Article by Savvy Dani
The second year students (yours truly included) were fortunate enough to watch two demonstrations of poster studies by two talented artists at the Atelier. It was a unique experience observing the similarities and differences in their approaches.
Demonstration by David Dwyer, graduate of the Aristides Atelier.
David's goal was to show us how a poster study can be used to analyze the value patterns in a Vermeer copy. David set up the masterwork and the canvas right next to each other. He drew directly on the canvas using a thin synthetic sable brush and paint thinned with a bit of solvent. Marking the top and bottom of the picture on the canvas with the brush, he quickly drew the large shapes on the canvas. Once the drawing was complete, he wiped off all watery paint off the palette and also wiped his brush clean. David spent about 10 minutes to complete the drawing phase.
Then began the core of the poster study. David prepared a string of 9 values using his black and white paints. He evaluated the masterwork and then laid in the darkest dark correspondingly on the canvas. Since this was a study of value patterns, David did not get too fussy about the small value shapes presented by details in the painting. He grouped the values to a lower level of granularity so that we could actually see the patterns once the study was complete. Also, since this was a value study, he was not concerned with fancy brushstrokes and so on when he worked the paint on to the canvas. His only focus was the shape and size of each value. Once the canvas was covered, he moved on to the final phase.
The last phase of the poster study was the 'evaluate and fix' step. Using a black mirror, David evaluated the values against the masterwork to check if any of the shapes in his study needed rework. Or if any of the values needed to be stepped up or down. As David pointed out, sometimes one might need to adjust the value by half a step on the value scale. In that case the intermediate value can be obtained by mixing its two neighbors.
David gave us very useful advice on how to do a successful poster study: understand why you are doing the poster study. The goal indicates the process to follow:
- Don't leave any part of the canvas uncovered. The brush should hold enough paint on every stroke.
- If you are working with a toned canvas, lay in the darkest dark and the lightest light first.
- To avoid imprecise values, it is important to keep the brush clean as one moves between values. It might also help to use one brush for the lights and one brush for the darks. And may be another exclusively for white.
- If the whites on the canvas become muddy, they can be restated later, but great care should be taken not to dredge up the paint already laid on the canvas. If you are dredging up paint, quit 'petting' the surface. Instead wipe the brush clean, take fresh paint ad came back to it.
- One common mistake is to paint up to the edges in the drawing. Instead the values should be well-knit and no place on the canvas should be showing through. It is also a good idea to soften the edges with a blender brush, so that better value judgments can be made.
- To keep from getting fussy, it is good to choose a brush you want to use and then choose one 2 sizes larger.
Please enjoy the photographic phases of David's poster study demonstration: