Yesterday I found myself back at the NGA beginning a new copy. This time, I am focusing my effort on Vincent Van Gogh’s still-life painting of Roses.
The copy is a commission, a thoughtful husband wants to celebrate his upcoming 10th wedding anniversary by surprising his wife. Vincent Van Gogh's Roses is an important painting, he proposed to her in front of this painting... I think this is one of the most romantic gestures I have ever heard of and I feel so honored to be a part of it.
Because Van Gogh’s painting technique is all about decisive brushstrokes, impasto paint application, and bold color, I am beginning this copy by first completing 8x10 studies at 100% scale of sections of the painting. These studies will give me a chance to practice his paint application technique.
When copying a painting with such energetic paint handling it is very important to move with confidence and speed. My mentor, Danni Dawson, always asserts that when copying such work, it is more important to capture the sense of gesture and emotion rather than copy each exact brushstroke. This is because people are drawn to confidence and mastery of the medium that is exhibited in such paintings.
So if you intend to copy a Van Gogh or a Frans Hals, it is important come with a strong understanding of the subject and the paint process, that is, the sequence of layers of paint to lay down first, second, and third, and so forth…
My goal with completing this first study was to get used to the way Van Gogh was likely to paint this subject matter. I wanted to learn about the sequencing of this painting, how he used color, texture, and pattern, combining all these aspects into a single composition.
I began with a Prussian blue mixture, by blocking in the main shapes of a specific area of the painting, an area that had some of the background, table surface, the clay vase, and various rose foliage. Most of the roses were painting directly on the canvas surface with patches of the cream canvas tone peaking through, only a few areas were painted on top of previous layers of paint, making this painting an interesting one that requires a lot of pre-planning on my part.
With this study, I learned a lot about how Van Gogh layered color and used value to create visual depth.
At the end of the day I scraped down what I had painted, because I want to complete another study next week and investigate another area of the painting before I dive into the full-size version.