Friday, July 30, 2010

4' x 4' Crucifixion

One of my current projects is a longterm project. It was originally plotted as an 8' x 8' Grunewald-style crucifixion. The two sketches below (each only a couple of inches big) show the original vision. The center piece (image 1) was the central 8' x 8' focus. But I intended to attach two additional panels - each 4' x 8' - on either side. The panoramic sketch (image 2) shows the complete concept. 

This original vision underwent a shift as I tried to address the nudity issue. I did not want to resort to the usual loincloth, so I tried to think of ways to hide the genitals. An idea I began to toy with was having Mary Magdalene, in a moment of rebellion against the humiliation being inflicted on Christ, attempts to cover his genitals (image 3).

This strategy for dealing with the impending nudity resulted in a change of composition. I began to toy with a 3/4 angle. I also began moving toward a more complicated and cluttered composition - much more hustle and bustle (image 4).
After settling on this route I set in on anatomy studies (image 5) and light studies (image 6). The former is just a small sketch, while the latter was a photo shoot with a group of students from Calvin College. 
Following the light study, I felt I was in a position to move ahead with the actual painting. Because I was, at the time, in an apartment, I was limited on space. Therefore, rather than moving ahead with the planned 8' x 8' panel, I halved it to a 4' x 4' panel. Images 7 and 8 are shots of the under drawing. 

Shot 10 is the stage at which the piece currently sits. God willing, I will return to this piece sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Portfolio Samples

Before tracking my current paintings, I thought I would post some of my finished pieces from my portfolio. Additional (and higher resolution) portfolio images can be found at the following sites:

Finished pieces:
Finished works on Facebook
Finished works on my homepage

Unfinished pieces:
Unfinished works on Facebook
Unfinished works on my homepage

Much of my work in art school involved painting models. The following two paintings are good examples.

To the left is a reproduction of a portrait. The piece is done in oil. I am fond of the chiaroscuro style, reminiscent of many classical works that have inspired my own artistic pursuits. This high classical style I plan to cultivate in a number of my upcoming projects.

The second work (right) is done from a model, who regularly posed at MICA. Also done in oil, my efforts here were to step out of my comfort zone a bit and work much more loosely. Much of this particular painting was done with a palette knife. In many places the paint is heavily applied, while other areas (specifically in the background) are applied with a rather thinned paint.

In addition to working from models, I would often produce self-portraits.  After all, if no model is available, you had best be your own model. I have pasted below two such self-portraits - both oil paintings.

The first (left) is in many ways a synthesis of the two paintings previously discussed. It is a portrait much like the first. It aims at a certain amount of high realism. At the same time, it aims at utilizing the looser style of the second portrait.

This second self-portrait was a peculiar work for me on several fronts. First, I was using an extremely restricted palette. I wanted to see how many colors I could pull from only black, white, and a few earth tones. Second, I was working on a canvas that had very little gesso applied, which made it more adsorbent than what I typically worked on. Third, I was aiming at a high realism, but looking to produce the painting in a single sitting. And finally, though I was aiming at realism, I was working from a mirror that was slightly warped and quite intentionally placed at an odd angle. I am rather pleased with the result.

Some years back, I decided to begin exploring alternate styles. That is, I began looking at more than loose or tight oil painting, and began playing with out-of-the-box techniques. One technique I toyed with was a mix of pencil or charcoal drawing and acrylic washes.

To the left is my first effort. As you can see, the washes are very thin. Since I was using a very classical image (viz., a traditional pieta), the goal was subtlety and softness.

The painting on the right is more heavy-handed. Rather than pencil, I chose to use charcoal; the washes are thicker and more washers were used; and the whites are added back in with white pencil, rather than coming from the gesso beneath. This piece was meant to look a bit more edgy.

One final experiment I will mention before closing out this post is my early flirtation with iconography. While I now do traditional Eastern Orthodox iconography, when I first began exploring this type of art, I did not abide by the rules of iconography.

To the left, you will see my first efforts in this area. I took a traditional pantocrator icon, but I modified it. Rather than using the traditional flattening techniques, I attempted to capture the more awkward anatonomy of more flat icons, but simultaneously aimed at giving some three-dimensionality to it. I also did not abide by the traditional texts, but added my own choice of text (Jn 1:1 in Greek) in the background. This is not to mention the fact that it is painted in acrylic rather than egg tempera, and the gold is not gilded; it is acrylic paint as well.

To the right is my second effort. This one, again, springboards off of traditional iconography, but modifies it. The painting is really a combination of traditional iconography and Grunewald. The imagery is a mix of traditional images and my own ad hoc modifications. The painting was produced for a Greek Orthodox woman. To my surprise, she managed to have it blessed - although, only after I made a handful of modifications, per the demands of her priest.

I now have a great deal of reverence for iconography and would not dream of modifying it. I paint it strictly according to its traditional guidelines. But, at the time of these two works, I was both ignorant and irreverent.

I look forward to sharing my more recent projects.

About "Professor Paint"

My name is Nathan A. Jacobs. I hold a Ph.D. from Calvin Theological Seminary, and I am Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR. For details on my academic publications and activities, see the following sites:

Prior to my studies in philosophy and theology, I studied fine arts painting and drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD. Though I never ceased to be passionate about the fine arts, I chose to take a different vocational track. Despite this change in career, I continue to paint and sell my artwork as often as I am able. 

This blog tracks the progress of paintings on which I am currently working. Quite simply, this site is an online painting journal, where I will post images that update the progress on my current projects and discuss the challenges and successes faced along the way.

Let the painting begin. Enjoy!