December 30th, 2017
Self portrait with a Turban.
My most recent portrait is in the style of Jan van Eyck. It's a very diminutive work and the composition is simple. The head sort of floats in the dark and the red turban is vibrant against the black back-ground. While painting this I was reminded of the scarcity of blues in paintings over 200-300 years old (the master work that inspired me was painted in 1433). Reds and blacks were plentiful though, mostly in the form of Earth Oxides. I am lucky to have Cadmium at my disposal for reds. The black I used is Chromatic black, a mixture of green and red pigments.
This is the first portrait I've painted using oil in the last 13 years or so, and in those past portraits my marks were more loose and spontaneous. With this work I wanted a more polished, finished look, like that of Northern-Renaissance painters. I had been using Gouache and acrylic for my smaller portrait work lately, due to the easy clean-up and quick dry time, usually painting using glazes. By using Gamblin's alkyd-based oils I was able to blend the brush strokes and produce gentler textures. I was really encouraged by the experience of doing a portrait this way and will most likely paint most future portraits with oil. I have yet to make a frame for this picture. I'll get some moldings from the local hardware store and try to recreate something like the frame on the van Eyck original. I did something similar in my last portrait, where I tried to recreate the frame on a recently auctioned Da vinci.
Painting a master copy always comes with many lessons. Trying to re-create something in the style of another artist teaches you about composition, color mixing, and breeds appreciation for the work of others. It's also empowering to complete a decent approximation of what's considered a masterpiece. After each picture I complete, I get more ambitious. The hardest part of any painting for me is having the patience to study the original/source material through drawing and actually working through the revision process that is painting itself. If I settle for my first attempt at a picture, I'm usually being dishonest with myself and sacrificing quality. Painting really is laborious if done right.
I have a lot of fun imitating things. From an early age I enjoyed doing impressions of TV personalities and cartoon characters. There's something about pretending I'm something else that's always appealed to me. Painting for me has always also been a species of pretend and imitation. My recent work in iconography is a prime example of this.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.