Studying In Florence, Italy

Cortona
Cortona

I’ve dreamt of studying in Italy since I was young. In October, 2018, I finally realized that dream with an intensive course at the Florence Academy of Art.

Florence Academy of Art Class

The school’s main discipline is classical-realism painting and drawing, in the teaching style of Charles Bargue, using the sight-size method but at the same time addressing the creative and professional position of the artist in a contemporary environment.  Very careful and exact measurements are found using a plumb line, stick and careful, intense observation in natural light.

Duomo

Although I won’t always paint in this realistic style, the training and discipline I received will help me paint better in any style I choose.  The art history and anatomy studies were like no other, offered right in front of the Old Masters in the many magnificent museums and galleries in Florence.  The experience was invaluable.

Copying at The Scottish Portrait Gallery

Lady Charlotte Campbell

Recently, while traveling in Europe, I had the opportunity to copy at the Scottish Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland. The painting I copied was Lady Charlotte Campbell (1775-1861) by Wilhelm Tischbein, which I chose because I love children’s portraits.  It’s quite elaborate and proved a challenge, but there aren’t many portraits of children in the gallery and I was drawn to her innocent, youthful face.

Lady Charlotte Campbell is a very large painting so it was necessary to crop it to be able to complete as much of the portrait as possible within my allotted time.

I’ll never forget the personnel at The Scottish Portrait Gallery.  They, and the people of Edinburgh, are extraordinarily friendly and helpful.

Why Copy?

The Arts Club of Washington presents a one of a kind exhibit that will surely wow you.  A magnificent collection of art has been created by some very talented independent artist and copyist at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  Each copy has been created in front of the original masterpiece.  As copyist, we learn and perfect our skills by studying the styles, history and procedures of great painters from the past as the master artists we copy did before them.

Come out, meet the artist and enjoy a fun evening of great art.  Opening Reception will be on Friday, January 5th from 6:30-8:30, The Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street and 20th NW.  Parking options include free street parking on Pennsylvania Avenue after 6:30 PM, metered parking in front of the of the Arts Club, and at the Colonial Garage, 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue, where you can prepay and reserve a space online.  The club is also within a few blocks of both the Foggy Bottom and the Farragut West and North Metro stations.   For more information go to https://artsclubofwashingtonorg.  This event is free and open to the public.

Riverbank after Paul Cezanne (Sonia Gadra)
Still Life with Apples on a Pink Tablecloth after Henri Matisse (Sonia Gadra)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exhibition is not organized, supported, or endorsed by the National Gallery of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

CHILDREN PLAYING ON THE BEACH

Mary Cassatt was the “new woman” of the 19th century – a highly-trained artist who never married.  During the Impressionist Period, when female artists were generally dismissed with contempt and confined to painting indoors, she competed admirably with established male artists.  She even developed a close friendship with Edgar Degas while living and working in France, and the two became close collaborators for a long period of time.

By 1866, Cassatt had established herself as a uniquely skilled painter of mothers and children.  Many believe Children Playing on the Beach was a tribute to her sister, who died in 1882, and was perhaps inspired by a trip she took with her ailing mother to Spain, where the two sought the healing power of the seaside climate.  Whatever the muse, this work was clearly special to her.

Children Playing on the Beach (original and copy in progress)
Children Playing on the Beach, 1884, Mary Cassatt (original and copy in progress)

Children Playing on the Beach is very special to me. It was a favorite of my late husband, who never got to see it in person, and after it was relocated to Gallery #85, I simply couldn’t resist copying it.

I also love this work because it’s one of the best demonstrations of Cassatt’s superior skill with color and process.  Palettes were quite limited at that time, and yet she’s able to bring out so many shades that the painting almost appears to echo contrasting moods.  For example, the subtle blues of the ocean and sky effectively convey the feeling of cool, possibly dreary weather over the sea, while the vivid blues she uses in the girls’ dresses evoke a feeling of warmth, sunshine and happiness.  She was an absolute genius with color.

As most paints do, Mary Cassatt’s have aged over time.  I could have chosen to copy Children Playing on the Beach using my interpretation of the colors she used in 1884, but instead I chose to create a copy as close to the current version as possible. As always, it will be a challenge because matching color is one of the most difficult tasks a copyist faces.

I’ve learned a great deal from Mary Cassatt. Her remarkable use of color as well as her ability to manipulate brush and paint to create beautiful strokes is inspirational. Join me in Gallery #85 where I’ll be working on copying another wonderful Impressionist painting The Harbor at Lorient, 1869, by Berthe Morisot.

 

 

 

“Woman Holding a Balance” after Johannes Vermeer

Recently I was commissioned to copy Woman Holding a Balance by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life and was perhaps better known for Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was very excited for the opportunity to create this copy as the old masters (particularly the Dutch) and the chiaroscuro style of the 16th century were part of my earliest training and I’m very fond of them. After having completed many commissions in the Impressionist galleries, I welcomed this new challenge.

Several of Vermeer’s masterpieces are on display in an intimate room at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where I have been a copyist for the last five years. Because the room is small, copyists are typically prohibited from working inside and must instead work from memory and photographs.

Woman Holding a Balance takes your breath away as you enter the gallery room. It’s a dark painting with a brilliant focal point: a young girl and her fine fur cloak illuminated by sunlight streaming through a nearby window.  The young woman appears to weigh jewels and coins with a hand-held scale.  Vermeer positions a painting of the Last Judgment behind her on the wall.

Paintings-within-paintings were a common technique of the period, often serving as vessels for symbolism. Perhaps Vermeer includes the Last Judgment to remind us that just as the young woman weighs her riches, in the end God will weigh our choices in life.  Maybe greed and vanity should be avoided.

This copy required many layers of glaze to achieve the right amount of contrast between the darks and lights. Vermeer, having been self-taught and influenced by Caravaggio, probably used the same technique. It was a challenge creating this painting during this summer’s heat and humidity.  Each layer took quite a while to dry. However, the painting is now complete and ready for delivery. I hope my patron will be happy with it.  I certainly am.

A note to my followers: I am currently working on Farmhouse in Provence after Vincent Van Gogh in the National Gallery of Art. I always look forward to seeing fans. Please contact me through this web-site if you would like to visit.

Snowed-In

Soup's On
Soups  On

Like many in the eastern part of the United States where snow measurements were 25 to 35 inches when all was said and done, I was snowed-in.  But, the silver lining was that all that white snow inspired me to paint a “fantasy in white.”

I study Portrait and Figure painting at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia, with a well known portrait artist and teacher, Danni Dawson.  Danni is a fantastic teacher who feels that in order to achieve the necessary skills to be a good portrait artist, students need to paint everyday and paint everything and anything.  We have a weekly assignment, often a simple color study and sometimes complete paintings.  Coincidentally, our assignment for this past snowy week was to paint white objects.  One was to be done in natural north light and the other under warm studio lighting  using every color on the palette for both assignments.

Have you ever studied a white object carefully or taken a good look at the snow?  It is amazing how many colors you see.  You may see warm colors, yellows, oranges, pinks, greens, or you may see cool colors, blues, violets, greens, browns, depending on the time of day and sky conditions when you make your observation.  Painting with studio lighting will tend to warm the subject you are painting and can also pick up many reflective colors that surround your objects.

I have a north facing window near my easel so for my homework assignment I arranged a set-up of white dishes in front of the north light window.  I painted “Soups On”  each day at the same time, about 1:30 pm until about 5:00 pm in order to keep the light the same.  I didn’t want to turn on any artificial lights so by 5:00 pm I was pretty much in the dark.  I was able to observe not only the variations of cool colors in my set-up  but in the snow outside the window as well.  Although the light was not strong as the sky was cloudy, I managed to pick up a variety of colors on the objects.

Dessert Anyone?
Dessert Anyone?

To prepare for the study under studio lighting, “Dessert Anyone?”, I first had to bake a cake because I wanted to use my cake holder which I thought would add interest to the composition.  Luckily, I had all the necessary ingredients on hand.  Although natural north light is the preferred lighting for most artists, being able to paint at any time of day in the studio is an advantage and the lighting was much better.  Observing the warm colors on the dishes and the cake frosting was an interesting study.  Even though both are white, the frosting seemed to reflect a stronger, brighter white.  Perhaps because the dishes were picking up the reflective light of their shinny surface or I was eyeing the cake with more concentration because I couldn’t wait to eat it!

Being snowed-in is not so bad if you can find interesting things to do that you love.  I love painting and after two sessions with “Dessert Anyone?” I was able to eat the cake…..not a bad reward after a good day of painting.

“The Harbor at Lorient” after Berthe Morisot

Copy in progress
Copy in progress

I’m back in the Impressionist gallery, #85, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  I spent a couple of months in the American Gallery painting “Right and Left” after Winslow Homer.  I love the excitement and activity of the Impressionist Galleries.  It’s a bit noisier than other galleries but even some of the guards like it best for the same reasons I do.

The “Harbor at Lorient” is a little jewel that I’ve wanted to paint since it came into the gallery.  But because paintings are often sent out on loan to museums around the world, I had to wait for it to come back from tour even though I had previous approval on availability.

Berthe Morisot is the first female artist whose work I have copied, although we have many wonderful paintings by women artists. The “Harbor at Lorient” was painted when Berthe visited her newly married sister, Edma Pontillon, in the summer of 1869 while she was living in Lorient, France.  Edma was married to a navy man and did not have children.  Since both girls were interested in painting they were free to spend their time painting outside.  During this period Berthe was experimenting with a highly Impressionist style.

The “Harbor at Lorient” draws the eye to the sky’s refection in the water and expresses both movement and the future.  The boats in the background are leaving from the port and moving to another location,  a symbolic reason to create this work as she moved into Impressionism.  The harbor is lit from the right hand side which is clear from the line of shading that runs across Edma’s body.  Her parasol protects her face from the sunlight but the bottom of her dress is radiant in sunlight.  The tone of this work is merry and positive.

When Berthe returned home she anxiously showed her painting to artist friends and colleagues and it was declared as one of her best works.  It found it’s way to the first Impressionists showcase. Unfortunately, the  “Harbor at Lorient” received a critical reception, deemed painted too spontaneously and casually for the time period and with an unfinished feel.   However, after her death, the painting was displayed in a large number of countries and has been well-received by its many viewers who today acknowledge it as one of her foremost Impressionist paintings.

Berthe was influenced by Carot, Manet and Monet.  She was very close to her sister Edma, who was the model in many of her paintings.  Berthe Morisot was a copyist at the Louvre.  She is fast becoming my favorite female artist.

“Right and Left” after Winslow Homer

Final Copy Final Copy
Final Copy

I completed the copy of Winslow Homer in mid-December and delivered it to the client on December 22nd.  Right and Left” was the first Homer I’ve copied and although it is not typically what I would choose to paint, I found that copying this painting made me very much admire Winslow Homer’s work. It was very educational.

The painting depicts two ducks in flight attempting to avoid a hunters bullets.  The one on the left although possibly injured continues its escape while the one on the right falls victim to the hunter. It is almost monochromatic with many shades of gray.  The more I looked at it, the more colors I saw.  The many degrees of value required much concentration.  Homer used some very strong tints of greens mixed into the black feathers of the birds and it required strict observation to see it.

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to duplicate this magnificent piece of artwork for a client who wanted to surprise her husband with it as a Christmas gift .  She told me it is his favorite painting and she also told me he is very happy with the results….I love what I do!