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Springtime: A Perfect Moment

I’m sure you must have experienced what you may call, “The Perfect Moment”. Maybe you were outside on a sunny day. The air warms your skin at the right temperature, You forget where you are, maybe even who you are. There is a moment where everything, even for just a moment, all seems right. Fitting music plays at just the right time. As crazy as our lives there, there is this moment of serenity, making us appreciate the miracle that, in this moment, we are alive.

I imagine for many people, myself included, those moments are most frequent while in the arms of someone we love.

The artistic term for this is “sublime” which is akin to an almost unearthly happiness. If an art piece makes you feel this way, to me, that’s a truly powerful thing. In a world rife with poverty, the horrors of war, and divisiveness, art pieces that bring a sense of beauty and joy into it remind us that maybe there is something deep within us that has the potential to do good.

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“Springtime” by Pierre Auguste Cot. Image from the MET Museum.

Not unlike this painting by Pierre Auguste Cot, a pupil of my favorite artist, Adolph Bouguereau.

In May, I found this painting on the internet. I’ve seen it before on several occasions, though never been able to in person. Though I can’t say I felt the “sublime” by only looking at a photo of a painting on the internet, I was still very drawn to it. To me, this looked like a simulation of the sublime, perfect moment. I could feel some semblance of what the young lovers in the painting felt. The light breaking through the leaves, the sleepy, happy expressions, the sense of movement from the girl’s transparent clothing, and the sense of happy calmness from the blueish green color choices and vibrancy surrounding the couple. Everything in their lives feels perfect. A moment. Captured forever.

I found that the best way for me to learn about art is to reverse engineer it. I’ve decided to copy the painting and learn what I can. I even want to sort of go against my art history education (or revert to an older method of said education?) where I attempt to look at the piece uncorrupted by historical context. I come to purely my own conclusions. I attempt to form a relationship with the artwork, to find hidden clues on my own without having read anything by previous art critics or analysts.

Then after I complete the painting, read the literature on it and see how close my interpretations are to the traditional art historians.

I’m mostly doing this for fun, also to improve my artistic skill, and also to keep up and expand on my art education. Unlike the Cafe Terrace at Night copy I did a while back, nobody is paying me to make this painting. This is all out of my own pocket. I have no due dates, no grades to worry about, so even if my interpretations are completely off, the only thing I have to lose is perhaps maybe a sense of pride upon being called out by someone smarter than me, and I that’s something I don’t mind losing if it helps me become more educated.

I appreciate this journey you’re taking with me as I do this, and for taking the time to read this post. So thank you.

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Why I Copy

Hey all,

Since I’ve returned home from Italy, I’ve finally gotten into a routine that involves small self-improvements with bigger goals in mind. Namely, waking up at 5 am and painting for 30 minutes before work, which would inevitably result in gorgeous masterpieces by the end of the month with a total of 15 hours per work of art…

… I hope, anyway. 15 might not be enough. Depends on the artwork I guess.

Into my routine, I’m hoping to do a weekly blog post. Let’s see how long that lasts.

Why do I copy Old Master oil paintings? I’ve been asking myself this question for months.

1. It’s Fun

 

While I was in Italy, one of the things I did consistently make oil reproductions of portraits that I thought were beautiful. They may not have been my original pieces, but as I worked on them, I found that I had a dialogue with the art. I really enjoy doing it. It makes me happy. It’s like finding a new piece and falling in love and all I can think about is getting to know the artwork, and the artist, just a little bit better.

I learned new brushstrokes, found strange quirks and color choices I wouldn’t have picked up just from looking at it, I made mistakes, and learned from them for future pieces.

2. I Learn New Things from Old Geniuses

 

The artists long dead became my mentors, and they taught me more in four hours than I ever did four years of art classes.

I think as artists, we should never stop learning. Even if our style becomes something we’re truly proud of and we don’t think we could ever improve and better our art (and, in extension, ourselves), there’s always something new to learn.

In fact, a couple years ago, I heard about DC Artist, Jorge Jimenez. He regularly posted to his twitter feed art. He loved art, and just talked about art. He tweeted something to the extent of “Great Artists Never Stop Learning”. This almost moved me to tears. At the time, I was more obsessed with trying to create original pieces (not that I made a lot anyway, I just stood there being frustrated). I thought, “Yeah. Why not stop learning?” As a result, I just drew hands, drew more things from life, and tried not to stop learning.

I found that the best way to learn, to quote Newton, was to build on the shoulders of giants. So to speak.

3. My Copies Aren’t Really Copies.

 

Even so, I can’t copy these artists exactly, nor do I want to. I’m not saying that out of a “Sour Grapes” approach that I can’t get that good, but my hands and my brain have their own spark of creativity built from years of knowledge, emotions, and experiences that appear in the art, making them different.

For example, in my copies of Bouguereau’s young girls, I subconsciously made them look like my sisters rather than the girls he was trying to portray. It made me wonder if his paintings really looked as much like his models, or if there was something in his own mind that changed them.

4. Maybe a Sense of Spiteful Rebellion

Dear Post-Modernist loving professors,

Get. Off. My. Back!

Just let me enjoy historical art, for Christ’s sake! Take this checklist you’ve shoved down my throat of “Patriarchy, Male Gaze, Marxist Deconstructionisticnonesense” and shove it up your-”

5. It’s a Calming Meditation

 

Copying isn’t just copying. It’s really a puzzle that you try to solve.

You actually deconstruct the artworks.

When I paint, I deconstruct the people into basic shapes in order to achieve the correct proportions, I deconstruct the colors and try to figure out what other colors brought that particular shade and vibrancy. I deconstruct everything from the face, to the cloth, to flowers, the fur on a dog… It’s an amazing exercise for the brain using all parts of it and all senses, the mathematical part, the smell of the paint, the music affecting the overall mood of the project.

It’s one thing to look at, analyze, and appreciate a painting, but it’s a whole other thing to analyze it with your hands and your own artistic skill…

…and the difference between me and those PHILISTINES I just mentally screamed at into the uncaring void above in item 4, is that when I deconstruct a part of our culture, I aim to analyze it, learn from it, then build it back up again maybe just a little more new, yet maintaining respect and integrity for the original.

It took me too long to realize that THEY only want to destroy. Their “deconstruction” serves not to create, not to learn, but to DESTROY!

… On that note, I’m going to go back to painting. Maybe turn on some heavy metal. This ought to yield some interesting results.

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30 Portraits in Some Time Frame or Another: Portrait 5 and the Stibbert Museum

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I started this painting yesterday and finished it this evening. This is a study of William Bouguereau’s “A Dream of Spring”.

For this excercise, I decided to paint a portrait where the eyes are more open. The last two portraits I did, the subject was looking down so their eyes were obscured. Painting eyes without making them look creepy is challenging.

Now, for my travel related section. I decided to visit the Stibbert Museum which is a huge  collection of Medieval armor from around the world. It was awesome there was armor, swords, guns, fine art, all the works. I didn’t quite catch all the history behind everything because the tour was in Italian.

 

 

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30 Portraits in 30 Days Challenge: Day 2

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So, today, still wanting to keep with making copies of paintings with high contrast, I made a Carvaggio copy this time. This is Judith’s face from Carvaggio’s “Judith Beheading Holofernes.”

While I personally, like this better than my Girl With a Girl Earring copy, from yesterday, it’s not perfect, obviously, you look at this and see the original face, and it doesn’t really the same girl.

Here’s some observations I’ve made:

Both women’s skin look REALLY pale. Their skins look cold. Dead even. It’s freaking creepy, man. 

During this, and yesterday’s painting, I realized that I have two cold yellow tubes instead of one cold and one warm. I don’t have a warm yellow tube. Why is this important?

And what the heck is a cold vs warm yellow?

Well, in paints, there’s no such thing a pure yellow, I’m 99% sure anyway. I’ve found that yellow paints are usually on a spectrum of yellow.

Some yellows are closer to orange on the color wheel, and other yellows are closer to green. It’s really difficult if at all possible to find a tube of paint that is pure yellow. So, if you are trying to, say, make an orange, and you mix yellow and red like you would, but your yellow is more leaning towards the green spectrum than the orange, then you’re going to get a really cold, unfeeling orange.

Solution: Easy. Go to the art store and get a yellow from Gamblin’s lovely list here from their “Warm” criteria. I kinda miss Gamblin here in Italy. Their paints are amazing. That’s a pretty nice, warm yellow.

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I hope this helps make a better visualization

The Faces Do Look Like Human Faces, but They Don’t Look Like the Women They’re Based On

This was a problem I ran into early on when I did my Drawing 30 Portraits in 30 Days was I would, say draw a picture of my sister, but I would draw a girl that looked her age, but it wasn’t really her, just things that are kind of off that are missing the unique features of an individual person’s face.

Now, one can argue this is fine, they look like faces, so who cares if it’s my own style rather than the Master I’m copying? Well, what if I want to paint a portrait of one of my sisters? And I end up making a painting that doesn’t really look like them? What if I have a client that wants me to make a fake of an old master painting or one of their loved ones? Making a face look like someone’s face is a skill I would like to have.

Solution: I think to remedy this, I’m going to draw an outline of the face for the time being. Maybe do a few sketches of the face beforehand.

So, just be clear, I’m not saying my paintings suck (though, I’m sure they might to some of you, and that’s okay. Can’t please everyone), but with my philosophy that art is a skill as much as a form of culture or expression, it can always be improved on. I feel like I’ve already learned a lot from these two paintings and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s will look like.

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30 Portraits in 30 Days (Painting Edition)

Hello, all!

So… I want to get good at painting portraits.

Like REALLY good!

So, being in the city of art and beauty, I’ve been inspired to dedicate myself to doing so. I did a 30 Portrait in 30 Days challenge a while back, and I believe it really helped my skill a ton. Also, I think it’s important to note, that I failed this earlier year’s 30 Portraits in 30 Days as I was about 8 portraits short, so we’ll see how this goes.

I’m going to do this by copying painted portraits first, then moving to photographs, then hopefully live portraits if I can find someone willing to sit still for long periods at a time (even if it’s only myself).

So… here’s my first one. A copy of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pear Earring”

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Gold is Everywhere, and by Gold, I mean Art and Beauty

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This frame here was a great thing to have fallen into my lap.

I have a couple friends who will be moving to Germany in just a few days, they handed me their cats.

They also had this frame that was given to them that they couldn’t find a use for. “Here, Ashley, you’re an artist, you can find a use for it,” they said.

Actually, it’s a really beautiful frame that I believe would be perfect for my newest project; the painting commemorating my grandfather who passed away a month ago.

As luck would have it, the frame turned out to be exactly 24×36 inches. Blick just so happened to make canvases in that size.

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I couldn’t wait to get started already. I’m really happy with how it’s looking so far. I got started on the sky and the water, I’ll give that a few days to dry, then I’ll work on the trees.

My younger sisters have started watching Bob Ross, or, as I like to call him, Sarge, on Netflix. They claimed they only saw a couple episodes as a joke, but the fact that I saw that they were on episode 17 seems to prove otherwise.

Welp. That’s all the energy I have to write tonight. One of these days, I’ll get on a better blogging schedule.

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Happy Mother’s Day

20170514_113626Happy Mother’s Day! I’m sure many of you think your mothers are the best, but you’re all wrong. Mine is. No questions. Not up for debate. Thank you very  much…

…is what I would’ve said had Mary had not already held that spot, sorry, Jesus.

I very much dread to think what my life would have been if it hadn’t been for her strength, her intelligence, and her wisdom.

Such wisdom including, but not limited to:

Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.

Be brave like a lion. Lions are mighty. They’re right. They have nothing to fear except for perhaps people with guns. They are not like the gazelles cowering in the grass or the wild dogs attacking everything in sight.

Her hard work and sacrifice being the mother of a large family isfullicon something that I will always admire.

She taught me the importance of being kind, understanding, and tolerant of others. She taught me that I never needed to be afraid. Not of other people, other faiths, and most importantly, not afraid to follow my dreams even though it required a field of study I greatly struggled in high school (chemistry) and the great distances I will travel to achieve them.

But most importantly, she taught me that I must always strive to a better me. She never looked at me and said, “Why can’t you be more like ____.” She always accepted me for who I was, and encouraged me to grow accordingly.

Now, some of you may remember that I tried to do a project for Lent. Well, I got a good head start on it. I’ve been spending about an hour every day on it, but my grandfather past away the last week of Lent, and I wasn’t able to finish it then. I did, however, get it finished in time for Mother’s Day.

 

So, in about an hour, I’m going to be driving over to Mom’s to do a big reveal of this painting and place it in the niche in the house (hence the shape of the painting).

Please follow this amazing woman’s blog, Simply Catholic.

It’s customary for religious painters to put their hometown/monastery/family members, etc in their paintings. I’m no exception:

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It’s a bit difficult to see, but that’s Mt. Hood in the background.