25 November 2009

Master Study of "Mona" by Anders Zorn



One of the 5 classes I'm taking this term is Painting Studies from the Masters taught by Lucas Graciano. It focuses on master studies, a practice that belongs in every art student's curriculum. It's an effective method of learning because it reinforces other art lessons, as you closely observe how the master applies the "rules" of art making. As an added bonus, you get to pick your "teacher". Today's teacher is Anders Zorn. I choose his painting "Mona" because I like Zorn's loose efficient brushwork and edge control. Also the palette he used here is fairly simple (8 colors), and I like the lighting scheme---a primary warm light to the left and a softer cool light to the right of the figure. A lot to learn here.

Method: Since this is a copy of a reproduction, not a copy of the original painting, it's important to obtain a good quality reference photo. I used a photocopy from a book (shown below). I traced the projected image onto a 20" x 16" linen canvas with a pencil, then re-stated the tracing with black india ink. I prepared a burnt umber pick-out as a value guide, then painted the final image wet-into-wet. The palette included cad yellow pale, cad yellow deep, cad red light, ultramarine blue, viridian, burnt umber, titanium white and ivory black. The painting took about 35 hours to complete.

In this exercise I focused on the fundamentals (materials, brushwork, color mixing). I shaped and blended edges, mixed colors on the palette and canvas, and experimented with different brush techniques. Of note in this painting, Zorn did a lot of skimming of dark blue over warm-hued areas to model the form. This optical mixing kept the colors from going muddy. You can see this everywhere the form turns away from the warm primary light. I did this by loading the body of a sable brush with ultramarine blue and gently skimming over the wet base painting with the side of the loaded brush. Finally, I tried clove oil, which slows paint drying time. Really nice if you're slow like I am and want to work wet-into-wet. A drop of clove oil mixed into an inch or 2 of tube paint will keep it wet for a week or more. Smells good, too.

While I tried to match colors, my painting background, primarily W&N burnt umber, is darker than the reference. The other colors don't seem to have a similar problem. I've read that some paint may dry darker depending on quality, drying conditions, mediums used, etc. Couldn't find any firm guidelines. Less of an issue when creating an original painting, but something to be aware of.

Some references:
  • There are no secret techniques for master copying, but Juliette Aristides has a good discussion of the subject and a copying exercise in her book, Classical Painting Atelier.
  • A good beginner's book for brushstroke technique, which I read before starting this piece, is Brushwork Essentials by Mark Weber.
  • If you're interested in Zorn, check out this article from American Artists. Or go here for a listing of his complete works.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Candace! You've done a great job!The colors are so vibrant and the lights and darks are wonderful!

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  2. Looks like your having fun again. Awesome. What a great way to study. As always great work!!

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  3. i liked all the canvasses of this work

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  4. Great post!Excellent painting.

    I too am a fan of Zorn as well as Sargent & Joaquin Sorolla.

    Aristides book is fantastic and am glad you mentioned it in the post.I highly recommend it.

    Happy Thanksgiving

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  5. James, Thanks for stopping by. Master studies are a great way to go. Mostly fun, only occasionally mind-numbing. C

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  6. Ramesh, This piece was one of Zorn's more colorful, he usually tended to be a bit tonal. Those value ranges do make an image pop. Thanks for your comments.

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  7. Genesis2, Agreed that Aristide's book is a must-have. A great guide for students trying to find a path forward. Best regards.

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  8. Caio, Thanks for your always positive comments. Best.

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  9. Candace, masterful copy! I enjoy your blog and admire your work. Thanks for the links to Zorn. I saw plenty of his drawing and someof his work in Boston at the Isabella Gardener House. A real treat.

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  10. Cathyann, Thanks for your comments. ISGM looks like a great spot based on the website. Collectors like Isabella are so important to the visual arts. Sounds like she was quite a woman. Best regards.

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  11. good exercise and great job on handling it.

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  12. Great result. I've done similar exercises in the past. They make you think! And, learn so much.

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  13. Wonderful illuminating post, again - you share knowldge and are so open to the process. Inspiring. My best.

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  14. Wonderfully executed, Candace. I appreciate both versions due the subtle strengths each presents. Lovely.

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  15. (pssst - yours is amazing - wink)

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  16. Hi, Gary. So glad to see you're back on your feet and in full swing artistically. As always, thanks for your kind words and visit. Stay warm.

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  17. Pam, Agreed. Master studies are the best. Must admit that it usually takes a few passes before the lessons sink in for me. I guess if painting was easy everyone would be doing it. Thanks for your comments and visit. Best.

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  18. Un gran trabajo, mis felicitaciones Candace, saludos

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  19. Tina, At least I'm beginning to get the paint from the palette to the canvas with a bit more finesse. Aside from that, the credit must go to the master. Best regards as always. C

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  20. Saludos, eflores. Gracias por tu comentario. Yo sólo pintó el lienzo. El maestro se merece todo el crédito. Saludos cordiales.

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