Flying high and higher, experiencing everything, yet instead of burning and crashing, as the legend tells us, he gains love and wisdom and gently comes home.
Icarus Landing was completed in 2001 in my beautiful Turkish home/studio in Rhodes, Greece. There is a saying about staying at a friends home, leave it better than when you arrived. Art is a little like that too. If you borrow from history, don’t just copy but add to it and hopefully making something better out of it.
I get the moral of the original Icarus legend is to help curb young people from adventurous excess. They will burn, crash, and die if they fly too high. That story and warnings from “wise” people never felt right to me. Isn’t death a bit harsh? Wouldn’t it be better to go after their dreams, learn from their mistakes, and enjoy the journey?
Having Icarus land safely for me was irresistible. In the early stages, his pose took on a Christ-on-the-cross-like image. With reflection, I realized that coming back to earth instead of dying worked equally well for Christ. Ironically, if one removes the cross from the sadistic crucifix imagery, what it left is an amazingly beautiful pose. Continue reading “Icarus Landing”→
Lights and Darks in 3’s by Michael Newberry
One big problem that artists face when developing light and shadow in a work is that they tend to have the exact same darks and lights scattered around the surface. The result is that it kills the life out of the drawing!
A great way to solve that problem is to celebrate a hierarchy of lights and darks. The simplest way to do that is to focus on three different tones of lights and darks.
Here I will take you through what I mean.
Dreams of Round Things, 2006, charcoal on Rives BFK, 26 x 19 inches.
After I had lined up the proportions of Kelly, I was ready to organize my tones.
The real-life background was a dark, cobalt blue felt air mattress. Since the darkest object was going to be her hair, I chose the mattress as my 2nd darkest object.
Here I have two things blocked out–her dark hair and the background.
Here I added my third dark–her cast shadow on the floor. Next, I started on the lights. The highlight on the wood floor was going to be my least brightest of the lights.
My choice for tones was not arbitrary. I compared and contrasted all the tones in my field of vision. Kelly has a lovely light skin, so I knew she was going to be the lightest thing in the drawing, even though she was predominately in shadow.
After I mildly block out the light of the floor I was ready to start on her. The light on her leg looks almost shockingly bright, but, technically, I knew that brighter whites were to me.
For you artists, I was using soft charcoal pencils and a kneaded eraser. The kneaded erasers are wonderful for lightening the paper, yet it takes some hard erasers to bring out the brightest whites.
Here everything is blocked out. I clearly have dark, darker, and darkest : the cast shadow, the background, and her hair.
For the lights, the highlights on her shoulder, breast, and forearm are the brightest. The rest of her body is the second brightest while the surface of the floor is the least bright.
For the rest of the drawing, I am molding, tweaking, and detailing her and the background–being careful to be well aware of my hierarchy of lights and darks.
Towards the end of the drawing is the easiest place to lose sight of your hierarchy of the lights and darks. For example, I began to add the details of the shadows and highlights of the mattress’ circular cushions. There were many really dark shadows, and, of course, the mistake would have been to make them as dark as her hair. So it took some discipline to make them as dark as possible without stepping over the boundary to my darkest black.
The consequence is that her hair has a kind of brilliant, rich freshness to it that would have been lost otherwise.
It should be a lot of fun for you to try this technique out–or to look for a hierarchy of lights and darks in other artists’ works. Enjoy.
Painting Denouement was a chance to live inside glowing, colorful light and to express through art what love feels like to me.
Puccini, Polyclitus, Aristophanes, Beethoven, and Michelangelo rock my world. In their time, they were innovators with a love of beauty, humanity, and passion. Their art was a constant source of inspiration.
There were visual influences for Denouement. But most of the epic works were from “brown” painters, classic technique with a limited pallet in which dark things are brown and black hues. The French Impressionists had a fantastic sense of color harmonies in light and shadow. What I had in mind was to take the best of both and integrate them.
But there was no one work from these artists that I could use as a prototype for what I had envisioned, so I had to create a new path.
In 1984, I began studies on a moment of love shared. The first sketches were drawn from my imagination. In the images, you can see the glow from the light between them.
Then I began to develop studies from live models for this composition.
I modeled for the two left drawings, having rigged a couple of mirrors. All the studies for Denouement were from scratch – no photos.
To create glow, it would be important to backlight the guy. In hindsight, backlit objects are a bitch to draw because it is hard to see the dark stuff.
I began color studies in pastel.
I didn’t like the gray colors. So I kept drawing pastel studies, changing the light sources, colored objects, and color of the paper.
With these pastels below, the color harmony clicked.
I began to evaluate my overall composition: should the man be closer in size to the woman? Should they be closer together – more connected?
Changing the guy from standing to reclining solved both the size and connection problems.
What turned out to be cool was that his new pose worked great with hers. The two of them now created a diagonal line through the composition, like the flight line of a jet taking off.
Having solved the imaging of the man and woman, the next problem was arranging all the stuff to fit naturally.
I relied on two-point perspective to get the perspective of the carpet right.
Each object had to be adjusted to fit the perspective and be the right size.
Spatial Depth and Transparency, Integrating it All
Having drawn all of the information I needed, there was still the small matter of how all of this information was going to fit together. I needed to create spatial depth of about 20′, every object had to fit naturally in its space, and the overall lighting had to feel like it was from one source.
I needed to develop a theory of integrating the color, light, and space. I discuss this theory in my articles : Transparency: A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting, Part 1 and Part 2. To give you a sense of the problem here is a pastel study of the lamp, and final in the painting. They are quite different. Just transferring it exactly from study to painting doesn’t mean it will fit.
What do lemon green, green, and cool magenta have in common? Cerulean blue. Her arm rests in a subtle shadow, by using cerulean blue as the common denominator I was able to push the color boundaries and softly place her in the right place. This was the way I saw the colors from life, but understanding the color theory helped bring out those color connections for all the other elements of the painting.