Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Fresh off the easel... Still life: "Gibbon's Decline and Fall" Oil on linen adhered to laminated foam core.

Ok, I just pulled this off the easel last week and am sufficiently un-annoyed enough to write about it now. This is the first large (24x30) still life I have been able to do since last summer. I started it in January and have just now finished. For the most part I am pleased with the progress I made in this one, it is not as highly finished as I had originally planned, but sometimes you just have to stop.

Edward Gibbon's 6 volumes, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" Have long been of importance to historians and scholars, not only because of the historic information contained within, but because Gibbon himself was one of the first "modern" historians. The ponderous nature of the set also makes it a bit of an accomplishment to actually read. I bought a nice copy of the set about 6 years back, and this still life set up is the closest I've ever gotten to actually opening one of them.

Gibbon himself is central to the composition, tiding atop the volumes that have forever secured his place in the esteem of bibliophiles and historians everywhere. He is flanked by a globe, signifying the Roman Empire that was considered the whole world, an empty oil lamp for the decent into the dark ages that the world went into after the fall of the Roman Empire and a potpourie holder that shows the potpourie of nations that had been subjegated by Rome that with its fall returned to their own cultural signifigance.

I painted it over the course of several months, working a little bit at a time when I am able. I went for a simple triangular composition in the set up and used two light sources. I actually never made any preliminary drawings on paper, I did however do a charcoal drawing on the canvas using the sight size method, which I find is my preffered method when it comes to still lifes that I want to finish further than a sketch. I also did a small color study to decide on the color scheme and overall color composition.

After finishing the drawing, I blocked in all of the shapes with a single tone wash, the proceded to paint directly. This painting is three layers, not including the drawing and wash. Because I decided to pull it off the easel early, I didn't use much in the way of medium that I would have used otherwise. The first layer of paint was somewhat thinned with turp, the second was paint straight from the tube, and the third I thinned slightly with a linseed and turp medium in a 1:5 ratio.

With this painting I just felt the need to tackle something large, for my next still life, I am going to work much smaller and simpler so that I can finish it to the degree that I want in the time that I have.

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