Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making a Copy of a Remington painting

 after Frederick Remington's "The Cowboy"
11x14 oil/panel

Sometimes studying the art of a painter that you admire can be extremely beneficial.  One of my favorite artists is Frederick Remington.  His paintings inspired me when I was a young girl and probably played a big part in my wanting to be a painter.    So today's project was to copy one of Remington's paintings.  I took a few photos as I worked and will show the progression.  Total work time was about 5 hours.  

  The Set Up
Here's the reference photo and the drawing, which I transferred to the panel using vine charcoal and a small fixative to keep it in place.
 A close up of the drawing.  I cropped the original painting, which was a taller vertical format, to fit a panel which I had handy.
 Here I am simply filling in an average color and value for the major shapes. Not worried about detail, just covering the canvas and getting rid of the white.  This is pretty much how I would proceed on any painting, except I don't usually do a detailed drawing. 
 Now I'm finished putting down all the color -  I left some of the mane and tail of the horse because those brushstrokes would need to be a one shot deal.
 I've started on the cowboy, the center of interest. Getting the main object down in a painting can help you to know how to finish the rest of it.
 Changes now will be smaller. Work from the large light and shadow shapes and start breaking those big shapes into smaller shapes of light and dark, color and temperature.  This was both easier and harder in trying to mimic Remington's work.  Easier because I just had to see what he had already done and try to follow it. Harder, because I had to see what he had done and try to follow it!   Though Remington's style of painting is not too far removed from how I typically work, he was working on a canvas, and i was working on a panel, which made getting some of the texture a bit difficult.  
 Still just moving around the figure to bring it to completion.  
 The face was really small, and I found it difficult to get the kind of detail that was needed.  I don't have brushes small enough! I settle for an "approximation".
 It's getting there. Remington used some really dark shadow colors. I think he probably used black, which I don't usually have on my palette.  The small card I used mostly for reference did not give me all the information I really needed - I had a larger image in a book, but the colors were quite different and I never was sure which one was closest to the truth.

 Just a little work on the horse's head ...
 the cowboy is just about done, and now I'm bringing the horse to a finish.
and here's the final!  This last image is color corrected - the in-progress shots were shot in natural light while on the easel and tend to be a little cooler than actual.

So what did I learn?  Well for starters, to really try to do an actual "copy" is a very big project.  This is more of an approximation - the image looks very close, but the brushwork is quite different than Remington's sketchy, textured work.  And, just the intense studying I had to do in trying to paint this was educational in how Remington used color, edges, and temperature.  And to think he painted from life, not photos!  Amazing. 
Remington documented the West like almost nobody else, telling the stories of the frontiersmen, native americans, and the military, so that we today have a record of those days.

I put these images together in a short video, so you can see it morph from beginning to end...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Team Ropers

Team Ropers 8x14 oil/panel

I started this one several weeks ago, using some great rodeo photos supplied by fellow artist friend Max. I just finally got it back out and finished it today.  This action took place at a small rodeo in AZ.  In team roping, one guy will try to rope the steer around his horns, and the other roper will go for his back legs. He's called the heeler.   In this pair, the guy on the white horse is actually the heeler, though in this painting, as they have just started the chase after the steer, you can't really tell.  Sadly, after it was all said and done, the heeler missed and they didn't score...

I am playing around a little more with the palette knife and used that for the background, and all those spectators.  Sometimes less is more (most of the time, actually) and  just indicting the presence of the folks on the bleachers and by the arena railing seemed better to me than getting bogged down in tiny little figures detailed.  Besides, all the action and interest is up front and center!   Which is a good thing to remember - the focus of a painting, whatever that might be, should be the area with the most defined edges, color saturation, and contrast.  Everything else should be sort of like looking out of your peripheral vision.    

Well, it is going to be below zero again tonight, so gotta go stoke that woodstove again!  Brrrrrr!!!