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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Interview With Canadian Artist Loretta Fasan

The work of the Canadian artist Loretta Fasan reminds us of the Renaissance paintings, incorporating glazzing techniques and depicting portraits characteristic of that period.

Her still lifes entice the viewer to imagine a story beyond the painting itself.
Loretta has kindly accepted to share her thoughts about her work and techniques, as well as the materials that she uses to accomplish her art.

TAI - How do you choose the colours for your monochromatic underpaintings ?

LF - When I decide to use a monochromatic underpainting for a face or skin tones in general, I usually lightly tone the canvas with a warmish color, such as burnt siena, or burnt umber.

Then I use raw umber, ultramarine blue, and black, plus white for the underpainting. Sometimes I add viridian green, if the skin color is going to be light or medium. I do this to counteract the orangey tones of the ground color, which still partly shows through, and to act as a contrast to the pinkish tones which will follow.

The hue of the underpainting colors can vary, somewhat, but it always basically consists of neutrals. The imprimatura can also be a cooler gray. I sometimes base the underpainting color on the subject, and technique ultimately used. If I am planning to use gold leaf, I may use a more intense reddish tone as an imprimatura, to compliment the gold. This red does not usually appear at all in the final work, except for small touches surrounding the gold leaf, but it definitely affects all of the color choices used in the course of the painting.

If I decide to do an underpainting for a still life, I basically use the same colors, without adding the green.

Do you buy your linen already primed, or do you apply the primer (gesso) yourself ?

I buy linen in pre-primed rolls. When working with acrylic primed linen, I add a layer of gesso. I have discovered a compromise that works for me, since I like the strength of the medium grain acrylic-primed linen, but I prefer a smoother surface.

I smooth the surface by adding a layer of gesso using a large palette knife to spread a very light layer of gesso, skimming across the surface weave. This deposits a thin layer of gesso into the crevices of the linen, while avoiding a build-up on the top. I have to work very quickly to blend it because the gesso dries fast. After sanding with fine sandpaper, a smoother surface is achieved with a bit of the weave still visible, while retaining the strength of the thicker linen.

Do you usually use acrylic or oil primed surfaces ?

I have recently bought some oil-primed linen panels, and I plan to try them out.

Have you tried other supports, such as copper ?
If so, how did you prepare them and how satisfied you were with the result ?

I have not used copper, but I have used masonite and wooden panels. I like the smoothness, and the hard support, especially if I am adding texture, or gold leaf.

Do you make a previous study, or do you draw directly onn the support that you are going to paint on ?

I do a very basic drawing just to place the elements, but since I usually work on a somewhat large scale, I find that the proportions and placement have to be changed anyway, so I end up changing a lot of elements on the canvas. I also like to allow for "surprises" or unexpected additions at the end. These touches can end up adding a lot of interest to the final piece.

What is the importance of drawing for you and for your kind of work ?

In the past, I tended to only do drawings, because I felt somewhat intimidated to start paintings . One day, I just decided to just start painting without any preliminary drawings for a while, to get over my anxiety. At this time, I started to incorporate elaborate pattern, and since I was working lifesize, it became impractical to attempt to do a drawing of the whole painting in advance. If I used gold leaf, for example, I had to apply it in the beginning, and work the rest of the painting around it.

I have sanded off, covered, and changed sections of what seemed to be finished portions of the painting, if the final effect required it. I think this adds a lot of richness at the end.

Do you use stand oil by itself or do you also mix it with another medium, such as an alkyd, or eventually with turpentine ?

I mix stand oil with 50% turpentine. I haven't added anything other medium to it so far. I have Venice turpentine, and I plan try to add it in the final layers. I have started using alkyds for the underpainting only, because they dry fast, add body to the final paint film, and can be used to affect oil glazes which are added [see painting underneath].

What role does trump l'oeil plays in your line of work ?

So far, I think I have used trompe l'oeil in a unique, and unexpected way. I have use elements of trompe l'oeil to change the context of the painting, to make some areas appear floating or glued on, or to go from 3-dimensional to flat. Sometimes this breaks the implied realistic illusion, and creates a new illusion.

Which are the positive aspects that glazzing lends to your paintings ?

Glazing allows me to add depth to color or shadows, or to modify a color. I add shadows to the beadwork, for example, at the end, only with a transparent glaze. I also add glazing to the lips and hair.

Of which colours is made your usual palette and which other ones you find yourself reaching for on a regular basis ?

My skin tones are usually composed of: raw umber, burnt umber, terra rosa, yellow ochre, raw siena, ivory black, flake or cremnitz white, alizarin crimson, Indian red, and viridian green. It sounds like a lot of colors, but I don't always use all of them. I just like to have them on the palette.

I might end up using some spare skin tone on the hair, or background. I make warm and cool color strings from these colors. I also use ultramarine blue, transparent red oxide, red and yellow cadmium in my work. I love the quinacridone colors for flowers. I have tried to use it lightly in backgrounds.

Since the internet has taken over as the main showcase for art, one result is that some paintings which are quite strongly colorful, yet appealing when when viewed in person, can appear "loud" or garish on the internet. This is especially the case when primary colors are used. Monitors can show colors differently, and no camera can see into shadows, or react to color as a person can.

Tell us about your favourite brushes (kind, shape and sizes) and in which stages/parts of your work you use them.

I use both bristle and synthetic sable-type brushes. My favorite shape is filbert. I also use flat bristle brushes for laying in colors quickly. I sometimes use a semi-stiff large sable to blend on the neck, shoulders, etc. I use filberts on the face and figure.

If the face is life-size, I use medium-sized filberts for the main areas, and smaller brushes for the eyes, and nose, etc. I try to lay in the brush strokes in all directions, but I end up with vertical strokes at the end. I use a large fan-shaped synthetic sable to lightly stroke down to get rid of directional ridges which tend to catch the light, and are distracting.

I sometimes use a splayed-out sable to lightly add blush in a random way, to the lips, nose or cheeks. I use various sizes, from large to very tiny. I also use fan-shaped bristle brushes for the background or sky.

Can you tell us what kind of frames go well with your painting stlye and subjects ?

I have used all kinds of frames, from elaborate to real antiques, brushed steel, and even found frames which I have worked on, including recycled objects used as frames. I have 2 Renaissance-style frames recycled from the speaker fronts of a vintage TV found in a barn! [jpg of this frame included in email] I like to buy frames, and have them on hand, then, as I work on the paintings, I can test how they will look in the frames. Sometimes, you can find great frames in very large sizes at home decor stores. Unique hand-finished styles. They usually come with mirrors in them, but are of the same quality as the more expensive custom frames sold in framing stores. I have tended to choose well-made solid, classic frames, which are suitable to various types of decor. I do tend to prefer linen liners, which almost always seem to enhance the look of the painting. Linen liners set the painting apart from the frame, and give it breathing space. Without liners, frames can cast shadows onto the painting, and sometimes appear to confine the painting.

How would you define your work and how has your art evolved to reach this stage ?

My painting style and subject matter is evolving. I will describe what I've tried to do so far. My goal was to create a sense of richness and impact creating female faces as icons, while incorporating a strong graphic aspect.

I was attracted to pattern, decoration, and flatness, and at the same time, to certain aspects of realism. I have been working to combine all of this , and, recently, to get the rich colorful elements to also appear worn, and aged. There is an element of trompe l'oeil, also. Parts of the figure can appear to flatten, and the background goes from atmospheric to a texture with folds. I tend keep the mood of the paintings positive, even if there is a moody element. I am inspired by many artists, both past and present. Currently, I am reducing the scale of the imagery away from lifesize, to allow for complete figures, and more of the surrounding space. [Detail from Quiet Girl (underneath); Titania; Example of trompe l'oeil; Quiet Girl ]

Do you accept commissions ?

I have done some commissions in the past. It would depend on the individual proposal. Obviously, I would prefer to work on a project that would suit my style.

Are you available for workshops or painting lessons, if someone should be interested in learning more with you ?

I would be available for workshops, to explain fundamentals, or metal-leaf technique.

Are there any planned exhibitions for the near future ?

At the moment, I have many paintings-in-progress that are at the 70-80 % finished stage, which I need to complete. I would like to have a decent body of finished, framed work put aside, so I don't feel pressured to complete work specifically for a show. Many galleries have closed, including some in which my work has been shown. I will use the internet to show my work for now, and will probably enter my work in some group shows.

"Living in the Past"

Loretta Fasan owns a Fine Arts degree from Concordia Univertisty.
After working commercially with airbrush for years, she decided to go back to oil painting, and took the time to develop a personal painting style, in between working on music recording.Since 1995 her work has been exhibited in galeries, cultural centers, and small museums in group and solo shows in Canada and the US.
Her paintings have been featured for several years on PBS television, and are in private collections in Europe, Africa, Canada, and the US. She has received 2 honorable mentions from the Quebec Association of Illustrators, and has completed commissions for individuals and for public spaces, she is currently working on a series of paintings of women in mythology.

You can also read Loretta's blog, where you can follow the different stages of her paintings and her artistic career.


Example of trompe l'oeil

"The Quiet Girl"
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