Video of 1st glaze on underpainting ‘After Bouguereau’

copy of a bouguereau painting by matt harvey UK portrait painter and artist

I have just finished the first glaze in oil paints on my grisaille underpainting. This short video project was all about trying to work out how Bouguereau made his paintings, something I have often wondered about.

His works have a particular translucent quality and it was my mission to try and fathom the processes behind this. I think the only real way one can do that is to use the glazing technique over a grisaille. Of course you may get an idea of how it was done using different painting methods or materials but I wanted to stick as closely as possible to his generally agreed method of glazing.

The only real way to understand another artist’s technique is to try and do it oneself. I have not copied many works in my art practice but this has been an invaluable exercise in understanding glazing generally. That is my real and only goal actually; to find a way to develop my own practice with glazing in my paintings. But in the process I hope to leave a course of videos that might enable anyone to achieve similar results to Bouguereau with a little practice. I feel that actually this technique is deceptively simple, but I am still trying to work out the most efficient way of doing it. If you look at Caravaggio’s paintings you can see that once the underpainting was done it was a small step to add some colour, although being able to do it is another matter entirely.

I still feel that anyone can begin to approach painting in the same way as these artists, it just needs practice.

This piece obviously needs some more work to get close to Bouguereau’s, but its only the first glaze, so I’m really looking forward to doing the second glaze and more. I’m thinking of getting a print of the grisaille and trying all over again, and that way I think I might actually crack it, based on lessons learned so far. It was never about making a perfect copy, only trying to come close to the original so as to learn the process generally.

I’m still getting used to filming myself working. The hardest thing about it is making room for the painting and the palette, where I would normally be much closer to the painted surface. I normally spend the whole time panicking!

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