Original Still Life Oil Painting Tenebrism
- Oil on Canvas
- 56 x 50 cm (about 22 x 20 inches)
- Available, Framed Simply
Here in Firenze, Italia, I was working to improve my oil painting and drawing skills, knowing that this will also help me improve my sculpting abilities. That means taking on specific projects and focusing in a new way. Here, I have created a painting in a style called Tenebrism and once again, I have used my personal experiences in the Renaissance City for the inspiration of my composition. This time with an Italian "playboy" Giuseppe who wants to receive kisses instead of money for repairing shoes! He is quite "famous" in this neck of the woods.
The term tenebrism is derived from the Latin word 'tenebrae' meaning "darkness" or "shadows." It describes a painting style in which much of the composition exists in the dark, while the more important subjects will appear as if a shaft of light fell upon them. You might imagine the high drama of so much contrast. Paintings using tenebrism certainly have more of a moody feel than paintings created in a "high key" (very few dark tones or colors).
There are many things that I am trying to accomplish in this tenebrist project that also happens to be a still life composition. I created a setup using the Sight Size Method of Drawing in that I choose a viewing point a couple of meters away and then align the original setup with my canvas, each slightly turned so that I look directly perpendicular to the vertical plane of my 2-dimensional working surface. [Note that in the second image, right, I have the canvas too high. I sometimes get bored with Sight-Size and prefer to have my back straight when I work, adjusting the easel accordingly.]
Thus far, I really enjoy working in the shadows and I have been enjoying the mechanical objects, such as the old sewing machine. [This is a continuation of my fascination with tackling the creation of a backlit motorcycle in my charcoal drawing Hellcat at the Pitti.]
Half of the fun of still life painting is searching for the objects. Another funny encounter with Giuseppe on Via dei Pepi convinced me to create a composition to remember an aspect of my life here in Firenze, Italia. I bought some old wooden shoe forms at the antique market one Sunday in Piazza Santo Spirito, near where I used to live. Giuseppe himself loaned me some of his father's shoe repair tools. I needed them for about four months, but he said he no longer used them and "volontieri!" (Willingly!) would love to help me. [His father had gained some fame in his career, having worked outside of Italy, as well. I met him the first day that I met Giuseppe, but he died shortly after I wrote a blog post about him.]
In my search for a foreground collection of objects, I found a grouping of postcards at the Ciompi antique market here in central Florence. I bought a variety of cards, seeking different hand-writings, stamps, and marks. I was delighted to find an old envelope from a pharmacy in Genoa [Genova]. It even contained a small amount of white powder inside of it! More on this later … One objective in this project is to render some sort of writing in a way that the viewer recognizes it as writing, but cannot read the words.
I hope these little stories that go into each piece of art do not bore you, but I find them the stuff that helps me wake in the mornings. I like the connections between people and even, time. The old sewing machine was loaned to me from my friend Nicole. She bought it years before in the Ciompi [pronounced Chomp-ee] market here. The dark wooden spool on top of it belongs to my friend Anne Berit, whose mother gave the spool to her as a child in Norway. I bought the copper cup at Ciompi for the tools, to add some vertical element to the composition. And finally, the red leather cord and the spool in the foreground where gifts that another painter friend Nancy Hines gave me after her trip to the US and back to Italia. I had gathered other objects, but until it comes time to actually create the setup, one never knows how it will all play out.
I am developing the overall form in stages. This is a slow process, but the results I find beautiful.
I am seriously in love with this process! I love the subtleties in the shadows. I have always felt that monochromatic images have a very different kind of power from bold colorful compositions. I find this intriguing and challenging. Note that I am keeping my edges soft!
Now, this part of the story is just funny: In the antique market in which I bought the cards for the foreground, I chose many different types of texts for some variety in my composition. One night, after I had gone home for the evening, some of my French colleagues came into my work space in the art studio to examine my efforts.
The next day, I got the real story on this pharmacy envelope that still contains a white powder ... While there is an extra "h" in the main word, what is hand-written on the envelope (in French, not Italian) is: "Powder for the crabs" and on the side of the envelop "Use externally." My friends attributed the misspelling to the fact that this pharmacy from Genova listed it as also speaking English and thus, the error could have been from a foreign doctor's script and purely accidentally or out of ignorance.
While we all had some laughs over this, I have been debating about painting a subtle crab into the envelope. If I do it well, no one but you will even think to look for such a thing since my exercise is to portray writing without being able to READ the writing!
2012 June 9: Giuseppe in Firenze, Italia
Gotta love Italia! I got kissed today - smack on the lips, too! My favorite sandal broke in the studio this afternoon, so I went by to see Giuseppe at the shoe store. We met 6 years ago when I was walking down Via dei Pepi and Giuseppe's father coaxed me off of the street and into his shoe repair shop. After I left the stop that day, Giuseppe ran after me until he got me to stop. He then dropped some shoe polish in my bag, saying, "Nostro segreto" (our secret)
This evening, as he glued my shoe back together, he said, "sono innamorato a te." (I am crazy in love with you.) He would not let me pay for the shoe repair and also gave me a regalo (gift) of some cushion inserts (in my size, naturally), but was happy with his little surprise move on me - hahah. I suppose I will always have my feet taken care of! Sadly, his father died earlier this year (2012). This photo published with Giuseppe's permission.