I’m working on another challenging figure study, this one by Diego Velázquez: “Mars Resting”, 1640, oil on canvas, located in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. What I’m aiming to do in my 20″ x 16″ version is to restore the painting to its original colours using pigments from the era (like lapis lazuli for ultramarine blue). The colours have faded dramatically. Sections of the red cloth in the light, for example, are now a pale, pink haze. There is a special glazing technique I’m applying to bring the reds back to their brilliance.
This new figure study, “Vulcan at his Forge”, is based on Pompeo Batoni’s 1750 masterpiece.
In this scene from ancient Greek mythology, the god Vulcan is resting from his labours as a blacksmith. I first created a grey underpainting (called a “grisaille) and then began applying colour, warmer hues than the original. Click on the image above to read more about my process and the painting. You’ll be able to compare my work in progress to the original and see how finely composed Batoni’s work is.
One of the paintings on my easel this winter is a painted version of Bonnat’s famous pencil and chalk drawing: “Jacob Wrestling the Angel”. The drawing is considered either a highly finished study for a painting Bonnat once exhibited in the 1876 Paris Salon–and now lost–or a variant after that lost painting. I’ve found two small colour studies Bonnat created for it, and now, in my own version, I’m trying to apply colour again. I’ve employed a limited palette for the skin tones and included earth and sky colours in the background. In this post, I describe why the painting appeals to me and how it compares to other artists’s treatment of this Biblical passage from Genesis. My panel is 20″ x 16″.
When I travel, I normally pack my portable easel, brushes, and a box of oil paints (with a note to remind customs that my “artist materials” do not pose a danger to air travel). This past August, we were on Cunard’s Queen Victoria, cruising the Baltic Sea. Instead of my usual paints, I packed a sketchbook and some graphic pencils. On sea days, I would pull out the sketchbook and work on copies of master portraits I admire. I learned to appreciate again the fine details you can achieve with a graphic pencil, even a dull one. Here are two sketches. The first is based on the head of the peasant girl in William Adolphe Bouguereau’s painting: “Jeanne” (1888). The second portrait is from the angel’s head in Annie Swynnerton’s “The Sense of Sight”, (1895). Both are approximately 6″ x 4″.