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Art school

Art classes: week 6

Painting based on Andrew Potter photo

Last Wednesday, we painted some still lifes from coloured photocopies. The reason we painted from photocopies rather than real still-life setups was so that we didn’t feel pressured time-wise. (We could take the paintings home and finish them there, which I did.)

This one was from an Andrew Potter photograph. Which Andrew Potter, I’m not sure, but I think this one. Clicking through to Flickr from here, it looks like the original image has been removed. I’ve tried to contact Andrew for permission to publish my painting of the photo, but I haven’t heard anything back. So, I’m just going to publish it and hope he’s OK with that.

The focus this week was to bring together many of the things we’ve been learning about—observation, composition, colour, form, expression—and to get us thinking about the process of creating a painting.

For these paintings, we used the traditional method of applying a toned ground (imprimatura); doing an initial drawing, quickly and loosely; establishing dark masses, mid tones, and highlight areas (grisaille); and then slowing down, cleaning/tightening up the painting, and adding detail.

I found it really helpful to go through this process and see how a painting can be constructed. When you just see the end result of a beautfiul, detailed painting, you think, how did they ever achieve that!? But when you see or go through the process, it seems a lot more doable. Admittedly I struggled with “seeing” the exact colours in places (I bordered on becoming a Fauvist 😆), and mixing them, but mostly I was pretty happy with the end result.

Some of the things Matthew covered:

  • Adding a couple of layers of gesso to pre-primed canvases to make them a better surface to paint on.
  • If you paint from real life, you have to make all the decisions about what what will and won’t go into the painting. If you paint from a photo, the photo has made most of those decisions for you.
  • Work fast, with larger brushes, in the early stages. Be loose, flexible, and physical. You can always tighten a painting up later, but it’s very hard to loosen it up.
  • The original meaning of cartoon.
  • Don’t labour the initial drawing.
  • To accurately represent reflections, look closely at the tonal variations.
  • Application methods: impasto, mezzapasta (or body colour), scumbling, alla prima (wet into wet), and glazing.
  • Keep darks thin for depth and lights heavier (impasto) for contrast with the transparent darks. Apparently Rembrandt did dozens of layers of glazing in his shadow areas to create masses of depth.
  • Squint to check highlights aren’t too light.
  • Consider the dance of light and dark in a painting.

Tonight, we’re returning to drawing and learning about perspective.

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