Saturday, August 27, 2011

Working on the reconfigured copy

Sometimes gallery visitors take my picture while working on a copy. I thought this was rather unique. Notice the use of the maul stick. The tip should have a protective soft ball so as not to scratch the painting. I'm a rather crude artist and feel I can always correct any damage to the painting.
This is a recent shot of the painting. Each day I concentrate on a section of the work. All of the elements are roughly blocked in. The problem now is to refine the images. I will probably return to many of the images several times to achieve as close a likeness as possible.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reconfiguring a copy Page 2

July 16, 2011
The first day I sketched out the two major compositional elements. These are circled on the original below. As I’ve stated earlier, I use thinned oil paint for sketching. A close up of the first session developing the copy reveals my sketching method and how I reconfigure the major elements of the work. 
             Copy May 14, 2011

At this time I realize the painting is progressing faster than I can post a running dialog. I have started a “History of a Copy” on my web site where I will show visual progress of the work and add comments as I can. This will free this blog for other things.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ReConfiguring a Copy

                                           “Autumn” c. 1740/1766, by Corrado Giaquinto  42 11/16” x 59 5/8”

“What are you doing?” ask a lady who was watching me paint. I was in the early stages of copying a painting by Corrado Gioquinto at the National Gallery of Art. Normally I understand such a question. I usually start by sketching on the canvas with thinned oil paint. Since a copy must not be the same size as the original, it is necessary for the artist to rescale everything for the copy. The first session it is easy to change contours or get lighter areas by wiping away the thinned paint. After this, alterations are made by adding white or other opacifier to the thinned paint. Naturally, during this time the work may look a little odd to an uninitiated viewer, but recognizable features usually cause them to sympathize with the struggling artist and hold off on questions that may be embarrassing
My method of starting a copy varies, but long ago I gave up using a grid or working with pencil, ruler and charcoal. My purpose in copying is primarily to learn or develop skills and techniques used by the great artists of the past. Scaling forms to a space is critical to an artist who wishes to go beyond the sketch or design. I have always exercised this visual acuity believing practice improves ones ability to perform. After copying over 30 works using my eye instead of a grid or projection, I feel the practice of scaling has been invaluable in ordering my own compositions.
The confusion over this copy is likely to be greater because I have chosen to reconfigure or recompose the painting. I seldom do this because I do not want to suggest that I can improve upon a proven master artist. My primary reason for reordering this composition is to give the beautifully painted figures or figure groups more prominence. Gioquinto’s composition stresses movement and a busy staccato like imaging. To me the effect is of rustling autumn leaves, and the figures are mere props to convey a human presence. Were I to copy the work as it is, the smaller scale would make the figures even more incidental.
At this point, I’m not sure my copy will add a better understanding of the original, but it will cause viewers to look more carefully and critically.
A check on my web site will show that I am already almost 20 hours into this project. I am slower at writing than painting. Future posts will follow the sequence of work from the beginning.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day at the Gallery

   Every Friday I'm at the National Gallery of Art copying a painting by an Old Master. Today I'm working on a copy of Nattier's  'Madame Le Fevre de Caumartin.'  Gallery visitors are usually polite and are hesitant about interrupting me while I paint. However, I am not disturbed and even encourage questions. As a retired art professor, I delight in expounding upon art and particularly my own. It may seem presumptuous on my part, but after 70 some years as an artist, and over twenty years as a copyist of Old Masters, I feel my opinions are as good as most living souls most of who have never lifted a brush.
    Of the numerous questions ask, I believe the most common is "how long have you been working on this painting?" I guess most things in life are valued more by the amount of time expended in making them than the energy, skill, materials, or knowledge used. Certainly that seems to be the case of living painters, especially those that practice realism.
    Time really has little to do with Art. As a matter of fact, time seems to stop when I am really into painting. I have often heard that blind copying must be boring. "You certainly have to have a lot of patience to do that" pronounces one astute visitor. Sorry, but there is no boredom in painting. There may be plenty of frustration when trying to replicate a color, texture, or other painterly effect, but seldom does the task include mindless repetition of tedious detailing. Even the most complex painting has endless variations of form and color to challenge the copyist. 
"Hunting in the Pontine Marshes" by Horace Vernet took me six months of Fridays, but I was never bored. "How long did it take?" As long as necessary.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Passion for Art

I guess I should start this thing by talking a little about myself. From the beginning there was this passion for image making. Here I am at 15 or 16 working on my Tower of Babble. A friend helped, but the idea and direction of the work was strictly my own. Art, for me, is an individual thing rather than a collective accomplishment. I knew that a seated Santa would be more impressive at 15 foot than if he were just standing. I guess I was shooting for shock. Any ambitious artist knows you have to really work at getting public recognition of your work. Getting people to actually spend time and think about a creation is a dream seldom experienced by most living artists.
The art critic of today seldom asks questions of a contemporary realistic work of art. They prefer to make things up to show how perceptive they are. To them, the artist is a dolt who performs intuitively and needs a sensitive critic to discover, recognize or understand their genius, or lack there-of. The easiest path for the critic to follow is to draw reference to works already created and reviewed. Provenance, the origin and history of a work of art is more carefully examined than the quality, excellence, or originality. By associating a work with a school, style, period or other established groupings, the critic can avoid analyzing anything not easily gleaned from a book. Since subject matter has been marginalize as a thought provoking aspect of most art works, the modern art critic   either ignores it or uses it to point out an artist’s weakness. The skill required doing realistic or representational work can be easily criticized. Design, color and emotional response to a work are more personal and thus less susceptible to critique. When recognizable subject matter is ambiguous or un-interpretive people must  either ignore the work or rely on the words of a credentialed authority such as an art critic, museum docent or curator, art historian, gallery owner or director, art teacher or professor, or an art collector connoisseur. Artists are considered bias and thus not the best source for explaining esoteric art. With over 60 years producing, teaching and studying the subject, I may be qualified as a critic, but have a very limited forum.
Perhaps I can offer this service, critique of art works, on this blog.
The main reason for starting this blog is get back to writing. I may even find some who may be interested in an elderly, unsung, artist’s rants