Donato’s Painting Joan of Arc DVD.

Maybe you live in a place without art schools, maybe you can’t afford art school, or maybe you just feel lonely when working by yourself in the studio all day. One of the fantastic innovations brought by digital cameras and editing technology is the possibility to make instructional videos  that are both affordable and specialized. That means that even if your potential market is somewhat limited, you can make a DVD or a downloadable video and have reasonable expectations that it will cover it’s costs. This has led to a boon of new material in the field of illustration.

I have a few DVDs and quite a bunch of downloaded videos (all legit!) but I’m going to start with the most recent one: Donato Giancola‘s Painting Joan of Arc (link to product description on Donato’s site.) This is Donato’s second DVD, the first being The Mechanic, produced by Massive Black/ Both follow the process involved in producing a finished oil painting.

The trailer

The review

I put this DVD on my second monitor while I was working on Photoshop. I did miss  a few little details, but I still got most of it. Donato takes the viewer from the idea behind the piece to the finish. He  covers thumbnails, drawing on top of them to explain what he’s trying to achieve with each composition and how each thumbnail builds on the previous ones. The viewer gets to see not only what he does, but also why.  The motivation and emotion behind the piece is given a prominent place in this video, it’s not a nuts and bolts, Bob Ross like process, and it will not hold you by the hand to do your own just like it.

The painting itself, while being figurative and highly rendered, has a fairly abstract composition and I’m not sure the composition concepts seen in the video are accessible to someone just starting to paint. I have heard Donato talk about composition several times and I’m still not sure how well I understand his approach.

After the thumbnail phase is done, we are shown a short segment  where Donato shoots his references, and then compiles them into a composite image that will be the guideline for the definitive piece. This painting is done on primed plywood so we see how the surface is prepared and how the drawing is transferred onto the surface.

Then there is a acrylics under-painting phase, a short palette set up phase and he jumps straight into painting a guy’s hand. This hand in turn becomes the baseline against which values and colours of other parts of the painting are compared. Obviously, some parts are skipped or accelerated because it takes way more than 4 hours to paint something like that but we follow Donato as he paints the main faces, some chain-mail and plate-mail, a banner, hair and the important part is the running commentary as he paints on what he’s doing and why he’s doing it like that. Sometimes he has to make hard choices and he narrates his decision taking process as it happens.


There also are a few more general advice but I think the strength of this video is to follow a master as he builds his piece, one decision at a time. Donato considers the emotional and narrative impacts of his piece even more than the visual impact and he never talks down to the viewer. So my take is this is a great educational DVD, but it might be more appropriate for someone with basic knowledge of painting and composition than a complete neophyte.

A WiP by DOnato at IMC 2011

This is a work in progress shot of Donato’s Frodo painting that he was working on at the IMC 2011. We can see the drawing itself, parts are just washed in acrylics and the one foot is refined in oils, becoming the standard for the rest of the painting. As you can see, this is a fairly unconventional composition.


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