Sunday, 10 July 2011

Art of copying, pt II

• First step with colour is to scrub in all the basic shapes and hue/values. At this point I'm not being fussy about details matching exactly, and I don't put anything too small, like facial features in. I like to call this bit the 'thumbnail' stage, since you should be able to zoom right out of the image so it's thumbnail small, and still read the image roughly. I try only to do that once I'm almost done with the first rough stage, so I can see how accurate I've been in colour selecting - given all these colours are eyeballed, with the knowledge that a lot of painters working in Oils would work with a very limited palette, sometimes as little as four colours, and that the readily available colours such as iron reds and yellow ochres can achieve a remarkable range of hues, just mixed with a little black or white. Most of the 'bluish' tint at the top of the image is actually a very dulled out yellow grey, but on top of that yellow ochre wash underneath, it takes on aspects of blues and green. At it's bluest, iit's actually just a dead grey. I've rediscovered here that even the teenist shift in hue or value or saturation does actually show much more than you'd think it would. Even on the wall on the left, there's a subtle shift from yellow white on the left of the 90 degree angle, to a slightly greyer white on the right of the angle. Where there's a mixture of colours such as the tiles in the bottom of the image, I've tried to guess at which colour would have gone down first. Doing the image like this rather than just jumping in and rendering every last little bit makes it easier to adjust large parts if needed. It also means that when I do come to place in the details, it'll be super easy.

• Once I'm happy with the basic overlay of hues, I start working into it, much like I might do if I were doing it in oils... having the opacity down on the brush helps, and I'm trying to see the individual colour shifts and paintbursh strokes, without losing any of the overall picture. The wall is what gets the most work, working in hues of very desaturated pale reds, more greys, all the while using the eyedropper to pick and blend the colours like an oil painter might... slapping in a flat blob of colour, and feathering it out into the surrounding colour.I'm also trying to keep the colour rhythym across the image by using the greys in the wall in the figure's clothing, and by using the occasional bit of the redder orangey hues in the bottom of the walls. I constantly find myself amazed by how much master paintings use this to unify a painting. At the end of this phase, I checked my this stage against the end of the last to see if I'm still going in the right direction. Seeing it next to the original, I realise that the yellow I used to begin with is a little too strong, so I'll be trying to mix in more reddish to purple greys in the hopes it'll bring it back into line with the original. I could use the hue/sat/light adjustment in photoshop, or the colour balance, but I want to keep this as 'natural' as possible, as I believe you learn a lot more by painting out your mistakes, rather than just one-buttoning it. Not often I get chance to do that though!

• Worked a little more on the wall, brought in a more distinct pinkish grey in the top right. Still trying to estimate the brushwork that Sargent might have used. I try not to work on any one area for too long, so that i don't fall into the detail trap! Changing things like the colours would have been much harder if I had already painted in all the details in her outfit and the smoking brazier. Worked into the figure more here, but rather than trying to smooth everything out perfectly, I'm more fussed about making sure the lights and darks read well, and that there's a nice amount of hue shifting going on. These kind of paintings, the hue will shift on everything, from skin, to cloth to the plaster on the wall... nothing is ever just a darker or lighter version of a base colour. Things noted at the end of this session were that it's still quite yellowy... comparing them makes me realise how my color spotting might be off, and that I'm not seeing the colour as it potentially is. Also noted that my perspective on the column detail in the top right is skewed, making them feel less solid than they should. All things to be painted in correctly as I move forward!

The art of copying. Masters, that is

As I'm about to embark on another master study - something I've not done in a while, I thought I'd catalogue how I go about it, and what I try to get out of it, so those who've not done it before can understand why it's something I find super useful.

The master painting I've decided to copy is one by Sargent, called Fumée d'Ambris Gris. I've loved Sargent's work for a while, and was lucky enough to see a few originals in a local show, and was amazed by how economical his brush work is. This particular painting will be useful for me as I've always tended towards work that's quite sharply contrasted, and always has quite dark value, so this is a new way of using hue and tone for me. Plus there's something a little fantastical about the subject that makes it all the more fun to paint. I get pretty much all of my original jpgs from the Art Renewal Center.

So where to start?
• Firstly, I set up my 'grid'. With the original painting open, I drag guides in from the top and sides, and line them up with key features in the painting. I could simply use a predefined square grid, but I find dragging a number of guides in also helps me see how masters balance their imagery, and where their details sit in the canvas.
• Once I have a grid I'm happy with, I then save out another copy of the original image. Then I make sure I have both images open in photoshop, and delete the image from one of them. This ensure I have the exact same grid on both images, and that both are the exact same dimensions, so i can compare them easily in PS without worrying about fiddlign with zooms.
• Next I put a wash of base colour down. The colour you use will depend on the copy. If the image is hig enoguh, you might be able to spot which colour the original artist put down by zoomign in and looking at where you can see the canvas most clearly. Which is what I did here. There's a yellow ochre-y tint to almost everything in the image, seen most clearly in the white wall to the left near the bottom. So I scrub down a messy 'undercoat' of my digital approximation of yellow ochre. I use a textured brush to do so, something like the chalk brush you get as part of the brush sets with PS will do the trick - doing this rather than filling the whole canvas with a flat colour will give you more variation when you paint on top of it.
• With the wash in, it's a case of just sketching in the details loosely, just getting positioning right. What I'm most interested in with this copy is the actual digital painting, not drawing an exactl line copy. I don't put in details like the face, or labour over every crease in the clothing, just mark in where the major shapes are. Those are things I can fiddle with when I paint, especially since a lot of what I want to learn from this is edge control, and fine linework will only hamper me.

These are just the first stages. I shall update as I paint more. Hope this is potentially useful for someone considering a copy or two!

The Original Painting.

The grid and the underwash

The linework

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dany and Jorah - more steps and final piece

Finally finished it! here's the final thing with a couple more wip shots to go along with. Enjoy!