Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Week 1: Miss Juliana Willoughby by George Romney


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...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Artist Review: Gustave Caillebotte

G Caillebotte Paris Rainy Day
La Place de l'Europe, temps de pluie (1877)
Art Institute of Chicago

Today while going through this week's Economist issue I read an article in the Books and Arts section about an exhibit in Paris on Gustave Caillebotte's paintings and his brother's photography.

This article got me thinking about his paintings and how much I like his work. There is something quiet and thoughtful in his compositions, how he organizes the picture frame and uses perspective to guide the viewers eye. I also admire his use of color and tone.

I feel that some of his most influential paintings are the ones that are predominantly made up of grays and earth tones, with only the slightest hints of saturated color.

G Caillebotte rooftops under snow
Vue toits, effet de neige (1878)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

G Caillebotte Le pont de europe
Le pont de l'Europe (1876)
Petit Palais, Geneva

G Caillebotte Floor Scrapers
Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers), (1875)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

However proficient he was with using muted colors and values to present a sense of space, Caillebotte was also an Impressionist in how he could also use vivid color, such as his painting of a fruit stand.

G Caillebotte fruit display
Fruits sur un étalage (1882)
Museum of Fine Art, Boston

For more information and images of his work:
Gustave Caillebotte.org

And the Art Institute of Chicago has Paris Street; Rainy Day in their collection and seeing this painting in person was the highlight of my visit to Chicago several years ago!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Peonies from the garden and lovely roses from River Farm.

I like how tarnished silver looks sometimes, it softens and seems more relaxed...


Oops, this blog post was supposed to be posted on my photo blog

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finished: Young Girl Reading by Jean Honore Fragonard

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


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...

{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...

{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,


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WIP {tabletop still life}

WIP {tabletop still life}
{tabletop still life - 18" x 24" (45.7 x 61 cm)}


I am back painting!

This was the painting I was focusing on before getting sick and having a forced two-plus week studio absence. The painting was started last summer but was put on hold until recently... sometimes this happens, the inspiration goes away or I just need some more time to think about it more. With this painting is was a little of both, I switched my focus to other paintings and then later on I just was unable to give it the attention it needed.

So far in 2011 I have been painting floral still lifes, and after finishing several such compositions I realized a change of focus would be a good idea. After nine months of being on the shelf I came back to this painting, and I am really glad I have.

The reason is because in getting back to this painting I realize that my painting style has really evolved and changed over the time. The painting today is essentially a whole new painting where I am re-painting every aspect of the composition and further developing and refining each area. If I had never put this painting on hold I would not have such concrete evidence that painting technique and skills are growing and evolving.

Because of this experience, I encourage others to sometimes take a painting and put it on hold for several months while pursuing other projects. The results can be very surprising!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Back in the Studio...

dandelion seed heads
{neglected dandelions in my studio}

After more than two weeks of being under the weather, I was finally back on my feet enough to head into the studio this morning. It was a wonderful feeling to be back in there and getting my palette ready to paint.

However before getting down to business I also had to clean up a bit, I had a few vases that had been full of flowers that were now wilted. The surprise to me was that dandelions will progress onto the seed head phase even after being cut and brought inside...

Have a wonderful evening, Liz

Monday, May 2, 2011

{5/2/2011 inside:outside diptych}


By today I was hoping to be recovered enough to paint at the NGA today, however this has not occurred... The cold has continued to linger and sap my energy, and late last week I was put on antibiotics to fight it off as rest and orange juice was not doing the job. Sigh. Counting today it has been 11+ days since I have been able to get into the studio and paint... I am missing the it!

Soon, I hope to be in the studio and working again.

Until then, thanks for stopping by and saying hi :)