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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...