Thursday, January 19, 2017

Resident Artist Spotlight: Master Copying with Jessica Artman

Jessica's copy of The Boatman of Barcelona by Verdaguer
While copying my first painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Boatman of Barcelona by Dionisio Baixeras y Verdaguer, 1886), a museum visitor asked me why I decided to copy that particular painting instead of its more famous neighbor, Young Woman Gazing at Her Child by William Bouguereau. Even though I do find Bouguereau’s paintings to be exquisite, at the time I was interested in learning more about the figure in the environment with an atmospheric landscape. I was inspired by Verdaguer’s brightly backlit figures and I wanted to study his technique for achieving that effect. I discovered he achieved this from glazing – which is one of the last stages in painting.

Since then I have been developing my portraiture and have copied Bouguereau’s Portrait of Gabrielle Cot, Dennis Miller Bunker’s portrait of Walter Griffin, both from high res images and most recently Thomas Eakins’ The Writing Master directly from the original at The MET.

Jessica working at the MET copying Eakins' The Writing Master
Since my first visit to The MET, The Writing Master (1882) became a personal landmark for every visit. I appreciated the concept of it being a portrait in action, the subject is doing his craft as opposed to looking at the viewer. When I learned it was also a portrait of his father, I was further inspired to study the composition. I’m planning to paint my own father, an engineer, concentrated over his work. Eakins' composition is simple and strong, a stable equilateral triangle, re-enforced by a clear value pattern to highlight the subject of the painting, his father and his dedication as a master calligrapher. To have had the opportunity to immerse in the study and copying of this painting was immensely humbling and eye opening. 

1st Day of Grisaille
Eakins employed many techniques to achieve specific results. For example, the background in The Writing Master is painted dark and thin opposed to his father’s coat which is dark and thick. Despite being similar in value, the different treatment in paint gives a warm atmospheric quality to the environment. Comparatively, the portrait and hands are the lightest values and were painted alla prima. He compresses his values with such subtlety that their changes in temperature give the sense of form and of flesh exuding life.

Jessica's final painting

Copying Master Works has become a staple in my practice. I look to them for inspiration in design and color when developing new works. For myself, the exercise began as a way to study color, but it quickly expanded my development of composition, technique, subject matter, and even history. 

Starting this February, I’m teaching a Master Copy class on Tuesday afternoons. We will reference the MET’s database for hi-resolution images from their collection, as well as numerous books from my library at the studio. I will work one-on-one with students to develop a plan to refine and achieve their personal painting goals.

Jessica's winter session runs Tuesdays 1-5pm from January 31 - March 14. Registration is open now. Her spring session will be held March 28 - May 16 and will open for registration in mid-February.
To read more and sign up click here.

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