Copyright 2006 Maggie Stiefvater
All right, as promised, today is the first of my more indepth blogs on John Singer Sargent and my first preliminary sketches in my terrifyingly complex concept for my ala Sargent piece.
I dug up this following info from a handful of sources (which I'll cite at the bottom) so I hope no one is offended that I'm disseminating it here! (If any of the article writers are reading this and are both humorless and offended, contact me and I'll take it down . . . possibly replacing with a cartoon face representing your personality).
For me, the pleasure of Sargent's works is in his value pattern, which for those of you who aren't as art geeky as me, means very simply how he places his darks, midtones, and lights. And how much of them he uses. Check out these pieces for instance:
In all these early works, his use of dark values is powerful. Moreover, he uses darkness to simplify all shapes and relationships to bare bones. Realism -- but only barely. To me, a Sargent is a Sargent because he paints the barebones of a subject and combines shapes and subjects into value groupings in order of importance. Does that make any sense? No matter. On I go.
And this piece is the one that I intend to model mine after, well, at least the most closely. This is his famous "El Jaleo," and the part that I want to imitate is the lighting and value pattern. See, he has a bunch of people in this painting, but you would never mistake what the focal point is. And he even highlights the secondary players in the painting without overpowering.
So you've seen my concept up at the top, based on a little two second sketch I did in one of my margins a few days ago. Since then, I've been doing preliminary drawings of the horses because the impression of realistic movement and lighting is going to be crucial in this bugger. I also have to place the horses in such a way that none of them eclipse each other, have a foot in another's eye, or look like they are involved in rude activities. And the light has to hit them all in the same way. This is hard stuff!
Sargent usually did preliminary drawings for his larger, more complicated works, and also for his competition pieces, like El Jaleo and Madame X (the stylish woman above). I've seen these drawings, and you can see some of them here (bottom of the page).
After that, what did he do? The biggest points to learn seem to be that he:
- Worked fast. He would do a portrait in 2-8 sittings, and his portraits were big.
- Worked spontaneously. From an article at http://www.canvaz.com/reproduction.php?master=sargent: "Sargent's bold, physical approach to painting was unusual. He would shout "Demons," rush at the canvas, place a flurry of brush strokes and then retreat to a distance to find out what effect his marks had from this perspective. The easel was set up next to the person being portrayed but he viewed it from afar." or from http://jssgallery.org/Essay/Articles/Apollo/Apollo1998.html:"...slowly and deliberately recede about a dozen steps from the easel and suddenly,[ pic] the brush lifted ready for action and without ever taking his eyes off of me, make a dash for the canvas on which he then recorded his impression, generally accompanying the act by contentedly humming a little tune.(17)"
- Never overworked. He would rather redo a portrait on multiple canvases than paint over mistakes on one.
- had a limited palette, namely:
- mars red
-ultramarine/ cobalt blue
- ivory black
-lead white (rarelly zinc white)
- a lot of medium
- Worked on mainly gray primed canvases
- Worked with a full load of paint - he criticized a student for being too spare with the amount of paint that he had squeezed onto his palette. His large and evocative brush strokes take a fearless use of pigment.
And finally, my quick sketches that have gotten me to this point. Next is going to be a value study to try and change around the positions of the horses to choose a definite subject and identify it clearly with darks. May be a few days -- I have commissions to be working on.
And my links.
I hope I haven't bored you all silly or been incoherent and I'm still quite silly from this idiotic flu!