Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Copying at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 Ingres Copy of Jacques-Louis Leblanc, 8"x10" Oil on Linen

As an artist working to convey a subject’s character while studying the subtleties of human form from life I am constantly tasked to choose specific aspects of the model to include.  All master works of art present a series of important decisions that effectively depict the reality of a subject’s mood.  Through studying what master artists have noted I gain insight into ways of portraying a subject to convey a particular sensibility.   I recently have had the opportunity to copy Ingres at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in their Copyist Program.

The opportunity to copy in front of the actual painting allowed me to study the piece in its highest resolution, which revealed more aspects of the piece to me than just copying from a reproduction.  For example, by studying the painting in person I could more clearly see the range of how thickly he applied paint to highlight areas versus how thinly he left other sections of the portrait, how paint strokes were applied in a perpendicular direction to the angle of light for representing form and how he layered paint in the background to suggest atmosphere.  I learned a lot from Ingres' incredible painting and am sharing some of the things I learned and the process I followed in this post.

Image from
 James Gurney made a blog post on area by area painting,, that mentioned this study above completed by one of Ingres students.  This study demonstrates the process of completing a painting one form at a time.

I researched an article published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "'Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch': Reflections, Technical Observations, Addenda, and Corrigenda": Metropolitan Museum Journal, v. 35 (2000) ,
, The article notes that "Ingres usually prepared his paintings with lead white grounds over which he would sketch in his composition in a dry medium such as pencil or black chalk." On top of this drawing the layers of paint would be applied.  Ingres paintings are observed to reveal a procedure without much glazing for correcting.  The article states, "La Belle Zlie (cat. no. 8; Figure 5) is a tour de force of Ingres's early career, painted in a very direct manner with only the minor revisions noted"  Furthermore, the article states, "... the portraits of Moltedo, Queen Caroline Murat (cat. no. 34) and Gouriev. Here, the fluidity of medium and the openness of execution, with gaps at the junctures of forms revealing a warm pinkish underlayer".  This observation seems to suggest that the thinner pink areas between individual forms are a result of a pinker underlayer showing through where the artist was thinly attaching to a previously painted form during subsequent painting sessions.

 I have found focusing on one form at a time to allow for more concentration on developing each area within a given time frame.

After completing a linear block-in I transferred my drawing to the canvas with an oil transfer.  Then I completed a thin underpainting with oil paint diluted with Odorless Mineral Spirits, in this picture seen in the cheek, mouth, chin and hair.   This underpainting served as a base layer so that if the translucency of oil paint in the more opaque final layer did not completely cover the ground, the underlayer showing through would be closer in color and value to the final layer than the white of the canvas.  

According to the article from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ingres used an underlayer for this painting.  The article states, "that of Monsieur Leblanc has a brown-red imprimatura".  I can imagine that he used a slightly thicker underpainting based on how I noticed colors mixed with lead white were covering my underpainting.  Because my underpainting was so thin and lead white can be quite translucent I had a difficult time entirely covering up my underpainting in some places.  If my underpainting was thicker than the underlayer would be closer to my final colors and the final layer of paint would sit more opaquely on top of an underpainting that already had more paint.


I worked on a smooth oil primed linen, ArtFix 84C.  I used two different sets of colors for this copy.  At first for the initial two sessions I used the colors I normally use for my painting, which included modern colors that wouldn't have been available to Ingres during the 19th century.  That palette consisted of Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Transparent Brown Oxide, Raw Umber, Ivory Black and I did use some Flake White to more thickly apply highlights.  

I was used to the opacity of Titanium White but after I switched to a palette that included Flake White and colors that would have been available during the 19th century I noticed a difference in the translucency of the paint quality that seemed closer to the finish in Ingres painting than when I was using the more opaque Titanium White on my palette.    I can imagine that Ingres' palette was similar to David's palette.  According to Birren's "The history of color in painting", David used oils that consisted of red and yellow earth colors and the addition of Chrome Yellow and the purest form of Vermilion in his later paintings.  The palette I used for the rest of the copy included Flake White, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Yellow (they had "Chrome Yellow" in the 19th century but the closest approximation I could find to that color was Cadmium Yellow), Yellow Ochre, Transparent Brown Oxide, Vermilion, Chinese Vermilion, Venetian Red, Raw Umber and Ivory Black.

I developed this copy one form at a time.  I focused on individual sections within each three hour copy session. While studying each individual form I observed ways that Ingres described features of the portrait.

 One of the most captivating aspects of his painting that I was studying is its incredible specificity to paint each moment of the curve of form on every feature. A distinct value and color are opaquely painted with each brush stroke to describe form with a three dimensional tangible quality that brings the portrait to life. It was as if he built the portrait out of tiny blocks of paint strokes that seamlessly bend into each other.  Additionally,  I was studying how the individual features flow naturally into each other in his painting, such as the cheek merging into the mouth along a curved pathway.  It is as if all of the forms hug the curve of the forms they merge into and flow into each other like waves following a current.  By studying the painting in person I could more clearly see the range of how thickly he applied paint to highlight areas versus how thinly he left other sections of the portrait and how he layered paint in the background to suggest atmosphere.

For as seamlessly Ingres could merge forms into each other he also specified areas with clear straight divisions at times to clarify distinctions between features.  I noticed in the shadow shape of the eyebrows how the straightness of parts of the shape added strength and clarity to balance the more curved areas of the portrait.

 I noticed a strong clarity to shapes of shadows that in some cases was enhanced by grouping the shadows with other dark areas.  In the eyes I noticed that he would group the shadow shape of the upper eyelid to the cast shadow and pupil shape which created a dynamic unified shape.  The turn into the eye from the upper eyelid was subtly blended from the value of the eyelash shape softening into it to suggest the last bit of curving down into the eye. By just subtly using the softness of the shadow shape to turn the form he maximized the use of the strong unified shape of the shadow on the eye.

In terms of color I noticed Ingres used a strong sense of value and form to guide the progression of color decreasing in intensity as forms turned away from the light.  For how bright his painting appears at a glance it was surprising to see how much of this painting is vastly grayer than the brightest and most intense area on the forehead.

There are many other aspects of this painting that gave me insight into how Ingres made effective decisions to powerfully describe the sitter in this portrait but these were a few that stood out to me.

I also made a smaller color study to reference the larger color and value relationships while working on my final painting.

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study one of my favorite paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and learned so much from the experience.  There is an exhibition of the copies from the Fall Copyist Program this Friday, December 15th, from 5 - 6 PM at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Uris Center for Education in the Carroll Classroom.  The address is 1000 Fifth Avenue, 81st Street Entrance, New York, NY 10028.

For more information on the Copyist program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art please visit,

- "Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch": Reflections, Technical Observations, Addenda, and Corrigenda"
Gary Tinterow - Charlotte Hale - Eric Bertin - Metropolitan Museum Journal - 2000
- Birren, Faber. 1964. The history of color in painting. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, Inc.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fall Classes

This Fall I will be teaching a Foundations Course consisting of Master Copy and Still Life Painting.  The class is in session from September 17th through October 22nd.  For more information please visit,

Monday, August 14, 2017

On View

My painting "Horizon" will be on view at The Salmagundi Club from August 14th through 25th, 2017.  For more information, please visit

Sunday, May 28, 2017

One Plane At A Time

 "Hope Floats", Oil on Linen, 16 x 20 inches

I have been learning a step by step approach to color painting at Grand Central Atelier that I used in creating my painting "Hope Floats".  This post outlines steps I used in the process of this painting.

I began the process by making a small simplified color study of the model and background.  In this color study I applied broad planes to describe the form and light effect.  For each plane I interpret its color based based on 3 aspects, Hue, Value and Intensity (Chroma).

Hue -  Includes colors that range from yellow, red, purple, blue and green.
Source: Wikipedia
Value- Lightness or darkness of a color.
Source: Wikipedia
Chroma - Intensity of a color from neutral to most intense.
Source: Wikipedia

More examples of how I adjust colors according to these three properties is described in a previous blog post I wrote here.

Color Study
I use the color study as a map for the organization of my final painting.  In my final painting process I work slowly on one form at a time and reference the larger organization of the color study to help me stay on track.  I use the colors of the planes in my color study to set up my palette.  I use a palette knife to mix piles of paint that match the large planes of color for a form on my color study.  The range of these colors can be viewed as stepping stones along a path of form.  I often match my mixtures to the color study by not only holding my palette knife up to the study but also by placing a dab of paint onto the study to see if it blends in.

Setting up the Palette

I refer to these mixtures on the palette by considering that if in the color study the large planes were the average of a given area then that color mixture on the palette is at least as light and chromatic as the average color.  Of course I will extend beyond that average mixture as I paint but having it on the palette helps me to stay organized.  Keeping this in mind I set up a string of color, seen in the middle, that links the stepping stones of my mixed piles of paint to create a range of intermediate values.  Below this middle string I use the same mixed colors and add a bit of Raw Umber to the string to neutralize the colors for the option of needing more neutral versions of a color while painting.  With these two strings and the tubed colors on my palette, which offer more opportunity to  adjust aspects of color, I have all the range on my palette needed while painting.  I use the space above my original string to adjust the colors from my premixed piles accordingly to changes I observe on the model.  I often make this area more red in hue and more intense in chroma.

Painting One Plane at a Time

I proceed by starting with the original string on my palette, in the middle, and adjust it as I observe the model.  Although I often stay a bit more red in hue and chromatic in color, for the most part the changes are not drastically different from the original string and I more or less go up and down the premixed original string as I paint the values of form.

To make the process of painting more manageable I approach each form by considering one plane at a time.  Often I first apply the color of the shadow in the shadow area of a form.  Then I begin modeling with the plane on a form that is most faced towards the direction of the light source.  So I start at the top of my premixed string and with each subsequent plane along the curve of form I work my way down the string towards the shadow color.  I consider how much each new plane should bend away from the previous plane to represent the specific curve of form on the model.  With each new plane that tips away from the light most facing area its value and color are adjusted in relation to how much it is tipped away from the light.  I consider the value, chroma and hue of each new plane as I apply them.  I place a priority in focus on value while adding new planes.  The pathway of planes generally continues to curve progressively darker and less intense in chroma until it reaches the shadow edge.

I repeat the same analysis of planes along a new pathway of form just below the previous pathway.  This process continues until I create as many pathways needed to reach the bottom of a form.

 Once the complete form is laid in I can reflect on the larger context of the form and can adjust individual planes that need to bend towards or away from the light, or that need to shift in hue or chroma.  I try to approach this stage of the painting carefully by determining the change that would best refine the form and adjust one plane at a time to move towards improvement.  Although I still struggle with controlling what to anticipate in how much my new decisions may alter the wet paint on the surface I have realized that I have more control over my intentions.  The more clear I can be about what needs to change in an area the closer my intentions are to the painted adjustment and using a system of organization on the palette has made controlling my intentions more manageable.  During this stage I often bend the original larger planes I used on the pathways into smaller planes to refine the curve of form.  But I have found that by focusing on one plane at at time I can focus more on the specificity of changes in color while turning form.

Thanks to the help from all my teachers at Grand Central Atelier who taught me so much about modeling form in value and color this year, Jacob Collins, Ted Minoff, Will St. John, Colleen Barry, Patrick Byrnes, Katie Engberg, Anthony Baus, Scott Waddell, Tony Curanaj, Brendan Johnston, Devin Cecil-Wishing and Justin Wood.

Applied One Point Perspective


Noble Shepherd, Graphite on Paper, 22 x 15 inches.
This drawing displays a shepherd with a Desert bighorn sheep standing before Mayan architecture based on a building at Chichen Itza, Yucatan.  He is grounded on a Mexican style rug ready to ascend a staircase. I used one point perspective to create an environment in this drawing.  I changed the animal from the Oryx gazelle on the bottom image to the final Desert bighorn sheep because while Oryx gazelles look interesting, they are native to Africa and Desert bighorn sheep can be found in Mexico.  Many are now hunted for their curved horns yet this shepherd stands by his sheep in protection.

A summary of the general process I followed for creating the ground grid and objects in the scene is described in this post.

After completing the block-in of the model I began the ground grid by drawing a square around the model's feet.  To do this I first established a horizon line by determining how high my eye level reached on the height of the model from my point of view.  Then I established the vanishing point along the horizon line by determining my position from left to right in relation to the model from my point of view.  

I drew the square around the model's feet by first establishing a horizontal line for the front of the box and then drew lines from each end of the front of the box to the vanishing point, labeled VP.  To determine how far to place the back of the box I drew a diagonal line from the front left point of the box to a point of distance along the horizon line, not seen in the picture because it is off the page.  Generally, the point of distance is about 2 to 3 times the height of the model to create perspective without distortion.  

I was so close to the model while making this drawing that I was tilting my head up towards the portrait and down towards the feet to see the entire model. So when I used the measurement for the distance that  I actually was away from the model to create the box it resulted in a distortion of the box appearing to tilt too far up towards the viewer's eye, as if the box was not resting under the model's feet but instead tipping forward.  I settled on using a further point of distance to make the box appear tilted further away and appear less distorted.  I checked the box to see if I could believe that it was tilted far enough away for the model's feet to stand on it or if it seemed that the model would fall off, thinking of the box as if it was a surfboard.  I adjusted how far to place the back of the box accordingly for the perspective to appear more believable.  
 Here is an example of the first stage of drawing the box.  I used a 90 degree triangle to create horizontal and vertical lines.  For the drawing of the model I used a level to establish a vertical line to base other lines off of.  In this example, the point of distance is labeled, D, along the horizon line.  The further to the right the point of distance goes the more the line for the back of the box comes closer to the ground line and makes the box appear to tip further away.
 In creating the grid along the ground in my drawing I extended the original box by using the point of distance.  To create each new box I connected a line from the back left point of the box to the point of distance and found where this diagonal met the line going back to the vanishing point.  Then I just drew a horizontal line to this point to create the back of a new square.  I repeated this process for each new square going back in space.

 To create additional tiles towards the right or left I just used the unit of measurement along the base line of the front of the box and slid it over to the right. I extended a line from the right end of the front of this new square to the vanishing point.  Then I extended the horizontal lines from the original path of tiles so they cut across this new path of tiles.  I repeated this process for each new path of tiles to include along the ground.
 To create objects on top of this grid one can raise the height from the ground line as far as needed and extend lines back to the vanishing point as far as needed to establish the depth of objects.  The units of the tiles on the ground can help in measuring the dimensions of objects.

  I used the measurements of the tiles along the ground to assist in establishing the dimensions of a rug.

I used graphing paper to determine where important points of the design would meet points along the square tiles for the rug.

I placed many point of the design onto the rug initially and continued some aspects of the design more freely by roughly following the tilts initially established in the design.

To add the Desert bighorn sheep I made a sketch at The Academy of Natural Sciences to use as a reference and transferred the image to my drawing at a larger scale.

Thanks to all the help in learning about perspective from Anthony Baus in this drawing and in his perspective class at Grand Central Atelier.  I also utilized concepts of one point perspective described in G.A Storey's book the Theory and Practice of Perspective.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Grand Central Atelier 2017 Salon

I will have two pieces on display in Grand Central Atelier's "2017 Salon" through May 21st, 2017.  This exhibition will display classical artwork realized in a traditional manner by artists from the Grand Central Atelier.  Please visit, www. for more information.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Process behind "Explore"

I recently have been taking some linear block-ins drawn from life and utilizing applied perspective, working from imagination and referencing master paintings to create narrative works.  This post describes the process I used to make my drawing "Explore", graphite on paper, 6.75” x 5.75” inches.

A summary of the narrative:

This vast city which once was the home of an advanced civilization still hosts relics of its former greatness.  A journey that was led by readings into the ancient world has led our protagonist to wondrous territories.  As she walks through the eternal city she collects flowers that are growing.  Transporting them to a new home.  

This piece began as a linear block-in at Grand Central Atelier last year.  I rendered the drawing by referencing master paintings, conceptualizing light on form and imagining some elements of the piece.
This is the  linear block-in I drew from life during a two hour portrait sketch session at Grand Central Atelier.  I lost some information after I transferred the drawing in the next stage.  I will have to pay more attention to retaining the shapes in my block-in while I develop my modeling in the future. 

Modeling the Portrait

 I transferred the block-in to a piece of Artistico Fabriano paper, 140 lb. hot press paper and began modeling the portrait one form at a time.  I filled in my shadows and started modeling on the nose.  Since I only had my linear block-in to reference I utilized the concept of light decreasing as form turns away from the direction of the light to guide my modeling.  I still used strips of form to assist in simplifying the process of conceptualizing form while modeling the portrait.

 I thought of imagining the modeling on each form based on how much each area of the form turned towards or away from the direction of the light.  An exercise I have often practiced is to render a sphere from imagination.  This exercise requires an awareness of the structure of a form to determine how to describe the curve of form with value.  Imagining the modeling on different forms in the portrait, such as the nose, was just an extension of this exercise to differently shaped forms.

The Contour as a Guide

 Because a sphere is equally round in all directions, as seen in the equal curve of the contour, the sphere is modeled from imagination by turning the form away from the light most facing area equally in all directions until it meets the shadow edge. According to this concept the form becomes incrementally darker as areas turn more away from the light most facing area.

In the example for the ball of the nose, the structure of the nose was described by the shape of the contour in the linear block-in. The nose is similar to the shape of a sphere but slightly more angular, which is reflected in the more angular curve of the modeling of the nose.   Essentially the linear block-in described the structure of the form and I tried to follow the information it portrayed to imagine how to describe the volume of form with value while rendering the portrait.  From the outer contour I could imagine the interior contours that would relate to those outer contour tilts inside the form.  I proceeded modeling by sculpting the form away from the light most facing area by incrementally making planes darker with my pencil and responding to the angular plane changes on the nose.

Additional Master Painting References 

I also utilized referencing master paintings that portrayed a similar light orientation and  pose to the portrait I was drawing.  One of the portraits from Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Virgin of the  Rocks" and a painting by Scott Waddell, seen here, were some of the paintings which were helpful to reference for modeling forms on the portrait.

 I proceeded one form at a time until I had modeled the entire portrait.  During the time period I was modeling I began thinking of  different narratives to include with the portrait and loosely sketched in some elements of a composition.

Composition studies
 I loosely had an idea of the portrait portraying a traveler.  To finalize a specific narrative idea and composition I made numerous small composition sketches to explore the potential of different background and foreground elements along with their placement.

 This is the composition sketch that I used to develop the final piece.  At the time of creating this piece I was very interested in the architecture and art in Italy.  I looked through various books on Italian architecture to research buildings I wanted to include in my drawing.  I really liked the curved elegance of the facade of the Santa Maria del Popolo, reworked by Bernini in the 17th century, because it reminded me of a fairy tale so I decided to base the building in my drawing off of its design.

Value Study
After settling on a composition I made a value study to reference while I rendered the background.  I took a picture of my drawing, which at that point only had the portrait rendered and printed it on a small scale to use for my value study.  Through working out value relationships on a small study first I could experiment with large changes that would be much more difficult to adjust while applying values with washes of diluted graphite on the final piece.

Reference Sketches

 Additionally I made studies of flowers and stems from life to use as a reference for those objects in my final piece.  I made use of these references generally for the shapes of the forms and the light effect revealed.  I did allow myself to bend and curve the stems and flowers more to adhere to a sweeping gesture I was striving for in the composition of my final piece.

Applied Perspective

 I  began drafting the perspective of the building in the background by loosely sketching the building based on the placement of the building in my composition sketch.  Even in this stage I loosely made sure my lines receding in space converged at the vanishing point in the face.  While making the initial block-in of the portrait I did not mark my vanishing point, so for this drawing I just imagined where the vanishing point might be vertically based upon how much it seemed like I was looking down on the features of the portrait.  It seemed that I was generally looking a bit down on the nose so I estimated that my vanishing point would be a little above the nose.

After loosely indicating the placement of the building I proceeded to use one point perspective in finalizing my lines and including more aspects of the building.  I ended up moving my vanishing point a bit more to the right so that the perspective would not appear as extreme.  This new vanishing point that I used is circled in red.  I drew one structure at a time, generally placing the larger structures first and then subdividing those spaces to determine the area and geometry for smaller structures.  Note, Douglas Flynt has an excellent technique for finding multiple points while drawing ellipseson his blog here, such as the ellipse for the window in this building, .

The arrow in the upper left hand corned of the drawing described the direction of the light source.  I drew a right angle from that direction to use as a guide for my triangle in making the angle of the shadows on the building.  As for the distance of the shadows, I based that upon the concept that the closer the light is to the object casting a shadow the longer the shadow will be.  Generally during midday the shadow on an object would be shorter as opposed to at dusk where longer shadows often occur.  I settled on a distance based on the time of day for the scene and just tried to be consistent in the drawing.

I utilized concepts of one point perspective described in G.A Storey's book the Theory and Practice of Perspective and have been taking perspective classes with Anthony Baus in the core program at Grand Central Atelier which has enhanced my understanding of applied perspective.

 I transferred my drawing of the building to the final piece by first placing glacine paper over my portrait to prevent the smearing of graphite.  I traced my drawing of the building which also included an outline of the portrait onto tracing paper then lined up the outline of the portrait to transfer the drawing at the same orientation.

 Once the building was transferred I darkened my lines with graphite pencil.  I did this because I was worried about losing the boundaries of the building while applying washes of diluted graphite powder to the background.  In hindsight, the lines were so dark that they ended up standing out too much to fade into the background and I had  to do much tapping with my kneaded eraser to try to create a more atmospheric effect for the background.

Also, in this stage before applying washes to the background I included drawing for additional landscape elements.  I drew the shirt, backpack and books by using myself and a mirror to draw those objects at a similar orientation to the portrait.

Applying Washes to the Background

 In the interest of saving time I used a process of applying washes of graphite powder diluted with water to render the background and foreground elements.  A wash also allowed for some variation in quality distinctive from the focal point of the portrait.  For me, diluted graphite is more forgiving than watercolor and can be slightly lightened with a kneaded eraser and can be refined with the point of a graphite pencil to adjust mistakes made in the wash process.  Before applying washes of tone to the background I had set up a tonal border with pencil surrounding the contour of the portrait to prevent the spread of diluted graphite into the portrait.  I merged this boundary together using pencil in the final refinements for the background.

I began the wash process by working from light to dark.  I wanted to directly achieve the value in a given area that was in my value study so for the five values seen in this early stage of the background I only applied about five washes of tone.

 With each new darker area of the background I applied subsequent washes of diluted graphite powder.  After this stage I refined the background and foreground mostly with the point of a graphite pencil for the benefit of added control.

Additional References

The Santa Maria del Popolo was the basis for the design of the building in my drawing.

 I referenced the atmospheric tonal range of the buildings in the background in this painting to determine how compressed (close in tone) the values in the background could be.

I referenced some of the landscape elements in the paintings by Bouguereau above.  Such as the foreground grass in the painting, Rest on the left and the sky in the painting, Juenes Bohemiennes on the right.  Additionally I referenced the flowers in the Leonardo Da Vinci and Verrochio collaborative painting, The Madonna and Child with Angels.  Many more classical paintings were referenced to assist in rendering other elements such as the shirt, hair and other aspects of the portrait and background.

In the past I have seen classical artists from Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century to Anthony van Dyck in the 17th century make use of linear drawings from life as references for paintings so I wanted to give the process a try.  Creating a portrait from initially starting with only a linear block-in from life as a reference showed me more about how a piece can be developed beyond that stage without the use of a live model and just studying master paintings along with studies of nature.