Master study, John Singer Sargent's 'El Jaleo' / by ciro correia

Welcome to my new blog - 'Sketched'. I should probably have said this in my last post since that was the first blog entry on my new system, but hey this still works. I don't know why I resisted updating my website and streamlining all my net dealings before. I suspect that it had to do with the time needed to consistently update a website - somehow I've managed it without any loss to my other vital areas. So welcome to and 'Sketched'. I'm hoping to post updates on my illustration, design and art. I'll be posting concerning building skills, design principles and other educational matters to do with illustration and design. I'm also hoping to get some posts from contributors, other artists and designers and their ideas. I won't always be posting my best and polished work here so don't judge me by the images I choose to post, this blog is very much about the processes of building skills or shaping concepts. It's also about sharing my work, love and interests.

This month's master study is 'El Jaleo' by John Singer Sargent. Sargent's work is hugely influential to many artists, illustrators and designers - myself included. My aim in doing a master study is almost never to finish the piece. I'm not trying to reproduce the work but by painting the piece I enter into what I can only describe as a dialogue with the work and the artist's techniques. It's weird, I know but I find that I enter into a meditative space where I learn from the artist's work.

El Jaleo is a dramatic painting, Sargent captures the mood and atmosphere in the scene by his use of light, palette and tension created by his brush strokes and how he has posed the subjects. The room feels like a stage, the floor and space gives us this impression. The light is dramatic to heighten the scene. Movement is captured by the tension Sargent creates - the light comes from below and at an angle, the shadows cast against the wall are as much a subject as the dancer and those sitting against the walls either playing instruments or clapping in adoration. 

Speed paint master study: Most of the picture has been roughed in, I go in afterwards and paint over the basic shapes to refine the image. The only area where I chose to work in some detail is the dancer's head and her right arm. Sargent's brush strokes are very loose and yet he manage's to capture incredible detail and nuance.

Learning from painting El Jaleo: Dramatic light, using contrastive and dramatic values to highlight and create tension. The palette is uncomplicated - browns, reds, orange, black and white. The greys are largely warm. Brush strokes are loose and I think worked over each other with fluid movements - finding larger shapes and breaking down these into smaller visual elements. Detail is kept to key areas to heighten the drama.

The main area of my study - the dancer's head and right arm - zoomed in. You can find a photo of the original painting here:

Note: This painting was used as a basis by Paul-Emile Becat, a French Graphic artist known for his erotic illustrations, for an illustration for 'La Femme et Le Pantin'  a novel by Pierre Louys  (1898) (please note, Paul-Emile Becat's work is not meant for those with weak constitutions and will more than likely offend many). 'La Femme et Le Pantin' (The woman and the puppet) was made into a silent film in 1920. Marlene Dietrich's 'The Devil is a Woman' (1935) was based on 'La Femme et Le Pantin'. Other films based on the novel are 'That Obscure Object of Desire' and 'The Female'. I find it interesting that in 'That Obscure Object of Desire' the female lead's character is a Flamenco dancer from Seville. It comes all back to this painting somehow or at least Becat's version of it. Becat's illustration