No. 1 - Frederick Childe Hassam's "Boston Common at Twilight".
Get the larger shapes right first - fixing placement later is really expensive time-wise. Blur your eyes to look for large values. Try working the piece upside down to keep the focus on the shapes, in particular with figures. Split image up into four and work in a little closer later on after you've blocked out the major shapes and values. Leave time to work on the area of emphasis - if you've done the values right, the eye will be drawn to the focus point(s) - if the viewer sees more detail there, it will cause the image to be far more complete. So: don't ignore detail if there's time left after the values are roughly blocked out and right, but make sure to put the detail in the right place.
About the image: The building, woman, girls, birds draw the eye down and toward the right, opening up onto the common itself. They face it, and so do we. Gives the sense of a much larger space in the common, far past the end of the picture itself.
No. 2 - Anna Airy's "A Shell Forge at a National Projectile Factory, Hackney Marshes, London, 1918"
Oh, man. The details killed me on this one, I should have known when I picked this piece. It was so hard not to get stuck in a corner of the painting. Had to remind myself to paint from back to front, in particular in the ceiling. There are many problems with placement, and some of my abstraction is slap-dash. Stopping at the 60 minute mark was paaaaaaiiiiiinful. But that's the point, right? Using the time well. Some of my levels were off, and I zoomed out to spot them, and used the dodge tool to correct. I should have done that well before the details were being picked out, since now it looks like there is a fuzzy bloom there (in the rafters in the ceiling). Cheaty cheat McCheaterson. I'll not do that again. I should have paid more attention to the placement of the basic box of the building, as well as the major architectural elements - some of it is off enough that other elements ended up in the wrong place. More care in first five minutes next time!
About the image: Lots of great directionality in the image - lines stretching into the distance. Ton of repetition of elements, with interrupting shapes leading to variety. The focus of the picture is on no particular person - even the figure in the foreground draws your attention toward the crowd - probably to show the furious activity in the munitions plant.
No. 3 Jason White Alexander's "Repose".
This went better - simpler, larger shapes and flows to block in than the last two eased placement and left me time to work on the details a bit, even get some of the brush stroke transitions in there. 60 minutes, but again I find I want more time! I used a grid (2x2) to help me lay it out, thinking about skipping that set of training wheels going forward.
About the image: Focus is on center volume of dress, face. Sweeping diagonals of body and couch, interrupted by continuities formed my light across pillows and body. This painting is all curves, suggesting and reinforcing the femininity of the figure. Economy - large shapes are abstracted out in a big way on the couch and background, drawing attention very clearly to the figure. Couch and dress sweep down to the right, and torso sweeps up and to the right such that even though the figure is very still, the image is quite dynamic.
No. 4 Sven Richard Berg's "Nordic Summer Evening"
Had a heck of a time with that bannister! I think I did a better job with the initial large shapes, but then got stuck somewhere in the mid-game... There's a lot more going on in this image than I had originally thought. I think this one, more than any of the prior, made me wince when I stepped back at the 60 minute mark. If I were to mark it up with red everywhere where my shapes are off, it would be a very red picture.
About the image: This image uses a very basic framing device, the two figures and trees mirrored, like the trees are mirrored in the water. Their poses vary, setting the mood and telling the story of the picture. The eyes are drawn to the two figures, whose own gaze takes the viewer to the secondary focus - the evening light on the water. The horizontal nature of the picture also highlights the differences in stature and body language between the two standing on the porch. His closed, contemplative posture, her more open stance. There is economy, here, too - large swathes of her dress and his suit are a continuous block of color / value, drawing attention to more rendered details like collar, belt/waistline.
Great progress already. The values and edges could have been closer in the first study and then right when I was about to compose those thoughts, you resolved them in the next. Very good work. The main area of value that could be even closer is from her waist to the top of her head. You went with a little bit different value range there so it is a little less luminous than the original. Aside from that nitpick it is looking really great.
This is going to be a very good thread. I look forward to the updates.
On your most recent your edges are letting go a little bit, compared to the accuracy you put into the reclining female. Keep a close eye on the sharp to soft edge range! That is super important to narrative, space, mood etc...
No. 5 Thomas Moran "Cliffs of Green River"
Landscape - ought to be easier, right? Wrong! Started by painting with very large natural brushes at low opacity, I think I'll continue with that, it helps get some texture on the board right away. Trick is not to get carried away with the gestures and still place the values carefully, not matter the size of the brush. The subtlety of changes here, the gradients and bleeds, made this one very tricky to pull off - there were few large areas lending themselves to blocking out with one value in a highly economic fashion. I can't even imagine trying this in color.
About the image: Continuity and rhythm are present here - horizontal shapes interrupted by sudden vertical blocks and forms. With scale, Moran shows his figures to be part of the landscape - in it but also of it. It's clearly a romantic image, and even without the dramatic color, that comes through.
Last edited by Kahboom; July 17th, 2014 at 04:19 PM. Reason: Numbering was wrong.
No.6 John Quincy Adams "Wertheim bei einer Operation"
This worked out pretty well, just over an hour. I'm finding success in doing these in ten minute sprints, keeps me careful as well as giving a fresh eye regularly. There were many faces, and it's hard to abstract faces without it looking really wrong. Put another way, since they human eye is drawn to faces, it's harder to play fast and loose with economy. I'd love to revisit this with 2-3 hours to rock out. Perhaps when I'm done with the 20. I think I got closer on the values, perhaps somewhat at the cost of less accurate shapes.
About the image: It's nigh impossible to find information about this artist online, given the fame of his namesake Great Grandfather. The painting is of Wertheim performing a gynecological surgery, for which he became famous. All shapes form concentric circles, pointing inward, just like the faces do, toward the action of the surgery. The weighting is unusual, leaving a lot of dark values and whitespace bottom left to balance out all the action top right. The arms are also well posed to give interest and energy to the image.
I take notes for each painting, and also keep a constantly evolving set of reminders for myself, thought I'd share that here in case it's useful for anyone else.
0) Investigate the painting, look for the principles, mark them. Learn to read the material, learn from the painting's overall plan as well as execution.
1) What are the large shapes, and what are their values. Get those right first. Use this step to get overall spacing right. Before moving on, measure and correct. Start from mid-tone bg with a soft, low opacity brush, work on darks towards darkest, then work lights. Rotate picture 90 and 180 degrees and follow shapes and their relationships - is anything misplaced? Stop before putting in highest highlights - do these after detail is done.
2) Where is the strongest contrast, where is the focus? Put the detail in those places. If the levels are right, the eye will go to those places, and getting the shapes right here is crucial to the success of the piece. Don't get stuck working too much detail in the wrong area of the painting. You've only got one hour!
3) Burn and Dodge areas gently while quite zoomed out to get the right emphasis and general levels. Save this step for almost last.
4) Highest highlights. Pick them out with exquisite care.
5) Stop at 60m. Hard to measure progress if you don't keep effort similar on each piece.
Great points. You are right on track. keep working on shape accuracy as you go. Your values are well under control. If we can get your shapes even closer, and I know we can, then you will see another big jump in quality.
No.7 John Singer Sargent "A Street in Venice"
An hour and change - getting a little caught up here, perhaps I should make it an alarm instead of a stopwatch. I had a heck of a time with the detail in the wall on the left - I suspect that Sargent himself was captivated by the shapes here, and it would have taken much more time to give his unstudied-seeming detail here any justice.
About the image - Rhythm in the bricks, in the edges of the garments, emphasis is on the two figures, with the walls and lit street in the distance coming next. As far as unity is concerned, I get the sense that this is almost a sketch from Sargent - it doesn't seem very planned. But he was a sneaky guy, making even the most planned mark seem casual and alive and spontaneous.
No.8 Odd Redrum "The Return of The Sun"
Lots going on in here, and I struggled both with transitions in value (smooth gradients in sky, garments, on the ledge, in the clouds). As I continue with these, it is becoming clear which things end up taking more time than others, but deciding which to tackle first, which to economize, etc. is tricky. In this case, there are three figures, and I just didn't leave enough time to get the anatomy right on faces, arms, hands, especially since those elements are the key areas of focus / emphasis in the piece. I think I need to plan ahead more for each piece. Tempted to come back to this one after the exercise is done and devoting 5-6 hours to it and see what comes of it. It's a hill to climb, for sure.
Now that I'm looking at it again, I'm seeing some major flaws. The center figure's outstretched neck is way too long, her forehead too bright. Meh - NEXT!
About the image: Nerdrum is a master of composition, of using figures and very spare environmental elements to produce deeply meaningful and discomfiting works of art. His renaissance-level skill with oil blows me away. A nice place to visit, his brain is, but I don't think you'd want to live there. Rhythm and repetition in elements is strong here - the crooked pinkies, the neck-lines, the wavy hair paired with wavy clouds. The tilt and curvature of the scene and reaching of the figures toward top left with arms and blind eyes is anchored cleverly by the dark and highly economized bottom left. Want unity? This painting has it.
Last edited by Kahboom; July 29th, 2014 at 11:07 AM. Reason: Additional observations...
No.9 John Quincy Adams "Portrait of Countess Michael Karolyi"
I gave in and used a textured brush to get some of the detail and tooth in the cloth, in particular in the drapes behind the countess. Took about 90 minutes to finish this - I just couldn't stop myself. The S-curve of the couch absolutely slayed me, and I also struggled with the face. I think I might have given her a sex change, whoops. Pretty happy with values and shapes, but can quickly spot a number of places that need rejiggering - her left hand is too dark, curtain above the tie-off is wrong shape, upholstery too chunky.
About the image: Lots of rhythm and continuity in here - sweep of the couch matches the shape of the body matches the curtain tie-off. Great use of economy in dress / stole and bottom right of the image, leaving the eye to rest on the areas of emphasis: shoulders, hands, face, curtain bunching.
I've been making these little animated gifs to watch my process after the fact. I tend to work one side of the picture at a time, wonder if that helps me or hurts me in the long run. I feel like it helps me manage detail and shapes by being zoomed in a bit, but wonder if I'm losing the broader gestures and unity by doing so.
Thanks for visiting my thread! I really like the progress I'm seeing here, you've definitely improved. I've found that I can stay zoomed out for the majority of the time I work. It may help you as well. Especially if you're too detail orientated, and you feel that you're losing the harmony.
No.10 Frederick Childe Hassam "A City Fairyland"
Some textured brushes turn out to be really helpful to deal with gradients in the distance. My leftmost carriage is too wide, which means that there's much else that's wrong here. Still, pretty happy with this one. Love ya, Boston. (Don't miss ya much, snow).
About the image: Lots of rhythmic aspects to this painting, the track directions, grouped figures, light posts and trees, conveyances. Emphasis is loose, which I think is done very much on purpose to capture the spirit of the whole scene rather than tell a specific story. The V-shape helps the balance of the image. Continuity and economy play a big part in the background, as the cityscape is melded together by distance, lighting and drifting snow.
PS - Half way!
Great to see your progress Kahboom! Seems like your doing really good! Your number 9 made me laugh a little, looked like a small gender change in the face there. I found it really hard to do faces, a longshot getting them right in an hour! Im looking forward to see the rest of them. Keep it up!
I know. I zoomed out at the end and laughed a little, too. Faces, man, faces...
I love your bold brush strokes, and can't wait to see more of your work! Keep it up!
No. 11 Henry Raeburn "Elizabeth Campbell"
Expression, expression... Even the tiniest deviation, that would hardly be noticeable in the shadow below a boat or in a tree stump, shows up like a giant snaggly mess in a face. So much harder to get right. I think I worked the right parts for about the right amount of time for the 60 minutes, helped by really looking for areas of economy prior to laying down the first brush stroke. Tried to work without textured brushes in the background, I'd say that was a poor choice. Took a lot of time, still doesn't look close to right.
About the picture: The focus is simple, as is the general arrangement. Areas of simple and gorgeous use of economy in the sleeve, dress and arm in lap, throat / chin / cheek/ background.
Hey man, Fantastic studies and very nice tips and mindsets.
Keep doing it, very nice.
No. 12 Frederic Edwin Church "Twilight in The Wilderness"
There was so much stuff going on in here and found myself bouncing around and around and didn't really get back to tightening up the focal points of the painting - the Island in the distance, the protruding log and rock-face. So it's a little too blurry in places. It's interesting to me how I see / understand a picture differently once I look at the color version again after carefully considering the B&W for an hour. It would be an interesting step to look at the color version when about half way through and seeing if I'm "reading" it right. Two colors next to one another can have the same value, and you don't realize they're separate objects, or that there is a border that you're missing when it is in grayscale.
About the image: Rhythm and variation are strong in the clouds. It's a highly romanticized scene, even in black and white. Unity - the sloping hills, inward-pointing trunks and stumps, downward-pointing cloud banks all draw the eye toward the center of the scene, working together to create something with surprising depth.
wow you pick complicated painting for study lol great drawing overall and accurate
Great job with Church's study! I am not looking forward to doing those environments..
These are excellent so far. I think that you are mostly missing a last pass on your edges, to crisp up the sharpest edges and soften down the softest edges. Watch for that at the end...once you go through that pass the image will pop. Keep a close eye on your value gradients on flesh too. A soft edged airbrush at low opacity can help build those up a little more smoothly.
Great job...keep em coming!!!
No.13 John White Alexander "June"
Priorities, priorities. I think I got pretty close on the overall feel of the picture this time, even though some things are clearly misplaced, or just missing altogether. Looking forward to taking more than 60 minutes on some of these later on. Started playing with some textured brushes, which just served to slow me down. I think I'll start with those from the ground up next time. Bought a brush pack - Kyle Webster's Megapack - but I think it'll take some time to familiarize myself with them, there are almost too many. I guess that's what he means by "mega". I wish there was a way in Photoshop to have a panel open with my three or four favorite brushes showing for fast switching. Maybe there is?
About the image: The use of light in this painting is really alluring - shapes are suggested (fingers, vase parts, edges between curtain and wall) rather than made explicit - economy. The subject matter is a little trite, formal - but his execution is really excellent. Variety and rhythm are also in fine display here, in particular in the flowers.
Last edited by Kahboom; August 31st, 2014 at 07:41 PM. Reason: Whoops - loaded wrong version of final paint
No. 14 Philip De Laszlo "Viscountess Stuart of Findhorn"
I've had such a hard time prioritizing faces in the past copies - invariably, though, the face is a point of emphasis, so the piece suffers as a result. Good thing, then, that my man De Laszlo painted nothin' but face when the Viscountess sat for him. Texture brushes to start with on this one, but I've noticed that a lot of them don't perform particularly well at this size other than to just blur the edges a bit. More experimentation is clearly needed.
About the image: Economy, economy, economy - the focus is on her expression, and nothing else. Her dress, the background, even her hair all have large abstracted blocks. There is a rhythm to the highlight strokes in her dress - forming a "U", keeping the eye in the center
No.15 Odd Nerdrum "Amputasjon" (Amputation)
The early blocking went pretty well, didn't have to do a ton of corrections once past the 20 minute mark. Struggled a bit with the textures again, I think texture brushes work better on much larger files. Based on someone else's tip (can't remember who - sorry), I flattened and inverted the image and that gave me a much better view of the darks - I'd been losing a lot of detail in there. Just what I need - more detail to worry about.
Feeling pretty good about the exercise at this point. Looking forward to punching one of these in the mouth with 2-3 hours worth of effort and far more careful measurement and placement of shapes.
About the image: Even for an artist who regularly trades in the grotesque, this one is pretty grisly. The modern imagery juxtaposed with the classical almost Rembrandtesque style is a powerful contrast. The image is a series of carefully placed continuities and interruptions and diffused focus / areas of emphasis. Tremendous use of variety in shape and size give the composition a really unsettling feeling, like you've just happened upon this horrible scene, and that there are further horrors promised outside the borders of the image. The position of the camera doesn't ease the discomfort, either.