Thursday, August 22, 2013

Learning from the Masters

Painting for me is a passion. It is a visual language where I am trying to communicate to the viewer the beauty that I see in the world that surrounds me.  As part of my learning process, I have dedicated some time to study the work of other artists - specifically, masters of the past.

The exercise has been very rewarding and it has helped me to solve the problems that I encounter during the frustrating moments when a painting is not successful. The process has provided lesson about color, edges, tonal values and brush work.
One of my favorite master artist is John Singer Sargent. He was the greatest of modern portrait painters. An account of Sargent's technical methods is included in the famous 1927 biography by Evan Charteris. Sargent's five (5) basic principles for painting can be summarized as:
·         Directness: He aimed at once for true tone and color. His technique was basically Alla Prima.
·         Economy of means: Economy of effort, fewer brushstrokes possible.
·         Accuracy of value: Absolute precision on the lightness or darkness of each tone.
·         Attention to transition: The flow of one tone or color into the adjacent one. The treatment of edges whether sharp or soft.
·         Everything based on observation: the artist must develop the power to see with accuracy and analytical discern.
One of my favorite paintings of John Singer Sargent is the 1892 masterpiece "Lady Agnew" which is located in the National Museum of Edinburg, Scotland. I was not able to copy it at the museum, instead I used a high resolution photograph. Of course, I do not claim that my study would be an exact replica of the great masterpiece but the exercise provided great lessons about color, edges, values and brush work.
Here is my study of Lady Agnew!

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