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  • Writer's pictureIoana

Church Challenge

Back in January, a lovely Romanian lady commissioned me a watercolour as a gift for her husband's birthday. She loved it, he loved it, and so happy were they that they said in one voice: "you have to do one for our good friend - sometime in May she's going to move in a new house; she did her studies in Iasi and she loves the architecture of that city!" I asked them if they had in mind a particular building and they replied: "oh yes, indeed: Trei Ierarhi Church!"

Now, that is a beautiful building for sure. But to draw that at small scale? Almost impossible. You see, the church is rightfully famous for the stone decoration all around it, covering the entirety of its facade in an intricate lacery of more than 30 different layers. Here's a photo to give you a clue.

Time passed, the Covid crisis came, we all scrambled too keep busy and somewhat sane. I nearly forgot about that possible commission. Apart from homeschooling my kid, cooking as usual, and successfully moving my math tutoring online, I kept drawing, mostly flowers as a reminder that spring will nevertheless come, Christ will rise again (cyclically speaking - he rose once and good!) and all will be back to "normal" soon enough. And then I got a phone call from my former clients: "hey, it's almost May - would you have time for that painting?"

Another challenge for the crisis. OK, bring it on! So I spent a few days wrecking my brains to find out a way to represent that on an approximately letter size format. And ...Eureka!! My brain produced a memory of the graphic presentation classes in university, about thirty years ago (man, I'm not that old, aren't I? I guess I must be happy I don't feel that!). At that time, we were studying various ways to represent architectural details a la Beaux Arts - mind you, a very handy technique to have under one's belt. So set I up to enlarge the format slightly on the horizontal to basically support two drawings instead of one: that of a detail and that of the perspective of the church per se.

Get the idea? It was rather difficult to find some pictures on the net of the stone details, but I did! I completed the sketch in 0.1 fine-liner then I started rendering in watercolour.

The stone is rather beige in real life, however in order to give the drawing a bit of a punch, I've worked with subsequent layers and reached darker tones of light browns. These made the drawing of the detail three dimensional. In order to achieve that, you'd have to have a good understanding of shadows and how geometry of every single surface works upon encounter with light.

I chose to incorporate the small window (which exists in reality) in this detail as a reminder of the period this drawing was completed - when windows across the world turned into veritable connecting features between the "inside" and the "outside" for many people under lockdown.

Instead of separating this architectural detail from the church perspective with a definite "frame", I chose to make it 'melt' into the tall fir-tree which is part of the perspective composition. This is the end product and the clients were ecstatic!

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