The first artist is Rembrandt. He was born in 1606 in the Netherlands and died in 1669 at the young age of 63. He produced art in the realistic style, painting mostly Biblical scenes and portraits, though that did not make up all of his work. One of the techniques he used is called Chiaroscuro, which I find fascinating.
The chiaroscuro technique allows your subject to emerge from the shadows and into the light. It's all about high contrast and tonal effects. You can get an idea of what this technique is all about in my scratchboard piece "Into The Light."
In it you see Tooki, my senior citizen cat, just emerging out of the deep, dark shadows and into the sunlight. He was standing in the shadows on my bed in the early morning hours and slowly walked over to the window where the morning sun was shining brightly through and onto the bed. You see the front of his face brightly lit up by the sun, but the rest of his head and body fades little by little back into the shadows.
Chiaroscuro not only draws the audience's attention to the subject, but also helps an artist to model their subject and make it jump off the support due to the high contrast between the shadows and light. Done right, the subtle tonal changes, occasional hard edge of strong contrast along with a few disappearing edges and a bit of detail brings shape and depth to the subject giving it the effect of jumping off the support.
Rembrandt was a master at using this technique. Just look at one of Rembrandt's paintings, "Descent From The Cross."
In Rembrandt's painting, "Descent From The Cross," you notice the very dark, almost black sky forming the high contrast in the painting and setting the backdrop for the illuminated Christ and the man lowering Him down from the cross, most likely Joseph of Arimathea. Within the illumination you find areas of deep shadows that help model and shape the bodies. The dark contrast on the left side behind Christ dramatically draws attention to His brightly lit body. This painting is an excellent example of Chiaroscuro, and the dramatic effect such a painting can have on the viewer.
I always loved the muted colors that Rembrandt seemed to like to use in his backgrounds, and I developed the same kind of background for a few of my portraits. However, I then learned that he really used some wonderful colors in his paintings, colors that were hidden by layers of varnish that had been put on his paintings year after year. So much so that it literally changed the color of his paintings making them look more muted. Nonetheless, I do like the look of a muted background for some portraits.
There are many other great qualities of Rembrandt's paintings, but I've only covered the ones that I like the most and have inspired me. Here are a few more paintings of his that I really like:
Abraham and Son - Rembrandt
Next blog article I'm going to cover a current artist whom I admire a great deal and who's work inspires me continuously.
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