I wanted to paint from a master painting. I was searching around and I came up with Murillo’s “Saint Antonio of Gadua & El Nino”. When I visited Seville last winter, I saw this painting and I got a postcard of the image. Religious paintings are often complex and challenging because there are so many layers (more than emotional too) to contend with. I knew I had to paint it and somehow my style will come through.
I started the painting figuring out where the colors and values go. The first stage, as I like to call it, the embryo stage of painting. It looks like an abstract painting and miles from the destination. Slowly, the forms, values and shapes come together and become tighter and more refined. Faces and bodies start to appear. The more you paint, the more details you start to uncover. I had to make early decisions what to put in and what to leave out.
As you can see, the forms are starting to take shape. The lights and darks have their place. I started with the large masses and now I’m refining them by filling in the color and details.
The colors and masses become more full and I’m continually refining the facial features, the lights and darks. Though I’m aware the composition is a bit different than the original, I try to remain faithful to Murillo’s painting. But not just to copy, to make it my own. If the human connection between Saint Antonio and the child isn’t there, the whole thing won’t work.
The last stages include warming up the flesh colors, and both figures have their own. And that’s intentional. The fingers were also important, and even the toes. Finally, the blue flowers were added like the cherry on top of a sundae. It was very fulfilling to do this painting. It’s great that I challenged my own skills to paint this, and it will be exciting to see how future paintings will turn out.
In Portugal, there are some unique things you take notice. How the homes sparkle with hand-painted tiles, the abundance of lemon and orange trees, and the popularity of pastelerias, or bakeries in English.
But if you’re living in a small town such as Sao Joao Da Madeira, what is quite noticeable are the roundabouts. Yes, the little circles that makes the cars go round and round. There are more roundabouts in this town than any others in Portugal. Because of the abundance of these man-made wonders, there are maybe one or two stoplights in the entire town.
My studio window faces one, and believe me it’s always action-packed. There’s a poetry in motion of watching cars going around these circles. Many cars don’t slow down. They can’t go too fast though because of the pedestrian crosswalks. Not by law, but by honor the drivers must stop whenever someone crosses the street. It’s one of those things that just makes you go “I don’t ever see that in the USA”.
Which brings me to painting two different “Roundabouts” paintings. Two different perspectives. The centerpiece is the oval-size water fountain in the middle of the circle. But I wanted to try different things with both works. The sunlight on the streets, the shadows, the depths of the trees. “12pm” was done a few days before “6pm”. Rather than usually explaining, I would like for you to observe and see the difference and make your own conclusions with both paintings. The only intentional plan I had in mind was to keep the brushstrokes simple in a complex composition. I also saved the cars for last, as I wanted to add a little life to the roads. If you ever get to Portugal, you’ll see what I mean. What do you think?
Portugal Roundabout 6pm
Portugal Roundabout 12pm
Yellow Porto House was done from one of my trips to lovely Porto. It’s a rustic, gritty and hilly (but never silly) old city that has a lot of charm and history. One of my favorite things to do in Porto is just walking around and taking every sight, smell and hint of Portuguese food in through my senses. There’s always something new to discover every time I visit. Last time I visited Porto, I went to the Gaiya section, which really is the tourist part of town along the river. And it’s quite nice as you might expect. Lots of new and old shops, filled with antiques and local crafts. Personally, I can’t get enough of the Ginja (cherry liquor) in a small chocolate edible cup that’s so divine, it yells out, “here I am, now we can celebrate!”.
So after my short affair in that part of town, I walked in the quiet parts of the neighborhood nearby. I love the old homes and the way the tiles and rooftops just have its own character. The old homes are the true personalities of Porto. When I came across a yellow house on a short and narrow path, I was in awe. I had to stop and marvel the beauty surrounding it. The house in-between two other buildings. But even more, the view ahead of the house. The Porto Eifel bridge, built by the same guy who built the Eifel tower in France in the distance. The natural blue skies with the fluffy clouds from an old Portuguese storybook, it all made for the perfect setting of my next painting.
I used my limited palette of colors on an orange background along with a sketch of the scenes. I knew ahead that the yellow house was the main focal point and the lightest object, and the path in front would be the darkest. Painting the river and its bridges in the background, I had to lighten up so they would recede in the distance. I used limited brushstrokes for the yellow house and that turned out great. I got expressive with the rooftop and added the stones for the walls in the foreground. There was a lot going on, but also a lot of variety. And the angles of perspective helped. So glad I did this one, it was fun and can’t wait to do the next one!
Yellow Porto House
oil on canvas board