Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait (a la Albrecht Dürer)

Albrecht Dürer, may he rest in peace, was a target for our trials this week. He is most famous for his prints, portraits and watercolor images and he is very often referred as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance.

This is how would Albrecht Dürer look like if he was a hare, watercolors, ink, sun light through the window:

Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait

The Artist
You might have seen Dürer's self-portrait:

Albrecht Dürer, self-portrait

Dürer was a son of a very successful goldsmith (nice coat, ah) and produced many famous paintings. His home town was Nürnberg now most known for nazi trials. [trip advice: we have visited Nürnberg last year and will go there this year too, it is a very nice city, was not destroyed like most of the German cities; great food and beer and a lot to see or do. We would recommend you stay at the student hostel located in the Nürnberg castle, best view in the city]

As an already famous artist Dürer got a request to draw an Indian Rhinoceros using only text description of the animal. He never seen one alive or dead, just the word description of one unfortunate creature that was transported to a king as a present but died on the way, and was recreated as a stuffed animal. His painting, brutal and powerful had became a canonical for rhinoceros for the next four hundred years. The painting though being anatomically inaccurate made its way into biology textbooks and stayed there till the the beginning of XX century.

Albrecht Dürer, Rhinoceros

One of the most famous Dürer's watercolor images - young hare, it is characterized by a very soft touch and attention to detail. The image was drawn more than 500 years ago and still looks great, which is quite unusual for watercolor paintings. Very difficult and challenging style to follow.

Albrecht Dürer, young hare

Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait

The idea behind today's painting: how would Albrecht Dürer look like if he was a hare. Watercolor and ink looked like the best choice, considering his young hare painting.

After several hours of studying Albrecht Dürer Alexandra did a couple of sketches:

Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait a la Albrech Dürer, sketch
Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait, first sketch

Sketch show all Dürer's most important features: long narrow nose, strong curvie mustache, big eyes and long hair falling to the shoulders.

The drawing is done in several steps due to the complexity of the technique of mixing ink with watercolors
It starts with a detailed black and white sketch which is then painted over, creating a rough ground image:

Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait a la Albrech Dürer, half way
Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait, half way done

The canvas is left to dry out for several hours. Iteratively the second and third layers are drawn adding more details to the painting. Finally black ink is used to highlight extra thin details and give a finishing touch to the picture:
Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait a la Albrech Dürer, process
Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait, finishing touch

Finally the painting is left alone to dry and then framed and pressed to keep it strait; the paper starts to curl up after being moistened and dried several times.

Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait a la Albrech Dürer
Alexandra, Lepus townsendii Selbstportrait


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