October 25, 2012

Rafael exhibition

Today I visited the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, The Netherlands where an exhibition was held of Rafael (Rafaello Sanzio), Italian painter of the High Renaissance who lived from 1483 - 1520. I don't want to go into too much of his history, but more into the aspects of his work that astounded me.

Rafael at 15 or 16 years - self portrait

He was buddies with two consecutive popes (Julius II and Leo X), what we would call sponsored today. Therefore he could afford to have approximately 50 (!) students and assistants. There is some discussion which part the works ascribed to him was actually done by himself and which part was painted by his assistants and students. But the number of works with his name under it is astounding.

What perhaps struck me most is the large quantity of studies he made before creating the painting. Dozens of sketches preceded each painting. Details like arms, hands, legs and poses and plies in cloth drawn in pencil, charcoal, pen and silver pen with astoundingly structured (mostly diagonal) hatching patterns. In some of those drawings a grid was drawn as a reference for the final painting. In his paintings many of those detail studies returned on the canvas, that was a meticulous composition of those.

As an airbrush aficionado the preparations he made before starting to paint surprised me. Perhaps if he had lived today he would have used an airbrush too, although I realize that is pure speculation. When looking closely at some of the paintings in the museum - not just those painted by Rafael - I noticed there were hardly any sharp edges. It is comparable to airbrush overspray. While thinking about it the phenomenon of zooming into a digital image came to mind; in pixel images there are no sharp edges. We only think of them as being sharp edges when observing the transition between two areas of different color from a distance.

Most of the studies I do today are done with the computer. since it allows me to see the effect of a process before doing the actual airbrushing. I was not sure whether adding a sepia layer to the current state of the Chief Plenty Coups would improve the painting's atmosphere, so I layed a sepia layer over the image digitally to observe the effect. I think I might do it...

Digital test of sepia layer over the CPC portrait (left half of image)

I like the general effect, but first - like Rafael - I may do some preparation test on a part of the portrait that I will spray on an other piece of paper to be sure that the digital impression I got from the computer can be made in real time, analog life as well.