Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gesture in Composition

Hope   Donato Giancola   24" x 18"  Oil on Panel  2016
by Donato

With the completion of a few recent personal works, I thought it appropriate to reflect upon how I use abstract gesture and emotion to provide the underlying framework for highly realistic and figurative paintings.  Over the years the focus of my work has migrated from attempts at depicting the illusions of concrete three dimensional objects in two dimensional space, to that of reinforcing the narrative interplay of the various people, objects, and elements within each painting.  Conveying, or implying, a narrative has become the primary goal of much of what I now create.

With the development and explosion of 3D imaging, modeling, and rendering programs, the need and capability of what I could do as a realistic oil painter was up against a technological tital wave of art and artists flooding into the marketplace.  As any of you who have attempted a create a highly detailed, perspective cityscape it is a little bit easier to pull off such an illustration digitally in comparison to using traditional media. Heavy emphasis on the sarcasm there.

Reassessing my strengths, I realized that a great majority of these technical artists, while incredible renders and illusionists, did not create narrative, humanistic stories that captivate an audience and touched them deeper than their optical nerve.  If you have seen the recent superhero films out of Hollywood, you have see for yourself how story plays a fourth fiddle to costume design, stereotypical characters, and special effects.  

Story?  What Story?  Didn't you see how cool that looked!  Make it 3D, its better that way! 4D even better! Buckaroo Bonzai in the 8th Dimension!

Prometheus   Donato Giancola    in progress   18" x 24"   Graphite and Chalk on Toned Paper  2016

Assessing what motivates and drives me to be a creative artist, I nearly always prefer portray and consume art with emotionally connected characters in narrative situations.  Costume and environmental design, rendering, genre, and special effects are all veneers that are placed upon strong narratives supporting the core of the emotion I wish to convey with story.

Thus what lies at the heart of the art I create is a desire to ring a note or chord that resonates with life experiences shared by my audience. The human emotional condition is a wonderfully complex common ground I can meet my audience upon for the artist/viewer experience. You can always count on your viewer to have had some sense of happiness, pain, wonder, loss, friendship, regret, mentorship, teaching, heartbreak, etc...

The concept of gesture here is not so much a formal quality of shape or line which defines a graphic composition, but gesture as a form of human expression through body language, movement, and engagement.  The study of gesture utilized in this fashion to bring together elements within a work of art is a part of composition and integrity to a work as much as formal qualities of design, color and value are.

The human form is highly complex and our ability to perceive subtle nuances in body and facial expression is one of the aspects I love about using live models for my references.  The constructive accidents that occur and the ideas development from these live sessions as actors play out my ideas around a concept provide the grounding structure I build most of my works from.  It is also the reason I love to attend figure drawing sessions, even now, 20 years into my professional career - your imagination working on the human body rarely beats what your own eyes can observe.

I thoroughly enjoy the marriage of working up abstract gesture and designs with that of highly realistic and observed references.  The combination of these two is what I find most fascinating, not only in my own work, but in the art of others.

Shaman - Water  Donato Giancola   24" x 36"  Oil on Panel  2016

Shaman- Water   Donato Giancola    preliminary   18" x 24"   Watercolor Pencil and Chalk on Toned Paper

Shaman- Water   Donato Giancola    abstracts   8" x 11"   Watercolor Pencil and Chalk on Toned Paper
Radiation  Donato Giancola   28" x 22"  Oil on Panel  2016

Farewell- King Under the Mountain  Donato Giancola   14" x 11"  Watercolor Pencil and Chalk on Toned Paper  2016

Rivendell - The Riders  Donato Giancola   27" x 20
"  Oil on Panel  2016


  1. Thank you, Donato, for sharing this.
    I have the excact same feeling about the topic of storytelling. I think that over the mixture of Illustration and Concept Art on art forums and sites like Artstation and deviantART people seem to forget that Illustration, by definition, is the visualisation of a story.
    As much as there is a disillusion about the term Concept Art it seems the same happened to Illustration.

    1. Sebastian: Interesting you mention both ArtStation and DeviantART as I love to browse through those sites looking for gems! I do enjoy seeing all types of works, from characters to environments, but the images that really sing for me are those that bring MANY of the great elements of storytelling together, not just a few of the pieces. THAT is the real challenge as an artist, to learn how to connect the most of dots together in the correct sequence, and make the image come to life.

    2. Totally true. And don't get me wrong I do like both Artstation and deviantART. It's just that their algorythms make it hard to find the gems in the flood of content.

  2. Yes, there is a "technological tidal wave of art and artists flooding into the marketplace", but they are not your competition Donato. You are in a league of your own, for the reasons you describe here, and more.

    All the artwork shown in your post is excellent, but I particularly like Shaman-Water. What a perfect application of the S-curve in both the water and the figure. Great!

  3. It's been a year since I realised that I always thought that these things were showing in my work as I always functioned like that. In my head I have all sorts of stories while I draw. But last year I tried to step back and look at my paintings from the point of view of someone else. And it struck me that none of the things I have in my head actually show for others. It only took me 47 years to notice!

    Then I also realised that I had this idea that it was too obvious as it's been my life since I was a kid to see stories in everything, but I was trying to forget that as I painted. No idea why. And now my imagination feels rusty and I have to force it out while it used to be my "normal" way of functioning. I must find my way back!

    But if I try to construct too much the result looks too much like the thousands of not so great things on dA and that's not the way to go.

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