About midway through Part 3 I decided on using a mannequin’s head as my subject for Assignment 4. I remember reading on either an OCA or Flickr forum that Clive recommended using an subject that had texture as well as colour for the subject. So I sourced a mannequin’s head with a wig, coloured eyes and lips, hoping that would be fine.
I’ve drawn up a mind map to help me along. Its a loose plan as I don’t want to plan this assignment too tightly as I’d like the freedom to be able to go off on a tangent if something inspires me.
My first source of inspiration was OCA student, Tim Dunk’s giraffe. I immediately began thinking up all sorts of settings for my mannequin’s head. In a forest, alley, through a window … but with no crew to help, this would only possible if the weather was fine. The first available weekend I roped my husband in to give me a hand and we set off for Rice Lake. It is a heavily forested area very popular with hikers and I found a clearing that had interesting stumps, logs, moss and old fashioned water furrows next to a hiking trail and started to set up. I tried to ignore the weird looks I was getting as hikers watch me place the head into hollow tree stumps, on logs and on tree roots. That must have given them something to talk about on their hike.
Below are two photos I took in the forest. The first one isn’t too bad, but should have been lit from above, not below. The second was my attempt at backlighting, but the stump the subject is standing on has been cut skew and there is no horizon fix for that as that would turn the trees on their sides. As it was pretty cold out and my flash’s batteries died on me fairly early on I resorted to taking some natural light photos, but the focus was too soft. My camera does not handle low light very well.
I had at least identified a few problem areas I was having, so once my batteries were charged up again I set about working out those issues indoors (sadly the rain had set in).
I looked at many of Rembrandt van Rijn’s work online, specifically his portraiture work. He made use of window light, or skylight light and this is how the little triangular patch of light under the eye came to be named after him. His images are dark and sombre, but light where he wants to draw the viewer’s attention to.
I then turned to Caravaggio, who is supposed to be the master of chiaroscuro.
Caravaggio used concentrated light in his paintings, which help to evoke a lot of emotion. Although his chiaroscuro work is dark, with deep shadows I am more drawn to his people in his paintings than Rembrandt’s (the exception possibly being The Nightwatch). The three examples of Rembrandt’s work above have a muddier tone to them, while Caravaggio’s two examples have a radiant clarity. There is more contrast and colour in Caravaggio’s work than in Rembrandt’s.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking through Joe McNally’s books, The Moment it Clicks and The Hotshoe Diaries. I have such respect for Joe’s work. He really does go to all sorts of lengths to create his photographs. I also spent time looking at Francis Giacobetti’s website. I find his work really amazing and inspiring and I think I will see if I can try something along some of the lines in his Cuba Music series for my assignment. I particularly like his use of colour and chiaroscuro and the way he uses light in what he calls “unnatural ‘light accidents”, like pencil lines.” I think between Joe McNally and Francis Giacobetti, I should be able to bring this assignment home.
Caravaggio. The Conversion of St Paul. [online image]. Caravaggio the complete works. Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. Available from: http://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/The-Conversion-of-St-Paul.html [Accessed 8 February, 2015]
Caravaggion. St Francis in Ecstacy. [online image]. Caravaggio the complete works. Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. Available from: http://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/St-Francis-in-Ecstasy.html [Accessed 8 February, 2015]
Giacobetti, Francis [online]. Francis Giacobetti. Available from: http://www.francisgiacobetti.com/work/ [Accessed 5 February, 2015]
van Rijn, Rembrandt (c. 1658/1660). Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan. [painting: oil on canvas transferred to canvas]. [online image]. Widener Collection. Accession No. 1942.9.68. Image Use open access. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington. Available from: https://images.nga.gov/en/asset/show_zoom_window_popup_img.html?asset=19903 [Accessed 8 February, 2015]
van Rijn, Rembrandt (1661). The Circumcision. [painting: oil on canvas]. [online image]. Widener Collection. Accession No. 1942.9.60. Image Use open access. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington. Available from: https://images.nga.gov/en/asset/show_zoom_window_popup_img.html?asset=19785 [Accessed 8 February, 2015]
van Rijn, Rembrandt (1659). Self-Portrait. [painting: oil on canvas]. [online image]. Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Accession No. 1937.1.72. Image Use open access. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington. Available from: https://images.nga.gov/en/asset/show_zoom_window_popup_img.html?asset=18452 [Accessed 8 February, 2015]