Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on the lady in the background pictured below and which finally marks the definitive beginning of a whole series/collection I want to create, namely, The Greek Collection.I have all these ideas in my head and I have a chronic habit of flying from one to another because in my head it’s already done and I get bored with it 😆 and these relief art pieces take a while to complete.
So anyway, as I write this I’ve just about finished her except for some minor details but I’ve been hanging back from posting any work-in-progress images on social media, a) because I don’t want to bore you, b) because I don’t want to jinx myself and c) I thought it would ‘look’ better (aka more professional) if I already had a body of work to show before posting bits n pieces.
To be honest I sometimes wonder if anybody really gives a flying toss about what I’m doing, or not 😆 does it really matter? I also realize that nothing I do will ever be as perfect or as finished as I would like it to be and I think that’s why I continue creating and experimenting and pushing my boundaries and (trying to) get out of my comfort zone.
Amalia is one of the more recognizable traditional costumes of Greece introduced by Queen Amalia who ruled as wife of King Otto of Greece from 1837-1862 when they were expelled from the country following an uprising. She ‘created’ this national costume in an effort to establish a unifying symbol of Greek identity. Although the Amalia costume is no longer considered to be a symbol of identity for the Greek nation it is still one of the more popular costumes worn on major Greek national holidays and most commonly depicted on souvenirs together with the Evzones (Greek presidential guards) costume with the ‘foustanella’ (many-pleated skirt).
As my primary reference for my first ‘Amalia’, I chose the photo above of a costume dating to the late 19th century and which belongs to the Metaxa family of Nafplio. It can be seen in the Folklore Museum of Peloponnesus in Nafplio. My greatest challenge was in how to depict the brocade fabric of the skirt with the pyrograph.
The Amalia dress can vary in colour versions as can be seen in the image above, also dating to the late 19th century and which can be seen at the same museum as above. The image below (unknown owner) is yet one more (of many) colour variations to the original.
The Amalía dress (created by Queen Amalia below) follows the Biedermeier style, with a loose-fitting, white cotton or silk shirt, often decorated with lace at the neck and handcuffs, over which a richly embroidered jacket or vest is worn, usually of dark blue or claret velvet. The skirt was ankle-length, unpressed-pleated silk, the colour usually azure. It was completed with a soft cap or fez with a single, long, golden silk tassel, traditionally worn by married women, or with the kalpaki (a toque) of the unmarried woman, and sometimes with a black veil for church. This dress became the usual attire of all Christian townswomen in both Ottoman Empire-occupied and liberated Balkan lands as far north as Belgrade.
Back to my artwork…..
I start out with some sketches of what I might do…
Up until my most recent artwork, ‘Minoan Offering‘, I have been working mostly in acrylics, but now I can see myself becoming more partial to using oils in my artwork. The depth and saturation of colours, the yummy factor of how thick and smoothly they can be applied as well as the length of extended time that I can work (and rework if necessary) are all elements that are weighing positively for me. The only downside is the amount of drying time before I can varnish.
It was quite unusual for me to use an earthy tone for the background….at this point I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do with the background. This is where my photoshop skills came in really handy! Instead of trying out various colours and wasting both time and valuable paint I photographed my artwork and worked on the background in photoshop. When I was pleased with how my chosen apple green might work with it I went ahead and applied it for real.
After working on yet more detail I was still unhappy with the background – in particular the thick black outline I’d left. So I worked on it some more…..