Tag Archives: #blackwatercolorpaper

A Series on Black Paper Inspired by Giotto

I first came to know this panel St. Francis Renounces All Worldly Goods, attributed to Giotto (1267 -1337), in Glenn Vilppu’s composition class at New Masters Academy. (He has a composition class on his own website and it’s very pricey. I don’t think they are the same thing. The NMA one is more like a masterpiece composition appreciation class.)

Honestly speaking, I knew little about Middle Ages art. It’s the section in a museum I often skip, assuming those paintings are mostly more about religion than art. I was surprised to see Mr. Vilppu going back that far to talk about composition. If I remembered it right, he sees many religious paintings as comic strips and superhero stories of the time. I guess that makes them the predecessor of the modern narrative art!

St, Francis Renounces All Worldly Goods, (from Wikimedia), Giotto

This panel is from a series of St. Francis stories. The figures are quite realistic, with vivid expressions and movement. The stage setting is deliberate. The artist used a series of verticals and horizontals to group the subjects and surroundings, and then use diagonals from clothing, figure and architectures to guide the eye. All this builds up to see the otherwise obscure hand in the air. There’s drama and clarity in the narrative.

What strikes me most, is the way the artist divided the panel. It’s cut in half horizontally in the middle, and vertically, there’s an obvious space to part the surface in two, also in the middle. If this is from a modern artist, I’d call it bold, but I don’t know Giotto or Late Middle Ages art enough to call it anything. While I watched Glenn’s lesson, I doodled some composition lines of the piece trying to make sense of them. Later, I developed a few pieces from that design:

Giotto Studies 1, Gouache on black paper, 9 x10 in, 2020
Giotto Studies 2, Gouache on black paper, 9 x10 in, 2020
Giotto Studies 3, Gouache on black paper, 9 x10 in, 2020
  • I show the pieces in the sequence of when they were designed, but I actually finished the painting of the third one first, and showed it in a previous post.
  • You can see how I took more and more liberty with the composition, or I should say, the design finds its own life.
  • I use Giotto Studies as the title for now for lack of a better one. These are not real studies though. I merely scratched the surface and stole a few lines.
  • I want to say this is like a one stone two birds thing. I read a masterpiece closely, and got inspiration for something new.
  • I know what I could do next time I am running out of ideas to paint! 🙂

Testing Materials (6) – Black Watercolor Paper

In the last post about materials, I mentioned that Stonehenge has a line a black watercolor paper. The official name is Legion Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press Black. It’s 140lb, and 100% cotton.

I ordered a pad and tried a couple of paintings:

Nikki, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12, September, 2020
Astrid in Design, gouache on paper, 9 x 10, September 2020

Here’s what I find out so far:

  • It behaves like a good quality 140lb watercolor paper. So in theory, you can use water.
  • However, as one can imagine, transparent color doesn’t fire well on black paper. You need a lot of pigment for a color to show, and the colors still dry lighter. So you can’t really use a lot of water.
  • Like any type of black paper, how you deal with value on it is quite counterintuitive.
  • In the first painting I used mostly watercolor and mixed in some gouache white in the highlight area. The second painting is gouache. I personally like the the gouache one better.
  • I feel like I am very lack of imagination with this paper. For the second painting, I believe I could achieve similar effect with ink resist method. While using black paper makes it easier in certain ways, ink resist could have some unexpected result. In other words, it is not particularly empowering.
  • It could be just I don’t know how to make the most out of it.