I took a trip to the MET this past weekend and was joined by a friend who hadn't been before. We got to see a lot and I took some photos of my favorites. One in particularly is a absolutely amazing full length figure by Sir Frederic Leighton titled, "Lachrymae" (1894). I first saw this painting years ago and hadn't seen it again since this weekend so it was really a joy to see. The first sculpture pictured below is by Bernini and was notable because Bernini was 16 when he made it! The other sculptured pictured at the end are just ones that I found entertaining.
One thing that I took note of is how thickly Sargent paints certain works. If you look at the photos below, you can see some details that really show this. He wasn't afraid to apply thick paint. This is something that I want to take onboard and use in my own works. I painted my most recent commission more thickly, but I want to go thicker in my paint application. Just something that I gotta remember..
I was sketching my friend Tim last night and it hit me so suddenly, the importance of accurate values. It's way more important than color, proportion, detail or any other aspect to representational painting.
This revelation came at the perfect time to me because I was really struggling with a portrait and didn't know what I was going wrong. I think the roadblock I used to have before was to be almost afraid of making the values too dark. This fear is really impeding because most accurate values are towards the darker value range.
So a simple 3 step process for the painting below that I did was:
1. Start with a simple charcoal outline to get the basic proportions
2. Use a large brush and smudges of more opaque paint with accurate values. Don't worry about details at this stage. (squinting helps)
3. Once the basic forms are in place, then you can add minor details and refine it a little bit more, but don't go overboard and lose the planes.
I've realized again the power of paint when it's applied thickly with large brushes. I did this small portrait (pictured below) as a way to prove to myself that this method is right. Earlier today, I was working on a larger portrait and had to scrap it because I was being way too "cute" with it; it had thin paint passages and smaller detail with small brushes.
I know now that I prefer thicker paint and I feel that it looks better and more powerful. What's the point of painting without using a good amount of paint?
“The thicker you paint, the more color flows.” - John Singer Sargent
I love the spontaneity of certain paintings, but some times an error occurs and you have to go back and fix something. A lot of times my paintings come easily for me and I don't sweat them too much, but once in a while I have to put my proverbial blood, sweat and tears into a work.
I recently painted a painting of my dad sitting outside and I loved the overall light and feeling I was able to capture. The painting took a little over an hour and I photographed it and called it finished. A lot of the painting is impressionistic and even my dad's face looks unfinished, but the thing is that that was on purpose and not in error. But I later realized that I forgot to put in the upper portion of the chair behind my dad on the left side of the painting (as indicated in the image below with the red arrow). I want my paintings to be intentional and in control even if they appear less finished.
I'm a purest when it comes to painting alla prima and I believe in capturing the transient moment and then called it finished in order to leave the spontaneity and not overwork it. The problem was that I was losing sleep about that missing chair part. My style is fairly impressionistic so a lot of people probably wouldn't notice, but I noticed and it was bothering me. I knew it was an error.
So what I did was I set up the chair back outside under roughly the same lighting conditions and I fixed it. It only took a few minutes and now I finally feel the sense of relief that I get when I do something right. It's a hard thing to judge, but I knew I had to fix it in my gut and I always trust what my gut tells me.