“The Letter” has been carefully crafted with the finest materials available, using traditional techniques that have been passed down from artist to artist for over six centuries.
The Finest Materials
To begin, a hardboard panel is cut to the exact desired dimension. It is then coated with several layers of sealant to prevent damage over time from moisture and humidity. Only those panels which lay perfectly flat are selected.
A piece of prepared linen is glued to the panel. Only the finest Belgian linen is used – woven from flax grown in the fields of Western Flanders. The linen was produced by a firm that has been run by the same family for over a century. Made in small batches according to a formula hundreds of years old, it is an exacting process taking several weeks to complete. When glued to the panel, it forms a solid, durable, and archival foundation – this painting is meant to be enjoyed for generations.
Only the best paints are used, often made with pigments from the furthest corners of the Earth: Bohemian Green… Chinese Vermillion… Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan. Paints are chosen for richness of color, proper handling, and above all stability and durability. Again, this artwork is intended to last for a very long time.
This painting was created entirely by direct observation from life – photography was not used in the process. The arrangements of objects are often set up in a large shadow box next to the easel. This allows careful control of the lighting and precise positioning of the composition.
Several small “thumbnail” sketches are made in pencil first, determining the overall design and placement of objects. A “color study” follows. This is a small version of the painting done without much detail. It enables a deeper understanding of the main colors, and also serves as a sort of dress rehearsal for the main work.
Once the preparatory studies are complete, the composition is drawn onto the linen panel using light charcoal. The main shapes and placements are set down with as much precision as possible, but very little fine detail is recorded at this point.
A simplified version of the painting in black and white is then done on top of the charcoal sketch. This is known as an “underpainting”. It establishes significant forms and shapes in the composition, and works out important gradations of light and dark – known to artists as “value” – independent of the complexities of working with full color.
After several days, the underpainting is sufficiently dry for the color layer – this is what you see when you look at a finished painting. Color is applied directly on top of the underpainting, often in very thin transparent washes. Known as “glazing”, these washes can create a jewel-like depth and sparkling transparency of color that cannot be achieved in any other way.
The Fruits of Patient Effort
Once complete, the painting must dry completely before a protective layer of varnish is applied and it can be fitted into its frame. From start to finish, a painting such as this one can take up to several months to complete.
“The Letter” measures 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm), and is presented in a 3.5 inch wide gold-leaf frame, the outer dimensions of which are 15 x 17 inches (38 x 43 cm). Felt pads are affixed to each corner of the back of the frame to prevent any damage to your wall and to ensure that the painting rests perfectly parallel to the wall.
It is ready for your collection today.
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