Copying an RvR head

both smCopy from Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride, 10″ x 10″ (cropped) and 8″x10″ of my niece Terra, heat set oils.

I decided it would be a lot more useful to do one of my own images alongside a copy, so I matched Terra up with a late Rembrandt — from The Jewish Bride. This was a bit of a stretch, to say the least, but highly educational.

Rembrandt’s paint style became fantastically virtuosic late in life. In spite of the appearance of spontaneous brushwork, I noticed over and over that colors have very fine staging around them; there are no sharp edges; a red may have a dull green around it to brighten it; transitions from light to shadow have fine gradations in that apparently wild brushwork; areas of one overall value are created from finely tuned yellows, reds, and grays; and so on.

Once again astonishing expression in the eyes and mouth. I found this one a mix of love and possessiveness, hope and worry — duality of personality and emotions that no one else seems to get, and he appears to get so effortlessly (an illusion I think).

I used black and pyrrole red (and white) to get the purplish grays, otherwise raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber – a typical limited palette.  On Terra, I did a full gray underpainting as one layer, and decided I don’t like that approach much. After the underpainting, it seemed too much like tinting a black and white photograph with oil paints, something I did in college and disliked.

I really didn’t succeed in getting the brightness of the light in these. I am suspecting that I need to protect the light of the canvas more in light areas so I’m not fighting so much against a dark ground. This was a very dark ground — a raw umber layer, then burnt sienna.