June 28, 2015

Sticky fingers and youtube uploads

Sampler Sunday at Swinton's Studio.

I taught an oil sampler this fine and toasty Sunday.   I always hope that this little introduction to the glories of my favorite painting medium doesn't scare people off. Instead, I hope it inspires people to delve deeper and keep at it because it can very rewarding.  It has its ups and downs, limitations, toxicity, chemistry, history and traditions. That being said, when you are first starting out it can also be intimidating, expensive, challenging and confusing, not to mention messy. But if you stick with it, you will get stuck on it.

 I had a great group with diverse and dynamic backgrounds. My friend Sylwia, who I haven't seen in ages, attended. I even had a little girl, so I had to curb my usual rants and positive and passionate use of swearing.
One lady used a palette knife to put it on thick, I love the richness and creaminess of oil paint, thouh I've never been brave enough to slather it on like she did.  I am always amazed at what people come up with. I love seeing what colours they mix and how they apply paint. The possibilities are endless and I learn a surprising amount when I'm teaching.
This participant to work quick and loose and in doing so she put my demo piece to shame. As a quick demo, I often do an homage to Bob Ross and then scrub it off before anyone can take a picture of it leading to my embarrassment. But I do it quick so it seems less intimidating. Making art should be fun, playful and easy, so about halfway through, I remind them to smile. Eventually they hit a wall as is one of the main challenges when making art, that's when one has to know to take a break, a real art form in itself.
 This quick alla prima of a harbor turned out great for a first time oil user. Any more and the colours would become muddy and the whole thing would become frustrating. We don't have time to allow layers to dry in the short few hours of this class to really show off what makes oil so diverse and wonderful. You never know, somebody in that class could become and artist in the future!


I am always making something. I put up a few new things on you You tube for you to check out.

Here is a teaser for the Blackfoot Graphic Novel.

And a quick motion graphic for the USAY Backback giveaway event this summer.

June 23, 2015

Italy - a bit of reflection from my journal

I write every day in my journal, a discipline I’ve maintained since I did The Artist's Way after high school. I has served me well over the years in getting out what may hinder me throughout the day taking up precious mental real estate. I would recommend it to anyone to try for themselves. It does mean I have to pack a book around when I travel. I keep a daily odometer of how many days I’ve been alive to remind myself daily of my mortality and the preciousness of each passing day. I also keep an active sketch book practice. If I were to stack my collection of both they would be taller than me. This is a collection of ideas and points distilled from both sources after I returned from my trip. I hope you enjoy getting inside my mind.

Day 1 – Monday May 11, 2015 – Spectacle

What a big day already. I have never flown for this long before.  We landed after a long arduous journey into the new surroundings, hot sun and new language. Welcome to the chaos that is Rome. My first impression on arriving is pure delight and awe at the sheer scale and grandeur of the sights.

Fortunately we take a quick pit stop giving me a chance to set down my backpack and collect myself before an adventure.  In order to optimize our time and avoid the jet lag we keep on going and get an initial orientation, we are within walking distance of the coliseum, how advantageous.

The walk was long, the air, hot and humid.  I’m overwhelmed with visual stimuli, a bit delirious and elated to be here.  I am so elated to see Trajan’s column as it is part of my course curriculum and I’ve never had a good image for slide presentations, that is until I took some!

I had no way of preparing for this epic spectacle. It’s the “wedding cake” that causes my jaw to drop, imagine every other building since ancient times, this white with marble, excessive, impressive, decorative, amazing!

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 12, 2015- Ancient Rome: Forum, Coliseum, capitolini museum

Bright eyed and busy tailed, I arise excited to travel back into history.  We arrive at the site of the earliest temple built on tuffa, the volcanic rock found all around the area what would soon be ancient Rome.  For a time, these ruins were buried under cow pasture. Little remains, but there is enough and continuing archeology to piece together the past. At the forum, our guide, Liz, describes the history and uses of the many spaces that developed with time.   So much to see and Liz’s guidance was so dynamic, interesting and informative. She had a book with her with vellum fold overs to help explain what the ruins we were seeing were and what was once standing. The death of Caesar signaled the transcendence of man, immortality, the period where man could become a god.

Site has meaning. The intense story of the founding of this city makes you wonder why its intention at birth did not drive people away. It celebrates cunning fratricide, Romulus, Remus and the she wolf. The birth of a city whose god, Vesta, the mother of all, takes on wayward sons. Giving men without rank a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, all wanting to be great, orphans to become sons of Rome.  I was amazed at the sheer scale, cost and number of skilled men it would take to build something so impressive. Architecture = immortality. Men becoming gods.

Once Nero’s personal residence and manmade lake was here, it angered the people of Rome so it’s fitting that later the Coliseum would be erected here, a political move to entertain the masses. For a time it was for theatre, with elevators as a means to create special effects, later a place for wild animals and gladiators. So many movies have been set here, it feels surreal to be standing in this place. I get the sense that the residents are indifferent to the history that surrounds them. Things in your vicinity do eventually get taken for granted. 

Day 3 –Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peters

Upon entering we are given whispers and see a copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta in plaster. It was beautiful and we were able to get much closer to it than the original which was further away and encased in glass. I can’t believe he was only 25 when he made this, puts my work in perspective, in a painful way.

I pick up the last copy of Liz’s book in English at the Vatican book shop. (I read it that night). We enter the collection and I’m floored. Works of beauty I did not expect. Gorgeous, intricate tapestries by Raphael. I learned that he was an artist ready to take on any medium. I fully admit that I was brought to tears inspired by the beauty of the work of Raphael.  I went to the back of the group to gather myself and really take it all in. I felt vulnerable admitting this but glad that I did, learning that the same moving reaction was had by Martinho.

Seeing Raphael’s school of Athens for real and in print, I was surprised that the work was hard to see in reality, in the room to the side adjacent to accompanying frescos that were never mentioned in my Art History text but equally masterful. It was great to hear about the back and forth competition between the artists of the day and the conjecture my question about their relationships brought, no one really knows the answer. 

The Laocoon and other notable sculptures are in a beautiful outside garden. It is so impressive to see these works in person. Once more my love for marble sculpture is validated. Inside it is so hot and crowded, I have no idea how anyone could do this during summer. Seeing the modern collection after all the great master works really left me feeling as flat, dark, ugly and uninspired as the works appeared.
The pace is grueling, yet I can’t possible stop taking it in, my eyes and soul are fueled by beautiful artworks.

I was surprised by the scale of the work in the Sistine Chapel, but also on how it was a completely enclosed space. No stained glass, no windows, it felt like a gymnasium. I was humored how the silence of the museum goers rose to cacophony so quickly then over a loud speaker a voice boomed “silence please’, then the chapel was once again still in silence which slowly rose once more in a crescendo of cacophony and the voice boomed again and the scene repeated once more. 

It was easy to see the greatness of Michelangelo’s depiction of scaled figures and riving bodies in the last judgment over the alter. All of this makes me question my existence and the validity of my art practice.

I didn’t want to leave the splendor of St. Peters. It is magnificent, I am amazed and in love with the feeling in this holy place as well as Bernini’s creations within. Imagine the span of the dove in the stained glass is nearly 6 ft. across, implying the floating chair in the air must be close to 40 ft. from the base. 

Day 4 –Thursday, May 14, 2015 – Piazzas, Trevi fountain, Pantheon

Outdoor adventures, ate like a king. I wish I had more time for sketching, for now I’ll have to let my camera replace it as we quickly breeze through mountains of content. We toured the piazzas, fountains and Pantheon. It was amazing to see the scale of the dome and quite different to be in a round building. 

Day 5 –Friday, May 15, 2015 – Santa Cecilia

Breathtakingly beautiful, fragile and delicate the marble of St. Cecilia represents how her body was discovered when they opened her tomb. I picked up a replica for the home alter. She is the saint for music I later learned and enjoyed her life story as we went through the basement, the church built on top on the location where her home was.

At this point it sinks in how I feel that the lifestyle of the Italians is superior. The rest at lunch is seemingly more humane. The unequivocal quality of the food, the pleasure taken it, the sharing around a table together and the real connection people appear to have. I have always questioned the pace and hectic stress here in Calgary. How I’m constantly working, improving or chasing after the next thing. It seems there is not time to rest or reflect and here I see how it works without the society crumbling. And yet they are so centered around capitalism, or at least buying fashionable wares. The women look amazing and take the risk of high heels on uneven streets, somewhat comical but they do it with style and grace. 

Day 6 –Saturday, May 16, 2015 – Basillicas and Masterpieces

Today got turned into a free day, but I still want to hit the stuff on the itinerary that will be closed on Monday.  I got lost looking for the Barbarini Palace, 2 hrs of walking in circles, but eventually found it, totally worth it. I’m not going to miss a thing, I had to lone wolf it in order to do it. Here I saw the full spectrum of my favorite painters from Caravaggio to El Greco. I also got a chance to see Michelangelo’s Moses. Afterwards I walk back to the Piazza Venezia. I aim to get a bit of drawing done on my own, I just sat and ate lunch while sketching. The birds were aggressive and came close in multiple attempts to steal my lunch. I got one good watercolour out of it fortunately.

Day 7 –Sunday, May 17, 2015 –Gallery Borghese Piazza, Catacombs

I walk around the huge park on the estate while waiting for the Gallery to open. This would have been an extravagant suburban party place, full of gloriously decorated rooms for entertaining and showing off their power.

The catacombs were interesting and cooling off below the earth was a real treat after being in the hot sun all day. The early Christians came way out here to bury the deceased. They dug down into that same soft tuffa that was the foundation for ancient Rome.  I was surprised at the sheer number, and how many were tiny, presumable for babies and children. Later that evening we visited two practicing artists studios, it really inspired me for what my bohemian sensibilities think an artist’s life should look like.

Day 8 –Monday, May 18, 2015  

Rodolpho Papa’s lecture about the New World Order and how the CIA brought about the fall of great figurative Art, it was interesting but we ran out of time. Tomorrow we leave Rome, so I plan to get as much in today before its too late. I spent the final night photographing and hanging out with Dan to do some sketching of the columns. Finally a chance to get in some sketching. Martinho’s B-day is quickly approaching so I’ve been working on a suitable card signed by everyone in the group.

Day 9 –Tuesday, May 19, 2015 – Travel to Florence/orientation

Today we leave Rome and head to Florence on a high speed train, I’ve never been on a high speed train before, the landscapes out the window were gorgeous and I am surprised they don’t just whiz by like I expected.

Brunelleschi’s Duomo in the heart of Florence is amazing, the cathedral is white and highly decorated. There is a sculpture of its creator looking up nearby, the gaze a time portal in between. We headed on over to a sculpture park near the Uffizi filled with copies of the David, work by Donatello and a copy of the Rape of the Sabine Women. The copy of the David left me feeling unimpressed, I expect little of the real thing. Later, we visited a real marble sculptor studio where a lot of the magic was revealed. I was always under the impression given in school of the pure genius of sculptors “releasing” the figures from the rock, but that is not so. There is a process to the technique. A Maquette is made then a full size version in clay, and then a measuring apparatus guides the sculptor in marble. It kind of took the wind out of the sails in one sense and enhanced my reverence for the craftsmanship and technical skill involved as well.

Day 10 –Wednesday, May 20, 2015 – Martinho’s B-day

Martinho’s B-day we took on the Florentine steak, never have I feasted on such blue flesh, but it was good. For years I was vegetarian, I wonder if I have the enzymes to digest such a heap of nearly raw meat. 

Day 11 –Thursday, May 21, 2015 – Pitti palace, Angel Academy

Slept like a rock and rose early to see the doctor then meet up with the group at the Pitti Palace.  I didn’t think we’d cross paths so I took my time going through the extensive collection and eventually caught up to my group. Donatello’s David, a Mercury bronze cast, Michealangelo’s ability to bring riving figurative forms forth carved in from the front of the stone, the cast room was immensely enjoyable as were the icons on the hard to find access to their floor. A quick word on the breathlessness caused by seeing the real David, it is truly epic. It is the largest sculpture from one block since antiquity, soft massive and cartoony.

I got to see my friend Nicole who is an instructor at the Angel Academy. It was great to see the process and teaching method at a classical Atelier. Part of my reason to come to Italy was for reconnaissance to see if Angel Academy could be a good next step for me, deciding after seeing it in person that it was not. Glad I checked it out before diving in.

 Day 12 –Friday, May 22, 2015 – Ravenna in the rain

I’m glad we are taking this out of town trip, even though it’s pouring and clearly the cheap umbrellas are useless.  I love the rain, I refer to it as “liquid sunshine”. I took a hilarious picture of Martinho with his destroyed umbrella kind of covering his bald head while he speaks to the group. Warrior Christ and the Easter calendar were important historical marks I was glad to see. Byzantine era mosaics in ancient reclaimed spaces like a roman bathhouse turned baptistery. The glinting and gleaming of the gold is mesmerizing. In some way these meticulously made mosaics are far more impressive than frescos, they have a real life to them in their cartoonish representations. 

Day 13 –Saturday, May 23, 2015 –Uffizi gallery

We visit a Franciscan monastery filled with gorgeous frescos by Fra Angelico in each of the monk’s rooms and a surprising selection of illuminated manuscripts. My questions about the process of icon painting where answered with a display at the back showing the tools and materials involved.

Botteccelli, was ruined when Martinho pointed out what was being done in oil at the same time frame, like the works by Flemish artists. Or haow about  Da Vinci’s Annunciation. It is clear when you see the work in the flesh. His angel to the left is so much more masterful than his teachers. It was said that he quit never painting again after seeing his pupils angel. Clearly.  Some of us stay behind in the gallery in order to make sure we see everything else in the collection, there was an entire floor with walls painted a soft blue filled with Dutch works, notable Rembrandt portraits plus tons of still life and landscape paintings.

  Day 14+ –Sunday, May 24, 2015 – Group leaves, I continue on

Highlights – Brishigehlla and Favena – medieval town, natural waterfalls, and gypsum mine, Natural Park with pet wolf, and “the best” gelato. Everywhere you go in Italy everybody’s opinion is that what they have is “the best”. I’m starting to expect it. Rather, what I hear now is what I have is the best and therefore what you have is sh*t, it’s becoming almost comedic.

I take a day to myself to visit the Specola, natural history museum. I have had the Encyclopedia Anatomica book for reference for my art from this very museum for so long it was breath taking to see them in person. Wax replicas of every single layer of human anatomy, so realistically rendered so that real bodies were unnecessary for dissection and education, yet creepy and tragically beautiful as their sublime, angelic Botticelli like faces are frozen in time with the contrast of their bloody entrails exposed. They are wax works of art in their own right, maybe more suitable today for a death metal bands CD cover. 

I was advised by the doctor to extend my stay, with much self reflection I eventually decide it’s not in my cards. I need to go back to finish up projects and to do the required work for the class. C’est la vie. I will miss Italy. Much more to come...

June 21, 2015

Andrea Del Sarto research essay

I'm back from my Art History trip to Italy, as part of the Sacred Arts diploma I am taking at St. Mary's University. One part of the required homework was to research and write an essay on a newly discovered artist I found while there. Its been a long time since I did a writing assignment for school, before the internet was such a convenience and help, we had to use actual books and research papers from the library, I spent weeks from home putting this together, I hope you enjoy it :D
Andrea Del Sarto                       
“The painter without error” (Senza errori)
 Research essay by Brian Batista

It was a real treat to discover a new artist during St. Mary’s travel study course. Andrea Del Sarto’s fresco The Last Supper in San Salvi, Florence, was breathtaking and inspired me to delve deeper and learn more about this artist. What was it about Del Sarto that peaked my interest? Why did his work jump out at me amongst the innumerable master works we saw in Italy? It wasn’t until I began my research, that I discovered in his work, lessons that surface for some of the challenges I’ve been facing in my artistic practice.

Personal Life

Andrea Del Sarto, was born in Florence on July 16, 1486. His father Agnolo was a tailor (sarto) so he became known by the epithet “Del Sarto” the “tailors son”. Del Sarto began training as a goldsmiths apprentice but his drawing skills were quickly recognized by an unknown artist, who instructed him in painting. He was then sent to apprentice under Piero Di Cosimo and later Raffaellino del Garbo. Andrea Del Sarto's rose quickly in the ranks of Florentine painters and was in high demand while still a young painter earning him the nickname Senza Errori “the painter without error”. His reputation was so great that the King of France invited him to court.

We know about Del Sarto from the 16th century writings of Giorgio Vasari. His writings are considered the ideological foundation for art-historical writing making it an excellent resource to reference.  Little of note is known about Del Sarto’s personal life. It was considered uninteresting and uneventful as he spent most of his life working in Florence.  For a time, Del Sarto’s hometown of Florence was under siege by papal forces, subject to invasion and political intrigue. After the expulsion of the Medici, once again, in 1527, he worked for the republican government of Florence. Work was found for artists but of a dubious and unpleasant nature. Del Sarto was commissioned to paint effigies of traitors, but he dared not refuse, nor did he want to scar his reputation so he did them in secret until their unveiling. His Sacrifice of Isaac, intended as a political present to Francis I, was painted in this period.

Del Sarto was born at the beginning of the development of the modern world, the world was in transition and times were tumultuous and restless. The influence and power of the church diminished as feudal systems crumbled and towns expanded.  The rise of the merchant class accompanied religious reform and the invention of the printing press.  People were becoming fascinated with art, science, politics and travel to far off lands.  The Medici families where influential and gave him his most significant contract of his career—for part of the decoration of the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano, near Florence. The patron was in fact the pope, Leo X, whom Sarto almost certainly visited in Rome in 1519–20; but the project, the only one that ever offered Florentine artists the scope that Raphael had in the Vatican Palace, collapsed when the pope died in December 1521. Sarto’s fresco Tribute to Caesar is a fragment now incorporated into a much later decorational scheme.
Del Sarto married Lucrezia (del Fede), widow of a hatter named Carlo, of Recanati, on 26 December 1512. He thought she was so beautiful, he would dress her in the mornings, she was his muse. Lucrezia appears in many of his paintings, as a Madonna. However, Vasari describes her as "faithless, jealous, and vixenish with the apprentices." She is similarly characterized in Robert Browning's poem titled Andrea Del Sarto published in 1855.
Browning’s poem implies that Del Sarto is not as famous as many other artists because he “shies away from the vivid and necessarily sexual fullness of life, and the spirituality that is a part of that fullness.” Literary Scholar, Stephen Hawlin further explains that “Del Sarto’s wife's beauty is without a soul to Del Sarto, it’s only a beauty on the outside, which perfectly matches the state of Del Sarto's art, which is beautiful, but spiritually empty.” Browning’s Andrea Del Sarto explores broad themes such as if all human interactions are governed by aesthetic or exchange value, failure, whether one's wife is a possession, and morality in general. Browning chose to use renaissance painters as his subjects because art was much easier to access than writing was, writing was only accessible to those of wealth.

A few other things of note are known about Del Sarto. He was notably short in stature and known to his friends as Andreino. In 1506 Andrea del Sarto set up a joint workshop with his older friend Franciabigio. They painted many notable frescos from 1508 – 1514.  Del Sarto was active in the generation which followed Leonardo, Botticelli, Perugino and Pinturicchio and worked at the same time as Raphael. He was the instructor to Fiorentino and Pontomoro who carried on many aspects of his style.
Andrea Del Sarto died in Florence at age 43 during an outbreak of Bubonic Plague in either 1530 or 1531. He was buried unceremoniously in the church of the Servites. Amy Steedman, describes his last few days thusly "Perhaps Andrea had suffered for want of good food during the siege, perhaps he was overworked and tired; but, whatever was the cause, he was one of the first to be seized by that terrible disease. Alone he fought the enemy, and alone he died. Lucrezia had left him as soon as he fell ill, for she feared the deadly plague, and Andrea gladly let her go, for he loved her to the last with the same great unselfish love. So passed away the faultless painter, and his was the last great name engraved upon that golden record of Florentine Art which had made Florence famous in the eyes of the world. Other artists came after him, but Art was on the wane in the City of Flowers, and her glory was slowly departing."  After his death his renown was eclipsed by that of his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.

Del Sarto’s Style

Andrea Del Sarto was instrumental in the development of the Florentine mannerist style, which dominated the majority of the 1500’s until it was replaced with the onset of the Baroque period. Del Sarto worked mainly in oil but completed fresco cycles in the cloisters of the Scalazi and SS Annunziata in Florence.  His work shows strong Mannerist tendencies in its agitated composition, formless and indeterminate space, and in the tortured poses and exaggerated musculature of it’s bunches of nude figures. The characteristics of mannerism are characterized by artiness and artificiality through self-conscious cultivation of technical ability and elegance. The figures are posed in seemingly contrived positions with elongated stretched limbs, small heads and stylized facial feature, giving them an overall appearance of gracefulness.
Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication, favoring compositional tension and instability rather than the balance and clarity of earlier Renaissance painting. The deep, linear perspectival space of High Renaissance becomes flattened and obscured so that the figures appear as a decorative arrangement of forms in front of a flat background of indeterminate dimensions. Mannerists sought a continuous refinement of form and concept, pushing exaggeration and contrast to great limits. The results included strange and constricting spatial relationships, jarring juxtapositions of intense and unnatural colours, an emphasis on abnormalities of scale, a sometimes totally irrational mix of classical motifs and other visual references to the antique, and inventive and grotesque pictorial fantasies.
Sarto combined Venetian colours with Florentine disegno, producing mainly religious pieces. Disegno is “drawing” or “design” is the foundation for any artistic endeavor and tries to approximate nature. For the Florentines artists, the act of drawing was not only the art of using line to define form: it was the artistic underpinning of a work whereby an artist could express his inner vision.

As noted earlier, from a young age Del Sarto’s was an accomplished draughtsman, his drawings are highly respected, especially his numerous works in chalk and red chalk. His drawings are refreshingly natural, marked by skillful arrangements and groupings of figures, harmonious coloration and a graceful composition in combination with clever drawing.

Del Sarto’s used Venetian colour which is softer and less vivid than Florentine color. Venetian color application suggests form without sharp edges, creating a difficult to achieve sense of depth and realism.  Focusing more on the process of layering and blending colors to achieve a glowing richness while remaining naturalistic.

Best Known Works

Del Sarto is best known for his painting of the Last Supper and the Madonna of the Harpies. The first work of Del Sarto’s that spurred my interest was the Last Supper at San Salvi. He worked on this fresco of this ancient Vallombrosan monastery from 1511 until 1527.

The scene takes place in a very plain setting. As noted, with the mannerist style the setting tends to be plain and subdued while the grouping of figures is dynamic and draws the eye around the picture plane.  Clearly Del Sarto was knowledgeable of Leonanrdo’s fresco of the Last supper when he painted his rendition. The impact and movement of Leonardo's figural composition have been moderated by Del Sarto. Del Sarto chose to depict the moment Christ reveals that someone will betray him, “the one who will betray me for a piece of dipped bread”, he depicts in the center of the fresco Jesus passing a piece of bread to Judas who is seated next to him rather than at the other end of the table as is the usual convention.

The Personages’ painted in the fresco appear to be portraits rather than idealized inventions. The apostles are represented without halos and they are depicted emotionally astonished and upset. All of these elements come together to make Andrea's narrative more human and touching; it reduces the heroic drama of gestures and figures. It shows a nearly enclosed hall, in whose articulations the row of apostles is embedded. The community at table with Christ is given a formal pendant in the form of a window loggia. A charming, anecdotal subsidiary motif results: two servants are conversing in the central opening. Above the entire scene is a large arch painted with medallions displaying the Trinity and the saint protectors of the Vallombrosan Order.
At the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, there are a number of self-portraits by Del Sarto and his Madonna and the Harpies. Originally completed in 1517 for the convent of San Francesco dei Macci, the altarpiece now resides in the Uffizi. The reason this piece was called Madonna of the Harpies is the figures on the carved pedestal below. In this piece Del Sarto depicts the Virgin Mary and child on a pedestal flanked by angels and two saints, Saint Bonaventure or Francis and John the Evangelist on the right. I am drawn into Del Sarto’s work through his rendering of clothing. I think his drapery and cloth work is stunning. St. Francis on the left has clothing which serves as a great example of Del Sarto’s clothwork. It is crisp and almost metallic, while remaining soft and deep and dimensional.  This work is pyramidal shaped in composition with deep shadows resonating from behind the figures allowing them to appear to pop out of the picture plane. 
In my own art practice, I have always had a real challenge in creating depth and illusionistic space, this can be attributed to skillful use of values. Which brings me Del Sarto’s most ambitious monument, the studio frescos he created around 1511 for the brotherhood in the Chiostro dello Scalzo.  Here Andrea del Sarto painted frescos on the subject of the life of John the Baptist and the Baptism of Christ a gray on gray monochrome (grisaille).The cloister garden paintings have been outside for 500 years and have survived in fantastic condition. Here one can learn a lot from his use of values.  Young artists use to visit these frescos and make studies of how the masters utilize chiaroscuro.

Below we can see how Del Sarto depicts the virtues, Faith, Hope and charity figures are drenched in light over a medium valued backdrop. The shadows are deep and dark below. Showing skillful use of value to differentiate the background and foreground elements. He skillfully represents 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional surface just with his use of lights and darks.  Some characters have less deep values to give them less emphasis in the overall compositions while important central figures like the Christ appear more predominant because of a greater range of values.  This draws your eyes to the most important elements. Deep shadows and bright highlights help draw your eye through his dynamic compositions.

Del Sarto’s work really popped out for me. I think in part I am inspired by it in order that I can learn from the things I most admire in his work and study them so that I may apply them to my own.  In looking at these works for their skillful use of dark and lights or chiaroscuro, and having great examples in his grisaille frescos one can see why he is a hugely influential high renaissance painter. I not only value his work but how he masterfully applies his values.


Aston, Margaret ed. The Panorama of the Renaissance. Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Fantechi, Chiara Migliorini. Florence Guide to the City. Florence, Italy: Editrice Giusti de Becocci S.r.l., 2005

Shearman, John K.G ed. Andrea Del Sarto Italian Painter.  Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014.

Sorabella, Jean. Venetian Color and Florentine Design. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vefl/hd_vefl.htm (October 2002)

Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Artists. Translated by George Bull. Baltimore: Penguin, 1965. A widely available English translation of the sixteenth-century Italian original.

Additional Online Resources: