Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Staying close - a value study

b & w oil painting of a foal close to its mother, a study in values, a pet portrait by Karen from Devon
The thought kept preying on my mind that I was still struggling with value, that when my painting wasn't going well, there were two top reasons for it. Either the drawing was off or the values were lost and a pool of same-ness. Sometimes both at the same time, of course.
So then I held a private pity party for a few minutes - if only I had a teacher/mentor/fellow artist instead of being all alone etc etc etc: does this happen to anyone else, or is it just me? Anyway, fortunately, I remembered my good luck in living in the internet age and set about finding myself a mentor. I chose Sir Edwin Landseer because he is so very famous as an animal artist, because he is so very, very good and because there are loads of high resolution images available on-line, not quite good enough to see every brush stroke, but nearly so.
Here is the one I selected to learn from. It belongs to the Queen. As does over 150 other Landseer items. They can all be enjoyed here www.royalcollection.org.uk
A b&w painting by Sir Edwin Landseer of Waldmann, Queen Victoria's dachshund
This is Waldmann, a short-haired dachshund, painted for Queen Victoria in 1841. I am presently bracing myself to attempt a dachshund but thought I might try a couple of others in b&w first: subjects which don't demand immediate comparison with Landseer!
Peering at his painting, I wondered which paints he had used to render Waldmann. I could find no information on-line about his preferred palette. It seemed to me he did not use straight black and white because I couldn't imagine achieving such softness and subtlety with those stark colours. After a bit of fiddling around and puzzling, I discovered a recipe to "warm" up black by adding raw umber. I don't have any of that, but used Rembrandt's Transparent Oxide Brown instead. I also used Gamblin's Warm White to mix up my grey value strings and only Titanium White for the very bright, brights (whiskers, nose and forehead highlights).
This is 6"x6", so a third the size of Landseer's dog. Biut you have to start somewhere.