Monday, July 12, 2010

Things I learned on the way to learning other things....

Okay. The journey takes as long as the journey takes, eh?

I'm currently awaiting the wood panels (STILL) from the lumberyard in PA. This is fine, as I'm out of town anyway, working on a zombie TV series to make money to make art. I've spent some of my free time researching renaissance frames, egg tempera, and classical treatises on painting. Here's what I've found so far.

I'm trying to get into the mindset of an artist trained in traditional painting techniques and working with new, experimental materials. Leonardo was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio when he was about 14, from what I recall. He likely was trained by the maestro to use techniques catalogued by Cennino Cennini in his treatise on painting. This would include the selection and preparation of a wood panel as a support, the application of the paint layer (which was traditionally the fast-drying egg tempera paint rather than slower drying oil paint, which was only just coming into use in Leonardo's time). So, artists of Leonardo's day would likely prepare wood panels in the method used for tempera. That is to say, using a glue gesso on a wood support. Canvas wasn't used for egg tempera, since traditional gesso would flake off the surface. Gesso wasn't a flexible ground. So wood panels were preferred as a painting support.

Next was the application of egg tempera paint. Since egg tempera was a fast-drying water thinned medium, its properties dictated the method painters used. Application needed to be in thin, transparent layers over a very detailed underpainting. Leonardo used egg tempera in early paintings, and that work likely shaped the technique he ultimately used for oil paintings like the Mona Lisa. Even in tempera works, Leonardo applied his trademark sfumato, or smokiness which characterized his paintings throughout his lifetime. I can imagine that Leonardo used a very similar technique regardless of medium, so that his work had a consistent feel.

What does that mean to The Mona Project?

That I've begun to research egg tempera as well as the other things I'm learning, to try to ascertain what techniques Leonardo may have applied in each medium. I've also begun to read Cennino Cennini's treatise on painting, which was, according to some, the gospel as regarded painting in renaissance-era Italy. I'll see if I need to modify any of my preparation or painting techniques to bring me more in line with renaissance standards. And of course, always comparing things to the research compiled in Mona Lisa: Inside the Painting, just to be as accurate as possible in the final product.

Oh, I was told by the lumberyard that my wood panels were jobbed out to an Amish guy to kiln dry. I sort of like that idea. More in keeping with what would have been done 500 years ago, I imagine. The panels are supposed to come out of the oven today, and be shipped soon! I hopefully will have them waiting when I get back to LA.

1 comment: