white in the beginning but trust me, if you concentrate on all the shadow shapes, connecting half tones and mid tones, you will be so much happier with the results.
I paint with and ahead of my students in order to give them a range of solutions to the many problems that arise in portrait and figure painting. This painting of Sara, "The Goddess" is almost finished and shows our students some of the color choices I made for shadows and skin tones. I jumped ahead of them by using photographs so I could study anticipate some of the challenges they will encounter. As an instructor you can't just talk the talk...you better know how to use the brush too!
In working with foils it is important to introduce the foil layer before the painting is finished. The reflected light is so intense that itall your other lights. After I applied the foil, I went back in to adjust my lights and intensify my darks using transparent glazes of Alizarine Crimson and Ultramarine Blue and Egyptian Violet. In the strongest whites, I am using an egg tempera mixture which I will explain later.
Here is the almost finished piece.