Week 1: Miss Juliana Willoughby by George Romney
I switched my painting day to Thursday because it turns out Thursdays are not as busy as Mondays are at the museum, and lately I have the attention span of a gnat, so the constant distractions and interuptions from curious museum visitors wanting to ask me questions means I was not getting much done or would lose my train of thought while working on the copy. Which in the long run would make me cranky and then in the evening I would come home and regret that maybe I had been a little crisp or sharp with someone who was just enjoying their visit to the museum and was curious to know more about what I was doing... I am hoping this new day will bring about a better balance of interaction with visitors and time to focus on my painting process.
For this copy I decided to begin a bit differently than I did for the Young Girl Reading painting. I did a bit of research and learned that George Romney liked to start a painting on a light gray ground. I also went back and re-read parts of Harold Speed's book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials, specifically re-reading Chapter IX, Painting from the Life and the sections with notes on Reynolds and Gainsborough, who were contemporaries of George Romney. This chapter also has as a great description of a portrait painting demonstration from life using a very limited palette.
Using the demonstation from the book as my starting off point I decided to apply the same limited palette to this copy, the only colors used were Ivory Black, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Naples Yellow, Venetian Red, and Cremnitz White, with a smidgen of Veridian used for the trees in the background. This was my first time really using such a limited palette, especially in the reds and I was totally amazed by the variety of warms and cools you could accomplish with this one color depending on what you mixed with it.
Here are a few quotes from Chapter IX that I have found very helpful while working on this painting:
. Fine coloring usually results from a simple palette the range of which has been fully used. (pg. 143) . [at the starting phase of a painting]...do not attempt any more complications in your tones. Keep them plat and simple at first. But put all your finishing work into refining the edges everywhere. ...All such edges can only be done well when the tones on both sides are still wet. And they are easier to do when there is no detail in the tones to interfere with the free swinging of your brush along them. Such conditions only occur at this stage; and if your work dries and they are not completed you have to go over the whole process again. (pg. 150) . Always paint with the least amount of paint that will get the effect you want. Reserve thick paint for those occasions when you want to make a crisp touch quite separate from what it is painted into. (pg. 151)
I tried to keep in mind these major points but looking at the photos of my painting today I realize that I may need to go over the entire piece again to refine my edges more and to make sure all things are measuring out correctly.
This Thursday I will head back into the museum to work some more on this painting, I am planning on working until the end of June on this piece, so I may or may not finish this copy, depending on how my energy level plays out... Tomorrow is June 1st and I am now entering into the last two months of the pregnancy. So I expect to be slowing down some... I do know that at the end of the day my brain is usually mush.
There is still a lot to get done before the little one arrives so some time will also have to be dedicated to that preparation as well...