After giants….some demos

Pastel after Fred Varley’s “Vera”

I quite often use a classic painting as the basis for a classroom demonstration and invariably get more out of the process than expected. Students also enjoy the practice which leads me to wonder why it gets such a bad rap in some circles. I mused on this a month ago in After giants…part 1.

I don’t intend to copy – I’m often just interested in a sketch which may be quite different in scale and medium from the original. The more I look, the more I see and  the work takes on a life of it’s own. Working quickly results in more of an impression than a copy.

Here are a few of my favorite forays into drawing and painting after the masters:

Charcoal and watercolour sketch after Francisco Goya

My charcoal and watercolour wash version of Francisco Goya’s drawing simplifies the original somewhat. I was pleased with the effect of some quick brushwork. The overall impression is a little more squat than the original and I think I’ve stayed true to the wonderful dynamics of Goya’s sketch – dynamics that perhaps got diluted in Goya’s full-size painting, “The Forge”.

Some of the dynamics of Goya’s initial sketch were perhaps muted in his final masterpiece “The Forge”

Watercolour after an A.Y. Jackson pencil sketch

This watercolour is based on one of many pencil sketches of Quebec villages by A.Y. Jackson. I’ve retained the main elements of the barn but the colours and treatment generally are all imagined. A.Y. almost certainly did his sketch plein-air and hopefully, my quick watercolour retains a little of the urgency.

Small watercolour after Prudence Heward’s “Girl on a Hill”

Here’s another watercolour: a miniature version of Prudence Heward’s “Girl on a Hill”. It’s 5″x5″ . I’ve changed the composition a little and like the intimate feel that is quite different from the original.

Acrylic on board after David Milne’s ” Side Door, Clark’s House”

This demo was part of the kick-off to one of my Acrylic and Oil painting classes. During the first week, I normally ask students to paint with just one colour. On a piece of gessoed backing board, I like the way the image spills out whilst showing the fundamentals of Milne’s original composition. “Side Door, Clark’s House”.

Acrylic after Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s “The Silver Goblet”

Here’s another  demo where the surrounding space helps the image in some way. In this case, it’s on canvas paper. The original image by Chardin is a great subject for value studies in charcoal as well.

After a Rembrandt monochrome sketch

A monochrome study by Rembrandt was the inspiration for this little study in pastel on pink card –  this is all that was left after I’d handed students all but one of the (more tonal) sheets from my pack! Perhaps the better for the slightly brash pop-art treatment.

My interpretation of Fred Varley’s famous “Vera”  is in pastel. I’m invariably intrigued by the effect of using different media with the classics and this is no exception.

Pastel on cartridge paper after Fred Varley’s “Vera”

Announcing the Break-a-Brush! Mentoring Program

Wherever you might be, we can help you with your art…

Over the past few months, a number of you have asked about distance learning and coaching! Perhaps you have some specific aims outside of the classroom or maybe it’s just not practical to take an art course right now.  Our busy lives often drive us in various directions and time is so often at a premium!

We’ve developed a bespoke drawing and painting mentoring program for the medium of your choice. We’ll start with a three-month outlook of objectives, measures, schedule and other relevant factors. Assignments sent by email will normally include one or more reference images, links to videos and/or text instructions. A review of each assignment will follow, as well as comments on other of your painting projects that you might wish to include. Regular progress meetings are held by phone/Skype or in person, as might be agreed, depending upon logistics.

The program kicks-off in July and you can find details on the website.

Be sure to let me know of anything you might want to include, modify or discuss!

After giants…part 1

Acrylic on canvas paper, after Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

The time-honoured practice of copying or painting after masters gets a bad rap in some quarters. I don’t think they spend much time on this in many art schools and well, try submitting a derivative work into a local art competition. I’m not a natural copyist but have taken time to warm up to the practice. Issac Newton famously said “If I have seen further than others, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Before photography, reproduction had an intrinsic value….transporting images between far-flung countries, audiences and studios. It was also employed to teach artists their craft and the two went hand in hand. Even then, there were “copies” that took an image in a very different direction. In our own National Gallery, Rubens “The Entombment“ parts company from the Caravaggio original in scale, tone, composition and message. Caravaggio, all dramatics and tragedy and Rubens, more intimate and sensitive.

Caravaggio’s “The Entombment”  was interpreted by Rubens, right.

Working from a masterwork can be a creative imperative too. Take Francis Bacon’s fascination with Velázquez’s magnificent Pope Innocent X. Bacon, by the way, never saw the original – copying the original was not his intent!

Velázquez’s portrait of Innocent X was, centuries later, an inspiration to Francis Bacon

Perhaps the best way to see another work is through some form of copying, really getting close to the design, the values, colours and brushwork – perhaps even transporting you to the artist and their times, their life, their travails and resulting intent.

France and her tribute to Théodore Rousseau’s “The Old Park at Saint-Cloud”

5 years of Break-a-Brush – Top 10 posts!

art is where you take it…and where it takes you!

It’s now a full 5 years since I started this blog and it’s been a consistently wonderful experience. I’m delighted that so many people read and follow it and feel the urge to comment! I write about the art and artists that interest me, muse about connections and corners of art that delight, post some of my work that might otherwise not find an audience and share some methods and ideas that I hope are broadly applicable. Staying topical and relishing the process with kindred art spirits…what’s wrong with that picture!

Thank you all – blogging’s now firmly in my blood

I recently took a look at the blog posts and compiled a list of the most popular, plus a few fond memories:

Sargent and that profile: Madame X

Tom Thomson and Emily Carr in the U.K.!

In praise of underpaintings…

A decade of self portraits…

Emily Coonan and Montreal’s Beaver Hall Group

All abuzz at the Shenkman

Celebrating Canada’s 150th – Framed by History

“Home on the Range”

The Grey Bucket!

People in galleries…

The more the merrier of course – feel free to forward this email to anyone you might think might enjoy the blog – to follow the blog, just go to enter your email address to subscribe and you’ll receive notifications of new posts by email.

A decade of self portraits…

A close encounter…

Across the ages, artists have documented their likenesses and moods in self portraits. Rembrandt and Van Gogh jump out, among many others. Perhaps these are collectively an investigation of self: a little about aging, vanity, or perhaps another form of communication. It’s been said that it’s difficult to see yourself as others see you – however when I perceive something more than the mirror reflects, I’m always surprised. As an always-available model, I wonder if that might be part of it too. Here are my last 10 years of self portraits: