John Singer Sargent and the Art of Reinvention

John Singer Sargent: An Artist I admire

 

The problem of Choosing a Topic

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I haven’t been painting much lately. This is a challenge because, without artwork to illustrate my blog posts with, I don’t know what to write about. Over the past few weeks, I have considered writing about art business related topics. However, since I have been having some doubts about whether I want my art to be made mainly for pleasure, such as a hobby or for profit, based on a business model. In fact, I sometimes feel that making art for profit, sometimes steals the joy of creating, and it often involves a host of other tasks I don’t enjoy such as marketing and bookkeeping, which also takes away the limited time I have to make artwork.  To resolve this problem, I am going to return to an earlier topic which I had enjoyed writing about and that is, artists I admire. In this case, I will focus my discussion upon the life of John Singer Sargent, and his subsequent reinvention as a painter around 1900, in which he shifted his focus from creating oil portraits of high society figures to creating watercolors of people and places he visited in Europe.

Re-Invention of the Self: A pop culture staple

All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, and imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people. —Ursula K. Le Guin

The topic of reinvention is important to me because I am in the process of trying to separate others ideas of what they think I should be doing with my life, and my own conflicts between pursuing art, and what role I want it to play in my life. Is it a profession, a hobby or something in between? Along the way, I have also been sidetracked with other pursuits such as pursuing more practical lines of work, such as graphic design and social work, and even, art entrepreneurship. This is a process that began in 2005 when I graduated from McDaniel College with an art degree to the present moment.

That is why reading about Sargent’s journey to aesthetic reinvention, in the article, “Examining Sargent’s Shift from Oils to Watercolors”, by Judith H. Dubrinsky, of the New York Times, caught my eye and inspired me to write about him.  I took classes in both graphic design and social work and after much ambivalence and indecision, decided ultimately that they were not interesting enough for me to complete a degree and change my career direction. It seems that I always return to making art no matter what other avenues for employment, volunteering or education that I have pursued. As I have been introspecting about this process of shedding layers of false selves, my truer self-seems to be emerging, and I am finding fulfillment in finally getting to pursue my dream of teaching art. Meanwhile, I am working part-time as a receptionist, who provides stable income and a sense of security, when art sales are low or the teaching contracts are not long-term, as is the case with my new contractual position at Buckingham’s Choice. The topic of reinvention, however, is not just limited to the past, as in the case of Sargent. Instead, it can still be observed in more current times.

For example, in  popular culture, a good case in point of the re-invented self  is found in the 2009 movie, Julie and Julia, a biopic about the life of the renowned chef, Julia Child, which is intermingled with the life one of her fans, Julie Powell who aspires to be a cook, but struggles with finishing things, like her novel. Powell gets inspired by Child’s book, The Art of French cooking, and takes on the challenge of cooking all of Child’s recipes from the book, and blogging about her adventures and mishaps during this journey. In addition, the writer, Georgina Del Vecho, in an article, Can You Really Reinvent Yourself? States that, “Countless teen movies revolve around the plotline of a transformation—“The Princess Diaries,” “Grease,” “She’s All That” and “Clueless,” to name a few—which, even if the transformed character ends up realizing they’ve forsaken their morals in pursuit of popularity/fame/a man, still suggest that changing your appearance or other aspects about yourself can help you reach your goal.” (Source: Del Vecho, Georgina. “Can You Really Reinvent Yourself?” The Chronicle: The Independent News Organization at Duke University, 09/13/2007, https://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2017/09/can-you-really-reinvent-yourself, accessed on November 15, 2018.)

Another example of transformation, which is popular today, is the notion of changing your profession and seeking to find a dream job, such as leaving the corporate world to start your own business, especially during the retirement years. (Source:  Freedman, Marc. “The Dangerous Myth of Reinvention.” The Harvard Business Review, January 1, 2014, https://hbr.org/2014/01/the-dangerous-myth-of-reinvention), accessed on November 15, 2018.)

These examples, however, opens up the question, such as, do these types of transformations really change who you are as a person, or not? I’m particularly interested in this questions and the journey of reinventing myself because I have been making some significant changes in my own life. For years I have wanted to teach art, but haven’t known how to go about it. For example, I have faced many roadblocks to getting qualified to teach after I obtained my baccalaureate degree in art. Despite taking the standardized teaching certification test, called the Praxis 1 test many times, I could not pass it. This test is required to obtain teacher certification in the state of Maryland, and it allows you to apply for teaching jobs in the public school system.

After that, I was rejected to four graduate degree art programs, which is a required qualification if you want to teach art on the college level. It seemed that all doors for teaching art had been effectively closed.  I have driven down many detours and pursued lots of classes and volunteering, most of which not related to art, but seemed more “practical.” Making time for art and thinking about how I wanted it to be a part of my life got sidelined. For years, I simply focused on survival and paying my bills, which was important because I had student loans to pay off. However, after my father died in 2011, it was a catalyst to motivate me to find a way to make art a part of my life again.  Initially, this began by taking art classes with Rebecca Pearl, a local Thurmont, MD artist, and teacher. Later, it grew to include a sideline as a pet portrait painter and exhibiting my artwork in local art shows. Recently, I have begun teaching art classes in an enrichment art class at the retirement community in Adamstown, Md, called Buckingham’s Choice, and I have applied for a position as an enrichment art teacher at Frederick Community College in the Institute for Learning in Retirement. However, this journey hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to work against my inner resistance to change, even good change, and fears of the unknown, to get to this new destination in my life. But, upon reflection, I’m realizing that perhaps the biggest failure of all, would be not to pursue one’s hopes, dreams or ambitions and settle for the unresolved life, which is  characterized by “what might have been,” or “if only.”

John Singer Sargent: Artistic Scope and Reinvention

That’s why I was intrigued by an article entitled, “Examining Sargent’s shift from Oil to Watercolor”, by Judith Dubrynzynski, a writer for the New York Times. (Source: Dubrynzynski, Judith. “Examining Sargent’s shift from Oil to Watercolor.” The New York Times, March 20, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/arts/artsspecial/new-appreciation-for-the-watercolor-works-of-sargent.html, accessed on November 15, 2018.)

I tend to associate Sargent with oil paintings of well-known entities such as Theodore Roosevelt and the robber baron John D. Rockefeller. But, little did I know that he had much more range and ability in the arts than I can imagine. In fact, sometime around 1900, Sargent abandoned his oil paints and picked up watercolor paints instead. (Source: ibid) According to the author, Dubrinsky, he abandoned painting portraits of high society figures and instead focused on painting “gardens, exotic locales, and people at leisure, at work and at rest, often on his travels in Europe and the Middle East. Experimenting with unusual compositions and new techniques, he reinvented himself aesthetically.” (Source: ibid)

Furthermore, later in life, he painted a series of murals for the Boston Public Library, with the theme of the Triumph of Religion. According to the Boston Public Library, Sargent, depicted several themes in his murals, including “early Egyptian beliefs, Judaism and Christianity”, in his murals, located in the McKim building of the Boston Public Library. (Source: “Digital Commonwealth: Massachusetts Collections Online, Mural Cycles at the Central Library in Copley Square”: Boston Public Library, https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/collections/commonwealth:sq87dv033, accessed on November 15, 2018,   and The Art Story,  “John Singer Sargent: American Painter”,  https://www.theartstory.org/artist-sargent-john-singer.htm, accessed on November 15, 2018.)

 

Note: You can view examples of Sargent’s murals at the Boston Public Library by clicking on this link: https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/collections/commonwealth:sq87dv033,

John Singer Sargent: Biography

All of this makes me wonder, who was Sargent really? According to a biography written by Stanley Meisler,  Sargent lived a peripatetic life in Europe during his childhood, although his family originally lived in the New England area. (Source: Dubrynzynski, Judith. “Examining Sargent’s shift from Oil to Watercolor.” The New York Times, March 20, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/arts/artsspecial/new-appreciation-for-the-watercolor-works-of-sargent.html, accessed on November 15, 2018., and  Meisler, Stanley. “John Singer Sargent”. Smithsonian Magazine, February 1999, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/john-singer-sargent-65338011/, accessed on November 15, 2018.

He obtained his artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. (Source: ibid) Furthermore, some of his artistic influences included:  the artists: Goya, Velasquez, and other contemporary Impressionist painters, and he quickly put into practice the lessons he learned from these masters. (Source: ibid)

What Made John Singer Sargent’s Work Exceptional?

According to the website, The Art Story.org, John Singer Sargent was a celebrated portrait artist who specialized in painting pictures of the elite members of society, such as the oil magnate J.D. Rockefeller, and the presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, in locations such as Paris, London and New York. (Source: The Art Story, “John Singer Sargent: American Painter”, https://www.theartstory.org/artist-sargent-john-singer.htm, accessed on November 15, 2018.)

What distinguished him from other artists was the way that he revolutionized portrait painting by utilizing impressionistic brushwork and nontraditional compositions to “capture his sitters’ character and even reputation.” (Source: ibid) And sometimes his models did not like the completed painting and even refused to buy it, perhaps because it revealed uncomfortable truths? (Source: ibid)  The portrait, Madame X, painted early in his career is a prime example of this tendency. (Source: ibid)

Sargent’s Range of Artistic Projects: Watercolors and Murals

However, he did not limit himself to portraiture; instead, he also painted outdoors with his colleague, Claude Monet”. (Source: ibid)  In addition, Sargent also created murals which were commissioned by government officials in the US and in the UK later in his career. (Source: ibid) He was a talented young painter and he created a “spectacular array of exciting and masterful paintings while only in his twenties.”(Source: ibid)

Scandal in Paris Salon of 1884: Madame X Painting

Despite these accomplishments, in 1884 at the Paris Salon, his portrait, Madame X, created a stir amongst the leaders of the Paris art establishment, who found its depiction of the American ex-patriot, Virginia Gateau, too blatantly sexual, in her low cut black dress which showed a shocking amount of her skin for the 19th century time period and standards of the day. (Source: Baker, Harriet. “The Story Behind John Singer Sargent’s RA ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose.” The Royal Academy, 13 February 2015, https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/john-singer-sargent-carnation-lily-lily-rose, accused on November 15, 2018.

After his debacle in Paris, Sargent moved to England “and spent summer seasons in an artist’s colony in Broadway, Worcestershire”. (Source: ibid) At this location, he painted the stunning and timeless painting, Carnation Lily, Lily Rose, which epitomized the innocence of childhood, and helped to bring him back into the arms of the art establishment. (Source: ibid) Sargent’s inspiration for this double portrait came from a variety of sources such as artwork by the English Pre-Raphaelites, and the Impressionists who painted en plein air. (Source: ibid)   However, his initial inspiration for this painting can be traced back to “an evening boating trip along the Thames at Pangbourne in 1885, when he saw Chinese lanterns hanging from trees.” (Source: ibid) He began working on Carnation Lily, Lily Rose during a visit with Francis David Millet. (Source: ibid) The two girls who posed for the portrait were Polly and Dorothy, who were daughters of the artist Frederick Barnard. (Source: ibid)

 

Closing Thoughts: Why I feel a kinship with Sargent

In conclusion, I feel I can relate to Sargent’s life story in a small way, such as his search to find success, his failures, and his desire to reinvent himself in his middle age. In a similar way, I am at a crossroads in my life and looking for ways to reinvent my life via teaching art. I’m also shedding old selves, perhaps influenced or invented by others or myself. I’m trying to be completely honest with myself about what I really want to do with my life and what I want my contribution to society to be. I am not even sure I want to be an artist-entrepreneur anymore, and I am re-examining what it means for me to be an artist.  For now, I am finding that teaching others to draw and paint is incredibly rewarding, and it seems to be part of that answer. I admire Sargent’s courage to break free from his comfort zone, and perhaps from the expectations of others about what he should paint. I hope that I can grab onto some of that courage.

 

Readers, Please Note: The paintings I am posting to accompany this blog post include not only a portrait that Sargent completed, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,  but also some other master artworks

Copy of Caranation Lily, Lily Rose
After John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. 1885, oil on canvas. I painted this portrait in 2017.
Sohpy Gray portrait_edited-1
After John Millais. Portrait of a Girl, 1857, oil on canvas. I painted this portrait in 2017 with oils on prepared illustration board.
The Family copy_edited-1
After Mary Cassatt, The Family, 1893, oil on canvas. I painted this painting in 2007 with oil paints on prepared illustration board.
Ocean park copy_edited-1
After Richard Diebenkorn, Cityscape 1, 1963. and Ocean Park series # 79, oil on canvas. I painted this painting with oil paint on prepared illustration board.
Woman on a Porch, 1958, Richard Diebenkorn
After Richard Diebenkorn, Woman on a Porch, 1958, oil on canvas. I painted this painting on a canvas with acrylic paintings in 2017.

which I have copied and which I intend to make part of an art history blog series. Thanks for reading! Next month I plan to write about the artist Eastman Johnson. Have a wonderful day!

Copyright Guidelines for Artists: How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

If you’ve been following my blog posts for a while, you’ve probably seen my Voices and Visions poetry illustration series, which I have posted on my blog. Some of these feature celebrity portraits, such as my Maya Angelou portrait, And Still I Rise, and my biographical portrait of singer/songwriter, Sting. To create these portraits, I have combined several photographic sources to make a photo collage in Adobe Photoshop as references for the drawings and paintings for my poetry series. I want to avoid copyright infringement, especially since some of the photos are photos of celebrities.  In addition, I have seen celebrity portraits often on websites such as Etsy and Pinterest and I have wondered, what constitutes copyright infringement when using photographic sources other than your own?  Is there such as thing as changing the photographic source “enough” to make it your own, or not?

Since I am new to the word of art entrepreneurship, the concept and understanding of copyright infringement with regard to the visual arts are somewhat new to me. On the other hand, I have heard about the subject in passing, such as in the celebrated case of the Obama poster campaign portrait, in Associated Press vs. Fairey, (2009), in which a photo of former President Barak Obama taken by AP freelancer, Mannie Garcia, was used by graphic artist Shepherd Fairey to create a campaign poster for Obama. ( Source: Kaitlyn Ellison, 2014, 5 Famous Copyright Infringement Cases (and what you can learn, retrieved from https://99designs.com/blog/tips/5-famous-copyright-infringement-cases/). Accessed 16 January 2018.  As a former history major in college, I am much more familiar with the issue of plagiarism with regards to the written word, as in not citing your sources in research papers and essays, etc. When I was a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, if a student was found guilty of plagiarism, with regard to a term paper or essay, they would be booted out of the University, permanently. As a result, I meticulously cited my sources as I took notes, and double and triple checked for paraphrasing and direct quotes during each draft of a research paper. I know many of the guidelines which refer to that sort of subject, such as you should always cite your sources when you give direct quotes or paraphrase another person’s ideas, both in the body of your paper as footnotes and at the end of your paper as works cited page. In fact, there are even websites devoted to the study of specific types of citation methods such as APA style, Chicago style, etc., which you can learn about on the Purdue Online Writing Lab which can be accessed on the following link,https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/, and how to implement these styles in a college essay.

On the other hand, the world of artistic copyright infringement seems murkier to me.  How do artists avoid copyright infringements when creating art and how do they protect their own works from unlawful use or theft?  To find out, I started researching some articles online about copyright infringement…I discovered that there is no magic formula for changing a source photograph enough to make it original and that it is far better to use your own photos if at all possible, according to the author, Helen South, 2017, of the article, What Artists Need to Know About Copyright. On the other hand, if this is not possible, as, in the example of using photos of celebrities, artists can make use of websites such as Wikimedia or Wikipedia to look up photos of specific celebrities. (ibid) These websites give details about the provenance of each photo, such as whether it is copy written, the photographer’s name, date of creation, and whether or not this photo is available for use, and under what terms. The photographs have a citation that states, its sources, such as the photographer that took the photo and whether it is labeled public domain or creative commons. (ibid)

Be sure to read all the notations about the artwork to be sure it is not copy written and to understand the conditions for which it may be used.  Finally, another example of copyright usage is when artists make master copies of other artists work for their own study and development. For example, well-known artists such as Mary Cassatt, considered studying the old masters and copying their work to be an integral part of an artist’s education, and she copied old master masters, by Italian artist, Correggio.  (Source: The Art Story: Modern Art Insight, Mary Cassatt, American Draftsman, Painter and Printmaker, retrieved from http://www.theartstory.org/artist-cassatt-mary.htm, Accessed on 19 January 2018. Biography.com, Mary Cassatt: Painter, (1844-1926), retrieved from https://www.biography.com/people/mary-cassatt-9240820. Accessed on 19 January 2018. and Getlein, Frank.  Mary Cassatt: Paintings and Prints, Abbeville Press Publishers: 1980, New York, pg. 12.

It is important to label your master copies with the notation, After (Artist’s Name). You can also add additional information such as the title of the work, date of creation, medium, and the date that you executed your version of the masterwork on the back of the painting. In addition, to avoid claims of plagiarism or worse yet, art forgery, I never sell my masterworks and only use them to learn more about technique and I always give credit where credit is due. If I post them on my website or elsewhere, such as Instagram, I clearly indicate that they are master copies with all of the details about the picture’s provenance. This article is by no means comprehensive about the ins and outs of copyright law regarding visual art

portrait of Sting
Here is the updated version of my biographical portrait of Sting. It is a mixture of acrylic and watercolor paints and pencil. I am still working out the composition and the water reflections.

and is only intended as a basic introduction to the subject. Thank you for stopping by!

The Art of Finishing

The Art of Finishing

      This week I am returning to a favorite topic of mine which is the importance of completing a painting or work of art. I have several unfinished paintings and sketches pilling up in my studio lately. They are the remnants of ideas not fully thought out, false starts, or brick walls I didn’t know how to climb. In trying to figure out what caused this to happen, I have a few theories…Maybe life got really busy, I got stuck and didn’t know how to fix a problem with composition or color, lost interest in it, etc. I call these paintings and sketches, UFOS, unfinished objects. They clutter my studio, and remind me reproachfully that I have unfinished business. What to do, what to do?

       About two weeks ago, I tried to break this trend in my work flow habits, and I returned to a sketch that I have been working on and off for about a year. Facebook reminded me of this event this week with a post about the sketch, And Still I Rise.  The sketch is called, And Still I Rise, and it is based on a Maya Angelou poem entitled, And Still I Rise. This poem describes the struggle that African Americans have endured as a legacy of slavery, prejudice, and Jim Crow Laws of the South, and the power that they ultimately exercise when they rise above it. I’m sorry to say that my own ancestors played a part in the history of slavery and plantations.

        I’ve been looking at my various attempts to finish this sketch and make it into a painting, and the below photos demonstrate my struggles to complete the painting. Some of these struggles include: breaking out of old habits of just putting things in the middle of the page, or not really thinking about art as a story to be told, or not knowing what medium and color choices to use in telling a complicated story like this one. Ultimately, I decided to limit the color palette to burnt sienna, black, and white, with tonal values, so that the focus is ultimately on the symbolic content of the painting’s story line, such as:  the slave ships, slave manacles, (all to symbolize slavery), the phoenix bird (re-birth), and the sun (which rises every day). Two other central figures in this piece include a Caucasian woman, to symbolize the legacy of slavery and white prejudice, and the other, an African American woman, in this case, Maya Angelou, who serves as a representative of the African American population. She has risen above her circumstances and refuses to be beaten. Here are a few lines from the poem, which demonstrate Angelou’s indomitable spirit:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” (Source: Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org).

                 So why is this important? I feel that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and saw some growth happen, despite the frustration. Sticking with this sketch and making it into a tonal watercolor painting, forced me to re-think my art process and habits, and it has been helping me to define my unique voice as an artist, by making work that is content based and tells a story. It’s also been a good lesson in problem solving and determination. And I felt great when it was finally finished! Here are some progress photos, starting with the three value graphite sketch, oil painting, pastel, and finally the mixed media watercolor painting. The biggest inspiration I had in bringing this painting to a conclusion was Pablo Picasso’s, Rose Period. These paintings are limited in color and feature narratives about various characters, such as circus performers. Without the inspiration I received from this work, I doubt I could have brought it to a conclusion. All of which reminds me of an earlier post I wrote about the importance of copying master art works, in this case, they can provide new ways of thinking about value and color. I definitely want to keep studying the masters as I continue in my journey to define my voice as an artist. What about you? Do you have any tips for completing unfinished art?

 

  

Master Copy Tutorial: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Last week I talked about the importance of copying the work of the old masters and this week I am going to give you a step by step tutorial about how to get started. I have several master copies in the works, but I am choosing to focus on Vermeer’s well-known work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, circa 1656, according to Maritshuis, 2014. If you wish to read more about this painting, you may visit the following link: Details: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 9 December 2014. This citation is from an article about Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I found on Wikipedia. The original painting was painted in oils on canvas, but to save drying time, I used acrylic paints.

Step One: Make a Grid from a Photocopy of a Master Copy

My first step in creating a master copy of Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was to locate a good print copy which I could use to create a grid for the initial sketch. Creating a grid helped me to make sure the proportions of the head were proportionate to the copied image. I photocopied an image of Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, from the book, Vermeer, by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. After I made the copy, I created a grid, measuring one inch from the horizontal and vertical edges of the printed copy with a ruler. After I measured out the markers for the grid, I drew vertical lines to create the vertical axis. Then I drew horizontal lines for the horizontal axis.  Each box on the horizontal lines of the grid should be numbered starting with 1, and the vertical boxes should be labeled A, B, C, etc. After that, I created an exact duplicate of this grid on a clean sheet of sketch paper. Note: it is very important to ensure that you have the exact amount of boxes on both the vertical and horizontal axes on your grid copy as the one from the original, or the proportions may be incorrect. Also, be sure that when you draw vertical and parallel lines that your ruler is perpendicular to the picture plane and doesn’t shift, or it make affect the measurements of the one-inch boxes.

Step Two: Create a Duplicate Grid and Transfer it to Canvas with Carbon Paper

Next, I located my first set of coordinates on the vertical and horizontal axes, on my grid copy to start drawing in the edge shape of the portrait, i.e. A1. The artist, Thaneeya McArdle, gives an excellent description of this process with detailed visuals of the grid method at https://www.art-is-fun.com/grid-method/?rq=draw%20a%20grid. To complete the portrait, I moved on the next grid coordinate, and so on. My next step was to trace the completed grid sketch onto a clean sheet of sketch paper, using my window as a light box. I taped the original sketch to the window with masking tape, then taped a clean sheet of paper on top of the original. Then I traced the image to the cover sheet. The traced image was then transferred with a pen to canvas paper, using carbon paper, with the dark side taped face down.

Step Three: Paint a three value underpainting in Acrylics

Are you still with me? I know it sounds like a lot of steps…Don’t worry I am including some photos of this process to help jog your memory. So now we move on to the fun part, the painting itself. To break down the light and dark values, I consulted a well-used book from my art library, The Complete Oil Painter, by Brian Gorst, which gives a detailed demonstration about how to paint a monotone underpainting. I mixed up three values from darkest to lightest with Liquitex Acrylic paints and a palette knife using Burnt Umber, Titanium White, and Ivory Black. The darkest value was applied to the background, while the middle and lighter values were painted on the figure. Intermittently I sprayed the palette and the canvas with water from a spray bottle to keep the paints wet so they wouldn’t dry up, especially while I was mixing them. I also stepped back every so often to view the painting from a distance and be sure that the drawing in my painting was accurate, and made corrections as needed. These values will give me a roadmap of where to put light and dark values when I get into the color portion of the painting. They help to simplify the lights and darks without the difficulty of color matching. Next week, I will paint a “limited color lay in” with the local color

Meisje_met_de_parel
Photo copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer ca. 1656
Vermeer copy with grid
Photo copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer ca. 1656, with grid 
Vermeer paper copy with grid
Copy of Grid with pencil on sketch paper 

 

Vermeer Copy Light Box
Traced image of grid using window as light box

 

carbon paper trace 1
Carbon Paper used to trace image to canvas

 

Carbon Paper tracing, complete
Carbon paper tracing completed

 

Jodie Schmidt after Vermeer three value
Three Value Underpainting in Acrylic 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making art a Habit

Well, here I am a week after I said that I was going to start a daily sketchbook…It ended up being very difficult to make time for it, and unfortunately, I only got to work on it one day out of seven.

 

I also started thinking that perhaps my topic for last week’s blog about doing what you love and making it a habit, may not necessarily correspond to the prompts in the sketchbook I was thinking of using for this project. The sketch prompts in this book tends to focus more on still life and architecture, and less on portraits, which is something I really want to get better at doing. So I have decided to make a slight topic change. I am going to be posting photos of my oil and acrylic portraits in the process.  Here’s a youtube video that inspired me to finish my work and to make this topic change: Finished Not Perfect, by Jake Parker, at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=finished+not+perfect+. I felt that the speaker hit the nail right on the head with his mantra of “Finished not Perfect.” I tend to struggle with perfectionism and find it hard to bring projects to a close because of my high expectations for the work.

I’d also like to alternate my own work with master copies to try and push my art making abilities forward and try to break some old habits in my painting practice, such as putting everything in the center of the page. This is an idea I got from the artist, Noah Bradley’s, article: 21 days to be a Better Artist at https://medium.com/@noahbradley/21-days-to-be-a-better-artist-48087576f0dd#.bzzgdsrp6, mentioned in last week’s post. Bonus, Noah Bradley includes a link to a youtube video where he teaches you how to make master copies of artwork!

So once again, my change of topic will be posting weekly portrait paintings and sketches, alternated with master artwork copies. My goals will be improving the level of my artwork with regards to drawing accuracy, composition, and harmonious color choices. And another important goal will be making sure to complete each work and post the results before moving onto other projects. Time management will be a crucial part of reaching this goal. Here’s an article that I have read about time management, which I plan to re-read. It’s called: Five Ways to Make Time for Art by Julie-Fei Fan Balzer, http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/2012/12/five-ways-to-make-time-for-art.html. She lists five ways to make art more of a priority in your schedule, and I am going to try the first two to help me in this quest of making more time for art, and getting really good at portraits, being sure to complete each piece.  The first two suggestions Balzer mentions are using a crockpot for cooking and limiting computer time. Let me know if you have any time management tips for making art that you’d like to share! Here are some portrait paintings that I have been working on this week…An acrylic painting of Emily Dickinson, which illustrates the poem,  Hope is the Thing with Feathers and a master copy of a Mary Cassatt oil portrait, Sara in a Green Bonnet, c. 1901.