Sunday, January 10, 2016

Still Life Mentorship A la Sargent

As part of the Level 3 curriculum, we are assigned a mentor to paint along side with in their private studio for a 6 or 7 week cycle on Fridays.  The goal is to apply the principles learned into several completed paintings as the year progresses.  The instructor guides us toward completing paintings based on the perspective of the mentor.  I absolutely love this concept, one on one instruction with teaching fellow Natalie Italiano!

After visiting the Sargent exhibit at the MET, the painting I was most drawn to was "Portrait of Edouard and Marie-Loise Pailleron".  The network of cool and warm whites in Marie-Louise's dress were intriguing and I knew I had to tackle it.  The fiery red background and teal colors in the Persian carpet used in the composition would make great colors to enhance my painting.  I figured if it was good enough for Sargent, it was good enough for me.  

I have my white christening dress that I wore and passed down to my daughter that I have always wanted to paint...a perfect subject for a white study.  Simplifying the complexity of the folds, wrinkles and lace was a task I was reluctant to take on alone but with the help of my skilled mentor I wanted to give it a try.

This painting of Sargent's also caught my eye at the MET.  The blue gown shimmered with dazzling color and I wanted to find a way to bring that look into my painting.

During the set up, we decided to add a piece of teal fabric to the right side of the still life box to reflect color back into the white.  I carefully pinned the dress in places were I wanted it to stay put, the ribbons and opening of the jacket were important parts of the design so they had to remain constant.

My goals for the rest of day one:

1)  two black and white studies with three values only
2)  don't repeat aspects of light and shadow, compositionally speaking
3)  determine canvas size ratios for the final piece
4)  elements of a good artist are those that can separate the lines and see values in groups

Canvas size was determined to be 16x24, linen on Gatorboard

A color study and graiselle was my task for week two.  I was told to approach color study not in the traditional sense but rather focus more on subdued color then push in richer notes.  Ask yourself, "what do you see in each color?"  Meaning, what is the most purple, green yellow, etc. 

Painting in north light was a new challenge for me.  As soon as the clouds rolled in the light would change from cool to warm instantly.  Everything flip flopped, my lights would go from cool to warm which reversed all aspects of temperature in every other part of the painting.  I constantly had to stay engaged, always thinking about the task at hand and reminding myself how to analyze every choice I made.  I found myself loving it and hating it at the same time.  I have to navigate your own way around a painting, concept to completion, and be your own teacher once I leave school.  

The afternoon session was spent working on the graiselle and the drawing.  One value for light and one value for dark to separate light and shadow.

My goal for day 4 is to apply thinly the first pass of color.  Natalie said to start with the easiest to see and ease your way into the more difficult parts.  One color for the light mass and one color for the shadow mass plus a highlight and my darkest dark.


Day 5 was my most productive session.  I finally had all the groundwork done and getting the meat of the painting was something I couldn't wait to dive into.   My goals for that day were:

1)  Squint and look for the overall affect and how that communicates the light flow instead of rendering individual details.  Light flow is more important and will do more to creating something realistic.

2)  Don't stare into things, especially the shadows and record everything.  Scan your eyes back and forth.

3)  There is a huge difference between seeing the light bathing the form and just cooling details without considering the light and shadow and how they affect things.

4)  Don't overdue it!!

My final day was spent analyzing repeating what was done last week.  This is my final photo of the painting.  I don't consider the painting finished by I think I met my goals in that I was able to paint the effect of light, make white fabric more interesting and hold the relationships together in a way I'd not experienced before.  It was an amazing experience and I can't wait for the next rotation which will be copying a Nelson Shanks original painting.  I'll keep you posted on my progress!

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Lynn Snyder

My journey of learning to see as an artist.

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