Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Copying William Godward's "Classic Beauty"

This exquisite protrait was painted by Willian Godward and is entitled "Classic Beauty".  Once again, I don't know anything about the artist, having found his work on another of WetCanvas's monthly challeges.  Trying to copy these classic paintings is a wonderful exercise...and I'm beginning to find it a bit addicting.  So, while nothing else is waiting on the easel, I'll give this one a try. 

I decided not to attempt to copy the entire work, so I selected a 16" x 12" linen panel to attempt just the head and shoulders.  I sketched directly on the untoned canvas with a small brush. 

Using just a few colors I tried to cover all of the white canvas as soon as possible.  This is only the second painting I've done on linen with an oil based gesso and I'm beginning to like the feel a lot.  My initial reaction was not felt so different from the acrylic gessoed cotton canvases I am used to...but now I am definately enjoying the way the paint lays a little more on the surface.  It's easy to manipulate with brush, rag and finger. 

I ended the first day with a little more detail in the hair and face...and with some suggestions of pattern in the background.  Time to let it set up for a day or two.

Up to this point, I've been using an 8 x 10 print from my home printer, which isn't the best. The quality is mediocre.  I'm going to try to paint from the laptop screen for the next phase.  The colors are so much more vivid when viewing a high resolution print on the computer screen, and the details show much more clearly.

At this session of about 2 hours, I worked quite a bit on the background, putting in the tapistry patterns and trying to find the right values.  I noticed that Godward lightened the background in a few spots near the head.  It's most noticeable at the bridge of the nose.  This is a technique that Rockwell used many years later and it imparts a kind of glow - a halo effect - that is striking.  I'm going to remember that little 'trick'. 

I wanted to work on the face too, but attempts to do some glazing and opague passages resulted in lifting the earlier layer.  It was obviously not completely dry.   I'm going to let this rest for at least three or four days before the next, and maybe final, session.

Some final glazes and I am done.  "Classic Beauty" by John William Godward. 

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