I have been exposed to the Day of the Dead theme quite a bit in my recent side venture of tattooing. For those who aren't familiar with the theme, it's a holiday that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died (though Day of the Dead is also the title of an awesome Zombie movie from the 80's). Part of that holiday entails building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls and flowers. Painting one's face to resemble a human skull is also quite common. I find something strangely beautiful about a face bearing a mask of death while simultaneously being graceful and celebrating those who have lived. Maybe death isn't so bad after all and I should buy that sweet motorcycle I have always wanted (even though "you know who" wouldn't approve......my mom) It was a subject matter I was very excited to explore and follows the vein of Vanitas paintings I do.
This painting is heading towards some areas of completion at this point, but the background still needs quite a bit of work, as does the blouse and lower hand.
Now for my annual 2 seconds of glazing in a painting. Whenever I hear someone ask if I "glaze", I always tend to get shivers. For some, glazing is some magical end all solution that every artist in history used that ever did any blending. We have even had to argue with people that we really don't glaze except in rare circumstances. Well, for one, most 19th century artists didn't glaze (or there is little evidence that they did). Bouguereau did not glaze to get a high finish. Tadema did not glaze to get a high finish. However, Dunkin Donuts does use glazes, as does any good mother for their yearly Hannukah ham. Bottom line is, just because something looks blended doesn't mean it's glazed.
Ok, so now I am going to talk about my glazing in this painting. Glazing is using a semi-transparent layer of pigment, usually combined with a hard varnish. In my case, I used Canada Balsam; a hard varnish with little to no yellowing over time, which is important as it is being used over white (it was even used in microscopes and telescopes in the past). I try to use as little varnish in my paint layers as possible as it can lead to cracking and de-laminating of paint. Really, I only glaze areas of very high chroma that I cannot achieve with pure paint. In this case, I wanted the candle to feel as if the light was emanating from within. I started by having every area I wanted to be very chromatic blocked out in lead white. I used a combination of the Canada Balsam medium and pigment applied very transparently over the white to achieve the desire effect.