Friday, November 5, 2010

Master Copy Challenge by Mark Cummings

I love doing copies of master painters. Mostly because learning from their success and mistakes, gives me a whole new set of tools to pull out when necessary. This last challenge took me a lot longer than I expected, mostly due to the detailed approach I took to this copy. When Brian threw out the gauntlet of a limited palette, my initial response was one of, ‘how in the world am I going to get my reds the way I want them?’. I am a fan of the cadmiums and not having any on my palette presented a worthy challenge. I’m happy to say I not only produced a piece I’m happy with, but enjoyed the task laid before me.

To begin, I prepped my canvas with a mixture of burnt sienna, raw umber and lead white to create a field color reminiscent of my usual burnt umber and lead white. I chose not to do an elaborate drawing study, but rather went for a direct transfer. I don’t always do this, but since time is something I don’t have lots of these days, I went for the faster route; thus affording me more time do get into the tight details of this amazing portrait.

Using vine charcoal on the back of a black and white print (to size), I did the transfer. Paying attention to major shapes and some minor shapes that brought interest to me.

Next I established a background. In the source image that I worked from, I noticed that the background was divided at the shoulder line and so I established both the deep black of the body to the shoulder line and a dark olive green for the upper part of the painting. Using yellow ochre and black with a hit of raw umber I got the green I was looking for. My initial pass was very thin and broken to allow some of the field color under-painting to show through. Next I started to establish my deep reds around the eyes, ear and nose, then started laying in the collar or ‘rough’ as they’re referred to. (God bless Van Dyck for having to deal with these crazy collars…) My initial lay-in of the collar was more of a thin taupe color using raw umber, yellow ochre and white to give the collar atmosphere. It’s not white, it just has white highlights.

After laying-in the collar I did a dead color pass. Getting large areas of color established but keeping them overall grey and very thin except for the highlights. I believe a big part of the success of this painting is in the heavy impastos versus the very thinly painted areas that create a sense of depth. Unfortunately I didn’t have panel handy to do this copy like the original in which Van Dyck used these incredible impastos. My photos don’t translate my impastos as well as the actual piece, but there is a ton of paint on his forehead, crest of the nose and different parts of the collar.

After establishing the basic values, I then went into finishing, always paying close attention to the original and concentrating on the fact that the original also is nearly 400 years old so it’s a bit dirty. Keeping in mind that a lot of the darkness around some of the impastos is dirt, I tried to paint more from what I though Van Dyck was thinking to do with his brush strokes to create the form and highlights.

The final product came out well and I’ve learned a lot from this one. I’m not sure I’m going to toss my regular palette of colors out, but I do like the idea of limiting the palette for different paintings in the future. Thanks for the fun challenge Brian, sorry I took so long to finish it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Master Copy Challenge by Brian MacNeil

Master copies have always been a joy for me. I feel I am really able to learn the language of oil painting by trying to reproduces these amazing works. With each painting I witness may vocabulary broadening with new understanding of how the materials flow. Another benefit I've found with Master Copies is a new sense of design. The painters of the past, well at least the painters I look up to seem to portray there subjects with more style and vigor. For example the elegance of many Van Dyke's portraits is experienced by the elongation of the body, more commonly noticed in the neck and hands he paints. On the other hand the artist Rembrandt designed many of his figures quit stubby and round. In Rembrandt and his many self-portraits the drawing of one is often rather different from an other. The beautiful and amazing thing is that no matter which portrait you are looking at you know it is him. Rembrandt has a way of presenting an intimate scene were we relate and feel apart of. I once heard a story about Annigoni where a lot of his portraits didn't look much like the sitter. The point wasn't so much to get a photo realistic image of the persons but there essence. The part of the person that is felt and not seem by eyes. A sentiment that one feels like a memory or a dream. I believe that is why so many flocked to have there portraits done by Annigoni. They wanted to be transformed into something deeper then the way they looked.
So the importance of Master Copies is that they provide you with information that painting from life cannot. There are tricks and techniques that are not always visible in nature so one can either get real creative or look back to the masters to help us tell our stories. They teach us how to paint lips, what edges to blur, and open our eyes to see what colors are used to make a white drapery.
The Cornelis Van Der Geest has been one of my favorites since I first laid eyes on it. Even today it still gives me goose bumps looking into the gaze of it's eyes. Every time that I am in London I go straight to the National Gallery to see it like i'm visiting an old friend. I never get tired of it. It becomes a new painting every time I study it. Often it makes me want to give up painting all together when I think about the fact that at the age of 19 Van Dyke painted this marvelous and sophisticated head.
First off i made a pencil drawing to place all the features to get familiar with the shapes and tonal relationships. I find it useful to make this drawing first because the whole time that I am drawing I am imaging my plan of attack. It may seem like an extra step but in my experience it saves me time in the long run. By the time I have brush in hand I have already painted it several times in my head working out all the kinks.
basic block-in
pencil drawing heightened with chalk

After I have transferred the drawing to canvas I use Raw Umber and Lead White to tone and lighten the drawing. I am in a way making a map for my self to follow later on with color. In this study this is the last time I will use Raw Umber.
The underpainting

I left the painting to dry over night and to be economical with time I started in at the lower portion of the head letting the opaque passages of white dry a little bit longer. The colors I have chosen are limited to just Lead White, Yellow Ocher, Burnt Siena and Ivory Black. Also I am using a Sun-Thicken linseed oil medium that I have been told was used by both Rubens and Van Dyke.
First placements of color

In this stage of the painting I have a majority of the colors and tones placed. I'll spend the next day or so fixing the drawing and adjusting the tones and colors. I am very careful no to work too add much color to the forehead at this point. I have keyed the values lighter there with some heavy impastos. I did this because I wanted the the forehead to be of lighter value and higher chroma. To get that affect I will carefully make thin semi-opaque passes over the forehead. Modeling the forms just enough not to end up mud.
Color and tones

More correcting and modeling of small forms. The fancy brush stokes I leave out until I am confident enough that the drawing, hues and tones are relatively in the right places.
smaller forms being modeled
Now with all the guess work behind me I decided to repaint the entire head all over again. I wanted all of the strokes of paint to be painted into the one beside it. Also I was noticing that the flesh was looking a little dull and grey. I tend to like broken color and cooler flesh tones in paintings but this to me as it was lacking uniformity and life. I repainted the head and half the collar in a day. I haven't touched it since because other paintings are taking up my time. 
The unfinished end result
Thank you very much for viewing this work. You may check out the Pushing Pigments Blog to see other artist take on this same task.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My portrait of Jesse Paz

Portrait of Jesse Paz
My prep drawing for Jesse's portrait in pencil

Hey all, this is my portrait of Jesse Paz another artist in the Pushing Pigments project with me. You can also see the portrait he did of me if you visit our blog.
I basically started this painting how i would any other painting lately, with a rough drawing. I find the proportions, contours and shadow shapes and that is enough for me to work off of.
From this point i made an oil transfer with Raw umber and loosely established the shadow patterns. You can find examples of the oil transfer on Douglas Flynt's blog.
Oil sketch of Jesse Paz in Raw Umber

I then chose to start painting from the darkest part of the shadow on the neck. My goal was to paint everything in one pass and not to worry about all the little detail. What is more important to me is developing the form and not letting the drawing get away from me. I also restrict my palette to some basic earth colors such as Raw Siena, Burnt Siena, Ivory Black and Lead White. It is not until i get into the lighter areas of the flesh were i'll switch from Raw Siena to Yellow Ocher.
First painting stage

Now that i have all the basic colors and forms figured out I can go over them and check for mistakes. More so than the color and tones I am worried about the drawing mistakes. In the end it doesn't matter as much what color things are or how expressive the brush work is. I often change to some degree the colors or tones to fit the mood of the piece that i'm going for. If the drawing isn't correct or at least having the shapes work well with each other one may have just an exciting portrait of Quasimodo.
The color, tones and forms blocked in

After I have corrected all the major drawing mistakes I made in the process of adding the color I now have a good base to finish the portrait. This time I work in the halftone and light areas first. I pick one section at a time and take it to a finish leaving the shadow shapes to the very end. The highlights on the cheek, nose and forehead were the finishing touches on this piece. I worked about three days on this portrait one day on the drawing and two to paint it.
Finished Portrait sketch of Jesse Paz

Monday, May 17, 2010

June Challenge!

Ok boys, I hold the floor for this next project. I have chosen to do a master copy. One of my favorite painters Anthony Van Dyck has painted in my opinion one of the best portraits ever. The Cornelis van derGeest is stunning for it's paint quality, simplicity and life likeness. In this project I demand that it must be painted with a limited palette consisting of lead white, yellow ocher, raw umber, ivory black and burnt sienna. The burnt sienna has to be a real natural iron oxide pigment, not a synthetic iron oxide. Brands like Williamsburg, Old Holland and M. Graham are all fine. I myself prefer Williamsburg. In this painting not only the drawing and color matching are important but the heavy impastos also. I'd like to see the same paint quality. The size will be 11 X 14 inches. In fine, lets have at least 5 process photos. Thank you guys. I look forward to seeing how this all works out. ~ Brian David MacNeil.
Finish is due June 16th

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Portrait of Brian by Jessie Paz

This is my painting of Brian. I really enjoyed this sketch just because it was a challenge to get likeness.
My approach to this painting was simple, a quick sketch applied with paint and then painted with thick applications of paint. I kept it very spontanious, alaprima approach. the painting took me two sessions of 2hrs.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Post!

As Mark mentioned this a monthly challenge we have created.  I am excited to see the development of each artist through each month and how we can push each other as artist.  I am thrilled to be a part of this, I love painting and this just gives me more of a reason to paint more.  

This month's challenge we decided to do portraits of each other, I'm painting  Mark's portrait.  Its crazy to see the painting and picture side by side, I can see the areas that need to be fixed.  This is the process though so nothing is final.  

This is the reference shot
This is the beginning of my painting, I can already tell that some areas need to be corrected as far as drawing goes.  Again not the finish so I am glad to see my mistakes this early.  I am starting out with just burnt umber and no mediums, I usually do not add so much detail this early but especially in the shadow shapes but oh well Im having fun!  
I added more tones, I am keeping the whole painting monochromatic for now and build colors on top of it.  I then added the background which has some color and flare to it, not sure if I will keep like that.

I am almost there, working more with the temperature and the fall of light.  I am softening a lot of the edges, this in turn will make all the features even and not have one jump out more than the other.  Have not touched the ear yet which is annoying me but I will get to it next.  Decided to fill in the background more and not make it distracting, I want more of the focus to be on the portrait rather than a loose background that does not mesh well with the portrait.  All right back to work, have to finish!

16 x 20 in
Oil on Masonite
This is the finished painting of Mark, the pic is not the greatest.  I experimented many things with this painting, and learned a lot.  From the last pic I took I have added color, I also went into the hair and added the information there.  What was frustrating about this painting was the surface it was painted on, as soon as I laid any darks down within a couple hours it would sink in which made it hard to judge the  darks to the lights.  I am learning though more about this surface and how to work with it.  The ear and and neck are unfinished as well, payed more attention to the facial area and hair.  I had lots of fun doing the hair, thats where the expressive strokes came in.  Well, we broke the ice with this challenge now on to the next!
Detail of "Mark"

And so it begins...

What started as a facebook chat idea, has now become our first montly painting challenge. Jon sent me his photo, I sent mine to him. Here's the master I'm working from and my initial shape lay in. More to come.

Haven't had a lot of time to spend on this, but plunked in a bit of minor forms and simple value shifts using Burnt Umber and Titanium White. Very little medium. I like to do an underpainting like this before going in with color.

Still not a lot of time to spend, but introduced color and started into some smaller forms. Always enhancing the light and staying as thin as possible in the darks. Not sure if there will be a background, I've been enjoying these studies with just the field color as the background.

More color and more detail, getting closer to the finish.

Finish. Finalized by adding a simple background, it works because of Jon's shaved noggin'. I did some final touches to the ear and then finished the eyes and forehead. Last was the hair and background, merging the two together at points to give depth and adjust focus to the face. Now we have to decide what to do next! (BTW - if you click on this photo, the enlarged version is fairly large, so you can see detail a bit better. Likely I'll take some more detailed photos later with a better camera.)