Tuesday, April 4, 2017

And The Saints....

Details Continued...

There is One detail I often forget, Dear Readers, and that is to take a "before" picture when I start to work on any project that has been languishing for a while. I wrongly assume that I will be able to find a picture "somewhere" in my archives that shows just where I was when I stopped working on the project. I started painting the Saints years ago and have only worked at them sporadically, and it is really difficult to find any good pictures of progress. Saint Cecilia, patron Saint of Music, was one of the last I started working on, and I have the fewest pictures of her. The above picture shows her after I had done quite a bit of work last weekend! The only starting reference picture I could easily find shows only a portion of her while I was focused on designing the border "people".

You can get a sense of some of the missing details... 
color on the cloak lining, harp details, the seat, the sword....
 and that is just the most obvious ones.
I added those details and then remembered to take a picture!
Several more small details have been added to this picture...
(Halo, harp, blossoms, cushion, hand....)
And then I needed to add some details to Saint Matthew too...

Even here I had added some details before I remembered to take a picture....
In particular, the hand from the cloud above.
The most notable part of Saint Matthew that needed work
 was the folds of his cloak....
 here just under-painted with the white.
This image is one of the most challenging ones for me. 
It is taken from a very old manuscript, 
from the beginning of the ninth century AD,
 probably made for the court of Charlemagne. 
And the only version I have of it is in black and white!
I must guess at the colors.... 
and try to emulate the graphic details....
Here, have a look!
There is just something about his expression 
that made me want to use this version!

Red colors tend to photograph as black, 
and I am certain his cloak would not have been painted in black,  
so I have chosen to make it red,
but the highlights are open for interpretation!
They could be a pale pink or a pale blue or even a green.....
But I have used pale green for his robe 
and I need to keep the colors balanced with those of
 the other Saints on the ceiling.
Mark is pink, John is pale blue.
And I wanted the details to contrast with the red, 
so I decided to use bright blue.

Here you can see it with only the first layer of blue added.
But it immediately presented me with another problem....
Once the folds were blue..... 
there was too much blue in this corner of the ceiling!

I plan to add some paler highlights 
to the cloak of Saint Cecilia, 
which will tone down the blue, 
and I like the bright blue on Saint Matthew's cloak.... 
(what other color would work here?)
The only solution I see would be to adjust 
the intensity of the floor under Matthew.....

Which is done by adding a grid of white and "checkers" of red oxide....
as if they are patterned tiles.
This shifts the blue just enough from brilliant to almost pastel.

And when I have added the paler highlights to the folds 
of Saint Cecilia's cloak, I think the effect will be 
to have tamed the rampant blue in this corner!

Here you can see the ceiling as a whole.....
And it is noticeable how much more intense the blue is
 on this half of the ceiling!

Meanwhile, Dear Readers, 
there are a few more Saints who still need attention...

Saint Lucia only needs a tiny bit of detail 
added to her seat and her cloak....

Saint Nicholas needs quite a few small additions....
His Crozier needs defining, 
his seat, his hands, his vestments, 
and his "gifts" all need attention.

And Saint Bridget needs many small details....
 her "church" needs definition, 
her cloak needs many layers, 
her seat is unfinished.... her halo too.

And finally, Saint Luke needs a few small refinements.
Most notably, the portrait of the Virgin, 
his paintbrush (missing altogether), and his foot.

And even though I have made progress with Saint Matthew, 
he is still far from done.
(That hand from the cloud!... the cloak..... the footstool....)

And Saint Cecilia too...
Her cloak and her gown and her seat all need layers.

But most of all, I am concerned that she looks too "modern" to me!
 I am sure this is because there are so few authentic 
Medieval images to use for her source. 
I could only find one illumination 
from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves... 
and because she isn't holding a harp in that picture,
 my version looks nothing like that one.
I might have to try to "age" her a bit!

So you can see, Dear Readers, 
when it comes to the Saints,
I will be painting Details 
for quite some Time!


  1. I admire the patient to embark on such project. You work so far is amazing, I can´t wait to see the final result! I have taken a quick look of your blog and have seen that you have done some amazing things, so I must take a more deep look into it and enjoy myself. I will keep coming!

  2. Te está quedando precioso, menudo trabajo.
    Un abrazo

  3. Hello Betsy,
    how amazing your work is. One of my favorite details in paintings, both real life and in miniature, is folded fabric. You have done such a great job of it. I also applaud you for using strong, beautiful colors. Your ceiling is a true masterpiece. I am curious, what kind of brush do you use to make the super fine detail?
    Big hug

  4. Your paint work is amazing (as usual!!), Betsy, I admire your knowledge and your immense patience for painting these Saints, and also as how they would have looked like in the Medieval Age! I like the colors and your interpretation of making/building up the textures, it's a difficult part of this sort of painting work.
    In short: I think that the ceiling is already a masterpiece although you're not finished yet.
    Warm hug, Ilona

  5. And the Saints Came Marching In!
    I just love St. Matthew - he has a charming expression. And he looks almost like a teenager. What an amazing amount of work goes into those little tiny pictures!
    Love, Mom

  6. Hi Betsy. I don't think that one side of the ceiling has too much blue. I think it looks great.

  7. To me the colors, the textures of the fabrics, the expression on the saint's faces, the proportions and all other details look superb. You bring real art into our world of miniatures. Masterpieces of miniatures.
    Hugs, Drora

  8. Great respect for your work, it already looks very beautifull can't wait to see it finnished.

  9. Betsy thank you so much for explaining about the layering and detailing that it takes to achieve such wonderful saints. It really helps me to understand the love and care you have for the project. It also makes me look at painting in a whole new (yet still mostly uneducated) way! Looking forward to more!

  10. Hello, Betsy - More and more details! Again, I express my amazement that you can keep up with all the tiny details. I am so impressed with your solution for taking out some of the blue from Saint Matthew's image; the patterned tiles was a brilliant idea! This project intrigues me, and I learn something new with each post. I'm looking forward to seeing (and learning) more.

  11. I'm not sure if Blue would share your opinion that the blue needed to be tamed but calming the blue of St. Matthew with creating tiles leaves me in awe. It's more harmonic now and the pattern adds even more interest - if this is possible at all because this ceiling is already a masterpiece. It was great to see the Saints in detail again being able to get a glimpse into the amount of work and the love for detail that's necessary. And now I'm looking forward for the Saints marching on!


  12. A Splendid job of painting saint Matthew Betsy AND your problem solving regarding toning down the intensity of the blue beneath his feet was BRILLIANT! The tiles look fantastic and you loose none of the rest of the details surrounding him by making the floor more interesting, either.
    Your talents continue to impress! :D