Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ter Borch: Part 4

I am now working on developing the incredible sheen on the satin gown. Ter Borch applied the paint in several layers of glaze and in many cases it appears as if the highlights are floating on glass.  I have been having a tough time trying to figure out how he did this.  I'm hoping that effect will appear once I have done a final varnish of the painting.  

It's clear to me that Ter Borch worked wet into wet paint using a very tiny brush and many short strokes in order to achieve that wonderful sheen on the gown.  I am mostly using a number "0" sable brush for this. One visitor asked me if I was using metallic paint in order to achieve the iridescent effect so I must be doing something right!

I think I have one more session on the dress, then I can move on to the background figures.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ter Borch: Part 3

The Suitor and Dog are Finished

I have not posted any progress lately on the Ter Borch I am copying at the National Gallery but wanted to let everyone know that I am working on it and actually finished the suitor and the dog! Today I finally started the lady's satin gown which I have been looking forward to.  It's always a challenge at first to figure out how Ter Borch painted certain things in this painting, like the satin dress, the hair on the figures, and the fur on the dog.

After First Pass of Dead Color
After Three Passes with Glazes

The Dog with His Tiny Collar
It's probably a good idea to share a little information about this painting.  In this scene, the suitor is entering the room with a slight bow, and the fingers of his thumb and index finger of his left hand form a circle.  The lady he is approaching holds her hands so that the thumb of her right hand pokes through between the fingers of her other hand forming what could be construed as an invitation to sex. However, if you look really closely between his fingers he is holding a ring. And since the dog usually  represents loyalty, there is certainly another message presented here.

P.S.  The lady is wearing six tiny pearl bracelets that had me screaming as I tried to paint them.  I think Ter Borch was laughing at me today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Copper Pot with Beets and Garlic

Completed painting

After first day of painting

I've included the before and after pictures so you can see how this painting evolved over time.  If the National Gallery of Art ever does an x-ray of my painting, they would see that the handle of the pot was lowered and the pot enlarged slightly, and that more leaves were added to the composition.  You can see that I usually start with very strong color and gradually bring it down.  This has been very difficult for me since I love the strong color, but I think I tamed it to a degree in this painting.

Although this painting took longer than I would have liked, it was completed faster than any of my previous paintings, and that's a good thing.  The beet leaves were a real challenge as I described in my previous post, but still fun to paint.  I am inspired to paint them again.

And now on to my next still life of apples.  I have been practicing my glazing technique learned from my copying at the National Gallery and studying with Danni Dawson at The Art League of Alexandria.  The glazing mixtures are ones that I lifted from Teresa Oaxaca's blog (  This painting is done under incandescent light on oil primed linen.  I'm finding the basket to be quite a challenge.  The apples are fun to paint and my husband is happy to eat them, but still no beets....

In progress

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Still Lifes

"Play with Me",  14" x 18", oil on linen

I've been so ambitious this week.   I completed one still life and started two new ones, but the paint fumes were so bad,  I had to bring a fan into the studio.  Now it's so chilly I feel like Mimi in "La Boheme."  I need two pairs of socks and those gloves with the fingers cut off.

In all of these paintings, I've been working on brushwork and paint application, trying to keep a freshness to my work and striving for a realistic look to the final piece.  In the first still life, "Play with Me," I did most of the painting alla prima but spent several days glazing and adding finishing touches to some portions of the work, especially the doll chest.

In one of the paintings that I started this week, I'm using beets and have been challenged by the fact that the leaves wilt so fast.  I tried cutting the leaves and putting them in water as well as wrapping the entire thing, beet root, leaves and all, in wet paper towels and plastic in order to keep them fresh for the painting.  Wrapping the whole beet and putting it in the refrigerator seemed to work the best, but I'm still forced to keep buying new beets.  This challenge forces me to work fast, which is also a good thing.

Beginning of day one

End of day one

P.S.  It's a good thing I love beets.  (My husband hates them.) This plethora of purple beauties has forced me to experiment with different ways to prepare them.  One of my favorites is to toss warm sliced beets in a dressing of olive oil, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Yum.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ter Borch: Part 2

End of day one

I started the actual painting of  "The Suitor's Visit" on January 5 and began by applying the base colors and aiming for relative values.  I tried to keep in mind as I was painting that I was going to be glazing some areas darker than others.  It seemed to me at that time that keeping things light was probably the safest way to go.  You can see from the photo after the first day that colors are pale compared to the original and you can see a lot of brush strokes.

End of day two

This week I started by working on the background and trying to get the right values as well as putting in a little more detail and correcting the drawing on the top of the fireplace to the right.  The wall in the background is actually wallpapered and has quite a bit of intricate detail that was testing my patience.  I found that I probably should have been more careful with my brushwork in the first stage since it was difficult to cover them up with the glazes.  Or it could be that I needed to use less glazing medium and more paint!

It's interesting to note that with every painting I understand a little more about myself.  It became evident quite early that I am very impatient and not too fond of detail. The glazing process is really a struggle since it requires planning ahead and working in stages and there are a lot of tiny details in this painting  that are really challenging.

  1. P.S.  Since we are not allowed to copy a painting at the original size, I've cropped mine, as you can see from the photo, so that it's 2 inches smaller in each direction.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ter Borch: Part 1

Toning the canvas

In preparation for my painting day on Wednesday, I stretched an oil-primed linen canvas and painted a ground of burnt sienna and raw umber.  This is a color that was often used by the masters as an underpainting. I can't quite tell what ter Borch used so I'm hoping this is close. 

"Gridding up" to size

The next step was to enlarge the image and transfer it to my canvas.  I did this by drawing a grid over a photo that I downloaded from the internet, then drawing another larger grid to size on a sheet of tracing paper.  (Kids, I had to use algebra to do this!) Then I drew the image freehand using the grid as a guide.

Transferring to canvas

I rubbed the back of the tracing with charcoal, placed it on the canvas, and used a drawing stump to press the image onto the canvas.  This had to be done very carefully to avoid creasing the canvas with too much pressure.

After the charcoal was transferred, I drew over it with burnt sienna and raw umber to fix the drawing.

Welcome to my blog!

With the start of the New Year, I have decided to begin a journal of my progress as an artist.  I'm hoping that writing a blog will allow me to share my painting techniques and growth as an artist with anyone who is interested.  And now is a great time to begin since I will be starting to copy Gerard ter Borch's painting, "The Suitor's Visit," on Wednesdays at the National Gallery.  I chose this painting because of Ter Borch's mastery of glazing techniques. Blake Gopnick recently compared him to Vermeer.  (He's good, but not that good!)  Hopefully, some of his mastery will rub off on me!

So if I can figure out how to work all the intricacies of this blogging stuff, I'll be posting regularly.  Stay tuned....

"The Suitor's Visit"