Upon arriving to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) for a recent show (The Treasures of Kenwood House, London), I found the majority of the exhibit being works from English painters. Included in the exhibit was Rembrandt's "Portrait Of An Artist." (Yes, I know, Rembrandt is Dutch and technically didn't fit into the crowd, but who was I to tell them to take it down? I sat on the bench and stared at it in awe like everyone else.) I was unprepared for the impact this venture was about to bring.
|"Portrait Of An Artist" -Rembrandt, painted c. 1665–69|
The first time was several years ago at the Portland Art Museum (PAM). Haha, SAM and PAM.....
The trip to PAM certainly changed my entire attitude about art and how I saw it. I always knew I wanted to paint like the Old Masters, and I've tried to learn as much as I could through books, online images, and the never-ending pit of knowledge that is my mother. (Not to mention she's the inspiration for my love of art.) But, nothing can prepare a person for standing face to face with (in my opinion) one of the greatest artists of all time.
The second time I saw Old Master originals was in the National Gallery in Washington, DC. What was so impacting in that gallery was the vast quantity of works. I was able to walk through art history and see first hand the discoveries made by the greatest artists who ever lived.
And yet, after all of that, I still felt something lacking in paintings I create.
Sitting in awe of Rembrandt at SAM, I decided to pull up one of my own pieces (on my nifty new iPad) and actually put it side-by-side with the "Portrait Of An Artist." That's when I saw it; the one thing I was missing. It was so simple. How I never saw it before I'll never know. I was missing black. Yes, black. All my life I've heard so many artists and teachers tell me how to keep my paintings pure, I must never use black. Ever.
So I never did. I mean, sure, if I were painting something that actually was black, I would pull out Ivory Black, but only with an immense sense of guilt that I was betraying some unwritten code. (Which is another thing, I don't get my attitude here. I mean, I was standing in front of a Titian in the Washington Gallery and I SAW the dirtied colors; the "real life" essence he put in his work that changed art forever.)
Nonetheless, there I was, sitting in the gallery with my mom and sister, having an epiphany of epic proportions.
It just so happened that upon my return home, I had a modeling session scheduled for a portrait idea, with my inspiration being the old famous photo of Humphrey Bogart in a trench coat. My friend (and now star model) has a coat I saw as perfect for the "feel" I wanted to capture.
|© 2013, Maranda Schemanski|
As I began pouring over my reference photos and brainstorming the perfect pose, I settled on a position and began drawing. I'm sure I will paint this one; I love the idea so much.
Then another artsy friend came over to see what had me so excited and losing sleep. I showed her my reference photos, my inspiration photo, and we discussed technique, lighting, positioning, and all the things that go into a masterpiece. Then I showed her the "Self Portrait As Apostle Paul" and she had one little thought...
A little work in Photoshop, some sketching on vellum, a little mock-up, and her idea came to life. I. Was. Stunned. This was the culmination of everything I've absorbed over the last several years brought to life in one afternoon.
|"Self Portrait As The Apostle Paul"|
- Rembrandt, painted c. 166
|Preliminary sketch for Rembrandt inspired portrait. © 2013, Maranda Schemanski|
Usually, before I paint anything, I painstakingly draw everything exactly how I want it, transfer that to canvas (using some very cool technological methods) and only then start painting. This time, that just felt wrong. I penciled on a few key points for proper placement, then grabbed my brush, took a deep breath, and began.
|Beginning work for Rembrandt inspired portrait. © 2013 Maranda Schemanski|
This changes everything.