NGA Copyist Work

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Background Research & the Drawing Salon

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Often when I begin a specific copy I will do some research on the artist I am copying, this involves learning about the specific techniques and color palette he may have used, but it also includes diving into the ideas that informed him as an artist. In the first post about my current copy, Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge, I shared how he was of the Hudson River School (HRS) of painters, but by the time this particular painting was created the Tonalist sensibility had begun to pervade the arts in America, especially those of the landscape. So this painting, a simple scene, is created within a rich milieu of thought and practice.

Three great references for better understanding this era of American art are 1) William Kloss’ DVD lectures on American Art, 2) the book, A History of American Tonalism, and 3) the book, The Hudson River School… Probably the most entertaining of these are the 30 minute lectures by William Kloss, he weaves in the political and social history of the US and how these occurrences influenced the artists, I especially love how he reads the poetry that can sometimes be directly related to a painting.

Typically my ability to research ends with the books, lectures, and personal observation, however for this copy I am fortunate that the NGA also happens to have a special program, the Drawing Salon, and that this February covered the Hudson River School: Tone, Light, and Atmosphere.

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This program included some lecturing on the important ideas that informed this group of artists and some time to sketch in the gallery.

The main thought that was conveyed was that the artists of the Hudson River School believed in the ability of the American landscape to elevate the viewer, that the emotive quality of landscape paintings had and could inspire the viewers to feel more whole and connected with the potential of the United States.  Thomas Cole, considered the founder of the HRS, wanted to use landscape art to look at the present and into the future, inspiring something more, elevating those who viewed his work and to inspire greatness in their actions.

20130207 drawing-salon-2 {The Lackawanna Valley by George Inness, 1855}

During the Drawing Salon, I chose to sketch the painting, The Lackawanna Valley by George Inness, an artist more associated with the Tonalists than the HRS, so I thought it would be fitting to analyze his painting.  This painting was a commission from a railroad company that wanted to feature the new round house built by the company and to highlight the progress made by expanding the track.  If you look closely, you will see that the foreground field and the middle ground fields are dotted with tree stumps, all cut down in the name of "progress" and George Inness portrayed this as not such a great thing in the name of progress.

20130207 drawing-salon-3 {my tonal sketch of the Lackawanna Valley painting}

I was fascinated at how atmosphere was presented in this painting, the lightening of color saturation and how other than the foreground tree it was only the man-made smoke that had the highest contrast.  Making it totally felt that man had a strong presence in this valley.

................................................................................................

Next week I will share how the second painting session of working on my copy, Second Beach, Newport progressed.  Until then, if you would like to learn more about where I started, here is my post about the first painting session.

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 1

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In the early 1880s many of the older Hudson River School painters – Jervis McEntee and Worthington Whittridge … were probably the most successful – did try to adjust their styles to the more progressive, broadly painted, and expressive mode, then the rage…” A History of American Tonalism: 1880-1920 (pg 168)

whitridge-second-beach-newport Worthington Whittredge (artist) American, 1820 - 1910 Second Beach, Newport, c. 1878/1880 oil on canvas overall: 76.8 x 127.6 cm (30 1/4 x 50 1/4 in.) framed: 108 x 158.4 cm (42 1/2 x 62 3/8 in.)

Hello,

Last week I started a new copy at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), it’s a landscape by Worthington Whittridge, Second Beach, Newport. Worthington Whittridge was of the Hudson River School of artists, led by Thomas Cole. However this painting was created around 1878-1880, and incorporates more qualities common with the  Tonalists painters that had begun to be more popular and appreciated for their sense of style.

I chose this painting because I believe it has positive qualities of both schools of thought, and it would be fun to learn how to create a painting that has so much atmosphere along with the fine attention to detail that those of the Hudson River School are renown for.

The last time I was at the NGA copying I was VERY pregnant with Naomi. I stopped going when I was around 30-32 weeks along, so this time back felt like a whole new experience… and the first day back was a bit of a learning curve to get back into the groove.

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I started with the drawing already blocked in with vine charcoal, (I did this at home) and brought it in to lay in the drawing with turp. thinned burnt umber. The reason I did not make the drawing permanent with the burnt umber at home was because sometimes photos do not accurately record important features of a painting, and I wanted to be there in person to make adjustments as would be required. After having the drawing reinforced with thinned oil paint, I wiped the grid away.

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After that I began to block in the painting, going a little darker for the ocean area of the composition. This portion went pretty fast, now comes the challenging phase, figuring out how to proceed so I too can create an equally sensitive painting that includes the variety of texture and dynamic brush work.

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In the afternoon, I began to analyze how this painting was created, and what struck me, was how much texture and the multitude of layers that had been applied. The way some passages are on the canvas informed me that Whittridge would work fast, with medium mixed into his paint, and that all areas seem to have a minimum of 3-4 layers of paint, if not more. There are some very subtle passages of cools being floated or scumbled above warm colors.

In the water area it looks like he used a palette knife to lay paint in, building up texture to resemble the ripples of water. So for my next session, I am going to bring some different mediums, including stand oil, wax medium, and maybe a mixed medium of linseed oil and dammar varnish, also I will plan on bringing a few different palette knives to build up the texture in the water area.

Here are some detail images of the original painting.

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In this photo I tried to capture the texture of the painting, see how the clouds and sea have quite a bit of texture

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The green was scumbled on a creamy underpainting...I am going to have to change that in my painting during the next session...

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The different texture of the sand versus the sea, and how the figure is full of thick impasto paint, making is pop out and be more visible even though it is such a tiny feature of the painting.

20130201-second-beach-newport- session1-5 The variety of layers of paint, some thick, some thin, some obviously suspended in medium, and all the scumbling, so notes of color peep through and make the color dance and sparkle.

Week 3: Miss Juliana Willoughby by George Romney

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week 3: end of day status
{end of day status}

After last week's re-working of the head, face, and straw hat focus shifted down to the torso and dress.

The first thing focused on was working on the arm and hands, then the adjacent areas, this way total control of the edges was possible. So as I worked on an area if it was able to get to a certain level of refinement I would then shift to the neighboring area and work at integrating the two areas.

week 3: end of day status
{detail by the end of the day}

This painting has a lot of loose and expressive brushstrokes and my goal is to capture the spirit of them while not being a slave to each individual brush stroke, so with the skirt of the white dress I tried to keep things loose and flowing.

Week 2: Miss Juliana Willoughby by George Romney

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week 2: end of day status
{end of day status}

Hello,

Yesterday I was back in the gallery working on this copy, and I am happy to say that Thursdays are a great day to paint!

week 2: detail

For this painting session only the hat and face were focused on, I wanted to refine some of the edges and make smoother transitions between the different structural features. I was still trying to keep the shapes big and simple and not putting much effort into the details, however in some ways attention to the details began to creep in... So as a means of keeping me from diving into the details and somewhat limiting the abilty to zero in on the little bits only bristle brushes were used, forcing me to keep things simple.

I maintained the same limited palette as last week {Ivory Black, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Naples Yellow, Venetian Red, and Cremnitz White} while adding alizerin crimson in a few spots.

Week 1: Miss Juliana Willoughby by George Romney

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Hello, This is the new copy I began last week, 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.

week 1: end of day {end of day status}

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.

week 1: end of day detail {end of day status}

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...

Finished: Young Girl Reading by Jean Honore Fragonard

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Final Week: detail of face
{final week: detail of the face at end of day}

Hello,

I have been a bit remiss in keeping you updated about the progress of my copy of a Young Girl Reading by Fragonard. Right before getting sick I had visited the gallery, finishing up the dress and scraping down the face again. So this is how the painting looked at the end of the day three visits ago...

IMG_5801
{week 5: end of day status}

Then after being sick for what seemed like an eternity I was able to get back to the NGA last week Thursday for the sixth time to work on this painting. This is not my typical day, but because of feeling fatigued last week Monday I asked to postpone my painting day to later in the week. This gave me a few more days of rest and enabled me to get a lot done when I was back in the gallery. During the sixth week I totally reworked the face and head, neglecting all other aspects of the composition.

week 6: end of day
{week 6: end of day status}

This Monday I was back on my regular schedule and the goal was to refine different areas of the painting, and to soften the face some...

IMG_5850
{final week: end of day status}

From this experience I gained the knowledge that copying a portrait is a lot more challenging than copying a still life because I found myself warring with my personal inclination of how to apply paint and striving to copy the soft strokes of Fragonard. I wanted both. Then ultimately my personality won and I ended up with a more chromatically charged painting than the original.

This also occurred when painting the copy of the Vase of Flowers.

Because I would like to be able to better emulate the artists I copy, I am going to start a new one immediately, and it is going to be another portrait. I will share details of this new project with you later.

Until then, good night and thanks for stopping by,

Liz

Week 4: Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard

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week 4: end of day
{end of day status}

Yesterday I was back in gallery 55 at the NGA to work on my copy. The day was focused on correcting the structure of the girl's head and then deciding I needed a little more space from the constant re-working of this part of the painting, so I decided to move onto the dress. Instead of trying to copy every single stroke with deliberate control I am trying to capture the energy of the composition and paint the gist of the folds and puckers of the collar and dress.

You will notice that I also laid in the yellow ochre background again, this is because I got the burnt umber ground too dark and thought it would be best if I just went back to the original value of what the ground was. Next week I will go back and lay in the background in again and this time making sure my values are more in line with the original painting.

Thanks for visiting and being a part of this learning process,
Liz

Week 3: Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard

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Last week I was at the NGA to work on the copy of Fragonard's Young Girl Reading on Thursday. For the first part of the day I worked on correcting the structural issues of the painting, working to get the scale of the girl correct. I worked until lunch time on just focusing on this aspect.

The day was a particularly gray and dark day which affects the quality of light of the museum's galleries, something I did not really notice in the morning because I was so intent on correcting the drawing aspect of the painting. It was only when I came back from lunch did the difference really seem aparent to me. Each painting in the gallery has a spotlight that has a warm tint to it, where the easels are solely reliant on the natural light that filters into the galleries via the skylights above. This difference in light quality was affecting my ability to get color and value accuracy because the light on the painting was so different than the light on my canvas.

Here is a photo taken just after lunch with my painting on the easel and the original on the wall.

week 3: middle of the day
{middle of day status - with different light qualities}

Here is another photo where I set my painting under the original painting to compare color and value differences. See the light ground behind the pillow, how different it is on the easel versus when propped up under the original painting, while working on this painting I also need to work on adjusting for this shift in color temperature also.

Week 3: middle of the day
{middle of day status - with the same light quality}

So my time spent after lunch was a combination of getting the drawing correct while also adjusting the color and values some.

Tomorrow I return to the NGA, Monday is my regular day to paint, so hopefully it will be a bright and sunny day to warm up the natural light some. I need to work on the structure of the head some more and will hopefully be able to move on to other parts of the painting as well.

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{end of day status}

Week 2: Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard

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IMG_5641
{end of the day in gallery 55}

Hello,

This Monday was my second day working on Young Girl Reading by Fragonard. I started the day laying in layers of burnt umber and wiping away to vary the values. Later as the day went along I started to lay in the yellow of the dress and the lighter tones of the pillow and collar. After lunch I started blocking in the head, re-working it several times and by the end of the day knowing that something was off.

When working on a copy I do not trace or scale using a grid because each time I paint I want to further hone my skills at adjusting for scale and proportion, and my canvas is smaller (28" x 20") than the original painting (approx 32" x 25") so the opportunity to use a direct "sight-size" method when blocking in the painting is not possible. This is okay, because I have ways to learn and figure out where I have gone wrong...

I use photoshop to analyze what is going on...

week 2  - young girl reading analysis
{my copy and the original painting overlayed in photoshop}

From this image it is easy to identify where proportionally things have gone astray. The young girl in my copy is more narrow and tall than the original, in fact with further analysis I realize that her head has become much more elongated, making her look older and more mature.

So next week will probably be all about correcting these issues before moving on and getting more of the painting completed.

Week 1: Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard

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Week 1: The Beginning
{blank canvas and ready to go}

Hello,

On Monday I was back at the NGA to begin the next copy, which is Jean-Honore Fragonard's Young Girl Reading. Typically I start with a neutral gray ground when beginning a painting, and since I buy rolls of canvas and apply the ground to the entire roll this is what I had available in my studio to begin the painting. However on investigating the original painting I realized that Fragonard painted this painting on a creamy neutral ground.

In this photo of the Fragonard painting you can sort of see the creamy ground of the painting, the thickness of the paint varies with the ground peeping through in many places.

IMG_5614
{the original painting}

The first step was to get my base color correct. I used a mixture of yellow ochre, cremnitz white, and a smidgen of raw umber thinned with oderless mineral spirits (OMS) for this base coat.

Week 1: mid-day
{mid-day status}

After getting the cream ground on I worked at blocking in the image, the goal was for accuracy and proportions. I then left for lunch giving the paint an hour to set up some.

IMG_5621
{end of day status}

After getting back, I reworked some areas adjusting proportion and then I proceded to remove the majority of the burnt umber lines I had placed before lunch. This is because the subsequent layers of paint will be various levels of opacity and I do not want my initial drawing lines to shine through when I am finished with this piece.

I am really looking forward to working on this copy, the brushstrokes are so loose and full of energy, something so very different from the tight control found in the de Heem painting...

Finished: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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IMG_5594
{My copy of the original painting}

Hello,

This Monday I was able to get to a point in copying the original painting that I consider to be the closest I will ever get to finishing. I know that is a bit long winded, but the point is I got to a place where I was satisfied with the progress made and know that if I continued to refine the copy, it would feed my compulsive personality traits more than helping me learn more about the craft of painting. And this is my ultimate goal with being a copyist at the National Gallery of Art.

Completing this copy took 22 visits to the gallery, typically painting between 10am and 4pm, with a one hour break for lunch and wandering the museum. Along the way I learned to slow down, observe, imagine, and execute. While working on this painting I gained a deeper understanding of how to use glazes and how they build upon each layer, adding to the depth and complexity of the paint surface.

This painting was my first copy as part of the program and I am very glad I chose a painting that was lightyears ahead of me in skill, because it forced me to learn, grow, and adapt. I remember the first two or three visits to the musuem where I seriously questioned if I had made the right decision and if I should cut and run... however once I realized how to go about the process of copying and to be satisfied with only covering a 3" x 3" area of canvas with a developed and refined image each day progress on completing the painting seemed to speed up. I think it was because I no longer wasted time with what was not getting accomplished but instead I would focus more on the present and what was being transformed.

From this experience I learned that it is always a good idea to bite off more than you can chew, because eventually you learn how to make it work out.

IMG_5591
{my copy below the original painting}

details of the original painting:
Vase of Flowers, c. 1660
Jan Davidsz de Heem (artist)
Dutch, 1606 - 1683/1684
oil on canvas
overall: 69.6 x 56.5 cm (27 3/8 x 22 1/4 in.) framed: 90.1 x 77.8 cm (35 1/2 x 30 5/8 in.)
{my copy is 24" x 18" (61 x 45.7 cm)}

Next week I begin a new copy, it is going to be something totally different than this painting in style and subject and I am looking forward to all the challenges it will bring.

Thanks for being part of this experience and I hope you will continue to visit.

Liz

Week 21: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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IMG_5574
{week 21: end of the day}

Hello,

We are now on the home stretch of completing this painting! Yah!

Today I returned to the NGA to work on the copy and it was a a bit difficult to decide where to focus as all the main flowers and areas have had a least one pass over. So instead I decided to jump around the painting focusing on areas that need attention.

Areas worked on today include the orange flower below the hydrangea, which will get an orange glaze applied to it next week. {I made it lighter this week so when the glaze goes on it has some room to darken a bit.} The wheat stalk that falls down in front {this still needs some work}, and misc. items that dot the canvas like water droplets, insects, and highlights.

Week 20: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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IMG_5553{end of day status}

Hello,

On Monday I was back at the gallery working on the copy of the Vase of Flowers. The day was filled with fine tuning the area around the glass vase and laying in the window reflection, the main highlight in the glass vase.

IMG_5538 {beginning of day}

Typically when I begin the day I will rub a thin layer of linseed oil to re-wet the surface, this makes the new paint meld with the previous layers with a softer effect than painting directly onto a dry canvas.

This Monday I learned that there are times when you want a dry surface to apply paint onto, so I ended up having to wipe down the area of the window reflection where I had at first spread a the linseed oil. A dry spot is particularly important when you are starting off with a pretty wet paint, that is pigment that already has a large quantity of medium mixed into it, because once this wet paint touches the already thin layer of linseed oil the edges spread and start to diffuse. Something that is typcially a good thing but I needed a strong defining edge in this situation.

IMG_5540 {phase 1 of window reflection}

The first layer of the window reflection was a thinned zinc white with some blue and burnt sienna mixed to take the "whiteness" down some. Zinc white is the most transparent white available.

IMG_5541 {phase 2 of window reflection}

Later I switched to cremnitz white mixed with medium, it is a more opaque white and has a little more body.

Week 19: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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week 18: end of day
{end of day status}

Hello,

This is where I am on this painting, after spending so much time on it and seeing that the majority of the painting is complete I am having a hard time not rushing to the finish line... However I do not want to rush the experience and to make sure that the majority of the details are included, especially the ants and insects! It would be a shame to short cut the final stage.

For this week's visit I focused mainly on finishing the red poppy and fine tuning the black berries and immediate surrounding area.

week 18: beginning of day
{beginning of day detail}

week 18: mid-day
{mid-day}

week 18: end of day detail
{end of day}

Next week the butterfly and the blackberries will get some additional attention. Then I will begin working on the highlights and reflections in the glass vase and the little flowers and misc details that fill up this area.

IMG_5367
{detail of the original painting}

Week 18: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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week 18: end of day comparison
{week 18: end of day comparison}

Today I was back at the gallery, happy to be inside on a damp, gray, and cold day.

One of the perks of painting in the NGA is that in order to preserve and protect the valuable art the building is kept year round at 72 degrees F with a 50% relative humidity. This prevents the shrinking and expansion that will usually occur under the typical atmospheric changes that occur season to seaon, day to day. So I was more cozy and comfortable than usual.

week 18: beginning of day detail
{week 18: beginning of day}

The focus for today was to work on the red poppy at the bottom right hand corner. I wanted to get it blocked in, establishing the outside edges and proportions of the flower in relation to the bottle and the table top.

week 18: middle of day
{week 18: status at lunch time}

Here is a detail from around the middle of the day and I realize that I did not get a close up shot of this area at the end of the day. Oops! My brain was pretty shot after focusing for so many hours on the minute detail of the petal edges... Next week I will definitely get a close up to share with you.

The painting I am copying has a new neighbor in gallery 50, Franz Snyders Still Life with Grapes and Game.

vase of flowers new neighbor

Frans Snyders Still life with Grapes and Game
{here is a close up of the still life}

This is a beautiful and large still life, and it is tempting me to copy it! Now that I am more than half way finished with the Vase of Flowers I have been pondering what will be the next painting to copy. With so many to choose from it is hard to narrow down the choices...

Week 16 & 17: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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IMG_5442
{beginning of week 17}

Hello,

I am going to cover the past two visits to the NGA in this post. Two seperate areas of the composition have been worked on over the last two painting days. For week 16 the focus was still on the hydrangea and then a second pass was given to the red and white tulip to its left and the wheat stalk.

week 16: beginning of the day
{week 16: beginning of the day}

IMG_5412
{week 16: end of the day}

As you can see the wheat stalk altered the most, this is because when I started to rework the area I realized it would be better to just start over. After painting the background color over the area {a mixture of burnt umber and french ultramarine blue thinned with some medium} I began to reapply the paint and block in the wheat kernals with greater accuracy. Capturing the gesture of the wheat was important because it leads the eye on such a merry journey in this area of the painting.

I also went over the tulip for a second time, it was a little flat and needed a little more modeling. The hydrangea got another pass of refining, however I am holding off on applying the last hairline highlights until later in the process.

For week 17 I shifted gears and decided to revisit the lower right hand quarter of the painting. Working to finalize the large red flower with the dark leaves and the purple flowers, both of which I cannot identify what they are... Maybe they are creations for the artist's imagination, whatever they are they really add to the painting. I love how the bright red is hidden and really gives a sense of volume to the bouquet, where the purple flowers are actually more forward but because their values blend so well with the dark background they are almost hidden except for a few highlights.

IMG_5443
{week 17: beginning of the day}

IMG_5454
{week 17: end of the day}

When working on this area of the painting I started to flush out the location of the red poppy stem, so as to verify the massing of the large dark leaf that is below the red flower and visually bridges the poppy with the main body of the bouquet. With this item in place, I felt comfortable about finalizing the other elements of the area.

I am hoping to begin the red poppy next week.

Thanks for stopping by :) Liz

Week 15: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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Hello,

I am back to share the details of yesterday's work at the NGA. Just as a benchmark, this is what I am trying to achieve... A pretty detailed rendering of a white hydrangea, that has visual depth and dimension.

IMG_5363

Even though I did not get much painting done during December, time was spent contemplating the next step to take on this project and researching some technical questions. Recently I had read two helpful notes on glazing from Robert Massey's book Formulas for Painters

Here are the notes:

Note No. 8 : Glazes and dimension
By a judicious use of glazes, the painter can control to some extent the illusion of three dimensional space. The more heavily an area is glazed, the more it tends to recede; opaque surfaces, by contrast, appear to advance. By controlling the degree to which he glazes the various areas, the painter can push back or bring forward these areas.

Note No. 6 : Opaque Glazes
Though opaque glaze sounds like a contradiction in terms, it really works. Mix just enough lead white (Cremnitz or flake) with your glaze to render the glaze opaque. The immediate effect of this kind of glazing looks exactly like direct - or alla prima - painting. Within three or more years, the inevitable alteration of the pigment particles in the glaze layers will occur, allowing light to penetrate them, producing an opalescent quality in the glaze color. As in the use of any glazes, the entire painting should be glazed to some extent to maintain an optical unity.

These ideas got me thinking about the entire painting and what makes the hydrangea such a beautiful flower, but rather enigmatic. I had painted this flower earlier and was really not satisfied with how it turned out, so I had scraped that part down with the goal of returning to it.

IMG_5354
{at the beginning of the day}
week 15: midday
{status at the middle of the day}
By taking the idea of using an opaque glaze I started working on this area by mixing some basic values and blocking them in some. I also re-worked all the edges where the hydrangea intersects, having total control of edge quality.

It was a slow going process originally and I ended up painting over areas multiple times trying to get the scale and values correct. This flower has so much detail that it requires constant attention to relationships. Before finishing the day I tried to get the entire flower blocked in, setting up for where the work will begin next week.

A few other things tackled this week included going over the morning glory again with new glazes to capture the warm yellow center and to enhance the variations of blue.

week 15: end of day detail
{at the end of the day}

week 15: end of day
{end of week 15}

Glazing is the most important aspect of this painting and learning to think about the steps it takes to setup the desired affect has been the biggest reward of copying at the NGA. For instance in order to accomplish the quite subtlety of this painting each object must be worked on a minimum of three times with varying glaze layers. Some layers will be predominantly transparent in the pigments used, however recently I have also begun to investigate the affects of using more opaque pigments in the glazes. And as the effect of opaque glazes do not show up immediately I just have to have faith that eventually the magic will appear.

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Hello,

Today, after a long month of not painting, I got back to work on my copy at the NGA of Jan Davidsz de Heem's Vase of Flowers. This is the part of the painting I focused on today...

IMG_5363

{detail of the original painting}
I am too tired to write a full post tonight, so I will return tomorrow with more information. Dirty brushes need to be cleaned before diving into bed...

See you tomorrow, Liz

Week 14: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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Hello,

Progress for this week was really more of the same as last week. I ended up refining the initial block in of the red flower and leaves below the tulips, expanding a little to the purple flowers. The detail was kept to a minimum due to the need of verifying and adjusting scale some. I got off some, making the leaves a little to big for this side of the canvas.

I also completed the second pass of the outer tulip, refining some of the value variations and shape of the petals and I began to paint the yellow butterfly, one of the most important insects in the painting.

week 14
{at the end of week 14}

week 13:  end of day
{at the end of week 13}

Week 13: Vase of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem

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Week 13 - end of day
{copy of Vase of Flowers}

Hello,

Yesterday was a fun day at the NGA, I missed being there last week however feel it was good to have some breathing room. Seeing the status of the entire painting is fun to observe, so much has changed in the last several weeks, yesterday was my thirteenth time working on this project.

Slowing down and being comfortable to work on only small portions of the composition each time I am in the gallery has been a big breakthrough for me. By being willing to slow down and only setting small goals for each day I have found that I am still moving along at a good pace.

week 13 - beginning of day
{beginning of day status}

For this week I chose to only focus on the red and white poppy and the central tulip. By limiting my goal for the day I was able to establish a plan of action and to work towards the portions that were important, re-wetting the paint surface in areas that required wet-in-wet work and leaving other areas dry where the desire to have a hard firm edge was prefered.

IMG_5202
{end of day status}

By the end of the day I was pleased to realize that more than just the two flowers had been worked on and refined to a near finished level. I was also able to finish the pea pods and the greenery below the orange daisy, while beginning the first block in of the red flower directly below the tulip.

I have learned that the general massing in I did at the beginning of this project was helpful for getting the entire composition scaled to the size of the canvas, however now that I am working to a finer level it is important to then go back into the area and re-establish the massing and basic block in. I do this with a thinned "lean" paint and then let it dry over the week before returning to refine it further with a "fatter" layer of paint. By setting up the proportional block in with a thinned paint and then later going back over it with a fatter layer of paint I am using the "fat over lean" technique to hopefully control any chance of future cracking.

If you observe closely the area below the central tulip you will see the flat-ish block in of a snail and the red flower with its dark green leaves. These items were blocked in with a thinned layer making room for next week when I return to refine that portion of the painting and also refine the outer tulip with the yellow butterfly.

Thanks for stopping by and being part of this project, I appreciate it :)

Liz