Sunday, October 17, 2010

Recreation of an Old Master in Tempera

For my current art class assignment I had to choose a 15th century tempera painting and do my best to copy it. My choice is this portrait by Ghirlandaio from the late 15th century.

I printed a full size copy of the original, then used tracing paper to get a cartoon of the major lines. I colored on the back of the cartoon to make the cartoon function as transfer paper, then traced the lines of the cartoon onto my board. My board is tempered Masonite which I chose because I could not find untempered Masonite that was smooth on both sides. Everything I've read says untempered is better because tempered Masonite is tempered with oil but we'll see what happens.

I roughed up the Masonite with sandpaper then applied a coat of warm rabbit skin glue. After that dried I applied several coats of warm gesso made with chalk and rabbit skin glue. Once the gesso dried overnight I sanded the board smooth.

Once the drawing was on the gesso I used non-waterproof black ink to make a value drawing. I used non-waterproof so I could correct mistakes easily. I sealed the finished grisaille with a light coating of egg yolk and water mixture so the ink would not be lifted by succeeding coats of tempera.

Next I started working in color, using verona green earth for skin, and yellow ochre and umber for clothing and hair. In this picture I have started the skin and hair but not the clothing. The white chemise has undertones of other colors so I started with a darker color.

The clothing in the finished painting is green but has a definite yellow cast which is why I chose to start with ochre. This picture also shows that I started to color the necklace.

Here I have been focusing on the clothing. I decided to leave the face to last as working on the rest of the painting will give me practice handling the paint so I will be "warmed up" when I get to the face. I am still going to work on this some more because I am not completely happy with the green. On top of the yellow ochre and umber underpainting I used celadonite and lead white to render the green cloth. Then it wasn't yellow enough so I mixed another set of greens using celadonite, lead white and Naples yellow with almost pure white and yellow for the highlights. This is better, but still not quite what I was going for. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of the different layers so I don't have the progress to show. This last picture shows where I am with the painting as of this evening. I reached a point where I was only making it worse by continuing to work on it so I decided to take a break until tomorrow.

Also note that in this picture the necklace and white chemise are more finished.


Rachel said...

Fascinating to see the stages of development in this - thank you for sharing it with us.

Elena said...

Very interesting, I think the result is excellent! Thank you for sharing!

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