Making of "Grande Venusmachine" - Tribute to an Old Master
Like so many others, I was always fascinated by Botticelli's "Birth of Venus".
When the members of the international artists group "Libellule" were given the theme "Tribute to the Old Masters" for the 2013 Exhibition in Paris, the decision was clear for me.
We were supposed to choose an Old Masters piece, or part of one and combine it with our own work on a canvas 77"x52". My idea was, to combine Venus with some mechanics typical for my work and thereby creating the "Grande Venusmachine"
As you can see, I documented the process of painting it. So, lets start at the very beginning, with priming the canvas. I add several thin layers of gesso and sand each layer, to get a smooth surface. The last layer I put on literally by hand:
In this case, I started with a white canvas and transferred my drawing with blue pigment, as you can see on the left. Then I did a first drawing in blue acrylics, to have everything "secured" on the canvas. Next I added a colored ground in a semi transparent orange-ish English red tone as you can see in the picture to the right. The drawing still shines through and I already added a first rough idea of dimension.
Now the whole painting is done in white acrylics only. This way, you can focus on building up the form, without worrying about color. Its basically the same process, I already described in another post about this technique. Of course I had to have a printout of the original Venus close by, to make an accurate copy.
The cloth is there to reduce the vibration of the canvas, which can be annoying with a piece this size, particularly, when you "draw" thin cross hatching lines with a brush. Remember, the figure is roughly life size!
Here are some details:
Eventually a first painting in white is done. I also changed the back ground a bit.
In the next step, I add an even glaze of very thin ocre to the whole painting, to give it a yellowish tint, followed by another step of painting in white only, this time focusing on the brighter areas and defining the form even more.
This way, one creates the form based on mid tones and "lights" as you can see in these details:
Once my underpainting in acrylics was finished, I continued in oils. Thin glazes in mostly transparent pigments. After some fine tuning, I had the right red for the back ground and slowly all the other colors were added. When additional highlighting became necessary, at this point I had to do it with egg tempera, as acrylics wont stay on oils long term.
Of course I had to make some changes to the original (barefoot) Venus ;-)
After some 10 weeks and adding the stars, I finally had my finished painting. There is some underlying symbolism in both color and some of the shapes, but I'm not sure, if its "sfw" to tell ;-)
In December 2013 the painting was shown with the Libellule group at the prestigious "Salon Comparaisons", part of "Art en Capital" at the Grand Palais in Paris. The building is absolutely phenomenal: