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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 (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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More Florence Things: Art Making and Gold Gilding

So… I’m finally having a bit of an “off” day. Tuesdays are insane for me, so today was pretty much just me catching up on laundry and vegging out. I was going to go out and do some painting, but I’ve finally accepted the fact that that’s just not happening.

I’m blogging instead.

So, here are some highlights for how this week has been:

Last weekend, I went to Villa Demidoff and saw the Collosso d’Appenino:

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And started a painting of him…

And here’s the backside!

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Dunno why it’s showing up as small, but here you go…

And then I went to the Duomo, and painted the side door you go into if you’re going to church:

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It’s not done yet.

I also went to church at the Duomo. I apologize, I don’t have any pictures of the inside, but the experience there was amazing. I went to the 10:30 Gregorian chant mass. I waited outside for a while, there were some tour groups that congregated on the front and a few passerbys that said “The Duomo is closed on Sundays for some reason.” Since I had some time, I walked to the other side of the Duomo, and there I found a line of people going in for mass. The doors were guarded by some some nice gentlemen in dark suits turning anyone away who didn’t know the password.

When I went up to the doorway, a bearded man with a stern look blocked me. I gestered at my outfit, thinking it would be enough to let him know I wasn’t just trying to tour the place, but he still stood there just staring at me.

“Mass?” I said.

His stern look vanished then replaced with a warm, welcoming smile, then he stood to the side and let me through. I wonder how many people get confused by that. I can’t say I blame them though. As many centuries as the Duomo stood, I can hardly believe it’s still used for its original purpose (and no, it’s original purpose was not to tell future generations how great the Medicis were, although to be fair, it’s doing a good job of that too).

The mass was in Italian, so I could only understand bits and pieces of the homily and the readings. I’m kind of debating whether or not I should keep going to the Italian mass as it could help me with my Italian, but it would be nice to understand everything that was happening. I’m used to parts of the mass being in Latin, but I wonder if it would be beneficial if, at first, to listen to the homily (sermon) in English.

This was also my first time going to a mass at an Old World church that was built for the acoustics. Whenever there was any sound made, any singing, or reading, or anything like that, there was a sound way up high in the dome that sounded as though some unearthly creature with a deep, booming voice was humming. It was almost spooky. I really enjoyed that experience. The engineers who built the church to do that were amazing.

Classes are going really well too. Today, we learned about how the painters of the Byzantine/Renaissance era made their own gesso, which gave the canvases or boards a layer of what was almost like marble, so when you were painting, it was like painting on stone. We also learned about three different types of glues: Fish, the weakest, most commonly used for paper, rabbit skin glue, used for paintings and a lot of other things as well, and Bole (cattle hoof) glue, which was the strongest, but smelled awful! This was commonly used for furniture restoration, according to my teacher.

We also learned a little bit about gold gilding, and the teacher taught us how to make two different types of molds for when there’s a missing part on a gold gilded picture frame. When the molds were done, you would put in a paste made from Balsa wood to make the fills for the losses of the frames.

I don’t have pictures because since the frame we were using is still under copyright by the Italian government, I don’t want to take my chances. I’ll be posting again soon.

If you’d like to help support me, here’s my GoFundMe:

And, if you want cool stuff and want to help me out on a monthly basis, here’s my Patreon.

 

 

Art Museum Internship, The Van Gogh Project, Uncategorized

ArH Internship Week 6: No Internship Today. Van Gogh instead.

Well, my friendlies, I just realized it’s Friday and I have not posted anything related to my internship this week. That’s because I had no internship this week. My supervisor is in Beliz with her husband. That being said, I thought I would take this opportunity to write more about my independent research project. I posted an entry earlier this week, but, what the heck, I’ll do another one.

If you’ve been following all of my blog posts, and possibly my instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been posted something called “The Van Gogh Project.”

My aunt asked me to paint a reproduction of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night” that she may hang it in her dining room.

Wanting to do a good job, I decided to study the artwork and Van Gogh much more extensively. I thought by getting to know the man better, I would be able to bring his painting to life in a way that would allow my aunt and anyone she invites over to get a feel for the real man.

I bought a poster of the piece because having a high quality poster shows the brushstrokes much better than any image in the internet can. I also didn’t want to paint in my own style as my style uses only the smallest amounts of paint at a time (paint’s expensive, I generally want to make it last as long as possible), and I have a tendency to blend, worse, over blend the paint on my canvas. Van Gogh and I are opposites in many ways.

He separates his colors, I blend mine. He uses a lot of paint, I use as little as I can. The Van Gogh project is every bit breaking my own habits as learning the techniques of one of my giants.

Turns out, I was right. In a letter to his sister, Van Gogh specifically explained his pride in being able to recreate the sky in the painting without using any black.


A couple days ago, I myself went a little mad.

I was attempting to study logic, and I was just not getting it. Finally, I marched downstairs and picked up the paintbrush. I started a little earlier than I wanted to, but I finally took paint to the canvas I purchased:

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I put globs of paint on the canvas, like the impressionists did, and went to work. I just needed the right yellow to put on the stars.

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I got Yellow Ochre for the stars (I can’t believe I didn’t have it already), I saw a lot of Indian Yellow in the painting, so I went ahead and got that too.

If you haven’t seen it already, here’s a video of me analyzing the poster I got as my reference:

I’m currently in the process of finishing a video doing some brushstroke experiments. Please follow me on YouTube or Vidme for updates.