I feel I have finally found a way to bring all the elements of my practice together at the same time and from now will be embarking on a new series of work in pen. As a sculptor by training I have always love drawing first and foremost and specifically drawing from the figure. Figure drawing in itself is more like a technical exercise for me and so for inspiration I have looked to dance in various forms.
I have also made a lot of abstract (strictly non-figurative) work in the past and investigated making some large images with pen over 10 years ago. I like the way I can build up colour and tone in an image by repeated scribbling, creating richer and deeper colours the more I work. The image comes into focus slowly, the line is built up by many other smaller lines. To me this parallels the process of stone carving which I suppose is my first love in art. I also like the fact that wherever you look the process is revealed and is exactly the same: single lines of pen that interweave in a tapestry of lines. But I’ll share more of what I think about this in further posts.
This is the first of a number of Velazquez paintings I would like to try and copy. You can see the video in real time on my patreon channel, see the link here on my website.
I was interested in what palette he used and also in his use of the imprimatura and how that was left for some of the middle tones and her clothes.
He may have painted this in 1 or 2 sittings and I show that it is possible to achieve it in 1 sitting, although how he did it in a single sitting with such breathtaking technique is anybody’s guess.
The point of the video is to gain an understanding of the technique so that I or anybody else will be able to use it in their own paintings. There are a number of things that I feel could be worked on a little more but due to the fact I was filming it I stopped working here after 1hr 10 minutes. The technique comes with practice and I think something anyone can do, but of course I mean A LOT of practice. Personally it was very enlightening to make this copy. One thing I did struggle with was not being able to see it all properly, for example the area around her left eye is very dark and difficult to make out. Because of this I think I’ll leave it here, because I don’t know how I can improve it so that it looks more like the original.
I love Velazquez because I think he was a great human being as well as a great artist, as well as being obsessed by status! When he painted various ‘outsiders’ like his bonded slave (who’s freedom he later bought) or peasants, or the jesters and dwarves in the royal court, obviously some would have been the result of royal patronage as well as his own interest. But he painted these people with what I would describe as empathy because he still respected them for their humanity. I wonder about the girl in this portrait, and differences in their ‘status’ notwithstanding, Velazquez does paint her with a sensitivity and tenderness that make this an outstanding portrait painting. She is not sentimentalised like Bouguereau would have painted her, and you can see in this portrait a precursor to Manet’s modernist portraits of people in his everyday world. For this project my main interest is the technique he used, but I still find this a touching portrait that also demonstrates Velazquez’s profound empathy.
The colours I used, and I am pretty sure Velazquez also used, were:
Hi there, I’ve been looking forward to doing this for a while, and now I’ve completed the films of both the glazes. Here is a photo of before and after the 2nd glaze.
So this is the painting again showing the change from the 1st to the 2nd glaze, and then following on from that you can see the 2nd glaze next to the original. The 2nd glaze took about 90 minutes, and you can see it in real time on Patreon, and off camera I spent another 10 minutes painting in the dark lines around her eyelids and some details of eyelashes. I feel this is close to the working method of Rubens, and now I’ve done it I think I can get even closer and work even more efficiently. I’m really looking forward to making some more copies from Rubens, Van Dyck, Velasquez and Caravaggio. Each time is an amazing learning experience and I have gained so much from it. I will still work on this painting a bit more but have to stop for now due to time restrictions. I didn’t really do much to the mouth which is OK, but I would model some of the transitions around there next time. In terms of the film I’ll leave it for now because I think it shows you how to achieve these results. It has been a revelation for me just working in this very limited palette, and I’m looking forward to using it in my own work in the future. If you would like to see how I did it in real time you can see it all on patreon.
Hi there, I’ve just posted this on youtube. Its going to be one of 2 videos there but 6 in total on patreon where they are also unedited and in real time. This video is cobbled together from 3 real time films, about 3 hours painting in all. I loved copying this painting and learned so much. Looking forward to the next one! I still have to finish the Rubens copy I’m doing as well. And the glazing for this painting. After that Velasquez and Van Dyck.. all the Baroque greats. Thank you for looking!
Portrait of a young girl after Rubens 1st glaze from patreon.com/mattharveyart
Here is an image of the 1st glaze as I finished filming. The real time video will be on Patreon but there is a taster on youtube. One amazing thing I discovered doing this glaze was that I only used 3 colours; Titanium White, Vermilion and Yellow Ochre. I feel now that I may have been a bit stubborn in my pursuit of authenticity in the process here. Looking at the original I am sure that these are the only colours Rubens used, although the fact remains that there are deeper shadows in the original. Usually I would have painted the shadows in first and worked the highlights into them, and I am sure I would have got closer to it if I had. I have read that Rubens used Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson as well as Ultramarine Blue, and all these would have helped create shadows in the first glaze. I will correct it in the 2nd glaze but honestly I would have liked to get closer to the original painting. Comparing them here I can see that Rubens’ colours were a lot darker, or richer. I don’t know for sure if he used further glazes, and my initial guess is he finished it in the 1st. Having said that though, when you look at it the paint looks as if it has been built up in layers, but its hard to tell. I might try and do it again from a print of my underpainting.
I say I think he finished it in one go after underpainting because his paintings generally have that effortless spontaneity in the brushwork and the handling of paint. He worked quickly, and relished the magical effects of glazing over grisaille underpainting and the efficiency of this process. His large studio and many commissions encouraged this way of working – prizing brevity and clarity and the swashbuckling technique that is so characteristic of Baroque painting.
The shadows are simply the underpainting showing through and possibly the underpainting was in quite high contrast, or certainly more than you would usually expect. Look at the cool areas around her mouth. These are created only by the raw umber underpainting showing through the glaze above. But then maybe the shadow under her right eye is made with a cheeky bit of Burnt Umber and Vermilion? Its fun to try and find out. Fun and agonising at the same time. When teams lose a rugby match the captain always says something like ‘It’s really hurting! The lads just wish they could go out there and play them again now!’ Painting always feels like that. Especially when you’re waiting for the thing to dry so you can just get out there again and make it right.
I’ve been finishing the grisaille for this portrait painting copy off camera, which is relaxing! I worked on it for another 2 hours roughly, mainly adding pure black here and there and adjusting the shadows. There were a few areas where I sharpened the drawing, but its a fine balance between trying to work in a way that is possibly similar to Rubens and also precise in the copying. I have used fairly loose brushwork around the painting, particularly on her collar and black dress, because it doesn’t feel right copying a fluid spontaneous brushmark exactly.
Better I feel to approach it with some of the spontaneity of the artist. Even though it might not be an exact copy, its an interpretation of the artists work and at the same time an attempt to understand aspects his process. There are many many factors involved in this though. Things like size of brushes, mediums, painting surface etc., all create the impression of the painting, and here I am perhaps guilty of a lack of rigour. It is still possible just to approach something that may resemble Rubens’ working method even though in this painting my brushes mediums and painting surface are different.
I have honestly loved painting this copy so far, and have gained a much deeper appreciation of Rubens the artist. I have always loved painting with grisaille, and Raw Umber and Titanium White is very beautiful together. Painting the black today has finished this stage, and I can now make it available as a print so that anyone who may want to try and glaze it themselves can have a go.
Here is the grisaille next to the reference. Its difficult to pinpoint what isn’t quite working here, but things usually get resolved with the colour glazes. I wanted to put some darker shadows around her mouth because you can see this underpainting showing through in the original. Hopefully then I will be able to create the same effect. Looking at the glazing on the original I think he’s used a mix of Vermilion and probably Yellow Ochre, and you can see the almost patchy way he has applied various combinations of these pigments around her face: her temple, cheeks, forhead etc. He has also used something more like Vermilion and white to create a pink which can also be seen here and there. I hope to be able to show that process or something like it when I film myself painting the glazes soon. I will only really know when I have tried it. You can see all the highs and lows of the glazing in real time on my patreon page, patreon.com/mattharveyart.
I’ve started making a copy of this beautiful portrait painting by Rubens, with a view to learning about his underpainting and glazing technique. I realised its quite similar in subject to the first portrait I added to my youTube channel, so it feels fitting that its also the first on my new Patreon channel. All my real- time videos will be there from now on so please have a look patreon.com/mattharveyart
I will try and get a bit more information about this painting when I have time, but for now here are some images of the work in progress.
The video of the second hour of the first pass is available on youtube:
And this is how it compares at the moment. Glazing next!
This is a painting I completed a while back. I was sent a photo and worked from that. Khaleesi is an amputee! Glazing really lends itself to painting fur, and this was completed in 3 passes. I didn’t work up from a grisaille but blocked in the colour areas, deepening and enriching the layers with glazes. Below are some of the process photos.
This is another painting of a dancer I finished recently. I am combining my love of glazing with drawing, here starting to draw the line with the brush in a bistre. This has a translucency I like. Then I glaze over in thin layers of paint in the same way I would paint my portraits. Glazing really has an unrivalled luminosity! I’m not sure where these are heading but I was pleased with the more liquid effect in the paint and I think this is something I will be exploring further. I have painted some other ones but mixed the colours to start with, but these don’t seem to have the quality of translucency like this painting.
I think I like to strip an activity down to its absolute essentials; here the original drawing is done in a single translucent colour, and then 3 other colours were used in the later glazing. There is no modelling apart from the drawing, and really its nothing more than a line.
In a 3rd arabesque the dancer stands on their right leg, with their left leg extended behind. The right arm is extended forwards at roughly eye height, and the left arm is extended parallel to it at shoulder height.
Painted in Raw Umber and white. Raw Umber bistre to start with, and then worked into with some white. I am trying to paint like a drawing, and sculpt a painting! I would like to make something reminiscent of sculpture on the painted surface. When I paint the line I am carving it, modelling the paint and then refining by taking it away. This is also how I initially do the underpainting for portraits, or any painting. As a sculptor who likes to carve stone, in my mind I am always ‘carving’, whatever I am working on.