Sunday, May 6, 2012

An inside look: The Artist's Process

On the easel in process a Cypress Swamp from Oklahoma in oil over egg tempera with many more layers of glaze and detail to go
Fran Hardy copyright

I'll keep you posted as this piece evolves as there will be many more layers of glazing and lots more detail work. Oil over egg tempera is an early renaissance technique developed by Van Eyck and it is unparalleled for luminosity. I first saw it used in St. Francis in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini and was transfixed. I am curating an exhibit at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art September 15- October 28, 2012 which will include the work of the artists we interviewed for our documentary "Earth Chronicles Project, The Artist's Process:Oklahoma" as well as my installation on the trees of Oklahoma. And yes there are cypress swamps in Oklahoma. It is a far more diverse state than most people realize. The documentary will air on OETA, Oklahoma PBS in September also.

In the meantime I am also working on "Quintus's River Birch" for the show in colored pencil on acrylic ground. Once more I am lost in obsessive detail. I seem unable to get away from it. My husband says my trees make people look close at things they may just walk by. Well I certainly am getting up close and I hope that my trees will help to raise awareness of how important they are in our world and to our environment. Everyone sees different faces, creatures and spirits in my trees so I decided to add a few more blatant ones in this piece. I just love this curling bark, constantly regenerating and changing. I saw this tree on Quintus Herron's preserve in Idabel, OK. He also has a beautiful cypress swamp. Idabel is in the gulf coastal region in southeastern Oklahoma so there are many plants and trees you might not associate with Oklahoma. 
Fran Hardy copyright


I'll make this a bit more subtle as I continue on this piece.

Where the show will be September 15- October 28, 2012
They also premiered our documentary "Earth Chronicles Project, The Artist's Process: Oklahoma" to a crowd from all over Oklahoma and even surrounding states.

Betula nigra (River Birch; also occasionally called Water Birch) is a species of birch native to the eastern United States from New Hampshire west to southern Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and west Texas. It is commonly found in flood plains and/or swamps.[1] It is a deciduous tree growing to 25 m (80 ft), rarely to 30 m (100 ft), high with a trunk up to 50 cm (2 ft), rarely 150 cm (5 ft), diameter, often with multiple trunks. The bark is variable, usually dark gray-brown to pinkish-brown and scaly, but in some individuals, smooth and creamy pinkish-white, exfoliating in curly papery sheets. The twigs are glabrous or thinly hairy, and odorless when scraped. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 4–8 cm (1.5–3 in) long and 3–6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) broad, with a serrated margin and five to twelve pairs of veins. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3–6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit is unusual among birches in maturing in late spring; it is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.[1][2]

[edit]Cultivation and uses

While its native habitat is wet ground, it will grow on higher land, and its bark is quite distinctive, making it a favored ornamental tree for landscape use. A number of cultivars with much whiter bark than the normal wild type have been selected for garden planting, including 'Heritage' and 'Dura Heat'; these are notable as the only white-barked birches resistant to the bronze birch borer Agrilus anxius in warm areas of the southeastern United States of America.[3]
Native Americans used the boiled sap as a sweetener similar to maple syrup, and the inner bark as a survival food. It is usually too contorted and knotty to be of value as a timber tree.[3]

The tallest known individual specimen, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is 44.11 m tall, and the stoutest known, in the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has a diameter of 521 cm.[4] The oldest known specimen, located in Bladen County, North Carolina, is over 1,620 years old making this one of the oldest living plants in Eastern North America .


Bald-cypress range
Bald-cypress on the Texas side ofCaddo Lake
The native range extends from Delaware Bay south to Florida and west to Texas and southeastern Oklahoma-(Little Dixie region, Oklahoma), and also inland up theMississippi and Ohio Rivers north to southern Illinois and Indiana. Large planted specimens are seen as far north as Pittsburgh[9]. Ancient Bald-cypress forests, with some trees more than 1,700 years old, once dominated swamps in the southeast US. The largest remaining old-growth stands of Bald-cypress are atCorkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near NaplesFlorida.[citation needed] and in the Three Sisters tract along eastern North Carolina's Black River. The Corkscrew trees are around 500 years of age and some exceed 40 m in height. The Black River trees were cored in 1986 by University of Arkansas dendrologists with dates ranging back to 364 AD.[10]In the northern and more inland part of its range from Delaware and Maryland to Williamsburg, Virginia, it is found in groups growing in swamps and is accompanied by other hardwoods. In the southern parts of its range from extreme southeastern Virginia, Virginia Beach south to Florida and west to Texas, bald cypress can be found growing with loblolly pinelive oak and it may be heavily covered in spanish moss. A place to observe this in the far northern part of its range is at First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia where you will see bald cypress growing with live oak, loblolly pine, spanish moss and other trees at their farthest north and farthest south ranges. From eastern North Carolina down throughout Florida, bald cypress may be accompanied in forests by sabal minor (dwarf palmetto).

Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other size). Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting. A paint which is commonly called tempera (although it is not) consisting of pigment and glue size is commonly used and referred to by some manufacturers in America asposter paint.

Egg tempera was the paint used by virtually all artists during the Middle Ages. In fact, the use of tempera paint can be traced back to ancient Egypt. In the early Renaissance, artists used egg yolk as a binding agent, mixing in colored pigments to create egg tempera paint. Egg tempera had its limitations. It could not be stored, so each color was mixed when it was needed. Mixing too little paint was a disaster because mixing additional paint to match the first batch perfectly was very difficult. Mixing too much paint was a waste of expensive materials. Because egg tempera dries very quickly, artists had to paint small areas at one time. The fast drying time made blending one color into another difficult, so artists layered one color over another dry color to create modeling; a way to give three-dimensionality to forms by shading or blending.
The limitations of tempera paint did not stop its use in Medieval Europe. Most artists were painting pictures of religious figures and these paintings were not meant to tell viewers what the saints looked like. The images were meant to represent the saints. As the Renaissance took hold, artists became more interested in describing what the world around them looked like in their paintings. As landscapes and real people began to appear in paintings, the problem of tempera became more apparent. Oil paint provided a solution.
Game Stall at Market
Studio of Frans Snyders
Game Stall at Market, 1625/37
Oil on canvas
Oil paint was used as early as the 12th century in Northern Europe but its potential was not realized until 15th century painters in the Netherlands used oil paint to combine extraordinary realism with brilliant color. Oil paint is very flexible so it can be applied in both thick textured brushstrokes and thin fine detail. It dries very slowly, allowing artists to mix larger batches of paint and keep it for more than one painting session. Slow drying paint can be carefully blended to make soft, seamless shadows necessary for the modeling that suggests three-dimensional form. The oil in oil paint makes pigments translucent, allowing artists to apply colors in thin layers or glazes, generating rich, glowing colors. All these properties make it especially good for communicating textures of different surfaces from polished marble to sparkling eyes, from soft feathers to dazzling highlights on a crystal glass.
Is the Painting Cracking Up?
If you've ever seen an old oil painting covered with thin, hairlike cracks, you've probably wondered — is the painting broken? Oil paint shrinks as it dries. Oil paint that is applied thickly may shrink so much that it cracks as it dries. So, if the first layer of paint is very thick, and thin layers are painted on top of it before it is totally dry, it will crack all the layers applied thereafter. As the paint continues to dry, the cracks will get bigger. As artists gained more experience working with oil paint, they learned to prevent cracking by painting thin, fast drying layers first and leaving the thick, slow drying layers for last.
As artists traveled between the Netherlands and Southern Europe, the techniques of oil painting spread and grew. Many artists used tempera to prepare most of the painting and then applied glazes of transparent oil paint over the tempera. As more and more artists used oil paint, tempera was used less and less. By 1800, artists no longer needed to mix their own paints. They could buy pre-mixed oil colors in tubes. While most painters today do not paint in the style of the Renaissance, they still largely prefer oil paint and draw on techniques and traditions that have been practiced for the last 500 years.

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