Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leonardo's Gardens - France

I loved this huge dog, who was visiting the gardens of the Chateau du Clos Lucé with his friends.  This was Leonardo da Vinci's home in France for the last few years of his life and is now a wonderful, educational museum. The building has a expansive lawn sloping away from the chateau, with benches for taking a break and admiring the charming building from a distance (and petting your dog).

In back and off to the side are paths in the woods that wind around full scale models of some of Leonardo's most famous inventions, as well as huge translucent canvases illustrating aspects of the artist's work. Wandering through the landscaped walks, you turn a corner and come upon a Renaissance era helicopter or a huge catapult.

It's fascinating and fun--the man was so far ahead of his time--and the kids love climbing over the tanks and flying machines.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chateau du Clos Lucé - France

"Leonardo da Vinci's Chateau - France" 5x7 watercolor

This little chateau in Amboise, France, is famous because it's where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life. The king of France, Francois I, was enthralled by the artist's creativity, skill and genius.  They became close friends and confidants; the king referred to him as "Pappa".  In 1516, when Leonardo was 62, Francois I offered him the position of "King's First Painter, Engineer and Architect", this beautiful house (close to the king's castle), and a generous pension. Leonardo accepted and moved from Rome.

Leonardo arrived with three of his paintings, the "Mona Lisa", "Sainte Anne", and "Saint Jean Baptiste".  He lived here the last three years of his life, painting and inventing.  In the evenings, he would frequently have intellectual discussions with the king, who would arrive through a secret tunnel from his castle.

This chateau is a treat to visit. The rooms are authentically furnished and you can easily imagine Leonardo da Vinci working on his inventions, and on his last painting "The Virgin of the Rocks"  The grounds are beautiful and are filled with large models of some of his most famous designs, including a machine gun, a spiral helicopter, and a tank.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Chateau Chenonceau - France

Chateau Chenonceau was my second favorite chateau on trip (Versailles wins first place). It's just so beautiful, with a fairy tale design, elegant proportions, and exquisite details. Its most unusual feature is its romantic location extending across the River Cler.


It's called the Ladies' Chateau because it was owned and updated by a series of women from 1547 through 1972.  King Henry II first seized the castle for unpaid debts and gave it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers.  When he died, his wife Catherine de Medici took it back and governed France as a regent from here.  She spent lavishly on updating the chateau and on extravagant nighttime parties that included the first fireworks ever seen in France.

Compared to the massive Chateau Chambord, the rooms here are on a more human scale, and sized and furnished for gracious living and entertaining.  All the rooms have fabulous views of the river and the adjacent formal gardens. The flower garden grows all the flowers for the chateau.  I loved the huge, fragrant flower arrangements in each room; they were charming and really brought the chateau to life.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Us - Paris

"Just Us - Paris", 30x30 oil on canvas

This is a larger painting I completed recently from a photo I snapped in Paris.  I love café scenes,  I think they're quintessentially French.  But it's harder than you'd think to get a good candid shot of people, without standing on the sidewalk making a nuisance of yourself.  I was able to get this one on the fly.  I like it for the poses and the expressions, as well as the repetition of all the pink chairs and orange tabletops. 

My Reference Photo

I thought you'd like to see how I did it.  I think it's interesting to see how different it looks in the beginning and to see the missteps--uh, revisions--that lead to the final paining.

 To start I paint a yellow ground, because I find it difficult to get the right values working on a white canvas.  I projected the photo to get the major elements in the right spot. Then I started in the focal point and just blocked in the figures.

 Here I have more of the blocking in.  I start with the most colorful elements so that I can relate the rest of the painting to those colors.

More blocking.  At this point I have only used Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) as a medium, because I want the under layer to be thin, so that I can work fat over lean.

Here I'm starting to refine the painting, to make the figures and furniture more three dimensional with color and value.    I switched to a fatter walnut alkyd medium.

 At this point, I decided that all that pink was detracting from my subject, the figures, so I made the doors in the foreground and background a more neutral color, as well as the background behind him, which had been yellow.  Big sigh of relief.

To finish it up, I reworked the faces and the clothes,  still trying to keep it as loose as possible.  I darkened the tables and chairs in the background, to make them less important.  And I revised yet again the background behind his head, lightening it to make him come forward.  And, finally, I signed it in the bottom right corner, where it's a bit hidden.

This is the first time I've posted this kind of step-by-step painting description.   So, did you enjoy it?  Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

- Linda

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