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.
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.