Monday, March 1, 2010

THE IDEA OF SELECTIVE FOCUS





Self-Portrait
From Scanopia


Self-Portrait
Oil on canvas mounted on panel, 1993
Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Marquez
From ARC


Born 1944 in St. Louis, Missouri, Virgil Elliott began his art training at age 20 months with his mother, Dollye McAlister Elliott. Virgil trained from 1946-1965 with a succession of excellent instructors, including the illustrators Robert Fawcett, Albert Dorne and Harold Von Schmidt.
An accomplished draftsman and competent painter by age 21, Elliott attended a number of colleges and universities, including Washington University School of Fine Art, University of Missouri at Kansas City and University of Missouri at St. Louis, all of which tried unsuccessfully to dissuade him from painting and drawing realistically and from pursuing a higher degree of mastery. From 1968 onward, Elliott undertook to educate himself in the more advanced oil painting techniques, as he was unable to find instructors whose abilities surpassed his own. His self-directed study took him through art museums across the United States and Europe, to analyze with his own eyes the works of the Great Masters. He sought out written information in old books wherever he could find them, all the while drawing, painting and experimenting constantly.
(Richard R. Gandy at classicalrealism.com)
During his years of study between 1966 and 1982 he earned his living variously as an iron worker, laborer, commercial artist, motorcycle engineer, musician, soil tester and music teacher; all of which he feels have contributed to his art by providing a wide range of experiences from which to draw.
(herreros.com.ar)


Portrait Society of America 2009
Clockwise from person with back to viewer:
Joseph Todorovitch, Virgil Elliott
David Kassan, Tony Pro
Jeremy Lipking, and Juan Martinez
From underpaintings.blogspot.com


L to R: Craig Nelson, Carl Samson and Virgil Elliott
round-table discussion at American Society of Portrait Art


As a mature artist, Virgil Elliott has received many awards and special honors, including certification by the American Portrait Society (1985), an honor bestowed on only 24 artists worldwide; election in 1996 to Associate Guild Member by the American Society of Classical Realism, and was made a Signature Member of the American Society of Portrait Artists in 1996. As a member of the Artists' Advisory Panel to the California State Fair in 1987, he spearheaded a successful effort to open the State Fair's art show, "California Works," to representational art for the first time in decades, and to depose the parties responsible for its exclusion prior to that time.
His services as an instructor, art show judge and speaker have been in demand since 1982, when he began exhibiting his work publicly. In recent years he has painted several members of the Schlumberger family, various government officials and many others, and has written articles on advanced oil painting techniques for art magazines such as The Portrait Signature (Spring, 1997, "The Techniques of William Bouguereau", and a book review of "Bouguereau," a new book by Fronia E. Wissman; "The Innovations of Rembrandt," published in Winter '98-'99), and The Artist's Magazine (article on dramatic lighting, published in 1999).
Virgil Elliott taught oil painting at the College of Marin in 1996 and 1997, and continues to teach privately at his own atelier on the grounds of the Eagle Ridge Winery, in Penngrove, California, in addition to painting figurative works, portraits, still lifes and landscapes, and writing.
(herreros.com.ar)


Virgil Painting "The Projectionist"
Annie Lore posing, 1998
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


The Projectionist
Oil on canvas
Private collection
From Scanopia


Still Life with Satin
From Scanopia


"My first instructor, who happened to be my mother, told me it makes a painting more interesting to the viewer when he or she can detect some of the artist's brushwork from up close. I still adhere to that, to a greater or lesser degree depending on what I feel is most appropriate for the picture in question, but I prefer to only leave a few, in strategic places, rather than leave them everywhere indiscriminately. My usual practice is to have them undetectable from normal viewing distance, and only become barely visible from a few inches away. In my alla prima style, which I seldom employ these days, I may let them show a bit more noticably in areas where they serve a purpose, as accents. This was generally the practice of most of the Old Masters. I believe it is best for painters to have command of all possible visual effects, as this opens up the widest range of possibilities, and best facilitates the creation of whatever illusion is desired."
(Virgil Elliott at WetCanvas)


William P. and Patrick Boland
Oil on canvas
Collection of John Boland
From ARC


Patrick Boland, detail
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Roadscape no 4: The Road to Canyon
From Scanopia


Roadscape no 1: Monte Rio
From Scanopia


Melancholy, 1944
From Scanopia



Hayley Jacquin Portrait no 2
oil on canvas mounted on panel
Private collection
From ARC


One of the best ways to engage a viewer is with hard and soft edges. California painter Virgil Elliott explains a variety of Old Master illusions in his book Traditional Oil Painting , Advanced Techniques from the Renaissance to the Present. "The edges could be sharpened selectively," he writes, "to call the viewer's attention to an area of greater importance, or to describe an object whose edges were actually sharp, such as a starched collar, sword, or piece of paper."
The idea, of course, is that the artist controls the viewer's eye through selective focus. Interestingly, the use of soft focus came about with the Venetian School, particularly in the paintings of Titian. His use of portable canvas with its slubs and bumps, plus the nature of the newly popular oil media, invited the use of "short" paint and bristle brushes. In the prior Flemish School, "long" paint and soft brushes were more generally used on smooth grounds, producing somewhat consistently hard-edged effects.
Watching folks in a gallery as they demonstrate the fine art of museum dynamics, one notes that it's often the soft blends that bring them in closer or cause them to stand back as they try to focus.
Elliott elegantly describes Titian's use of glazes for dark areas, his wisdom of opaque lights and his scumbling for softening between. A glaze is a transparent wash over a lighter ground; a scumble is a lighter tone dragged over a darker one. "It was found," writes Elliott, "that a scumble over a flesh tone would produce the same effect as powder on a woman's face; that is, it made its texture appear softer."
Every work of art presents an opportunity to tease an eye. Surprisingly, many artists either don't know how to tease, or don't care to. Minor or major gradations or soft transitions leading to sharp edges generally hold more visual interest than uniformly hard-edged renderings or overall amorphous softies. Driven by the need for maximum power and presence, artists working at the dawn of oil painting quickly grasped the idea of selective focus. The illusion is still freely available.
(Robert Genn at clicks.robertgenn.com)


Study for Nocturne
From ARC


Nocturne
Oil on canvas
From ARC


Virgil Elliott first executed a cartoon (above) in charcoal and chalk on blue-grey mat board, with the model posing to establish the design. The background is from his imagination and memory, along with much direct observation of moonlight. When the moon was full, he would paint all night, stepping outside every hour or so to observe the appearance of the light. It is important to note that an underpainting be kept fairly light, or the superimposed colors will be dulled and and the deepest darks will lack depth. The full degree of darkness is achieved in the final stage, in color.
(ASOPA)
Virgil wrote:
"The "painterly" approach was originally an incidental effect most common in sketches and studies, the sole purpose of which was to help the artist solve some of the problems in the execution of a more refined painting. Titian and Rembrandt became more "painterly" in their later years, when deteriorating eyesight may have hidden the irregularities from them (one hypothesis). Franz Hals painted a number of paintings in the sketch style, probably for his own amusement and/or to cover his bar tab or whatever. He was capable of more refined painting, as is evident in most of his more important commissioned portraits, but employed the faster "alla prima" approach for painting more light-hearted subjects; probably his friends or interesting subjects encountered at the tavern, where no one was likely to pose for very long.
Bouguereau has been falsely characterized as disguising his brushstrokes, but his brushwork is actually visible from up close. In reproductions the strokes do not show, because the paintings are generally large, with the main figures life-size, and the brushstrokes are small. He also used palette knife very expertly for certain effects, especially in the vegetation and other parts of the background, but generally did not employ impasto.
The 'painterly' style became more popular with John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and Joachin Sorolla. Sargent actually worked very hard to achieve the effect that he had dashed the picture off effortlessly and accurately all at once. Many passages were scraped out and repainted over and over again until the desired appearance was accomplished. There is a certain charm in this type of painting (see opposite), but its effectiveness depends on the values and colors being registered extremely accurately, or the result just looks sloppy. Sargent's eye was precise enough to make it work. Ironically, he expressed regret, late in life, that he had not carried his paintings to a higher degree of finish. The main trick to painting in this manner is to work fast, with large hog- bristle brushes and large amounts of paint available on the palette. palette knife can also be used for certain effects. A somewhat rougher texture canvas works best for this technique, in my experience. Some subjects are more suited for this approach than others. It is well for artists to be able to paint in more than one manner, and to choose whichever technique best suits the subject at hand.
Regarding impasto highlights, the reason for this is to ensure that they remain opaque far into the future. Oil paint becomes more transparent as it ages, and the thinner the paint, the more transparent it will become. Highlights must be opaque in order to reflect the light which strikes them in the same way as it would reflect from the surface depicted.
Rembrandt developed the technique of glazing over dried impasto for a bas- relief effect, wiping the wet glaze off the high spots and allowing it to remain in the nooks and crannies for a heightened three-dimensional effect. Used in this manner, impasto can actually enhance the illusion of the third dimension.
Gerome insisted on a perfectly smooth surface to the painting, and forbade his students to use impasto anywhere."


Self-Portrait Sketch
Charcoal on primed canvas, 2001
Private collection
From ARC


Virgil beginning "Self-Portrait with Two Mirrors," 2001
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Self-Portrait with Two Mirrors
Oil on canvas mounted on panel, 2002
From ARC
Private collection


Virgil Painting a demonstration portrait
ASOPA workshop, Academy of Art University, San Francisco
July 18, 2003
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


From flickr.com/photos/artenzie






Progress Steps, Merino Portrait, 2004
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


From Amazon.com, Inc.


As more and more artists today look to the past, there has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in painting realistically—in creating convincing illusions of three-dimensional depth on two dimensional surfaces. How did the Old Masters create their masterpieces? What kind of education allowed these great artists to create such beautiful work, and how can an artist learn these lessons today? Traditional Oil Painting (above) answers those questions and many more. This comprehensive sourcebook explores the most advanced levels of oil painting, with full information on the latest scientific discoveries. Author and distinguished artist Virgil Elliott examines the many elements that let artists take the next step in their work: mental attitude, aesthetic considerations, the importance of drawing, principles of visual reality, materials, techniques, portraiture, photographic images versus visual reality, and color. Traditional Oil Painting helps artists master the secrets of realistic painting to create work that will rival that of the masters.
(Amazon.com, Inc.)


Book release, August 25, 2007
Traditional Oil Painting by Virgil Elliott
Traditional Oil Painting: Advanced Techniques and Concepts
from the Renaissance to the Present
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Book release party
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Dolores Delgado and Toshiko Beeman at the party
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Virgil signing books
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Stan Wells and his portrait
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Stan Wells Workshop Demonstration no 2
oil on canvas mounted on panel
Private collection
From ARC


Annie Lore and her portrait
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


The Songstress aka Annie Lore
Oil on canvas
Private collection
From ARC


Virgil playing the guitar at the party
From The Atelier of Virgil Elliott


Virgil Elliott on Oiling Out at WetCanvas:
"Oiling out with linseed oil before painting into a dried passage is preferable to using retouch varnish to resaturate the colors, from a standpoint of sound archival practice. Oils dry partly through oxidation, and varnish over the top of an uncured layer of oil paint inhibits its access to oxygen. One important consideration is to wipe or blot off as much of the oiling-out linseed oil as you can get off before painting into it. All that's needed to accomplish the desired purpose is the absolute thinnest film possible. That will restore the colors to their wet appearance, lubricate the surface so the brush will glide smoothly, and aid the adhesion of the new paint with the previous layer. Linseed oil is chemically compatible with alkyd mediums. However, you might try painting without medium, just to simplify the chemistry of your paintings. Linseed oil can be added (via eyedropper for precise measurement) to each pile of paint that's too stiff for good control, on the palette, and mixed in well with a palette knife. No turpentine is necessary. You might find this to work as well or better than your alkyd medium.
Secondly, the yellowing of linseed oil reverses itself in normal indoor lighting in a few years, and for that matter can be bleached out in a few days by placing the painting in outdoor light for a few hours a day. The yellowing does not return unless the painting is stored in the dark for extended periods of time, but this re-yellowing is also reversible in the same way. In fact, each cycle of yellowing and re-bleaching results in less yellow than there was before. Whereas the other oils, which make less durable paint films, also discolor slightly, over a longer period of years, and end up looking not much different from linseed oil paint films without the same degree of film strength. This can be seen on one of my test panels, and the phenomenon has been documented with scientific testing done by Henry Levison and others, the papers on which testing are in my files. Thus I see the often-expressed concerns over the yellowing of linseed oil as being largely unwarranted unless one far exceeds the amounts needed or sensible for sound technique."


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