A master’s palette
Illustrator Anand Radhakris hnan paints a narrative picture using colours from the palette of famous Italian master Antonio Mancini
Anand is a freelance illustrator who works in Mumbai, India, and has recently forayed into the world of sci-fi and fantasy illustration. You can see more of Anand’s work at www.anandrk.tumblr.com.
Mancini was known to have a combination of sensitivity and energy in his paintings, a lot of which had children and women as the subjects. I’m amazed at the way he treated his subjects with softness, yet kept images vibrant and full of life.
Most master artists have a certain amount of restraint in the colours they use: in other words, they have a limited palette. Mancini started painting at a very young age and his work evolved through various stages, from studying under Domenico Morelli to eventually being inspired by the impressionists and their loose brushstrokes. John Singer Sargent once famously said Mancini was the greatest living artist. While I think the ability to use a limited colour palette so effectively comes from many years of regular practice, it can at least be understood by copying or emulating the master’s work.
Here I try to take a couple of Antonio Mancini paintings, break them down and use his colour palette for a narrative illustration that depicts an untold scene from the HP Lovecraft short story The Dunwich Horror. The young yet abnormally tall and goat-like Wilbur Whateley is going through his grandfather’s books looking for a lost page of the Necronomicon, when he happens to see a dog at the door. Dogs dislike Wilbur because of his strong stench and he’s killed by one when he breaks into the Miskatonic University to steal a copy of the infamous tome.
1 Understanding the palette
Mancini used a variety of colour schemes and techniques, so for simplicity I’ve chosen two paintings that share a common palette and subject matter. Using Photoshop’s Color Picker tool I divide colours into warm greys, cool greys and accents.
2 Value study
After a round or two of rough pencil sketches, I fix on a composition and do a black and white study in graphite to understand the value scheme I want to follow for the final painting. This doesn’t have to be super finished, but it’s essential to avoid a lot of guess work during the final stages. Because the light falling on the ground is so strong, I treat it as my primary light source along with some ambient light.
3 Underpainting and first pass
Keeping the value study in mind, I start on the canvas with acrylic very quickly and lay in the basic shapes. While applying my first thin pass of oil, I’m mindful of local colour (mostly warms) and the light source, and how it affects the objects in the composition and the colour palette.
4 Thin and thick application
Now I use thicker paint on some areas while leaving some areas thin, to create contrast in paint application. I also start to observe and implement Mancini’s palette more in this step while working on smaller shapes and defining forms.
5 Applying the palette and finishing
I keep working on smaller shapes and forms until I’m finished. I try to take as much as I can from Mancini’s palette, such as alternating between cool and warm greys for most of the painting, and using reds in accents to move the eye of the viewer around the painting. However, it’s still quite different compared to Macini’s work, because of my chosen value scheme.
The accents of reds help the eye to move around the painting.
Notice how most of the picture is painted using greys and tertiary colours.
The secondary focal point. The primary focal point.
Accents of colour.
A pattern helps to add some interest to the wall, while still reading as a flat surface. Using lost edges is a great way to let the viewer fill in the gaps and add sophistication to your painting. I use these as elements to help the viewer’s eye move from the character to the light.
I try out a profile silhouette of the dog to make it look more intimidating, but I later revert to my original idea.
Shadows of warmly lit objects are usually said to be cool. Creating texture and hatching patterns at this stage helps because they often show through later, under the thicker layers of paint.
I create this texture by dabbing paint on the canvas with the brush. I retain this thinly applied section of the folds from my first pass. The thickly painted areas on the face make it look more threedimensional and textured, because they’re placed next to the flat and thinly painted background.