Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tools of the Trade


 by Donato

Every once in a while, during the course of a drawing or painting, I need to turn to my secret tools of the trade.  These typically are called into service during particularly difficult technical moments of creation.  Every artist has them,and they are the key to their success as a freelancer or studio artist.  If you watch closely in many tutorials, you can see the camera cut away just as the real magic happens or when a key aspect of technical problem solving is engaged, like the rendering of soft fleshy skin tones or dramatic lighting effects on metal.

It is in the light of global artistic advancement that I am sharing with you a few of my secret tools today, with the tube of paint posted above being one of my true secrets in the nuclear arsenal and the real reason i can paint metallic effects so effortlessly.  With a base coat of local color laid down on my painting, I then turn to this tube of paint for the final glaze and last touches it brings to spectacular highlights and deep, transparent shadows on metal.  Holbein is the only maker that I know of for this paint, and it has worked wonders for me over the years, as seen in the example below.



One of my other key tools was a little harder to come by, it is a length of red chalk used by the artist Fra Bartolomeo back in the 1500's.  I was able to pick up this amazing find while on a trip (or pilgrimage!) to Florence in 1997.  It was in a paper shop literally across the street from the Palazzo Pitti which houses some of the greatest portaits of the Itslian renaissance, from Titian, to Raphael to Carravaggio.



This fragment as been one of the key tools I have turned to since using it in my first toned drawings back in 2002, executing a portrait of Gandalf for the Lunacon convention.  It has just the right amount of red, and consistently deposits a sharp, crisp line on the paper.  I have been able to create over a five hundred red chalk drawings with it since!  The chalk is so hard, it just keeps on going, like it is being magically refreshed drawing after drawing.  I can't imagine creating one of these drawings without this special tool.


I hope this provides a little insight on how critical it is to get the perfect tool for the job, allowing you to take numerous short cuts and avoid hours of tedious labor in the execution of a work of art.  The better the tools, the better the art.  Start your searches for these today.

Next posting I will share the source of my brushes and manufacturer of the paints I use and how critical these are in the creation of my work.  Below is a teaser!



But seriously, the best advice I ever received regarding creating my work was from my 'potential' (which turned into long term) representative Sal Barracca back in 1992 when I was fresh out of art school and beginning to make samples to break into the book cover marketplace. He told me to:
 "Go out and buy some nice brushes."
I did, and it was a transformative experience working with great tools to refine the details I was chasing after in my work then.  Up until that point I was making due with little nubs and mediocre brushes to try and create subtle blending and details.  Sal did not say, buy such and such brand, he didn't say what sizes, price, or even where to get them...just try out a better tool.  Get to know how it works, get to LOVE how it works, and make it your own.  Then real magic can happen.  


9 comments:

  1. Yeah! A little early, my internal calendar clock must be off. The real story here is that tools can help but they are by no means the answer!

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  2. Great post, I had to chuckle a little. I'm Still searching for the magic brush though.

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  3. Where do you find that paint? Can't find anywhere online.

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  4. Look for Holbein H334 or Holbein Mars Violet. You can zoom on the image for more detail.

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  5. When I teach, I tell my students to buy the best materials they can afford. Painting is hard enough without having to struggle with your materials. I don't remember who told me this, but I am always sure to pass it along as I have found the advice invaluable.

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    1. Just 10 days ago I decided to was told that some difficulties I was having in some studies were due to the paint, my Winton Titanium White was the problem. So I bought the artist grade W&N titanium white...A whole world of difference.

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  7. Your Tools post is very helpful. Looking forward to your next post on brushes. I could not find the red chalk on the Sinopia website. Would you know how to unearth this tool? Would love to work with it! Thank you!

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