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  • Velazquez Copy at the MFA

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    please note my baroque era drop cloth and trader joe’s bag, just like diego’s

     

    Last week I spent some time at the MFA with Adrian Gottlieb working on a copy of a portion of Diego Velazquez’s ‘Don Baltasar Carlos with a Dwarf’ from 1632.  Adrian jumped at the chance to do a copy at the museum, as apparently in California they do not allow master copy in any of the museums, of course limiting the amount of in-depth study you can do.  It’s a great way to spend a couple of afternoons.

    Below is a photo I took of Adrian at work copying a Rembrandt

     

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    Weekly student Nadine Geller, and artist friends Frank Strazzula and Kamille Corry came by the museum while I was starting in my copy, their photo below.

     

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    Above is the full painting, below my copy of the dwarf’s head.  I wanted specifically to copy the very colorful midtones in the painting, I have been painting very high key for the past couple of years, so thought it would be a good example to study.  Unfortunately the lighting in the gallery was very yellow, which made any sort of one-to-one copying of color a bit of a crapshoot.

    After spending a couple of days with the painting, I could really sense Diego’s ambivalence towards the young king and caring for the little person I spent time copying.

     

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    I would have liked to spend one more day refining the copy, as it is it’s a bit rough, but as an educational study I already feel like I gained a lot.  It’s a 20×16″

    There are few things simultaneously more humbling and educational than doing this sort of thing.  I try to do at least one a year, and every time tell myself I should do them more often.  Click here to read a previous blog post from early this year on doing a Frederick Judd Waugh copy.

    And since we are on the topic of copying paintings, below is an Antonio Mancini copy I did back in 2010 or so- I don’t think I ever posted this one on my blog.  It’s not a top-shelf Mancini, just because of the subject more than anything, but the technique was absolutely outstanding, learned much about paint application doing this one.

     

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  • More on Copying Paintings

    As an artist you should never really stop studying and learning.  Doing master copy was among the first things I attempted when I was learning- and I’ve continued to do them, every few years or so.  Copying a picture gives you an entirely different perspective, a view into the process that you just can’t get otherwise.  It continues to be a tool I use in the development of pictorial concepts, looking for new color and technical ideas.

    One thing I would mention is the importance of doing master copies in person- copying from a reproduction simply doesn’t cut it.  Particularly in oils, you’ll need to see yours next to the real thing so you can see the technique as well as the image.  Plus, reproductions really aren’t to be trusted when it comes to color.  You don’t necessarily need to finish the thing, or even copy it in the same medium, but spending a period of time analyzing a picture like that is invaluable.

    Over the years some of the things I’ve attempted copying: a Rembrandt (failed miserably, way above my pay grade at the time), an Edmund Tarbell, a silverpoint of Raffaello Sanzio’s around the time I was getting into metalpoint, a portrait of Antonio Mancini’s (that one came out great, hangs in my dining room), an Edgar Payne classic high sierra’s view… and this week, an interesting project.  I spent the past few days with Stapleton Kearns, studying a seascape by Frederick Judd Waugh.  I made a timelapse of the whole process, see video below.

     

     

    This is my first attempt at making a video of any kind, so excuse the excessive jitteriness- but it does convey the frantic nature of trying to copy a picture this size, full of impastos and glazes in just three days.

     

    Since the video is a bit shaky, here are a few snapshots of the copy’s process along the way:

     

    1-first-day-(lunch)

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    3-lunch-second-day

    4-end-second-day

     

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    24×36″

     

    I’d love to put some more time into the copy and really ‘perfect’ it.  Though I have a lot done here, there is much to be gained by continuing to bring something ever closer to the subject.  Maybe I’ll get some time to do that later this year- in the meantime I can study my copy in the studio.

     

    Click here for a link to Realist Art Resource‘s page on copying pictures- a (still under development) trove of information on which institutions allow copying.

    Click here for my previous post on one of my painting students copying at the MFA Boston

  • Copying at the MFA

    The other day I went to critique one of my painting students, Nadine Geller, at the Museum of Fine Arts as she worked up her copy of Werner van den Valckert’s ‘Portrait of a Man with Ruff” (click here to be taken to a link on the MFA’s website).  She’s been doing a great job and  I thought I would share a few images of her at work here.

     

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    I’m a very big believer in copying pictures as part of the process of painting, in fact periodically I still do copies myself (I’ll be doing a master copy next month).  Copying was once an integral portion of a painter’s course of study, a window into the process of your heroes.

    Logistically, copying is difficult- it takes a lot to figure out permits, one has to develop a bit of a thick skin to the audience you attract (notice Nadine’s headphones to politely block out the passers-by) and in simple terms, copying is humbling.  Spending that much time with a picture, you see it in a different way.  One makes realizations that you can’t by simple observation.

    Incidentally, you can find copies that were made by the masters themselves.  One of my favourite still life painters, Fantin-Latour, cut his teeth in paris as a young man copying every day at the Louvre, and selling his copies- I’ve always thought that the copying informed the varied techniques of layering, impasto and glazing that he would utilize in his later works.

     

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