Sunday, June 2, 2013

Copying a Master: Edgar Payne

A couple of months ago, I mentioned in a post that I went through my first spell of artist's block this winter.  I tried everything I could think of to pop myself out of it:  painting a different subject matter, using a different palette of colors, a different style, etc. and finally decided that since nothing seemed to coming out of me that I was happy with, I should take a break from trying to come up with something on my own and use the time to learn something by copying a master painting.  I've never tried this before and the idea was very intimidating!

The painting I picked was one of Edgar Payne's landscapes, "Eucalypti."  I'd always loved this painting because it reminded me of the eucalyptus trees that I grew up near.  I was also planning to see the Edgar Payne exhibit and knew that I'd see the original when it arrived in Tulsa.  Before I saw the original, I started working from a photo of the painting I found in a collection of Payne's work.

I began by deciding that he had basically started with a white canvas and drew directly on the canvas with a brush and burnt sienna.  The canvas is 20 x 24," the same size as the original painting and I did color that canvas (toning it) with a pale wash of the burnt sienna to prevent any unpainted slivers of the glaring white canvas from showing.

After drawing it, I could see that my shapes were "off."  I took a photo of my canvas, and then drew on it in Photoshop to make corrections.  

Having drawn out the necessary changes on the photograph, it was much easier for me to make the corrections in the studio the next day.  You can see that I also starting indicating where the darks and lights would be in the painting.

Then, it was time to start painting!  I had done some research online to learn what colors Edgar generally used on his palette.  Most of them are the basics that most artists use, but there was one that I wasn't familiar with, Van Dyke Brown, and one that I didn't want to run out and buy (Hooker's Green), so I did some research to figure out how to mix those colors using paint that I already had in the studio.  After that, I read that Payne made grays that he mixed in with all his colors and that the grays consisted of different proportions of Ultramarine Blue and Indian Red, with a little Cadmium Yellow added.  

With everything laid out on my palette, I started by blocking in the shapes with the colors and values that I saw peeking out from the paint strokes applied over them.  I discovered that I wasn't able to really see Edgar's brushwork in the photo I was working from, so I was kind of on my own with the sky.  I just did the best I could to get the colors, values and cloud shapes correct.

It was at this point that I was able to see the original painting, and came back from Tulsa with all kinds of information that I needed.  I'll start with that in my next post.

 If you attended the April Art Walk, you may have seen the painting in my studio at just about this stage.  I'll have the completed piece on display at my next open studio, Friday June 7th, from 5 to 8 pm.

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