Austrian landscape

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Brandalm near Ramsau in Steirmark. Based on a sketch I had made 12 years ago. I was just walking back from going up the Dachstein and stopped at this little Jausestation for essential sustenance. I had walked miles that day, having completely misjudged the scale of the map (and I was teaching that sort of thing at the time). This little stop was like paradise. I sketched the view in ink there and added the colour back at the hotel. Finally, after more than a decade, I have produced the planned painting.

(A scribbled note on the side of the sketch says “endless bloody pine trees”. I was very footsie at the time.)

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Two very old masters

Why not aim high? Rembrant and Botticelli. Impossible to emulate, but you do see so much more when you are trying to copy them. The fall of light over Venus’s hair is just extraordinary, but you don’t really notice it when you just look at the picture. His grasp of female anatomy is very suspect. You can’t help wondering if he had ever actually seen a live, naked woman. Rembrant always looks just a dark mess at a glance, but it isn’t.

More Manet

I need to start looking at another artist, but it is true that if you try to carefully copy another artist’s work, you really start to see things you couldn’t notice before. These four small portraits will do for now.

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The one of Berthe Morisot (top right) is by far the best. Also the quickest, taking less than an hour and no reworking at all. The soldier was very hard, and I still can’t figure out what is wrong with him. I have repainted the bar maid’s face completely, but she is still awkward. Olympia looks a little harsh. I have reworked her face two or three times and it is OK. Interestingly, my phone camera recognises Olympia and Berthe as faces, but not the other two. Not sure what a mark of quality that is.

Learning from Manet

I have always admired Manet’s paintings, although he did produce some rubbish. Everyone’s entitled to a bad day now and then. I need to improve my portraiture, so copying some of Manet’s is a good place to start. I learn more this way than I ever do from books.

First go is with the bar maid in the Folie Berge, which I have seen in London several times over the years. Sad looking girl. First stage is a rough charcoal sketch, which is then blocked in with thin acrylic.

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Then it was a question of really trying to copy the colours and shapes as closely as possible.

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I’m quite pleased, although I have got her whole head a bit elongated and she looks like she has been dribbling grape juice down her chin.

The whole picture would be more of a challenge…

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Poppies

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This is the last watercolour from the spring term classes. Very wet on wet, built up in multiple layers as the paper dries. The poppy heads were masked out with masking fluid, along with some spattering. After all the landscape layers were dry, the masking was rubbed off and the poppies painted in. I like the effect and we will use the image for a greetings card.