Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Portrait of a Theorbo Player

It's not every day that you get to paint a theorbo, which is sort of a lute on steroids.

When I heard that theorbo specialist Simon Martyn-Ellis would be playing in Poughkeepsie, I made sure to get a seat in the front row.
I used watercolor pencils to outline the shapes. I painted the black areas with two water brushes, one filled with water and the other filled with dark gray water-soluble ink. I had all those tools ready in the left hand before the concert started so I wouldn't have to reach in my bag or move too much.

During intermission I painted the background and the skin tones with gouache and did the lettering with a fountain pen, then spent the second half of the concert finishing the details. 

"Soldier Playing the Theorbo" by Meissonier, oil on wood
8.5 x 11.5 inches, in the Met's collection, but not on view
In the back of my mind was this small study by Ernest Meissonier, where I first became aware of the theorbo.
Previous posts on sketching at concerts:
The Orchestra Now
James Bagwell Conducts
Maestro Bagwell
James Bagwell at a Rehearsal
The "Flash-Glance" Method
Gouache portrait of an Irish whistle player
Sketching a vocal concert  
Violinist in ink wash
Horn Player
Mirko Listening
Club Passim Gig
Shapewelding Sketching 
The Cello and the Pencil
Mass in C
Handel's Messiah
GurneyJourney YouTube channel
My Public Facebook page
GurneyJourney on Pinterest
JamesGurney Art on Instagram
@GurneyJourney on Twitter


A Colonel of Truth said...

Nice. As ever, the challenge is finding the right key.

Steve said...

And remaining unobtrusive, trying not to stick your neck out..or fret too much.

Jim Douglas said...

Jim, after following your creative habits for years now I've gleaned you often make a sketch study of a subject then move on to a new subject to make a fresh start. New sketchbook page, new subject. Sketches, especially ones as excellent as yours, can certainly stand on their own as works of art, but do you ever have the urge to develop a sketch and produce a larger scale work based on it? I've only known you to develop sketches into a larger piece of artwork as part of a commission, and I'm curious to know if you ever follow that rhythm when making art for yourself.

gyrusdentus said...

"on steroids".
That made my day :D.
Nice work and great lettering, as usual.

jeffkunze said...

It would be interesting to be in an alternate universe where the Theorbo was as popular as the guitar.

krystal said...

reminds me of this: DIY Contact Mic - Collin's Lab

James Gurney said...

Jeff, yes, that alternate universe couldn't have crowded bars, or that long neck would poke people's eyes out.

Thanks, Gyrus.

Good ones, Steve and Colonel. I like it anagramized: "He, Robot."

Jim, good question, and thanks for the compliment. As you say, my sketchbooks are very much an end in themselves, a way of seeing and sharing the world. I'm not doing those paintings to sell, and am trying to make a living in other ways. Keeping the paintings bound in sequence in a book offsets the limitation of not being able to frame them individually on the wall. At the same time my sketchbook paintings (maybe I should call them "studies" rather than "sketches" are valuable to me as a means to at least three other goals. One, of course is video production. The instructional documentaries are one of my primary creative outlets at the moment. Also, I do use my sketchbooks as reference when doing studio work. And finally, funny you should ask, because I just completed two larger separate paintings that will be the subject of the next video. I haven't really shared them on the blog yet. They're both concept art (imaginative) pieces, created entirely on location. Compared to the little sketchbook pages, 11x14 and 12 x 16 seemed huge.

Roberto said...

or... Hero Bot.